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Old 03-17-2020, 05:48 AM   #16
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Not in the least. She seems to me to be a psychopath, who would have no feelings for anyone. A surface charm to suck people in and then she would swat a nuisance person with no more concern than for a fly, if he or she got in her way.
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Old 03-17-2020, 12:41 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw
...regarding Brigid as a confidence trickster...
Brigid is a character that could never have been written by a woman, IMNSHO. And says rather more about Hammett than perhaps he intended. She's too young to be all that she claims to be, and, as pointed out above, not at all believable if you're a woman.
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Old 03-17-2020, 02:57 PM   #18
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I'm late chiming in--I waited till the last minute hoping my audiobook hold at the library would come, and when I was halfway through reading, I was finally able to borrow it, and started over listening.

I mostly enjoyed it, but for some of convoluted plot. I've never seen the movie in full, I don't think, but
Spoiler:
wasn't the black bird used to smuggle drugs in the film, not some golden icon with a confusing backstory?


The characters are all despicable in one way or another, but since I like the occasional pulp and noir tales, the stereotypes are familiar enough that I don't find them as objectionable as they really are. Women especially always fare badly in the genre, with their pretty faces and black hearts. Or else they're faintly pathetic, throwing themselves at the hero who barely tolerates them. Probably because these tales are written by men, filled with male fantasies.

I found some scenes rather inexplicable--the long-ish description of rolling a cigarette, the story of the guy hit by a beam who abandoned his life. As others have noted, the repetitive descriptions of Spade's eyes and Gutman's fatness were annoying, as were the times Cairo was called the Levantine.

I'm not inspired to read more Hammett, but I'm glad I finally read this one.
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Old 03-17-2020, 04:19 PM   #19
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I felt the same; glad to have read it, but won’t read another. I have to agree with gmw about the other faults. I don’t think Hammett’s writing was very polished. His overuse of adjectives drove me crazy.

They often muddied the waters rather than painting a believable picture. For example, at one point he described a character’s eyes as looking wet, but then said they were not watery. He kept qualifying his own descriptions! He belonged to the ‘more is better’ club.

I know I’m being picky. It’s fun, taken in a pulp, noir spirit.

Gmw, in terms of your question, I don’t have much faith in Brigid’s declaration of love either.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:02 PM   #20
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My reading time fell to zero since I no longer have a daily train commute and instead get to drive. Today though I managed to find an audio copy that instead of the novel is a collection from the original Black Mask magazine publication of it.

This version is split into multiple parts and has a short synopsis of what has already happened at the beginning of each section. I'm glad it is included that way, it's a good reminder of how this was published originally.

I wonder if some of our problems are from the fact that this was originally a serial (repeated descriptions, etc). I'm sure that he didn't have much time to prepare this and, if this follows several other publications I have seen, he was writing the later parts after the first was published, so he wouldn't have been able to go back to tighten up the writing.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:17 PM   #21
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My reading time fell to zero since I no longer have a daily train commute and instead get to drive. Today though I managed to find an audio copy that instead of the novel is a collection from the original Black Mask magazine publication of it.
Is this the one: Black Mask 3? I wondered about that version but was afraid it might be abridged since even with two additional stories it's shorter than some of the other available audiobook versions.
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Old 03-17-2020, 07:43 PM   #22
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Yes, it is that one. I don't think it is abridged but it could be; I will re-listen to the beginning to check.

My suspicion is that when the novel was published it was expanded and edited. So, rather than abridged, this one only uses the original serial publication instead of any extra material that was added later.
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Old 03-17-2020, 10:51 PM   #23
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I did confirm that the Black Mask version is not abridged. Apparently there were ~2,000 changes to the book between the Black Mask version and the complete novel version. Many of those were typographical but also many other edits by Hammett. At least they think Hammett did the edits, sounds like they are note 100% sure on that.
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Old 03-17-2020, 11:01 PM   #24
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I did confirm that the Black Mask version is not abridged. Apparently there were ~2,000 changes to the book between the Black Mask version and the complete novel version. Many of those were typographical but also many other edits by Hammett. At least they think Hammett did the edits, sounds like they are note 100% sure on that.
Thanks for checking. Interesting then that there's still so much repetitiveness in descriptions.
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Old 03-18-2020, 03:22 AM   #25
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I felt the same; glad to have read it, but won’t read another. I have to agree with gmw about the other faults. I don’t think Hammett’s writing was very polished. His overuse of adjectives drove me crazy. [...]
By using enough descriptions he was bound to get one or two exactly right. I did rather like this early one:
Quote:
He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan.
But some sentences were rather awkward:
Quote:
“You will please stand,” the man with the pistol instructed him at whose thick chest the pistol was aimed.

