The Maltese Falcon, first published as a serial in the pulp magazine Black Mask, is the only full-length novel in which Spade appears. The character, however, is widely cited as a crystallizing figure in the development of hard-boiled private detective fiction – Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, for instance, was strongly influenced by Spade.
Spade was a departure from Hammett's nameless and less-than-glamorous detective, The Continental Op. Spade combined several features of previous detectives, most notably his detached demeanor, keen eye for detail, and unflinching determination to achieve his own justice.
Spade was a new character created specifically by Hammett for The Maltese Falcon; he had not appeared in any of Hammett's previous stories. Hammett says about him:
Spade has no original. He is a dream man in the sense that he is what most of the private detectives I worked with would like to have been and in their cockier moments thought they approached. For your private detective does not — or did not ten years ago when he was my colleague — want to be an erudite solver of riddles in the Sherlock Holmes manner; he wants to be a hard and shifty fellow, able to take care of himself in any situation, able to get the best of anybody he comes in contact with, whether criminal, innocent by-stander or client.
From the 1940s onward, the character became closely associated with actor Humphrey Bogart, who played Spade in the third and best-known film version of The Maltese Falcon. Though Bogart's slight frame, dark features and no-nonsense depiction contrasted with Hammett's vision of Spade (blond, well-built & mischievous), his sardonic portrayal was well-received, and is generally regarded as an influence on both film noir & the genre's archetypal private detective.
In 2009, with the approval of the estate of Dashiell Hammett, the veteran detective-story writer Joe Gores published Spade & Archer: The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON with Alfred A. Knopf, the original publisher of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.
The Maltese Falcon (1930)
Serialized in 5 parts, in the September 1929 to January 1930 issues of Black Mask
"A Man Called Spade" (July, 1932, The American Magazine; also collected in A Man Called Spade and Other Stories)
"Too Many Have Lived" (October, 1932, The American Magazine; also collected in A Man Called Spade and Other Stories)
"They Can Only Hang You Once" (November 19, 1932, Colliers; also in A Man Called Spade and Other Stories)
A Man Called Spade and Other Stories (1944) (contains three Sam Spade stories from The American Magazine and Colliers -- listed above)
Nightmare Town (1999) (contains three Sam Spade stories from The American Magazine and Colliers -- listed above)
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Spade was highlighted in volume 21 of the Case Closed manga's edition of "Gosho Aoyama's Mystery Library", in the section (usually the last page) where the author introduces a different detective (or occasionally, a villain) from mystery literature, television, or other media.
References in Popular Culture
The Broadway is My Beat episode titled "Jane Darnell" uses Sam Spade's detective license number, 137596, as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car used by the episode's three murder victims.