The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – A Man Called Spade

Talking about Bogart last week led me to some Dashiell Hammett short stories this week over at Black Gate. Click on over!  Here’s something to get you started….

Spade_FalconbookIn last week’s column, I mentioned The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart (did you follow instructions and watch it for the first time?). Over eighty years after its publication, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon stands supreme today as the finest private eye novel ever written. Bogie’s 1941 film proved that the third time is a charm, prior attempts in 1931 and 1936 having failed.

Sam Spade, the quintessential tough guy shamus, appeared in a five-part serial of The Maltese Falcon in Black Mask in 1929. Hammett carefully reworked the pieces into novel form for publication by Alfred E. Knopf in 1930 and detective fiction would have a benchmark that has yet to be surpassed.

Hammett, who wrote over two dozen stories featuring a detective known as The Continental Op (well worth reading), never intended to write more about Samuel Spade, saying he was “done with him” after completing the book length tale.

But the public wanted more and his agent cajoled him into cranking out three more short stories featuring Spade. The first two appeared in American Magazine and the third in Collier’s in 1932 and they were collected into book form later that year as The Adventures of Sam Spade and Other Stories. In 1999, Vintage Crime published Nightmare Town, a compilation of twenty Hammett stories, including all three Spade short stories.


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