And while I'm quoting things, I thought this was cute:
Quote:
“I couldn’t be any fonder of you if you were my own son; but—well, by Gad!—if you lose a son it’s possible to get another—and there’s only one Maltese falcon.”



And one little bit that I was wondering about, a description of Lieutenant Dundy included:
Quote:
A five-dollar gold-piece was pinned to his necktie and there was a small elaborate diamond-set secret-society-emblem on his lapel.
I was wondering if I should be attaching any particular significance to either item. Any thoughts?

(At the time I read it I thought of Chekhov's gun. But, by the end, neither of these details appeared to be of any interest to the story, and since neither meant much to me they didn't work as character descriptors either.)
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Old 03-18-2020, 11:15 AM   #26
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And while I'm quoting things, I thought this was cute:

Quote:
“I couldn’t be any fonder of you if you were my own son; but—well, by Gad!—if you lose a son it’s possible to get another—and there’s only one Maltese falcon.”
That may have been my favorite line in the book!
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Old 03-18-2020, 11:29 AM   #27
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I just came across a 2011 MR discussion of The Maltese Falcon. Some points that haven't come up here, some that have.
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Old 03-18-2020, 04:19 PM   #28
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I listened to The Black Mask version and simultaneously followed it on the published text. Most of the changes did seem pretty cosmetic and not always necessarily an improvement.

I have always loved the film and this is my recent comment on Goodreads.


The Maltese Falcon is a brilliant “noir” novel and a masterpiece of the genre. Inevitably comparisons with the famous 1941 film come to mind. The latter, of course, is another superb classic. As I read I could hear Humphrey Bogart! He IS Sam Spade and the dialogue between Bogart’s Sam Spade and Sydney Greenstreet’s Gutman is unforgettable easily matching the repartee in the book. Peter Lorre is superb. On the other hand Wilbur is far more menacing in the novel and Mary Astor (IMO) doesn’t quite get the deadly undercurrent of “murderous innocence” in Brigid’s character. The film does do justice to the great dark ending. (Though Hammett adds one more terrific twist at the end.)

“Roger Ebert’s comment on the film works equally well for the novel:

“The moment everyone remembers from The Maltese Falcon comes near the end, when Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) has been collared for murdering Spade's partner. She says she loves Spade. She asks if Sam loves her. She pleads for him to spare her from the law. And he replies, in a speech some people can quote by heart, ‘I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. . . . The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you.’”

Book or Film? They are both wonderful—read one and watch the other but don’t miss either.“



I suspect that I am an outlier here but I certainly do believe that this novel is a masterpiece of the genre—a superb Hardboiled detective story with strong links to the Noir tradition. Following are some of the reasons I feel this way.

One of the things that particularly impresses me is the dark world these characters inhabit. It is ugly, cruel, unforgiving, and corrupt. Justice, as an ethical system does not seem linked to an abstract concept of Truth but is simply a pragmatic method of keeping the social order kicking over.

It is this type of world that produces the rogue figures who inhabit the underbelly of society. They work on the principle of an opportunistic, pragmatic, relativistic, self-seeking morality in which the end justifies the means. Their great goal is the ultimate heist that will empower their lives and beat the system. In the novel it is the Maltese Falcon which is the Philosopher’s Stone which will transmute their existence. It is so ironic that the gold turns out to be lead!

While all the members of the gang are memorable, I think that Brigid stands out. She is, of course, the femme fatale but she is an extraordinary manipulator. Her beauty and sexuality are combined with an apparent innocence and dependence. This is the means of her empowerment. Perhaps this strange charisma is what so impresses Effie.

Sam Spade is the opposite. He is harsh, brutal, and not a very nice person at all. He has already seduced the wife of his partner and is making overtures to Effie who, until the end, considers him a hero. He is as much a product of society as the villains.

His relationship with Brigid is ambiguous. Perhaps he loves her. What sets him apart from her and the other gang members is that he does have a code. When she attempts to use him at the end he outlines his system to her and the first point he makes is that the code is somehow an act of faith—not an opportunity to get an advantage:

“When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something above it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought about him. He was your partner. You’re supposed to do something about it.”

And in the end of it all any “love” Brigid and Sam had remains ambiguous.

“All we’ve got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you”

It’s a dark bitter conclusion but it is the truth and it is just.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 03-19-2020 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 03-18-2020, 07:18 PM   #29
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fantasyfan, you make me want to read the book you read!
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Old 03-19-2020, 01:38 PM   #30
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fantasyfan, you make me want to read the book you read!
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