The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett -- and The Maltese Falcon Movie
Published in 1930, The Maltese Falcon is gritty, gripping noir at its best, and The Maltese Falcon movie is also a classic. As far as detective stories go, this one’s a game changer.
Detective Sam Spade’s cool, cynical nature turned him into one of the most memorable characters in literature and film, most notably the 1941 release starring Humphrey Bogart. Both the book and the movie are stunners.
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Podcast Transcript: The Maltese Falcon Book and The Maltese Falcon Movie
Sarah Harrison 0:24
Welcome to Tea Tonic & Toxin, a book club and podcast for anyone who wants to explore the best mysteries and thrillers ever written. I’m your host, Sarah Harrison.
Carolyn Daughters 0:35
And I’m your host Carolyn Daughters. Pour yourself a cup of tea, a gin and tonic, …
Sarah Harrison 0:40
… but not a toxin …
Carolyn Daughters 0:44
And join us on a journey through 19th and 20th century mysteries and thrillers, every one of them a game changer.
Carolyn Daughters 0:57
We get to do another episode on The Maltese Falcon book and The Maltese Falcon movie. I’m so excited!
Sarah Harrison 1:01
I am, too. There’s so much stuff we still haven’t had the chance to talk about yet. And I want to bring more of Mike’s work into the reflection on the things going on here. I mean, your first mystery writer guest. How appropriate. It’s exciting.
Carolyn Daughters 1:20
I loved it. So we have a guest, Mike Nugent. And we want to introduce you, but first we want to thank our sponsor.
Sarah Harrison 1:28
Yes, we do.
Carolyn Daughters 1:30
Our sponsor, as always, is amazing. It’s Grace Sigma.
Sarah Harrison 1:33
They are amazing.
Carolyn Daughters 1:35
Grace Sigma is a boutique process engineering consultancy run by our own Sarah Harrison. Grace Sigma works nationally in such industries as finance, telecom, and government. Grace Sigma uses lean methods to assist in data dashboarding, storytelling, training, process visualization, and project management. Whether you’re a small business looking to scale or a large company whose processes have become tangled, Grace Sigma can help. You can learn more at gracesigma.com. We also have a listener award.
Sarah Harrison 2:11
And frankly, folks, we just couldn’t not give out this listener award to our guest, Mike Nugent, who has displayed an acute awareness of previous episodes. He’s clearly listening.
Carolyn Daughters 2:27
Yes, and Mike, you mentioned to me that you had recently listened to both episodes of Red Harvest.
Mike Nugent 2:36
Carolyn Daughters 2:36
Dashiell Hammett’s book Red Harvest. You listened to both of our episodes to prepare for our conversations today.
Sarah Harrison 2:44
It’s so awesome. We’re gonna send you a sticker.
Mike Nugent 2:48
I’ll do anything for stickers.
Sarah Harrison 2:50
I will do just about anything for stickers myself. We have that in common.
Carolyn Daughters 2:53
This is a very nice sticker.
Sarah Harrison 2:56
Hold it up. We’re on video, potentially. Check out this beauty.
Mike Nugent 3:07
That’s going on my laptop, yes.
Sarah Harrison 3:10
Post a picture wherever you stick it and tag us on the social.
Carolyn Daughters 3:16
So how do our listeners get their own sticker?
Sarah Harrison 3:19
They can do just about anything. Comment on Facebook or Instagram. What I would really love is if you send us a comment through the website about a particular book and your thoughts. Because then we could bring that up in an episode, which is very cool.
Carolyn Daughters 3:46
To get your own sticker, all you have to do is comment on our website, which is teatonicandtoxin.com or on our Instagram page @teatonicandtoxin and Facebook page @teatonicandtoxin. And on top of all of that, because you’re looking for more to do, we would appreciate your five-star reviews on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to Tea Tonic & Toxin. Your reviews help like-minded listeners find us.
Sarah Harrison 4:32
Carolyn, tell us about our super exciting guest today.
Carolyn Daughters 4:49
Our guest is Mike Nugent. Mike has worked as a lawyer, lobbyist, litigator, and business executive in the technology, intellectual property, and financial services fields. He has also always worked at being a writer. He has self-published three political mystery novels and has a fourth about to be submitted. He has self-published a children’s book and has had several short stories published in various journals in the U.S. and abroad, one of which he has turned into a short screenplay. One of his books was our Writers and Readers magazine author-length feature thriller for two straight months. Another made it to the semi-finalist round in the 2015 James Jones first novel fellowship contest, meaning it was selected in the top 30 of more than 675 submissions. Mike is a member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, where he completed a two-year book project program on writing novels, led by 2023 Edgar Award winner Erika Krouse. Mike lives near the Jersey Shore. If you want to find his work, and you should, you can check them out at amazon.com/author/pmnugent.
Sarah Harrison 6:06
Before we jump into the summary, Mike, I want to ask you a couple questions about your work. What is the children’s book that you wrote?
Mike Nugent 6:15
It’s called The Story of Your Youts. From the from the movie line. It’s the stories I told my children as they were growing up. I brought them down to a short book of all the stories, including three elves that visited us every Christmas. I just wanted to give them memories of their “youts.”
