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Literature: The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett's third novel, introduced the world to prototypical private eye Sam Spade, and is perhaps his single most famous work, though many people know it only via the 1941 film version starring Humphrey Bogart, which is one of the defining examples of Film Noir.

The story concerns a private detective's dealings with three unscrupulous adventurers who compete to obtain a fabulous jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon.

The novel was adapted for film twice before the famous 1941 version. A pre-Hays Code version was released in 1931 starring Ricardo Cortez. It was far less ambiguous about Joel Cairo than the later films. It also suffered from a decidedly Out of Character portrayal of Sam Spade as The Dandy. The novel was adapted again in 1936 under the title Satan Met a Lady; this version also changed Sam Spade's name, to "Ted Shane", and featured Bette Davis in the femme fatale role.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Novel, Quiet Drama Scene: The book has a scene that wasn't translated to any movie adaptation: Just before Cairo and Gutman arrive with the bird, Sam talks to Brigid O'Shaughnessy about a man he investigated once: He was a normal man who once disappeared, only to resurface in another city with another name and a new family: Her old wife hired Sam to knew what happened to him and to avoid a scandal. Spade narrates how the man was a normal man who once had a nearly fatal accident, and then he realized life is random, We Are as Mayflies and he had to Became Their Own Antithesis to live his new life. What that man never realized, and Spade immediately noticed, is that he never did that. He simply moved to a city very similar to his old city, got a new job doing exactly the same and got a new family very much like his old, and he sincerely never realized he was living an Ignored Epiphany. This seemingly pointless tale could be interpreted at Sam's attempt to convince O'Shaughnessy of the pointlessness of her own task: Once the four will get the bird, her Chronic Backstabbing Disorder means she will betray everyone to get the bird to herself.
  • Anti-Hero: Sam Spade
  • Censor Decoy / Getting Crap Past the Radar: Hammett calls gunman Wilmer Cook "that gunsel," assuming his editors wouldn't know the other meaning of the word. They didn't.
  • The Chessmaster: The plot features two opposing chessmasters who manipulate Sam Spade and an entire cast of minor characters in order to obtain the Maltese Falcon for themselves. Spade himself is this to some degree, as well.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: every character lie, distrust, double-cross and cheat each other at every opportunity
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Sam Spade, despite owning several.
  • Femme Fatale / The Vamp: Brigid O'Shaughnessy
  • Friend on the Force: Sam Spade is friends with detective Tom Polhaus. His relationship with Lieutenant Dundy is much more antagonistic.
  • Gayngster: The baddies, Joel Cairo in particular.
  • Gem-Encrusted: The eponymous Macguffin is a gem-covered statue of a falcon that was later covered with black enamel to hide its value.
  • Girl Friday: Effie Perrine, Spade's assistant
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom / I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: The shot and badly wounded Captain Jacobi manages to stumble into Sam Spade's office and press the MacGuffin into Sam's hands before expiring on the office floor. Trouble quickly follows.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Sam Spade
  • Narrative Profanity Filter:
    The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second 'you.'
  • Sassy Secretary: Effie Perrine
  • Slipping a Mickey: Used on Sam Spade.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Sam Spade is constantly rolling cigarettes, often using it as a means of exacerbating a pregnant pause. Hammett describes Sam's actions in such loving detail that the books doubles as a classic murder mystery and an instruction manual for hand-rolling cigarettes.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: This is one of the interpretations. The other is that the Falcon was a Mock Guffin since the very beginning. Notice that Gutman, Cairo and O'Shaugenessy immediately bought the first version, such is the power of the falcon over them.
  • Terrible Trio: Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and Wilmer Cook seem to be a more-competent-than-usual version of this team.

MadelineLiterature of the 1930sMan Eaters of Zamboula
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