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The Maltese Falcon , author Dashiell Hammett’s third novel, set the standard by which all subsequent detective fiction would be judged. Set in San Francisco in the late 1920s, the novel introduces us to private detective Sam Spade, who characterizes the archetype of the hard-boiled detective in his dead-pan pursuit of the recovery of a black figurine. Having worked for a time for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco, Hammett reportedly drew upon his years as a detective in creating Spade and many of the other characters for The Maltese Falcon . The Maltese Falcon was originally serialized in HL Mencken’s “pulp” magazine, Black Mask, beginning with the September 1929 issue. For publication of the book form, editor Blanche Knopf tried to tone down the overt sexuality of the magazine version, fearing the references would alienate readers, but Hammett prevailed. However, the 1941 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor (the best known of the novel’s three film versions) excised the homosexual subtext of the novel due to Production Code restraints. Today, the movie is considered a film noir classic and the novel is ranked 56th on Modern Library’s “100 Best” English-language novels of the 20th century as well as 54th on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best novels. -
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