National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

I’m one of the few—if there are any more—people moderately literate who take the detective story seriously.


The Life and Times of Dashiell Hammett

  1. 1890s
    • 1894: Samuel Dashiell Hammett is born in Maryland.
  2. 1900s
    • 1905: Tsarist soldiers kill hundreds of petitioners in St. Petersburg, helping light the fuse for the Russian Revolution of 1917.
    • At age fourteen, Hammett quits school and bounces from job to job, ending up at the famous Pinkerton's detective agency.
  3. 1910s
    • World War I begins in 1914; armistice signed on November 11, 1918.
    • Hammett joins the U.S. Army in 1918, lasting only four months before bronchial attacks lead to his discharge in 1919.
    • 1919: Influenza outbreak subsides, after killing as many as 100 million people worldwide.
  4. 1920s
    • 1920: The 18th Amendment, establishing Prohibition, becomes law.
    • 1921: Hammett marries Josephine "Jose" Dolan, with whom he soon has two daughters.
    • 1922: Hammett leaves Pinkerton and starts writing stories for pulp magazine Black Mask.
    • 1929: Hammett publishes Red Harvest and The Dain Curse and writes The Maltese Falcon.
    • 1929: Stock market crashes, triggering the Great Depression.
  5. 1930s
    • 1930: Hammett finishes The Glass Key and publishes The Maltese Falcon.
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected U.S. president, 1932; Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany, 1933.
    • 1934: Hammett's last novel, The Thin Man, is inspired and perhaps partly cowritten by Lillian Hellman.
    • 1939: In detective fiction's greatest leap since Hammett, Raymond Chandler introduces private eye Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.
  6. 1940s
    • Japanese forces bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941; America enters World War II. The Axis surrenders, 1945.
    • 1941: John Huston writes and directs The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.
    • 1942: Hammett re-enlists in the U.S. Army, spending much of World War II editing a base newspaper in the Aleutian Islands.
    • 1946: The Civil Rights Congress of New York elects Hammett its president.
  7. 1950s
    • 1950: Senator Joseph McCarthy brandishes a list of alleged Communists in the State Department, heralding the dawn of the Cold War.
    • 1951: Hammett refuses to testify in court about his Communist associations; he is sentenced to six months in jail for contempt.
    • 1953: Dwight D. Eisenhower is inaugurated U.S. president, ushering in a period of economic prosperity.
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