Dashiell Hammett, together with Raymond Chandler, were two of the founders of the style of detective known as hard-boiled. The hardboiled detective novel was the first truly American novel. Its sources come directly from the streets of the big cities of the 1920s and 1930s. This is one of the reasons these books have stayed popular for nearly 100 years. Hammett had been a Pinkerton detective and brought his real knowledge of this type of work to the stories. This realism and grit helped create a style which has been copied and recreated in novels, films and television since Hammett's novels first appeared.
The Maltese Falcon was first published in the Black Mask magazine as a five part serial from September, 1929 through January, 1930. Hammett dedicated the book to his wife, Jose, shortly before he moved from San Francisco to New York. Hammett's family moved to Los Angeles. Although the Hammetts did not divorce until 1937, they never lived together again. Hammett died in 1961. He had tuberculosis, no money and much of his work was out of print in his own country.
Hammett's third novel, The Maltese Falcon, is called his best by many critics. It has been adapted for film several times. The second adaptation, filmed in 1941 and starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, is the best known. Demanding, attractive, amoral and sardonic, the detective, Sam Spade has been the model for many detectives, investigators, and seekers of truth. He keeps his thoughts to himself and watches closely to see how the people he must confront react to each other. This close observation allows him to decide what is real and what are the lies in what he has been told.
Begin here . . .
Librarian talk . . . About Getting Started!
As you begin, narrow your topic to a size that you can manage. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, literary works, events, or broader identifying terms. Use these keywords for locating information in the library catalog, electronic databases, and on the internet.
In the background
Sam Spade and Miles Archer have a detective agency in San Francisco. References in the story to real news items from the San Francisco Call, allow readers to know that Sam and Miles are consulted in December, 1928. The action takes place over a six day period from Wednesday to Monday.
Themes and topics to consider in your research
These suggestions will help you find information and begin the process of forming a thesis. Use keywords as you search for articles in the databases. This process will help you as you focus your ideas and firm up the thesis statement. The articles you find will be useful resources to support the thesis in your paper.
- PI code of honor
- Law vs justice
- Honor among thieves
- The ability of the PI to enter different social worlds
- Language used in the hard boiled novel
- Sam Spade's cynicism
- Sam Spade's ethical character
- Sam as a misogynist
- Point of view (Hammett uses third person allowing readers to have more information)
- Noir novels
- Hard-boiled crime novels
|Librarian Talk . . .About Books!
Apply online for a library card. Use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to:
These reference books will help you decide which topic you want to select as the focus of your paper. Once you have a topic in mind, you will find the research process is easier. They contain information on the background, setting, history and characters in the novel. This context will help you through the process of research.
These circulating books about detective fiction, hard-boiled crime novels and mysteries will help you know more about Hammett, Spade and the noir novels.
Finding Scholarly articles in Databases
|Librarian Talk . . . About Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles!
Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. To find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more, use your updated library card barcode number to login to the following databases. If you find an interesting article that is not full-text, please give the correct bibliographic information to our Reference Librarians and they will see that you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information - and your name and address. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if they need to. There is some overlap of articles in the following databases. However, we encourage you to use more than one. All are excellent sources for this topic.HINT: For a full list of article databases, go to http://www.Lonestar.edu/Library/article-databases and use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to login from off-campus.
Project Muse This scholarly database is completely full text (whole articles) and will provide many articles on Hammett, the Maltese Falcon, noir novels and Hard-boiled fiction. Begin your search by entering the title of the novel in the search box in quotation marks. Use the limiters on the left side of the screen to focus your searh to Journals, full access (complete articles), or research areas. You can Modify a search to add keywords from your thesis - click on the + mark to add search boxes. This database is also entirely scholarly, so all articles will be of the appropriate academic level for your research.
JSTOR A very large scholarly database with many full text articles. Use the Advanced Search page for the best results. Limit your search to articles, and choose the discipline Language and Literature to focus the results.
Literature Resource Center This literary database contains overviews of The Maltese Falcon, and Hammett's entire body of work, as well as information on noir novels and hard-boiled crime fiction. Be aware that there are some sources in this database which are not complete or full text scholarly criticism.
Academic Search Complete This multi-subject database contains scholarly journals and other sources on Hammett and his work. Use the Advanced Search screen for the best results, and limit you search to scholarly, full text articles to find the best sources.
