Parker needs money and agrees to an art heist, but backs out when he loses confidence in his fellow crooks. Then the chance to pull another art heist comes along. It’s mostly successful until it’s time to exchange the paintings for cash. The middleman is extremely unreliable and things deteriorate from there.
Parker and associates knock over an armored car, but the driver of the getaway car screws up. Parker grabs the loot and runs into an amusement park that’s closed for the season. He stashes the money and then tries to avoid being caught by a gang of local criminals and two crooked cops who know he’s in there with all that cash. Parker escapes but has to leave the money behind (for now).
Crime writer James Ellroy goes back in time before L. A. Confidential to December 1941. It’s supposed to be the beginning of another Quartet of novels about crime and corruption in Los Angeles. Some of the characters appear in later novels. Others are new. The writing isn’t as austere as some of Ellroy’s recent work, but he’s still writing short, punchy sentences that skimp on description and just deliver the (mostly fictional) facts.
The Maltese Falcon was published in 1929, twelve years before Humphrey Bogart played Sam Spade. In the book, Spade and Brigid O’Shaughnessy have sex, Spade has blond hair and Casper Gutman (the fat man) has a daughter. Other than that, the book and movie are quite similar. The movie even borrows a lot of dialogue from the book, which is a good thing, because Hammett’s dialogue is excellent.
Spade spends most of the novel wandering around San Francisco trying to figure things out. Brigid O’Shaughnessy shares as little information as possible, but since they do spend one night together, it makes more sense in the book than the movie when Spade talks about them being in love. Although she still has to take the fall, of course.