Sarah Harrison 6:44
That’s cool. Cute. I have a two year old and a four year old, and we love reading, so I’m always looking for more children’s books. Let me give you a quick summary of what The Maltese Falcon. It’s a detective novel written by Dashiell Hammett, first published in 1930. The story takes place from December 5-10, 1928. A mysterious woman, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, hires private investigator Sam Spade and his partner to locate her missing sister. Event take an unexpected turn when the partner, Miles Archer, is murdered, as is Floyd Thursby, the man Archer was trailing. Sam Spade delves deeper into the case and encounters a series of untrustworthy characters, including the cunning Joe Cairo and the sinister Casper Gutman. Everyone seems to be after a priceless statuette called the Maltese falcon. As the plot unfolds, Spade must navigate a labyrinth of intrigue, deception, and betrayal to uncover the truth behind the falcon’s whereabouts. Set against the backdrop of 1920 San Francisco, The Maltese Falcon is a classic noir detective novel with a suspenseful and intricate plot. The complex characters and atmospheric writing style have made the book a timeless crime fiction classic. The 1941 Maltese Falcon movie directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade is also a masterpiece. Today we’re excited to talk about The Maltese Falcon. It’s our eighth book selection of 2023. You can find out more about this book and all of our 2023 book selections on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. Welcome, Mike!
Mike Nugent 8:48
Hi, how are you?
Sarah Harrison 8:50
We’re great. Mike, you said the word “McGuffin” in the last episode, and I was hoping we could talk a little bit more about this funny word. You mentioned that Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term. How did Hitchcock popularize it through a movie, but we’re reading about it now in a book? Tell me about the McGuffin.
Mike Nugent 9:22
Hitchcock coined the phrase “McGuffin.” It’s the thing in a book or movie that everyone wants, that everyone’s chasing. If you if you’re familiar with Apocalypse Now, it’s Colonel Kurtz, right? Or in The Lord of the Rings, it’s the magical ring that the hobbits are going after. Here, of course, it’s the Maltese falcon. And not only is it a great device, because everyone’s focused on it, but it tells a lot about what the story is. At the end of the day, the McGuffin, or the Maltese falcon, is a fake. They find that out at the very end. In that sense, it became a true McGuffin, because even as we chased the Maltese falcon, it turned out it was fake, just like many of the characters in the book. If you scratched their skin, you would see the lies underneath. In fact, there’s language that talks about Joel Cairo having a lacquered-like face. And then the Maltese falcon in the book and in the Maltese Falcon movie had a lacquer encasing it, and when they scratched through the lacquer, the enamel, they actually found it was lead underneath. It was a fake. So this Maltese falcon is a true McGuffin. Not only is it a plot device that keeps the story moving, we gotta find the McGuffin. But at the end of the day, it’s fake, just like everybody else. The Maltese Falcon may be the perfect McGuffin.
Sarah Harrison 11:10
Where does the term McGuffin come from? It sounds like a bird and a muffin of some kind.
Mike Nugent 11:18
It was the name given some by some British director. He just made it up out of the blue.
Sarah Harrison 11:26
Like a whatchamacallit.
Mike Nugent 11:27
A thingamajig. In the 1941 Maltese Falcon movie, the McGuffin appears, and they’re all in the same room. Again, it’s a claustrophobic room. And you can see the looks at each other and the different camera angles showing dominance and lack of dominance. Brigid, Gutman, and Cairo are ripping the wrapping apart in the movie. This scene doesn’t doesn’t appear in the book. But it emphasizes how much this McGuffin possessed these characters, and in a frenzy they rip the wrapping off, and then find out its lead.
Sarah Harrison 11:27
Do you ever use a McGuffin in your books?
Mike Nugent 11:38
The first one in the series involves a painting that George Washington had commissioned during the American Revolution. Everyone’s chasing this painting, which depicts Washington in a forest shaking hands with a Native American. The plot of the book is that Washington hid something in the painting, and now everyone is looking for the painting, which is called The Contract in the Lenape language.
Sarah Harrison 12:58
Is the story based on anything, or did you totally make that up?
Mike Nugent 13:05
Totally made it up.
Sarah Harrison 13:06
Mike Nugent 13:07
I looked at facts and what could have happened. What explains the story that really happened? That’s what I like to say.
Sarah Harrison 13:21
I like that. I didn’t look at anything around the Maltese Falcon movie or book, but I assume it’s entirely made up. But they present this historical story that Effie then verifies.
Mike Nugent 13:33
It’s actually very interesting. Hammett used real-life characters to populate the book. And Gutman is based on a character called a real-life person called Maundy Gregory, who’s an overweight British detective entrepreneur, who is involved in many sophisticated endeavors and capers, including a search for a long-lost treasure, like the bejeweled falcon.
Sarah Harrison 13:57
Mike Nugent 13:59
It’s the story’s beginning. And the greed element, I think, comes through from another reference in the book, which which had to do with The Merchant of Venice. He’s walking the streets of San Francisco, and he sees the reference …
Carolyn Daughters 14:20
The movie poster.
Mike Nugent 14:21
I think it’s a poster for an actor playing Shylock. And it really happened during that time period. And you can just see that spawning the idea. In The Merchant of Venice, of course, the merchant uses his flesh as collateral for a loan, and the money lender is now coming back to collect on the debt. The perfect picture of greed, the motivation for peddling your flesh, a McGuffin for this book.
Sarah Harrison 14:58
I think that’s fascinating, like where does the fiction end and the reality start, and vice versa. And that’s even true in modern books. I remember when The Da Vinci Code came out, and a lot of people took the fictional parts a little too seriously.