The History of the Mystery - How does The Maltese Falcon fit in?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) was the first to use science to track down criminals. Before this time, critical thinking and deductive reasoning alone solved crimes in mystery books. Knowing about poisons, blood splatters, ballistics, trace evidence and other forensic scientific methods added a new dimension to this genre. Edward Ricciuti states in Forensics: Science 101, "The popularity of forensics today reflects the reality that science has truly become integral to successful police work." Two interesting points should be made about the mystery novel. First, the accurate use of forensics, technology and inventions is important to the writing. Readers today want accuracy in their writing. Ready access to the Internet and other research resources make it easy to check facts and statistics. If an author today writes a mystery novel set at an earlier time, they better be sure the forensics they use were invented at that time. Using a lie detector before 1950 would elicit mounds of email to the publisher and author. The second point, is that what is happening in the world or the country deeply effects what people read. For example, books with spies as protagonists were popular during the fifties and sixties - in response to the red scare and organized crime. In today's fast moving - global economy, mysteries with international settings and ones actually written and translated from other languages are popular.
The English classic mystery made popular in England during the 1920s reflects the nostalgia people felt for the past. Times were changing too quickly; WWI ended, women were working in large numbers for the first time, and automobiles were largely responsible for ending the fortnight trips to country homes. So, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and others became hugely popular setting their mysteries in country estate mysteries where all suspects were gathered together and a 'little' (almost bloodless) murder happened. Red herrings, clues, and alibis were introduced to these puzzle mysteries. The elements included: fool the reader, yet play fair, amateur detective (Miss Marple), little murder often happening before the story began, enclosed setting, mystery always solved, and a morality play.
At the same time in America, prohibition, gangsters, growth in population from the industrial age, immigration, and other factors were changing the demographics large cities. Writers like Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John MacDonald, and Erle Stanley Garner created the detective mystery, using the Private Investigator as hero. The elements of these stories included: realism (all set in large cities), social issues, PI not afraid of committing crimes (even murder) to right the wrong he sees, jaundiced view of government, law VS justice, generate the smell of fear, and they were routed in the vernacular - living language of the streets.
Take a look at the chart below, and discover for yourself whether it proves my point about readers, genre, and the times.
Introduced in court
Foundations built - elements established by Edgar A. Poe, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Civil War in America
Monopolies | Robber Barons| Westward Movement| Immigration | Wild West
1776 Dental ID (Rev. War)
1804 Medico-legal Institute (U of Vienna)
1840-1870 mug shots, crime scene, post mortem photos
1837 Typewriter in use
1850 Pinkerton Agency
1882 first book on fingerprinting
1888 Machine gun
1870 document authenticity - handwriting
1845 New York Police Force
1860 Collins Woman in White
1860 Dime Novel Escapist Novels
1872 Fireside Companion Detective Novel Series in pulp magazines
Sherlock Holmes - side kick, arch rival, outwitting the police
Western pulp fiction - short stories, detective stories of 20s developed from these.
1900-20 Early Romantic Suspense
(Had I But Known genre)
Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote the earliest Romantic Suspense, following the 'bodice rippers' of the late 19th century.
Progressive / Populist Movements
Ocean Liners- Recreation - Titanic
Immigration | Industrial age had brought many to the city for jobs
1920 18th Amendment- prevent alcohol
Child labor Labor Unions
Religious tent meetings - and - Vaudeville
FBI Special Agents
Britain Scotland Yard
Scientific Crime lab at Berkeley
Widespread use of Fingerprinting
1910 Pulp Magazines Escapist Short Stories,
1915 Pulp Magazine Detective Stories
1903 The Great Train Robbery - first full length film 1920-39 England Golden Age of Mystery
ENGLAND: Puzzle Classic
Nostalgia Amid Social Chaos
End of fortnight country estate visits
Communism, Nazism, Fascism
Upper/Middle Class Books
Lending (Two-Penny) Libraries
Missing the good old days
"No one named Lefty has EVER appeared in an English classic mystery." ~Raymond Chandler
1910-1930 Automobiles became more affordable for all.
Paperbacks available for everyone - more readers
1922 Mary Roberts Rinehart Best Seller 1935 Paperback
Colliers & Others add Mystery Stories
1928 Detection Club (puzzle)
1929 S.S. Van Dine Best Seller List number 1 Rebecca
Films Agatha Christie and others
AMERICA: Detective Novel Hard-Boiled Detective Economic Depression
Prohibition / Speakeasies
Violent period of lawlessness
Gangsters as heroes - Al Capone and others
Language of gangsters in cities
"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid... He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man ... He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world." ~Raymond Chandler
Ballistics | Tommy Gun | Wireless Photo
Human Blood Groups
Aircraft Detecting Radar
Paraffin tests gun residue
1920 Firearms ID acceptance in trials
Dental ID accepted in court
Pulp Monthly The Black Mask"
1915-1950 over 200 Mystery Detective pulps
Circulation in 1924, Half A Million
Film Noir 40s And 50s Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep
Radio - G-Men, Public Enemy Sam Spade
Movies 90 Million Wkly Attendance (1930)
1931 Maltese Falcon
1935 Dick Tracy
1936 The Shadow, Gang Busters
1940 End Of Golden Age of Mysteries
WWII -. Detective novel still popular. Classic puzzle, too, but no new genre during this time. Changing world. Radio was very popular and mysteries played weekly - including Sam Spade, which was wildly popular.
