Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This Breaks My Heart

I used to live not too far away from John's Grill where this took place, and I would go in there from time to time for lunch, dinner, a drink, whatever. It wasn't the cleanest place ever (I once saw a cockroach on the wall upstairs during dinner) but it had character. Beyond that, you can't let one ubiquitous insect ruin a place for you.

I also love San Francisco. It's a very unique city, very European, and I like that. To top it all off I love books, language and literature, so this whole affair has me in arrears. Well, not really. But it is disappointing (and slightly comical at the same time, given the plot of the story).

Maltese Falcon stolen from restaurant

By Michael Kahn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Where's Sam Spade when you need him?

Thieves have stolen a copy of the bird statue at the heart of "The Maltese Falcon" from the San Francisco restaurant used as a setting for the 1941 film classic starring Humphrey Bogart as the rough-and-tumble private detective.

The small, black figure was swiped over the weekend along with 20 vintage books, including copies of the 1930 Dashiell Hammett novel on which the film is based.

John Konstin, whose restaurant John's Grill bills itself as the "Home of the Maltese Falcon," said the thief broke into the case displaying the statue over the weekend. Konstin is offering a $25,000 reward for the replica's return.

While the statute is not the original movie prop, Konstin said he was offering such a big reward because this copy of the Maltese Falcon was signed by a cast member from the Bogart film.

"We want it back because of the historical and literary significance," Konstin said in a telephone interview. "It means a lot to us."

The novel is considered the most famous example of hard-boiled fiction and was a major influence on writers like Raymond Chandler. The movie helped define the film-noir tough-guy hero of the 1940s and 1950s.

In the story, Spade sets out to track the killer of his partner, Miles Archer. In doing so, he meets up with a colorful cast of liars, cheats and crooks ready to murder to get their hands on the statue, which they believe is made of solid gold hidden by black paint but turns out to be a fake.

Richard Layman, a Dashiell Hammett expert who has published six books on the former detective-turned author, noted that Hammett refers to John's Grill in the book and Spade goes there for lamb chops before being sent on a wild goose chase after a girl.

He also said Hammett likely ate there in real life because he lived near the restaurant and the Pinkerton detective office where he once worked was also nearby.

"The irony is that it is a copy that people are so upset about," he said in a telephone interview. "I'd go after the fat man and the pretty girl," he added in reference to two of the story's villains.