Carolyn Daughters 15:18
There are whole Da Vinci Code tours and all that. And, yes, you can go to all the different physical locations. But I think on a deeper level, there are some people who maybe think there’s so much truth in the book. That you can actually uncover this hidden truth, like it’s an Indiana Jones story that you can land on this secret truth that has been harbored and hidden all these years or something like that.
Mike Nugent 15:49
A Maltese falcon has never been discovered. But there were similar things like this detective in Britain, who is chasing a McGuffin. You can just see Hammett’s mind working. Thinking about greed, perhaps thinking about the McGuffin, the chasing of the Maltese falcon. At the end of the day it’s fake, yet everybody is killing everybody to find it. It’s a great setup for a mystery in both the Maltese Falcon book and the Maltese Falcon movie.
Sarah Harrison 16:19
I’m definitely following the trajectory of our books, and I haven’t read all that many mysteries to begin with, but The Maltese Falcon felt very fresh. Have we had McGuffins before in our books, and I just didn’t know about this device of some kind.
Carolyn Daughters 16:33
Sarah Harrison 16:35
Oh, right, The Moonstone.
Carolyn Daughters 16:39
Yeah, we read Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. There’s this potentially powerful or historically dangerous jewel.
Sarah Harrison 16:49
Carolyn Daughters 16:51
The Moonstone is eventually returned back to its rightful home.
Mike Nugent 16:57
What does Gutman do when he finds out it’s fake? He’s going back? He’s gonna keep looking for it.
Sarah Harrison 17:02
Right? There’s a real one somewhere, I know it.
Carolyn Daughters 17:04
Here’s a question I have for both of you. Because I don’t know the answer: Is there a real falcon in the Maltese Falcon book or the Maltese Falcon movie? Do you think there is?
Mike Nugent 17:10
Not to my knowledge.
Carolyn Daughters 17:12
Not in real life, but in the book. Do you think that they’re chasing a shadow or an idea of something, or are they actually chasing a real thing. They just have to go back to Hong Kong or to Malta or to who knows where. We just have to go back there, and then we can find it. Is there an “it” to find?
Sarah Harrison 17:32
I didn’t think so. When that one turned out to be a fake, and I thought beforehand, well, somebody would have just pried all the jewels off. Why would you leave all the jewels on a bird? You would have pried it off years ago and sold it off when you need $50 or something like that? That was my take on it. I think they pried it all off and covered it in lacquer.
Mike Nugent 18:02
In the chapter called The Russian’s Hand, there’s the story of the Russian who had held the real Maltese falcon, from whom it was stolen, supposedly. It’s called the Russian’s hand, like it’s a poker hand, again, another act of fakery. Did the Russians give to the captain of the ship and to Brigid a Falcon that was fake from the beginning. And the suggestion is yes, they got a fake from the beginning. Because Joel Cairo screams at Gutman — “You didn’t check! You fell for the ruse, you fell for it!” It brings me to the conclusion that maybe it is out there.
Sarah Harrison 19:00
You’re implying that from the title, this Russian put one over on the gang. Yeah, that’s fair. I think that’s a fair implication.
Carolyn Daughters 19:11
But we’ve also talked about greed. And this is our second of two podcast episodes on the Maltese Falcon book and Maltese Falcon movie. Casper Gutman, weirdly, when he finds out the falcon fake, he’s distressed for a moment. And then he’s like, Well, we’re just gonna have to go find it. He bounces back so fast. I felt like something outside of greed was working with Casper Gutman.
Sarah Harrison 19:39
Carolyn Daughters 19:40
Yeah, I mean, he has money already. And he seems to love the journey versus the destination. He’s on board. Well, let’s get going.
Sarah Harrison 19:52
He’d been looking for it for like a decade or something.
Mike Nugent 19:54
Sarah Harrison 19:57
Maybe this episode is just one and a while long chain. Maybe he has said this five other times before.
Mike Nugent 20:06
The implication is also that Wilmer, Joel Cairo, and Gutman have been on this from the beginning. Gutman has been looking for 17 years. But Cairo and Wilmer, you get the impression that they were over in Constantinople when they picked up the fraud. When the book starts, you’re not quite clear if they’re in league with each other. It becomes quite clear that Cairo was having some kind of affair with Wilmer, some kind of love relationship. It becomes clear that Gutman was part of that menage a trois. It seems that they had been a group that had been chasing the McGuffin for a period of time.
Carolyn Daughters 20:49
I was unclear about about Wilmer. Maybe we can talk about that for a moment.
Sarah Harrison 20:56
Yeah, I got a different impression actually than that.
Carolyn Daughters 20:59
I was torn. Not everything is on the page. You can you can read what’s there, and you can take a step back and try to assess what’s not being said. At the very least, Joel Cairo has a great deal of affection for Wilmer.
Mike Nugent 21:21
A crush, maybe.
Carolyn Daughters 21:22
Yeah. And it could be deeper than that. There could be a relationship there. It’s hard to tell from Wilmer’s perspective because he, at this point, is basically being given up as the fall guy. His head is in another place. We don’t really have an opportunity to see his potential relationship or lack thereof with Cairo. We see him sort of lashing out once he realizes he’s going to be the fall guy. So Mike, your take is that there is a relationship there with with Joel Cairo.
