Hammett: A Parable for Valentine

An even eighty-eight years ago today Knopf released a little tale of mystery and romance you know by the handle of The Maltese Falcon.

Yes, timed for release on Valentine’s Day.

Every Valentine’s Day for years now I’ve had to make the suggestion that the Falcon might just be the sickest Valentine’s Day novel ever. If it’s a romance — and you can see the outlines of a romance in it — then you still have the spectre of a noose hanging over the heroine at the end.

If they hang you — kind of makes you think romance isn’t the most significant aspect of the story.

Another unusual angle is that when Spade might be thought to be wooing Brigid O’Shaughnessy he drops a parable on her.

The Flitcraft Parable.

Again, not the usual malarkey of a regulation romance.

If you don’t know the Flitcraft angle (it’s in the novel but not in the Bogie flick), Brian Wallace just popped me an overview which wowed him — and written by Jim Nelson. You might remember Jim’s name from recent years, when he trudged along on the Fritz Leiber Tour I sometimes offer.

If interested, dip into Jim’s survey of the parable — and then reserve a few minutes to think about whether such a thing really fits into the whole Valentine’s Day scenario. A brain-buster, for sure.

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