RARA-AVIS: Long Shadow of the Falcon

From: Dick Lochte ( dlock@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 07 May 2000

The Paretsky analysis of "The Maltese Falcon" is nice, clean and concise. And the Hammett biographical info is on the money. A good job. A couple of points: I can't believe that anybody on this list hasn't read the book, but the piece does contain some very powerful spoilers. I guess we can also assume that whoever purchases the Folio Society edition of the novel that includes this introduction will also be familiar enough with the plot for this not to pose too big a problem.

The other point is that she does not make the mistake of saying that Sam Spade is "father to every gumshoe . . ." as mentioned in the Guardian's introduction to her introduction. She quite clearly and correctly indicates that all literary P.I.s owe a debt to Hammett and that the Op paved the way for Spade.

I also think she's right in assuming that Spade is Hammett's idealized version of what a private eye should be, but it is clearly the professional, more or less incorruptible Op who is the father to the white knight of the mean streets, Marlowe, and all those who came after.

Spade, as Paretsky notes, is not a wonderful human being. That's why I think the sleek and vaguely sinister Ricardo Cortez, in the first film version, comes closer to Hammett's concept than Bogart.

Dick Lochte

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