Originally Posted by GA Russell
For Christmas I received something I've wanted for years, but didn't know existed until just a few weeks before the big day - a collection of stories from Black Mask Magazine.
The Book is called The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories.
The Maltese Falcon was first published in five-part serial form in Black Mask Magazine from the September 1929 to January 1930 issues. It was published in book form by Alfred A. Knopf in February, 1930. My copies of the book say that it is copyright 1930. That puzzled me.
The story as it appeared in the magazine is available in this Black Lizard collection, the first time the original magazine version has been published since then. More than 2,000 changes were made for the book version, some by the Knopf editors but most by Hammett.
Having read the novel for this discussion last summer, I think I will wait a few months to read the serial version, but I'm looking forward to it.
This past week I have read the original magazine version of The Maltese Falcon. I believe that the original was briefer and leaner. It would have been easier, I think, to notice the differences if I had read the magazine version first.
In the magazine version...
It was much easier to understand the plot.
I looked for certain concepts that were in the book, and they were all there, such as the Flitcraft story and the word "dingus".
There were a couple of movie concepts that I noticed were not in the story. For one, although he often said "By gad", Gutman (unlike Sidney Greenstreet) was not necessarily English. Iva was much more beautiful in the story than in the movie. And the story made clear that Effie didn't like her because she cheated on Miles.
I noticed two changes.
1) The chapter which introduced Gutman was called "The Fat Man" in the book, but "Gutman" in the magazine.
2) In the final chapter, as I recall Spade said, "Miles was a son of a b-." But in the magazine, he said, "Miles was a ----." In fact, the magazine had a lot more dashes than I recall in the book, but that may not be right.
I want to point out something that has not been previously mentioned in our discussion here. Hammett presents Effie to be responsible and reliable, giving her the reader's trust. Effie strongly said that she felt that Brigid was a good person. As we know, that was wrong; and I think that Hammett somewhat cheaply and unnecessarily betrayed the reader's trust.
It wasn't clear to me on whose behalf Cairo was working when he first hired Spade. Gutman? Hammett never made clear that Gutman and Cairo had a relationship prior to that date. Cairo's relationship was with Brigid in Constantinople, and Brigid was working for Gutman at that time, but the actual link (such as a meeting) between Cairo and Gutman at that point was never established, I don't believe.
Finally, an idea occurred to me as I was reading the magazine version midway through and recalling reading the book last year. As it turned out, my idea was right. Hammett didn't explain where Wilmer got a gun to kill Gutman with. Did he take it off of Gutman? Spade had Wilmer's guns in a closet at that time, and turned them over to Polhaus on the last page.
In summary, I enjoyed reading the magazine version more than reading the book because the plot was easier to follow. I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book and see for yourself.