“Sam Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the
more flexible v of his mouth . . .He looked rather pleasantly like
a blond satan.” Those are the opening lines—here’s Sam:
Yep, angel, that’s him. And you’re off to the 1920s to wallow in seedy hotels, fast women,
lonely streetlamps, liverwurst sandwiches and enough twists and turns to keep your eyes
fast to the pages.
Dashiell Hammett was among the first, and arguably the best creator of the hardboiled
detective hero. The Maltese Falcon has it all, and you don’t want to miss any of it. From
his secretary, Effie Perine, (to whom Spade says, “Yes, sweetheart?” when she enters
his office,) to the beautiful redheaded woman in distress, Bridget O’Shaughnessy, the
characters jump out from the pages at you. Bridget, by the way, has eyes like
The whole kit and caboodle of them are searching for a lost golden falcon which is worth
a fortune. (see photo)
Oh, I know he doesn’t look like much, but hey, I didn’t write the story.
Most of the action takes place with Spade in cabs going from one hotel to another, hunting
down double-crossers, and finding out who “iced” his partner. He rolls his own
cigarettes. He has run-ins with the cops–who accuse him of murdering his partner. Hey,
believe it or not, even the TEMPLARS are mentioned in one part! Shades and shivers of
Enter, in Chapter 11, the Fat Man—“flabbily fat with bulbous pink cheeks and lips and chins and neck . . .dark ringlets thinly covered his broad scalp. He wore a black cutaway
coat . . . Ascot tie holding a pinkish pearl, striped grey trousers . . .” whoops! I gave him
a green jewel–sorry!
There are a couple more prominent slimy characters, but I’ll let you draw them when
you read the book.
Humphrey Bogart played Sam Spade in the old movie—1941. Who would you cast as
the cool, clever, mischievous Sam Spade in a remake?