The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I just finished this classic hard boiled mystery by Dashiell Hammett.  It was fantastic and made me question why I don’t read more of the classics.   I loved the writing style, simple and direct.  The vernacular is realistic from the time period.  This book really is a definitive example of crime noir from the late 1920s and 1930s.  In addition, the North Point Press edition that I read included photographs from San Francisco of places mentioned in the book.

Sam Spade is well drawn character, the private detective of olden days, a real man’s man.  He is not to be messed with even by the gorgeous “Miss Wonderly”.  Sam’s line,

“Listen.  This isn’t a dammed bit of good.  You’ll never understand me, but I’ll try once more and then we’ll give up.  Listen.  When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it.  It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him.  He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.”

gives a great picture of Sam Spade and his moral code.

The events are realistic events, even though truthfully the may occur over the life of one private detective rather than in the course of one week.  The pacing keeps the story moving right along as the intrigues and machinations of the various characters are exposed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and highly recommend it for lover’s of mystery or crime fiction.

Eclectic Reading: Immobility & The House of Mirth

Two very different books this time.  The first is Immobility a dystopian novel set after the “Kollaps”.  Our lead character is a paraplegic survivor with a  very valuable skill.  Awoken from suspended animation and completely dependent upon those that awoke him, he doesn’t know who he is, who to trust, or what the truth is.  Very fast paced, thriller style writing with an intriguing plot.  Dystopian books are not really my go-to genre but I found this a good read.

The writing allows you to experience the confusion and disorientation of Horkai as he makes his way through the lies and the desolate landscape.  Horkai is a sympathetic protagonist and I was rooting for him all the way.  The near extinction of the human race, the mutations, and the continuing poison in the air and water are described in enough detail to be imagined but not so much as to slow the plot.  Very good read.

The second book was also very good, however as it is a classic and considered a landmark book in American fiction so you don’t need me to say that it was good.  The title comes from the quote from Ecclesiastes 7:4:

 “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” 

The novel follows the downward spiral of Lily Bart.  A combination of unfortunate circumstances, poor decisions, and societal pressures culminating in the downfall of Lily Bart.  Lily finds a good match, personality-wise, and intellectually in Lawrence Seldon, however he is not able to support her to the standards she feels she needs, that her society has groomed her to seek.  Lawrence remains throughout the tale as  a touchstone for Lily.  He actually opens the book…and closes it, with Lily at the beginning of her story and the end. 

The novel exposed the hypocrisy that surrounded the New York society of the time.   Edith Wharton was a member of this society and attacked it with the precision of a surgeon.  The novel is both a satire and a form of tragedy, not necessarily a tragedy in a classical sense but tragic nonetheless.  The strength of the novel is this insider’s perspective of the society and revelation of how a society molds its inhabitants, impacts their choices, and  opportunities.

I read this for my One Drink Minimum book Club and enjoyed it far more than I expected to at first glance.  I haven’t really been a big reader of classics in recent year so this was a real change of pace.  I can’t wait to have the book club meeting to discuss it!