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In Search of the Dingus: A Geographic Approach to The Maltese Falcon
AuthorCammarota, George V.
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<italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> was serialized in <italic>Black Mask</italic> magazine in 1929 before Dashiell Hammett's story was published in book form on Valentine's Day of 1930. It ascended from hard-boiled yard to timeless classic in 1941, when director John Huston adapted the book to film. Later would come radio, comic strip, foreign translation, parody, and other versions of the story, and ultimately in 2005, recognition by the Library of Congress, in a ceremony celebrating the 75th anniversary of the book's publication. Simply put, <italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> is a part of the American cultural landscape, a story that won't go away. I ask and answer two questions: 1) Why does <italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> have cultural significance to the present day, and 2) How does geography help in gaining a better understanding of the story? This thesis views the content of <italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> through three means: searching out primary source information by Hammett (of which there is little); scouring secondary source information about Hammett, including biographical information and interpretations of his work (of which there is much); and examining the broader history of the detective genre to place Hammett's work amid a break from tradition that helped gel the hard-boiled street-wise detective into world literature. The content of <italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> will be examined through a geographic lens to explore this work that takes place as American cities were transformed through a period of economic, social, and urban turmoil. <italic>The Maltese Falcon</italic> is a geographic tale of place and culture, delivered as a unique yarn with an unforgettable style that forever links San Francisco to an historical artifact that Hammett's detective Sam Spade refers to, not altogether unlovingly, as the "dingus."