In the paranoid 1950’s, Dashiell Hammett was jailed under sinister manipulation of The Smith Act. Popular radio serials based on Hammett’s books, including The Maltese Falcon, were immediately cancelled, and his books withdrawn from publication in the US.
When he was released from prison the IRS, attached his income and the copyright on his books and stories for payment of back taxes and penalties. He was broke and unpublishable.
Hammett died in 1961. Two years later friend, fellow writer and progressive, Lillian Hellman, bought back the copyrights to his works at an IRS auction for US$5,000.
In 1998, the Editorial Board of The Modern Library named The Maltese Falcon as one of the 100 best novels in English of the 20th century.
In 2005, the US Senate approved a resolution commemorating the 75th anniversary of The Maltese Falcon and recognising it as a great American crime novel.