Mike Nugent 21:57
With all three. Yes. That they’ve been a gang. Wilmer is being turned in. He was rightfully betrayed by Gutman because he Wilmer did kill Thursby and did kill the captain. So he was not a good guy. In the Maltese Falcon movie, he comes across as a strict gun guy, no hint of homosexuality. Gutman, too, by the way, comes across that way. They load the the language in the movie on Joe Cairo, the various descriptions of his perfume and his eyelashes. This was a mystery in both the movie and the book. What made him tick? Was it greed, was it his relationship, but you don’t really get a real view except he becomes bitterly angry when it becomes clear in what I think is one of the greatest lines, where Gutman says, “You can always get another son. But you can’t always get another Maltese falcon.”
Carolyn Daughters 23:18
I love you like a son, but …
Mike Nugent 23:24
This line has to be nominated in the hall of fame for cold lines. Because how cold could you be?
Sarah Harrison 23:32
I felt like that was an insight into the fact that Wilmer killed Gutman in the end, right.
Mike Nugent 23:41
You mean, he killed Jacoby, the pilot?
Sarah Harrison 23:48
At the end, Wilmer shot Gutman.
Carolyn Daughters 23:54
I think it’s related secondhand.
Sarah Harrison 23:57
They come back and tell Sam Spade. Because earlier Wilmer disappears out of the room.
Mike Nugent 24:03
He’s arrested, they all disappeared out of the room.
Sarah Harrison 24:06
I think Wilmer vanished before they were arrested. And then he comes back after being scot free to kill Gutman. To me, that was saying that Wilmer actually took it as a potential father/son relationship himself and that the betrayal hurt at the level of like a discarded son. Because Wilmer could have gotten away.
Mike Nugent 24:31
That part isn’t in the Maltese Falcon movie. But from the book, I got the impression that Wilmer left first and then Gutman and Cairo left.
Sarah Harrison 24:43
They left shaking hands. We’ve got a plan.
Mike Nugent 24:47
And that’s when Sam Spade turned Brigid, and the cops showed up at the door. And he told them, here’s where you’ll find all these mugs. I didn’t get the impression that Gutman was killed. I got the impression that we’re realigning.
Sarah Harrison 25:05
Am I crazy? I think Wilmer came and killed him, right?
Carolyn Daughters 25:10
Yes. So Tom says, “Anyway, we got it from Cairo. Gutman’s dead. The kid had just finished shooting him when we got there.”
Mike Nugent 25:18
Oh, yeah, that’s right. We don’t see it.
Carolyn Daughters 25:22
And then Spade nodded. “He ought to have expected that,” he said. End scene.
Sarah Harrison 25:32
You can see somebody taking in Wilmer, who is much younger. He takes in this guy, raising him to the life of crime. That’s not out of character for Gutman because he was raising his actual daughter, Rhea.
Mike Nugent 25:49
Why didn’t I believe that was true. I did not believe that that was the truth.
Sarah Harrison 25:55
Mike Nugent 25:57
Because why didn’t he kill Cairo? You know, because that they seem to have the relationship in the book more than Gutman and he, although he uses the line “son.”
Sarah Harrison 26:09
I think it was a parental relationship.
Carolyn Daughters 26:12
A father/son element.
Sarah Harrison 26:13
I guess I got a different impression based on the exchange. I didn’t see any affection between them until Gutman was throwing Wilmer under the bus and then Cairo starts his whispering. And Wilmer seems angry about it. That’s where I took it that Cairo was making some kind of overture, and Wilmer was rejecting that overture.
Carolyn Daughters 26:37
I wasn’t clear one way or the other. I could see Cairo’s affection toward Wilmer. I wasn’t sure about Wilmer.
Sarah Harrison 26:45
For some reason, out of the blue, I felt like Wilmer had a thing for Rhea, Gutman’s daughter. I don’t know that that was based on anything other than just creeping into my head.
Carolyn Daughters 26:59
Boy, she in my mind is a very enigmatic character. I don’t get her at all. She’s not in the Maltese Falcon movie, I don’t think.
Sarah Harrison 27:05
She just shows up for a scene. It’s bonkers.
Carolyn Daughters 27:07
And then she’s gone.
Mike Nugent 27:08
I think she’s there to kill some time.
Sarah Harrison 27:11
Yeah, she acted like she was helping Brigid but in effect was just stalling Sam Spade. That’s how I came down on that. What did you guys think?
Carolyn Daughters 27:22
She seemed really drugged out. So either she’s a good actress, or she was really drugged out?
Sarah Harrison 27:28
Yeah, she was drugged out, I think.
Mike Nugent 27:30
You’re right. She wasn’t included in the Maltese Falcon movie at all. It’s almost like it’s a red herring. It’s certainly not a necessary part of the book like some of the other parts. It was very strange. I didn’t pick up on Wilmer and Rhea. Interesting.
Carolyn Daughters 27:51
I didn’t either.
Sarah Harrison 27:52
I don’t know why it drifted into my mind. And maybe it was just the parental relationships. I started thinking about it more as I was reading through the notes. Rhea was his actual daughter, and my take on the scene, again, it’s ambiguous, but my take on the scene was what Spade said that Rhea allowed herself to be drugged by Gutman, scratched herself up as like a red herring to stall Spade. Nobody contradicted that. So Rhea was somehow in on it at harm to herself. So she’s putting herself on the line for her father. Wilmer’s putting himself on the line for Gutman. How did Gutman feel? Gutman tossed Wilmer to the wolves, so to speak? Would he have done the same for Rhea? If they had known this about him, would they have been so keen to support him? It just seemed like an interesting, weird contrast? And maybe that’s how Wilmer and Rhea got tangled up in my head.
Mike Nugent 28:53
And you have to ask the question: Is Rhea really Gutman’s daughter.
