RARA-AVIS: Sam Spade

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 25 Mar 2008

"Samuel Spade's jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth..."

Sam Spade lives on the margins of San Francisco society. He lives in an efficiency apartment. His bed folds down out of the wall. He has no car. No family. No one to love.

Look at Spade's face on the very first page. A yellow that is sickly.

When Hammett wrote his first four books, he was so infected with tuberculosis that the government itself said his spouse and his kids could not live with him because he could infect them on his way to the grave.

He was 100 percent disabled, a war vet living on the scraps that are falling off the table. Coughing up blood in a handkerchief.

Hammett got Spade's face from a mirror in his apartment.

As for Brigid ...

"Her lips were red, her looks were free

Her locks were yellow as gold,

Her skin was white as leprosy.

The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thick's man's blood with cold."

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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