Spy Trial Alger Hiss
Change Of World Order / Us & USSR Powers
Class system changing after wars
Women in workplace
Communication revolution - radio, typewriter, travel, speed, planes,etc
DNA accepted as basic genetic material
Chester Himes Black Mystery Author
1945 Mystery Writers of America (Edgar, Grand Master)
Radio Thriller / Drama / Mystery The Thin Man, Stella Dallas, Sam Spade 1950
My name is Bond, James Bond!
Red Scare McCarthyism | Blacklisting | Communism
Organized Crime grows
Korean War | Cold War | Conservative Politics
FBI Loyalty Checks
Communist Develop A-Bomb
DNA Double Helix Model
Boeing 707 Jet
First Atomic-Powered Submarine
USSR Launches Sputnik
Photofit ID London
BAC Blood Concentration in Alcohol
1953 Crime Writers Assn (Gold and Silver Daggers)
1953 1967 Manhunt Magazine Hard Boiled
1952 FBI Publishes Public Enemy List
Bond! James Bond! by Ian Fleming
Death Of The Pulp Magazines
Perry Mason, Dragnet - Television
1960 Romantic Suspense
Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote the earliest romantic suspense novel. They followed the 'gothic bodice rippers' of the latter 19th century.
Feminism, Hippies, Youth Power
Peace / Student Movement
Racism / Integration
Drug Use Increased
Berlin Wall built
Laser, Digital Display (Calculators)
Airplane Hi-Jacking (?)
Telstar Transatlantic TV
Nuclear Reactor Jersey Power Plant
Microchips Word Processors no longer able to document type
Man On Moon
Interpol seminar on scientific aspects of police work
Blood splatters (predict events from splatters)
Identi-Kit (visual likeness)
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Espionage & Romantic Suspense continue - this was a very quiet time for the mystery novel.
SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) Gold prices soared
Videotape as evidence in court
Lie detectors - polygraph - used in court
1970 Boucheron Committee (Anthony)
Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Frederick Forsyth,
Macmillan and Wife
1980 2nd Golden Age
Cook, book collectors, and other hobbies for detectives
Series were HUGE
Detective lives become important to readers (Kinsey Millhone)
White Collar Crime
Evidence of ID shoeware, etc.
Highly trained detectives, Educated PIs
DNA profiling tests announced
Second Golden Age of Mysteries
1981 Private Eye Writers Assn (Shamus
1986 Sisters in Crime
1986 Intl Association Crime Writers (Hammett)
15 books on Best Seller List 7 are mysteries
Hill Street Blues
Tech/ Industrial Espionage
International settings, translations of mysteries from foreign writers
Immigration growthEnergy Crisis
Gulf War Iraq and Afghanistan
Nostalgia strong in US
Terrorism in the US
Advanced DNA, accepted in court
Internet and other Technology
Forensic software analysis
College Courses in Forensics
Sophisticated murder site forensics CSI (Crime Scene Investigation)
eReaders social media
Mysteries have their own best seller list in the NYTimes & other newspapers.
Internet author & publisher websites
Internet publishing & Marketing
CSI, Espionage shows popular
pw revised 2011
Librarian Talk . . . About the Internet!
The Internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Look at:
- Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof that it has been.
- Source - Who wrote the information? Look at the domain. Most but not all .edu .gov. org .net are valid research sources.
- Authority - What are the author's credentials? (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
- Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
- Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. And offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
The internet can be a valuable resource for your paper. Be aware that all web pages are not suitable for scholarly research. Consider the accuracy of the information, the source of the information, the credentials of the author, and the relevance of the information to your research. If you are in doubt, ask your instructor.
Memoir by Lillian Hellman. Hellman writes about the personal relationship she had with Hammett. This web site from the New York Review of Books is the introduction to the book of Hammett's short stories published by Random House in 1966
Guns, Gams and Gratitude January Magazine published this group of short reviews on Hammett's novel. The reviews are by authors who also write hard-boiled crime fiction.
The Big Read this website from the National Endowment for the Arts contains great information and overview of the novel. It will help put the novel in historical context and offers some ideas for topics or themes.
The Crime Museum or the National Museum of Crime and Punishment Is a great place to see the history of forensic science and how the FBI solves cases. Interactive exhibits like the Be a Crime Scene Investigator allow you to practice your skill as a forensic scientist.
The Spy Museum Not far from the White House in Washington D.C., is a very special museum devoted to intrigue in the international and political arenas. Spies who dug for secrets weren't far from their earlier incarnation as detectives.
Librarian Talk about getting help!
Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor; use your LSC Online in-class email to contact her.
Citing Sources Using MLA Style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.
Avoiding Plagiarism | Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.
University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.
The Learning Center | Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring.
Page by Becky Bradley and Peggy Whitley, 12/2012