Carolyn Daughters 29:01
Mike Nugent 29:06
I forgot the part about the book saying that Gutman got killed in part because the Maltese Falcon movie doesn’t have that.
Sarah Harrison 29:13
I thought about rewatching the movie, but I didn’t before the podcast. I didn’t want to get confused.
Mike Nugent 29:21
Some of these things, even after you close the book, do you think to yourself, did Gutman really get killed, was Rhea really the daughter, was Corrine really Brigid’s sister?
Sarah Harrison 29:34
Carolyn Daughters 29:37
We know nothing about Brigid.
Mike Nugent 29:39
Because you’ve just come out of a world that is just total lies. Spade would lie just for the hell of it.
Carolyn Daughters 29:48
And then we have this character who I think is the antithesis of a lot of that, which is Effie.
Sarah Harrison 29:56
Oh, yeah. Sweet, sweet Effie.
Carolyn Daughters 30:04
We’ve talked a lot about Brigid, and rightfully so she’s a major character.
Sarah Harrison 30:10
Is she the first lady villain? Have there been lady villains we’ve read about before this? Because I was thinking maybe that no one’s been as diabolical as her. But have there been others? I think there was one in Lady Molly of Scotland Yard, but it wasn’t at this level of like multi-murder and manipulation.
Carolyn Daughters 30:34
A femme fatale. We’ve talked about how complex and rich Brigid is as a character, how how people like Miles Archer didn’t recognize the danger in her. He used his eyes to look her over, but not to really understand what he was working with. He really underestimated her. And then we have Effie, who would make a first-rate detective. She sees, hears, understands things. You can count on her. Spade can send her here, send her there, and she’s on it. And at times, Sam Spade gives her a little pat on the head or the behind. He seems sort of …. what am I trying to say?
Mike Nugent 31:33
Carolyn Daughters 31:34
Yes. He minimizes her importance, her understanding of the world and chalks it up to feminine intuition. But at one point, of course, he does say yes, she would make a great detective.
Sarah Harrison 31:48
I didn’t get the undermining vibe. He’s certainly physical with every woman in the book, and Effie is no exception. But I guess I didn’t see it as condescending just based on their interaction.
Carolyn Daughters 32:02
He calls her silly or daffy at some point.
Sarah Harrison 32:05
Oh sure, but she calls him stuff, too. I love that.
Carolyn Daughters 32:09
She calls him out on his crap over and over. They don’t hold back on each other. I loved that. Because he needs to hear that periodically from somebody. And she’s doling it out.
Mike Nugent 32:25
He doesn’t treat her well in The Maltese Falcon book or the Maltese Falcon movie. One time, he put an arm around her slim waist and rested his cheek wearily against her hip, shutting his eyes. Who does that? And he described her as a rattle-brained angel with a boyish face. And the highest compliment he can give her is, “You’re a good man sister. A damn good man.”
Sarah Harrison 32:52
That’s true. That was interesting in context, given the story, given the timeline. It reminded me of two people we’ve read about. Marian Halcombe, who is definitely represented as masculine.
Carolyn Daughters 33:09
She’s a good man, sister, also.
Sarah Harrison 33:11
And Marian really takes it on like, yeah, I am a man. I’m manish, and I’m content in that role.
Carolyn Daughters 33:18
Marian from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.
Sarah Harrison 33:21
And then Mary Granard, Molly’s assistant. Lady Molly’s assistant was one who would get in there, mix it up, put on a disguise, be a detective. And then there’s Effie, who’s a little bit of both and neither. So when I’m thinking about who are these characters that kind of break out of the stereotypical feminine role that that we’ve seen, Effie is relegated to the guy friend. But I got the distinct impression that she did not want to be there.
Carolyn Daughters 34:02
She wanted something more.
Sarah Harrison 34:03
She didn’t want to be in the friend zone. She wanted to be the Iva, walking in with the body that Sam can’t resist.
Mike Nugent 34:17
Why does Iva think that Brigid’s wonderful and that Iva is a louse. There’s a hint in the text that perhaps the time when Spade started picking up with Iva, who’s Archer’s wife with whom he’s having an affair, maybe Effie thought she had a shot at Spade. That’s why I think Effie thought Iva was a louse. She’ll never get over it. And she just was so blind to Brigid. And she was so blind to Spade. In my view, she woke up at the end. She’s a good detective, but she misses some key things, which doesn’t jive with a character who’s very sharp and very smart and very facile with language. She really knows how to put him down. That seems to be an important part of the book. Why did she get it wrong? Was it because she, too, got overwhelmed by Wonderly’s charms?
Sarah Harrison 35:33
I think she did. Well, and she’s a backseat detective. I think she’s good for what she’s doing. But she doesn’t have all the information. You know, she’s not in there. In the interview, watching Wonderly watching Wonderly and Archer, watching Archer watch Wonderly.
Carolyn Daughters 35:51
When did the two of them have a conversation or interact?
Sarah Harrison 35:54
She sees Wonderly in the waiting room. She has the waiting room impression, which is completely the impression that Brigid wants everyone to have of her, which is the damsel in distress.
Carolyn Daughters 36:06
Effie has that information. And then she has what Sam Spade tells her.
Sarah Harrison 36:09
Which isn’t much until the end. But Spade is out there. He’s thinking, we find out later, why is Archer killed in this spot? This spot makes no sense based on what he was doing where everyone else was. Effie doesn’t get any of that.
