February 1, 2005 "The Maltese Falcon At 75" Is Topic of Center For The Book Program On Feb. 15
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To mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” literary scholar and Hammett specialist Richard Layman will present an informal talk, “The Maltese Falcon at 75,” at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the Library’s Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Organized by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the program is cosponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, one of the center’s national reading promotion partners. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
Dashiell Hammett was born in St. Mary’s County, Md., in 1894 and grew up in Philadelphia and Baltimore. After many kinds of jobs, he went to work for Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. His career as a detective was interrupted by service as a sergeant in World War I. In 1922 his stories began appearing regularly in pulp magazines, notably “Black Mask.” By the late 1920s, he was the unquestioned master of detective story fiction in America.
“The Maltese Falcon,” published in 1930, featured detective Sam Spade. The reviewer for the “Times Literary Supplement” said that “The Maltese Falcon” was “not only probably the best detective story we have ever read, it is an exceedingly well-written novel.” In “The Thin Man,” Hammett’s fifth and last novel, published in 1934, Hammett introduced Nick and Nora Charles, perhaps his best known characters.
During World War II, Hammett again served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He died in 1961 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Richard Layman, vice president of Bruccoli Clark Layman and Manly Inc., publishers of reference works in literary and social history, is a leading authority on Hammett. He is the author of “Dashiell Hammett: A Bibliography” (1979), “Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett” (1981) and editor of “Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon: A Documentary Volume” (2003). He is the guest editor of a forthcoming issue of “Clues: A Journal of Detection,” which is devoted to Hammett.
In the introduction to his documentary volume, Layman states: “‘The Maltese Falcon’ has endured because it rewards so many types of readers. It can be read and enjoyed as an entertaining story, or it can be reread to reveal its many complexities. It is a sophisticated detective story, a drama, a morality tale, a history lesson and a study in cultural geography. It is a novel about honor, duty, professionalism, the philosophy of perception, the nature of authority, the power of lust, greed, betrayal and the falsity of the American dream.”
Established in 1977 as a public-private partnership, the Center for the Book uses the resources of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its activities and those of its affiliates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/cfbook.