Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*San Francisco. California port city in which the novel is set. San Francisco is depicted as a dark and corrupt place, one in which protagonist and unsentimental private detective Sam Spade says that most things in San Francisco “can be bought or taken.” To emphasize the connection between the characters, particularly Spade, and the corrupt city setting, Spade refers to San Francisco as his “burg.” The fact that most of the story’s action occurs at night further emphasizes the dark side of society and human nature.
Spade’s apartment. Home of Sam Spade on San Francisco’s Post Street, a well-appointed bachelor’s apartment with a sitting room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a separate entry foyer. Many significant scenes are set in the apartment. For example, Spade is there when he learns of his partner’s death through a late-night phone call and is later visited there by the police.
Spade appears to be comfortable and at ease when he is in his apartment, but it cannot be considered a completely safe haven. The police repeatedly appear there to harass him, and in one scene, a fight breaks out there between Brigid O’Shaughnessy and Joel Cairo. It is also the apartment in which Spade turns in Brigid, the woman he says he loves, to the police.
Spade’s office. Private detective office on San...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
Techniques / Literary Precedents
Bibliography and Further Reading
Cuppy, Will, “Mystery and Adventure,” in New York Herald Tribune, February 23, 1930, p. 17.
Curtis, William, “Some Recent Books,” in Town & Country, February 15, 1930.
“Judging the Books,” in Judge, March 1, 1930.
MacDonald, Ross, Self-Portrait: Ceaselessly into the Past, Capra Press, 1981, p. 112.
Gregory, Sinda, Private Investigations: The Novels of Dashiell Hammett, Southern Illinois University Press, 1985. Coming from outside of the small, specific world of detective fiction, Gregory examines Hammett’s novels with the same critical eye that one might apply to the works of...
(The entire section is 200 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Chandler, Raymond. The Simple Art of Murder. New York: Ballantine, 1972. This interesting essay by another famous American hard-boiled mystery writer discusses the shortcomings of the traditional British mystery novel and the advances in the genre inspired by Hammett. Chandler and Hammett are credited with being the fathers of the modern American mystery novel.
Layman, Richard. Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981. The best available biography of Dashiell Hammett, who led a colorful life and resembled Sam Spade in his moral code and unsentimental view of human nature. Discusses the...
(The entire section is 234 words.)