A few months back, in a review of The Big Sleep from Arion Press, I mentioned that Raymond Chandler’s classic helped me get over my snobby belief that, besides Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, works within the detective genre could not possibly rise to the level of classic literature. With my new found respect for the genre, I was looking forward to reading The Maltese Falcon from Dashiell Hammett, long a favorite film of mine. Even more exciting to me was the edition I was to read — that being from Arion Press, published in 1983.
The Arion Press edition of The Maltese Falcon is well sought after, and for good reason. The book is everything a classic book should be, with deluxe treatment that makes it very special indeed. The period photographs are fantastic, truly immersing you into the setting of the story. The printing of the photographs is done with marvelous quality. The text composition is perfect for the story, the binding is stunning (just look at that bird in the pictures below!). The overall impression is excellence, the overall design is top notch.
The Maltese Falcon was originally published in 1930. The main character, Sam Spade, with his cold detachment, sardonic personality, analytical mind, amoral-ness (perhaps?), determination, and out and out manliness has been enormously influential on the entire detective genre. What the characters do and what they say is what drives the book. There is no exploration of their inner thoughts or motives; such is left for the reader to determine.
Lucky for readers of Books and Vines, I will avoid my normal long and rambling reviews as it relates to the story itself! More than any other genre, saying anything about the plot or meaning of this type of story can result in a plot spoiler for those yet to have read it. It is enough to know there are murders, a classic femme fatale, and many secrets and surprises, all surrounding the pursuit of a figurine of a black bird! You will have to read the story to determine why that figurine is so special!
Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) was an American author best known for his hard-boiled detective novels, with The Maltese Falcon being the most famous. It has been ranked as one of the top 100 English language novels of the twentieth century. In 1941, Humphrey Bogart starred in a film version, which is considered one the great film noir classics in Hollywood history.
The Maltese Falcon’s Sam Spade is, after Sherlock Holmes, arguable the most famous detective to ever come out of literature (perhaps along with Chandler’s Philip Marlowe). Hammett’s other famous books include The Thin Man and Red Harvest. In the 1950’s Hammett spent time in prison for contempt, and was blacklisted, for actions centering around his role with the Civil Rights Congress, which had been designated as a Communist front group by the Attorney General in 1947.
About the Edition
- Published in 1983 by the Arion Press, their eleventh publication
- Illustrated with 46 period photographs of sites in the novel (photographs found mainly in old newspaper morgues and library archives, taken in the late 1920s, of the actual streets and buildings where Sam Spade solved the mystery; contemporary views were photographed by Edmund Shea)
- Photographs printed by offset lithography (by Phelps-Schaefer) on dull-coated stock
- Composed in Monotype Bodoni semi-bold and handset Corvinus medium, with spade ornaments, printed by letterpress on Byron Weston Linen Record
- Monotype composition by Mackenzie-Harris
- Bound, by Schuberth Bookbindery, with bonded black leather spine and foil-stamped falcons inset on grey cloth covers, in grey cloth slipcase
- Preface by the publisher
- Including an appreciation by private investigator David Fechheimer
- Appendix with notes on the photographs by Glenn Todd
- 10 by 8 inches, 304 numbered pages, 44 pages and a 4-page fold-out, unnumbered, for illustrations
- Edition of 400 copies
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