The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet

We are joined by the crime novelist Mark Billingham to discuss his favourite book, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. First serialised in Black Mask magazine in 1929 and published the following year in book form by Alfred A. Knopf, it is widely considered to have inaugurated the hard-boiled genre of detective fiction. It introduces the tough, abrasive and morally ambiguous private detective, Sam Spade, who sent Dorothy Parker ‘mooning about in a daze of love such as I had not known for any character in literature since I encountered Sir Lancelot.’ The labyrinthine plot turns around the eponymous falcon of the title – a statuette so valuable that three people are killed in the search to retrieve it. But, as the discussion reveals, it is not the plot that has made the book a classic. Hammett’s San Francisco, filled with sharp-tongued dames, wise-cracking gumshoes, cops on the take and thugs on the lam, spawned a whole genre of noir novels and movies – including John Huston’s classic adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor in 1941. In 1995, the Mystery Writers of America voted The Maltese Falcon the third greatest crime novel of all time. In this episode, illuminated by Mark’s own long experience of writing in the genre, we try to find out why.

Timings (after any advert’s):

08:43 – The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammet

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