Winters Oddities: Detective Sam Spade's downtown office

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Historic downtown Winters has a literary easter egg hidden just a few steps off the town’s main drag. It’s the kind of clue that a hardened private detective might spot while walking the streets at night, perhaps while in search of the unremarkable falcon statuette. The noir classic “The Maltese Falcon”, based on the Dashiell Hammet’s novel by the same name, was released on Friday, Oct. 3, 1941. Roughly two years ago, the film’s protagonist opened an office on the second story of the old Masonic building at the corner of First Street and Main Street.   In the movie, Sam Spade is a San Francisco based private detective who gets tangled up in a complicated case involving a small statuette of a falcon, which is said to be encrusted with jewels underneath a layer of black enamel. In the novel, Spade  is tall, blonde and muscular–words that did not apply to Humphrey Bogart, who played Spade in the most famous film adaptation of the story. Hammett was himself a Pinkerton detective who took up writing after complications of tuberculosis forced him to slow down. He realized that the crime writers in pulp magazines didn’t know what they were talking about, and starting crafting detective stories based on his experiences. He claimed that he didn’t write anything that wasn’t based on a person or place that he knew from his life. In the introduction to “The Maltese Falcon,” Hammett says of his main character, “Spade has 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 in their cockier moments thought they approached.” The Spade who operates from downtown Winters is an enigma, even though he hangs his shingle downtown. The office can be hard to spot in the daylight. There is nothing else on the second story to be looking at, at least not anymore. Spade’s office space sits on the site of a former dance hall, complete with high ceilings and a kitchen. At night, Spade’s is difficult to miss. Bright lights shine from his second-story window, illuminating the street below and the falcon symbol. The office is, of course, empty, but Spade still has a downtown office, complete with a window sign, telephone number and listing in the Winters Chamber of Commerce directory. Yes, Spade Investigations LLC is officially affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce. Interested passersby and potential clients can call the number listed in the chamber’s directory or posted on the window and listen to Spade’s out-of-office recording. One woman called and asked Spade to track down a wealthy boyfriend for her. Those who leave a message will get a text message from Spade after a few days, though he often has to tell them that he’s too busy to take on any more cases. For a man who would be over 115-years-old if he were alive today, he stays busy. When contacted for a quote, Spade texted that the reporter should, “Mind your own damn business!”]]>

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