Death in Nostalgia City

By Mark S. Bacon

The Maltese Falcon reexamined

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“And when you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” Sam Spade to Joel Cairo.

With apologies to Robert B. Parker, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and a few others, Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon is the quintessential murder story. Although Sam Spade appeared in only one novel, the cynical, hardboiled detective who bends the rules but still lives by a code, set the standard for all the gumshoes who would follow in the 85 years hence. “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble,” he tells the comely and mysterious Brigid O’Shaughnessy.Bogie-&-Elisha-Cook

Although Spade is such a well-defined and described character, it is difficult for me to separate him from Humphrey Bogart, the actor who portrayed Spade in the 1941 noir film of the same name. Bogart’s height and general appearance don’t match Hammett’s description, but by every other measure, Bogart is Sam Spade.

Recently I reread the novel and, for perhaps the 10th time, watched the film. The similarities and the few differences are worth examining. In fact, there are at least two mysteries within the mystery. And at this point, if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, do so. Then come back and read the rest of this article. Continue Reading →

Tweet this, CBS

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The following has nothing to do with murder mysteries, book publishing, film noir or anything else you’re used to reading about here. I’ll return next time with an article on mystery writers’ ideas and techniques.  This is about the future of truth.

Where do you find out what’s going on each day, TV news, radio, newspapers, Twitter, Facebook? Increasingly the latter two choices form the foundation for how Americans understand the world. And it scares the hell out of me. Continue Reading →

“Kiss Me Deadly,” a good, bad detective movie

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When you read the plot synopsis and cast list, Kiss me Deadly, adapted from a novel by Mickey Spillane, sounds like a run-of-the-mill detective movie: A private eye finds a lost girl along on a road at night. This film, however, is really more complex.

I rented it recently because I thought it would be filled with campy fun. Turns out, some people see this as a classic noir detective yarn that ranks with the best of the genre. Continue Reading →

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