Success to Crime!

The introduction to The Complete Maltese Falcon Flyer

by Don Herron

When we started up The Maltese Falcon Society in San Francisco on May 20, 1981, we had some ready rituals. The official toast was Sam Spade’s ironic “Success to crime!” — made when Polhaus and Dundy were rousting Spade after his partner Miles Archer got bumped off. One grandiose plan was that we would go out and conquer the world with splinter chapters, kind of like The Baker Street Irregulars. To become an official chapter, each year we’d need a falcon statue in tribute — also taken straight from the novel.

While it lasted, off and on over the course of five years, to our podium came mystery writers such as Julie Smith and Stephen Greenleaf, as well as coroners, detectives, crime reporters, FBI guys, bail bondsmen, and various Hammett biographers. Twice each we hosted pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price and bounty hunter Tiny Boyles. On September 11, 1985 cult great Charles Willeford spoke, just as he finally was grabbing some fame.

And at least we died with dignity, on May 27, 1986, the 92nd anniversary of Hammett’s birth, with his daughter Josephine Hammett Marshall at the stick.

I am here to report that we only got one splinter group to send in a falcon, an elegant wood carving offered by Jiro Kimura, representing the “White Knights and Dangerous Dames of Japan.” Twenty-five years later, they carry on and keep the name The Maltese Falcon Society alive and well.

I raise my shot glass, and quote Sam Spade.