One of my favorite college courses was a film class at Boston University all about the Coen brothers. Joel and Ethan Coen like noir — so much, in fact, that I felt the genre’s principles were beaten permanently into all our heads. However, to truly understand noir to the fullest, my professor said one must read Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel The Maltese Falcon. So, that’s exactly what I did.
Thanks for the recommendation, Professor Monk. You did me right.
I really loved this book. From page one, I was hooked. My ex, who loves this genre, once described Falcon as the basis of all hard-boiled detective fiction, and I believe he’s right. The private investigator, the femme fatale, the double-crossers, the jargon — it’s all there.
The premise isn’t clear at first. All we know is that Sam Spade (a P.I. living in San Francisco who serves as our protagonist) and his partner Miles Archer have been asked to shadow a man, for a female client. It all spirals out from there, plot twists reminding the reader that nothing is sacred and that things are never as they seem.
Anyone interested in noir has to read this book, and I think anyone looking for a good mystery would enjoy it too.
Alfred A. Knopf
Up next? I’m still deciding… We shall see.