Bill Arney has been busy knocking out a new series of Cheese Theatre episodes, but after holding down the Sam Spade apartment in 891 Post Street for years he keeps his hand in on Hammett stuff — and just popped these notes in as a response to the article Mike Humbert found floating around on the web. Here’s Bill:
At least it attempts to explain the Rhea character. She’s very enigmatic in the story. However, I tend cynical on the theory. For a detective like Spade to not recognize Wilmer out of disguise is asking a lot. Ear lobes, eyebrows, chin. And we know how homophobic Hammett was. No way he doesn’t have Spade throw that in Gutman’s face.
But I will admit that I always wondered why Rhea is even in the story. What was Hammett thinking? He could have used any number of other devices to keep Spade from effectively pursuing the bad guys at that point in the story. But it’s not the only unexplained aspect of Falcon. The ship being set afire is completely unnecessary, for example. Spade could just as easily gone down there and simply found the ship empty, spent some time searching it.
But maybe it all goes back to Flitcraft. Life is full of unexpected turns. Success in life is a matter of being able to adjust to falling beams.
As far as Falcon epiphanies go, mine is that Spade knows who killed Archer the very morning after the killing, when Archer’s widow accuses Spade of the murder. Spade knows he didn’t kill Archer, and now he knows the widow didn’t do it, either.
There’s only one other character who could have got that close to Archer in a blind alley.
Well, if you don’t count Effie, that is.