THE MALTESE FALCON - In his best known book, Dashiell Hammett pens the stylish Sam Spade, protagonist of The Maltese Falcon. He’s tough enough to stand up to thugs or the police. He smells trouble when a buxom dame breezes into his office. Soon enough, his entire world will be turned upside down. Hammett wrote about detectives because he had been employed as one after responding to a vague classified ad. He had a notoriously short writing career, publishing four novels and all of his short stories within nine years. His poor health, struggle with alcoholism and community party membership led to his decline and eventual imprisonment in McCarthy era hysteria. In the final years of his life, he was hounded by the IRS for back taxes, dying penniless.