Fifteen Whodunit members blew in to the Dartmouth Chapters store on this blustery March evening.
The novel under discussion this month was the classic hard-boiled detective novel "The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett. Written in 1929 it was a departure from the traditional mystery stories of the time.
As is our new custom, we went around the group giving this month's novel a rating out of ten. The average score was 6.066
Although it was not everyone's book of choice, almost all of us agreed that marks were given due to the book's importance as a prototype for the modern day detective story. What contributes to a book to make it a 'classic'? we wondered "What books of our time will become classics of future generations?
"The Maltese Falcon" read almost like a screenplay. It was agreed that it was for this reason that it probably translated so well to the big screen. Those Whodunit members who viewed the famous movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor agreed that it was very enjoyable and a classic film noir.
You can view the trailer of this classic film on YouTube.
The character of Brigid O'Shaughnessy was the epitome of the classic femme fatale. The character of Sam Spade was the prototype for the classic hard-drinking, hard-smoking detective upon which so many other detective stories were based.
The novel did not develop the characters - so much so that the characters appeared shallow. It was mentioned that at no time were the thoughts of the characters revealed. Only the verbose descriptions and the actions of the characters moved the plot along. This was another factor that made the novel read like a screenplay. Some thought that the prevalence of lies told by the characters made the story confusing. There was no real sense of place, which seemed a shame given the setting of San Francisco. There was however a keen sense of time period. Written during a time when sexist comments and actions were commonplace and smoking was socially accepted by all.
Tracey shared her take on the deeper meaning of the novel. She referred to the story/parable told by Sam Spade about Flitcraft in which he maintains that people never change and that essentially they will repeat the same life patterns regardless of the different circumstances they find themselves in. She maintains that this was the underlying philosophy of "The Maltese Falcon". She enlightened us all, as we seem to have neglected looking beyond the surface to the deeper meaning of the plot.
I found an interesting review of the novel which shares some of Tracey's thoughts.
Dashiell Hammett had many jobs during his lifetime. One of which was working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency!
The lucky book winners this month were:
Marilyn, Tracey, Gaye and Shawna.
Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 24th at which time we will discuss the Ian Rankin novel "The Complaints".
Reminder: Facebook users can join the Facebook group: "Chapters Dartmouth book clubs"