Sadly, I can't say the same for Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. It reads more like a "whodunit" screenplay to me. As such, I would rather watch old television episodes of Dragnet or Perry Mason. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy these whodunit shows. But they make for an unsatisfying novel. They leave me hungry for more substance.
There is just not enough character development in The Maltese Falcon to make a satisfying novel. There are only brief physical descriptions of the characters. For the most part, they read like those in a police report (we discussed why this is bad in a previous blog article). Also, the story draws heavily on the dialogue between characters to inform the reader of who they are and what they are like. But because of this, Hammett's characters seem one-dimensional.
I am well aware that Hammett set the standard for the hard-boiled detective story with The Maltese Falcon. It has been used as a template by countless authors and television writers afterwards. But I think Hammett's original template is best for visual theatres like television shows, movies and comic books. These are arenas where stories that rely on dialogue do the best.
In our quest for remarkable and unforgettable characters, we will need to look elsewhere. Do you agree or disagree? Drop me a line in the comments section to let me know your take on character description and development in The Maltese Falcon.
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