Carolyn Daughters 36:25
Also, in both the Maltese Falcon book and Maltese Falcon movie Archer is a big dummy in a lot of ways, but he’s good at his job. So I think Sam Spade points out that Archer normally doesn’t get himself into this kind of bind where he goes down a blind alley and just hangs out and somebody can easily shoot him. But he might do it for a beautiful woman.
Sarah Harrison 36:46
I think Effie was held back because she didn’t have all the information.
Carolyn Daughters 36:53
So she thought Brigid was a damsel in distress.
Sarah Harrison 36:58
And a gorgeous one. And I think what it turned turn out to be, and this kills me because it’s a total lack of intuition, right? It’s not hard to see Iva is a louse. She’s cheating on her husband. That takes no intuition. And she’s dishonest. She doesn’t see any of that about Wonderly, but Wonderly turns out to be the real Iva. Brigid is the one that’s the cold-blooded killer. Effie suspects Iva of killing her husband, but it was Brigid that did it. I have this weird idea. And this again could be another weird Sarah thing. But I feel like Effie wasn’t surprised by Sam, that she knows Sam. I feel like she was surprised by Brigid.
Carolyn Daughters 37:45
In some ways, it seems Effie was the only character who changes in the book.
Sarah Harrison 37:50
Tell me what you mean there.
Carolyn Daughters 37:52
Most of the characters at the end are pretty much who they were at the beginning. But I saw Effie responding, reacting, and seeing Sam Spade differently at the end.
Mike Nugent 38:08
Yes, that’s my view.
Carolyn Daughters 38:09
Does that last? Will she fall back in line with whatever her relationship was with Sam before? Maybe. But for that moment, I saw a shift. And I saw it with Effie, which made her, for me, one of the most interesting characters in the book.
Mike Nugent 38:27
She was. And with all the references made to eyes and seeing, she didn’t see Sam Spade as he was. She didn’t see that he had to do what he did because Brigid killed Archer. That doesn’t move Effie. It’s a true puzzle why Effie is just so angry. She just walks out of the room. And he goes onto his next phone call or his next business. It does beg the question how long is Effie gonna be in that job?
Sarah Harrison 39:07
She ought to quit, but I think she enjoys the detective work.
Carolyn Daughters 39:11
At the end, these are the last few lines that Effie is in, and it’s very near the end of the book. “She escaped from [Sam Spade’s] arm as if he had hurt her. ‘Don’t, please don’t touch me,’ she said brokenly. I know. I know you’re right. You’re right. But don’t touch me now. Not now.’ Spade’s face became pale as his collar.” So this is new territory, I feel.
Mike Nugent 39:38
Carolyn Daughters 39:21
“The corridor door’s knob rattled. Effie Perine turned quickly and went into the outer office, shutting the door behind her.” Then she comes back in a minute later and she says in a small flat voice “Iva is here.” And I just thought, this is so interesting that even Sam Spade seems taken aback by her response. It’s new. It’s new for her. It’s new for him. This is not just the usual banter, back and forth arguing that the two of them do. This is something different. I think a shift happened. Although, this entire scene is missing from The Maltese Falcon movie.
Mike Nugent 39:40
Hammett ends the book while that next client comes in, right?
Sarah Harrison 39:50
It’s not the client, it’s Iva.
Mike Nugent 39:53
Iva, right. It’s almost like they’re trying to get back to normality. Here are the last couple sentences. “Spade, looking down at his desk, nodded almost imperceptibly. ‘Yes,’ he said, and shivered. ‘Well send her in.” You know, it could be shivering because he has to deal with viva. But it’s almost like the world had changed right there, and he wasn’t sure he liked it.
Sarah Harrison 41:03
You guys are making me think of the Flitcraft parable. My question is, does he go back to sleeping with Iva? Does he go back to business as usual? He’s gonna sleep with Iva. He doesn’t really like her. And Effie is gonna go back to being the secretary.
Carolyn Daughters 41:24
Let’s talk about the Flitcraft parable.
Mike Nugent 41:33
The parable that ties everything together.
Carolyn Daughters 41:36
So, Sam Spade is with Brigid O’Shaughnessy in his apartment. And he starts telling a story. And he’s not a verbose guy. And yet, he just starts telling this whole story to her. She’s sort of tapped out at first and then she starts paying more attention as he goes. But there’s this guy who’s supposedly dead. And I think Sam Spade was hired by an insurance company in his former job to find this person who looks like the dead guy who is supposedly dead. But maybe he’s not dead. And so Sam Spade goes to investigate. He finds the guy and asks him what’s the deal? Why did you disappear? Why did you pretend to be dead?
Mike Nugent 42:26
The guy who disappeared, he had a family, he had a job, he had a beautiful life. Yet one day, he just got up and walked out.
Carolyn Daughters 42:35
He had this near-death experience walking to the corner store — that kind of thing. You know, all the stories about going to get a gallon of milk and never coming back. That’s what happens here. So he has this realization that he could be dead right now. Wow, like what what do I want to do? Maybe I don’t have to return to my old life. Maybe I can start a new life. Then he starts a new life.
Sarah Harrison 43:05
You get a sense of your fragility. You’re like, what am I doing? I’ve got to do something. So he disappears, he goes out into the wild.
Carolyn Daughters 43:12
And then he recreates his old life in his new life.
Sarah Harrison 43:15
But he doesn’t realize it. He thinks he’s starting over with this new insight. And then he just falls into the same rut.
