This essay appeared in January Magazine on the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Maltese Falcon 

Dashiell Hammett will always be linked in my mind with a vintage, midnight-blue, raw silk dress that I still wear occasionally when I find myself in a Maltese mood. I stumbled across both the dress and Hammett's books in my early 20s, and somehow they seemed to go together. Add a saucy cloche, seamed stockings, fire-engine red lipstick and four-inch stilettos and presto, I was a Hammettian dame, full of snappy repartee, alluring looks and murky motives. 

Eventually, I stopped wanting to be the dame and began wanting to be Sam Spade. Or Samantha. Why leave all the fun to the guys? When I imagined Eve Diamond, my own tough but vulnerable anti-heroine, you can bet I had Hammett (as well as the other noir masters) running through my head and singing through my veins. It didn't matter whether Hammett set his tales amidst the Manhattan cocktail party glitterati, a dusty San Francisco PI office or the grim inland mining town of Personville. He infused it all with aglamour and edginess and attractive danger that made me thrilled to be alive. And his dialogue was so sharp, not a misplaced or extraneous word. I'm still trying for that part. But what's amazing, upon re-reading his classic tales, is how crackling and contemporary they sound three-quarters of a century later. His plots are mythic, they're universal and they're timeless. Greed, revenge and fools for love. Executed with such insouciant mastery that it appears deceptively easy but impossible to replicate. So I haven't tried. Taking inspiration from the archetypes he created, I weave my own world, firmly rooted in millennial, multicultural Los Angeles, a deeply noir place with its own tragedies, ironies and sporadic joy. But I acknowledge the debt. Seventy-five years after "The Maltese Falcon" first wowed the world, my cloche is off to you, Mr. Hammett. You're still the touchstone, the gold standard, to which we all aspire.