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People & Places

Best Fictional San Francisco Character 

Sam Spade

With this being the 75th year since the publication of The Maltese Falcon, can the city claim a better sleuth than writer Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled 1920s crime-solver? We think not. In Falcon, Spade (or Humphrey Bogart, if you're thinking about the movie, and we know you are) sets out to track the killer of his partner, Miles Archer, and comes face to face with a colorful cast of liars, cheats, and crooks angling to get their hands on a priceless statue. Even now, it's hard not to think of Spade in his apartment at Geary and Hyde, at the murder scene in Burritt Alley (now Burritt Street) overlooking the Stockton Tunnel, at John's Grill at 63 Ellis (the still-thriving Hammett hangout at which the author is reputed to have penned much of the book), and in those evocative scenes of Chinatown and the Ferry Building. Hammett -- himself a former Pinkerton agent -- once wrote of his PI, "Spade had 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 what quite a few of them in their cockier moments thought they approached." Amen.


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