Mike Nugent 43:23
He adjusted, according to Spade. Spade said when the near-death accident almost occurred for this guy named Flitcraft, Spade says says “Flitcraft felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him look at the works. He decided to construct a new life in another place. The exact same life that he had. I look at that last scene that we were talking about with, with Iva coming in and Effie trying to fake her way through it and Spade, shivering. It’s almost like with all that went on between him, Brigid and Effie, that maybe the lid had been lifted off his life. He got pale. He shivered. He shook. Maybe he’s settling, maybe he’s adjusting to life despite everything that’s been going on.
Carolyn Daughters 44:31
I mean, a lot of shocking events have occurred within a five-day span. And for this brief moment, I think, the real break for Sam Spade might be “what in the world would happen if Effie and he don’t have this thing that they have.” If Effie went away, what would he have? It makes me wonder how the Maltese Falcon movie would have changed if this scene had been included.
Sarah Harrison 44:50
He is nothing with Effie. Effie is his solid. She is the person he is himself with. I felt like if Sam was ever going to settle down, it would have to be honest, Effie. But he’s never going to.
Carolyn Daughters 45:02
Yeah, she says ride or die. I’m still working through this in my own head and hoping you both can guide me. But why is Sam Spade telling the Flitcraft parable to Brigid O’Shaughnessy in his apartment?
Mike Nugent 45:25
The only thing I can explain is that the only one who got that story was really Spade. And it has hung with him all these years. And he talks throughout the book about how he doesn’t do things for the right reason, or because they’re good. He does it because it gets him through life. And I wonder if when he thinks about that parable, is he really just reacquainting himself with how much he’s adjusting? And how much he has to adjust to whatever has been developing. Now he’s in a world where he’s shivering because he has to deal with Iva, and Effie has totally upended things. Does he just go back like the guy Flitcraft and find the renewed life?
Carolyn Daughters 46:24
Build the new life that looks just like the old life, including Iva walking through the door. Same old, same old.
Mike Nugent 46:31
Brigid was fascinated. Although maybe that was fake. Did she get what he was saying?
Sarah Harrison 46:37
Well, I wonder if he was telling himself a story about Brigid? This is an open-ended question story. Do people change, and under what circumstances might they? And so he’s telling the story about a guy that had a near-death experience and decided he was going to change everything about his life. And thought he was. Unbeknownst to himself, he was doing the same thing again. That’s the plea that Brigid makes throughout the book. Yes, I killed these guys. I was fake with those guys. I’ve been in this posture so long. But with you, Sam, there’s something special between us, and he has to decide is she lying or telling the truth. Because I think if she was telling the truth, I think he wouldn’t have turned her in. But I don’t think he could ever believe that. I think he turned around because she might kill him tomorrow.
Carolyn Daughters 47:35
So you are what you are, and this is who Brigid is at her core. As a result, he can never trust her.
Sarah Harrison 47:42
You could never trust this woman. Jacoby died, Thursby died, Archer died. Cairo was gay. So Sam Spade even mentioned that in the book like, Cairo’s not gonna fall for you. That way he was safe. Sam feels that pull himself, but knowing the facts, you could never trust this woman. She could she would kill you with no qualms whenever suited her.
Carolyn Daughters 48:07
So she’s saying, I’m going to be different with you, Sam. This is different.
Sarah Harrison 48:13
Yeah, this is a turning point.
Carolyn Daughters 48:15
And Sam is saying with the Flitcraft parable, you are who you are.
Sarah Harrison 48:21
I think he’s telling himself that. I think this is a big wrestling with himself through the book in terms of what he wishes reality was and what it actually is.
Mike Nugent 48:35
We have talked about whether Sam got a reckoning? Was justice meted out? And I think the only reckoning that was going on in Sam’s life, at the end of the book, was him just continuing to reckon with himself. And, you know, what is it that he’s saying to himself, what is it that I need to do now? He’s very much a realist, and I think a fatalist. And I think the Flitcraft parable says that. Here’s a guy who almost died, and he changed his life. And he ended up doing the exact same thing in another town with the same kind of woman. And then I guess there were kids. And he’s content. And that’s kind of a miserable thing to end up being, I think. I don’t think the parable tells a happy story. I think it tells a tragic story. And I think that’s what we see going on with with Sam as he reckons with his own life. The only thing he knew he had to do was turn in Miles’ killer. Because he’s his partner. That’s what you have to do. Otherwise, business is going down. If you can’t capture the guy who killed your partner, you get no business. So he’s very practical. It goes back to that moral code thing. This guy in the Flitcraft fable, he deserted his family and started over again because he had the lid ripped off his life. That’s pretty tragic. And it’s Sam doing the same thing. (The Maltese Falcon movie, however, has a different ending.)
Sarah Harrison 50:13
Do you guys feel like Sam deserved a reckoning? Did he need something to be reckoned with? For himself?
Mike Nugent 50:22
That’s a very good question. Effie gives him his due at the end.
Carolyn Daughters 50:27
I think that was his reckoning in the book, though it’s not in The Maltese Falcon movie.
Mike Nugent 50:32
We talked about in the Continental Op in Red Harvest. His boss is the Old Man. It’s fascinating what he says about him. He says the Old Man was a shell of a person who had no human emotion. That’s what the Continental Op is.
Carolyn Daughters 50:58
They’re the same person. Even when I read that first time, I was like, Are you describing yourself or the Old Man? Or is that what this particular job turns you into? Because to me the Continental Op was just like that.
Mike Nugent 51:19
In the reckoning that Sam’s doing with himself, Effie really gave it to him.
