"The Maltese Falcon," the first great noir novel, was published 78 years ago this month.
For the 75th anniversary, Bruce DeSilva,
known to some of his informal students as Buddha, or, O Great Saffron Robed One,
wrote a tribute for The Associated Press
that began this way:
NEW YORK — For lovers of the hard-boiled crime story, life began with the black bird.
It was 75 years ago this month that "The Maltese Falcon" first appeared between hard covers, just weeks after it was published as a five-part serial in the pulp magazine "Black Mask."
To today's reader, Dashiell Hammett's masterpiece can seem vaguely antique, its characters too stereotypical: the cynical detective who works both sides of the law; his spunky and loyal secretary; the trench coat-draped gunman who talks from the side of his mouth; the wily femme fatale who manipulates men with the promise of sex.
But to 1930s readers, every line was a revelation.