Monday, February 8, 2021

Mystery Monday: 1940s Detectives: Sam Spade

Mystery Monday: 1940s Detectives: Sam Spade 

Despite being a character in only five books (one novel and four short stories), Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade is one of the most well-known detectives from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Diametrically opposed to Hammett’s nameless The Continental Op, Spade is a mixture of previously written detectives. 
According to Hammett: “Spade has no origin. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been and in their cockier moments thought they approached. For you private detective does not—or did not ten years ago when he was my colleague—want to be an erudite solver of riddles in the Sherlock Holmes manner; he wants to be a hard and shifty fellow, able to take care of himself in any situation, able to get the best of anybody he comes in contact with, whether criminal, innocent by-stander, or client.” 
Spade made his debut the serialized The Maltese Falcon that appeared in Black Mask in 1929. A year later, the segments were collected and formed into a novel that became an instant bestseller. As a result of the book’s success, Hammett hammered out three subsequent short stores. Most scholars consider the stories weak in comparison to the Falcon, but even Hammett’s poorest writings are worth reading. 
Three films were made between 1931 and 1941, with Humphrey Bogart’s 1941 version the most well-known and most popular. Interestingly, Bogart’s slight frame, dark features, and serious depictioncontrasted with the novel’s version of a blond, well-built, and mischievous character, but his portrayal is considered the best. 
Edward G. Robinson played Spade in a 1943 Lux Radio Theatre production and by Bogart in a 1943 Screen Guild Theater production and a 1946 Academy Award Theater production. From 1946-1951 The Adventures of Sam Spade featured Howard Duff, then later Steve Dunne. Hammett’s name was removed from the series in the late 1940s because of being investigated for involvement with the Communist Party. 
Spade even made it into the comics when The Maltese Falcon was presented in comic book form in 1946. Rodlow Williard did the adaptation which is considered to be well-done and faithful to both the book and the film. 
Do you prefer the novel or the film version of The Maltese Falcon? 


About Under Cover:

In the year since arriving in London, journalist Ruth Brown has put a face on the war for her readers at home in the U.S. Thus far, juggling her career and her relationship with Detective Inspector Trevor Gelson hasn't proven too challenging. The war gets personal for Ruth when her friend Amelia is murdered, and Trevor is assigned to the case. 
Life gets even more unsettling when clues indicate her best friend, Varis, is passing secrets to the enemy. Convinced Varis is innocent, Ruth must find the real traitor as the clock ticks down toward Operation Husky-the Allied invasion of Sicily. Circumstantial evidence leads Trevor to suspect her of having a part in Amelia's death, and Ruth must choose between her heart and her duty.

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