The Maltese Falcon (1930)
The modern private eye story began in a pulp magazine, Black Mask, in 1920s stories by Carroll John Daly, whose melodrama was just a step up from dime novels. Ex-Pinkerton operative Dashiell Hammett brought his experiences to Black Mask, providing a basis in reality via a hard, lean style more understated than Hemingway. Still, Hammett idealized the detective in his Sam Spade. He defined and perfected the private eye novel: tough detective, loving secretary, femme fatale, adversarial cops, punk gunman, criminal mastermind – all the key players, all the key elements. The first great novel in the genre, never matched.
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