Carolyn Daughters 51:23
Mike Nugent 51:25
She implicitly threatened to get out. Yet, he’s just gonna continue to adjust and just move on.
Carolyn Daughters 51:34
Effie is not fighting and sparring with him anymore. She says, J”ust don’t touch me right now.” Something shifted, even the physicality has shifted. Personally, I think that’s his reckoning.
Sarah Harrison 51:47
Yes, makes sense.
Mike Nugent 51:48
And when he talks about the fable. This guy left his family because his world was ripped apart. He talks about wasn’t that a beautiful thing. It’s how he told that story. This is an important story to tell you, Brigid, because this is how you land on your feet and move on. It’s interesting.
Sarah Harrison 52:13
I know we’re at time but I want to ask Mike one more question. When I think noir, I think femme fatale. They’re tied together. Mike, do you write femme fatales? Is that part of your noir when you’re writing?
Mike Nugent 52:29
No, there are no femme fatales. There are strong women who are part of the team, so to speak. So my main character is the woman he lives with and is niece. They are tough women who also have golden hearts and give it to him straight. But the protagonist knows he is what he is. And the women in his life are helping him get through. I don’t have that femme fatale, that beautiful woman who slays.
Sarah Harrison 53:14
That idea is stuck in my head or in a time period.
Carolyn Daughters 53:23
Well, we have come to the end of another hour here.
Sarah Harrison 53:27
Carolyn Daughters 53:28
I know. I feel like we could talk about this book all day. And, Mike, we want to thank you for being our guest on two episodes to discuss The Maltese Falcon book and The Maltese Falcon movie.
Mike Nugent 53:42
Sarah Harrison 53:45
Thanks so much. Love to have you back here future for sure.
Mike Nugent 53:49
And now I’m bothered by that ending.
Sarah Harrison 53:53
You have to read it a fourth time.
Mike Nugent 53:58
There is a message at the end. I don’t know if we got it.
Sarah Harrison 54:02
I don’t know if we’re supposed to get it.
Carolyn Daughters 54:04
I think it’s also open to interpretation. So Hammett might have met meant something in the ending, but if we can point to the text and defend what we think that the takeaway is. I feel like he got his reckoning with Effie in The Maltese Falcon book, though, of course, not in The Maltese Falcon movie. Now, I could read it again in five more years and have a different take.
Mike Nugent 54:27
If you’ll indulge me one more minute. The femme fatale in the Dain Curse said, “You’re a monster. You don’t even have the heart to love.” I think that idea really bothered Spade. He was trying to love. He was trying to feel. And, boy, he was having a hard time.
Carolyn Daughters 54:56
Brigid did not make that very easy. Well, Mike, thank you, and everyone, please check out Mike’s books on amazon.com. It’s amazon.com/author/pmnugent.
Sarah Harrison 55:09
And we’ll post that in the show notes as well.
Carolyn Daughters 55:11
We’ll also post it on social media. Next month we’re going to read Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles (Anthony Berkeley Cox). Sarah, you feel like giving us a summary?
Sarah Harrison 55:28
Absolutely. Malice Aforethought is considered one of the first examples of the inverted detective story, in which both the murderer and the murderer are revealed at the beginning. The intrigue builds as the reader sees how the detective unravels the clues to solve the mystery, which was published in 1931. The book ranks number 16 in the crime Writers Association Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. Learn more about Malice Aforethought on our website, teatonicandtoxin.com. Share your thoughts on our website and on our Facebook or Instagram pages @teatonicandtoxin. Please be sure to subscribe to our podcast and never miss an exciting, mysterious episode.
You can learn more about Malice Aforethought on our website teatonicandtoxin.com. You can share your thoughts on our website or on Facebook @teatonicandtoxin and Instagram @teatonicandtoxin. And subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode.
Carolyn Daughters 56:14
Next month, we’re also having a guest, Nate Harrison.
Sarah Harrison 56:17
Nate Harrison, the one and only.
Carolyn Daughters 56:17
Nate Harrison, unknown to both of us. A mysterious stranger, but that’s how we work here. Take us out, Sarah.
Sarah Harrison 56:27
Listeners, if you liked today’s episode about The Maltese Falcon book and The Maltese Falcon movie, consider giving us a five-star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. I believe we’re on every possible platform, including Apple podcasts and Spotify, really wherever you listen to Tea, Tonic & Toxin. Your review means the world to us, and it also helps increase our exposure so people like you who love the greatest mysteries ever written can find us and listen to us. Be sure to tune in and stay mysterious!
September 11, 2023
Sarah, Carolyn, and Mike Nugent keep the Maltese Falcon conversation flowing with LOADS more thoughts about Sam Spade, Effie Perine, Casper Gutman, Joel Cairo, and, of course, the ever-elusive Brigid O'Shaughnessy. Folks, we have a lot of ground to cover. Join us, won’t you?Listen →
August 4, 2023
Author Mike Nugent joins Sarah and Carolyn to talk about noir, crime fiction, and all things Sam Spade (who’s described as resembling a blond satan). The Maltese Falcon changed the way crime fiction was written. You’ll want to read it in one sitting and then give our podcast a listen.Listen →
July 30, 2023
Hey, Continental Op, what’s your deal? Are you a hero? Anti-hero? Something else altogether? Hear our thoughts about the Op, Dinah Brand, Whisper, and all the gang – and let us know your tally of how many people wind up dead in the book. It’s hard to keep track.Listen →