This year’s community-wide reading and book discussion event is shrouded in a bit of mystery.
Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective novel “The Maltese Falcon” will take center stage in 2014’s Big Read Wichita, which kicks off Oct. 1.
The book — parts thriller, spy adventure, dark comedy and romance — is considered one of the cornerstones of American private-eye fiction. It was first published in 1930 and follows detective Sam Spade’s entanglement with a mysterious client, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, and the search for a long-sought-after, priceless bird statue.
Since its release, the novel undergone multiple film adaptations, the best-known of which is the 1941 version starring Humphrey Bogart as Spade.
The Big Read Wichita runs through Nov. 15. It is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts and is designed to revitalize reading among Americans.
The local reading initiative, one of 77 across the country, is a partnership of south-central Kansas libraries, Exploration Place, the Great Plains Nature Center, the Wichita Art Museum and other organizations.
Participants will be asked to read Hammett’s book and are invited to join discussions and events to celebrate the book.
Local events scheduled include:
Sept. 20 – “The Maltese Falcon” pre-party featuring book giveaways, reader’s theater, refreshments and music; 2-3:30 p.m. at the Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.
Sept. 30 – Instruction on geocaching, a game of hunting treasure using a global positioning device; 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Westlink Branch Library, 8515 W. Bekemeyer
Oct. 5 – Lecture on American crime fiction given by Big Read Wichita’s honorary program chair and author Gaylord Dold; 2-3:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 223 S. Main
Oct. 17 – Screenings of three films based on the novel; 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Central Library
Oct. 22, 29 and Nov. 5 – Three-part crime fiction writers workshop for ages 16 and up; 6:15-7:45 p.m. at the Central Library
Nov. 8 – Falcon Day Finale featuring falcon handling and jazz music; 2-3:30 p.m. at the Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. N.
A noir film series and book discussions are also planned at several of the library branches. Each book club that partners with the Big Read Wichita before Sept. 1 will receive up to 10 copies of “The Maltese Falcon” for its members.
Younger readers can participate in the Big Read Wichita by picking up copies of Mark Teague’s “Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation” (Pre-K to 2nd grade); E.L. Konigsburg’s “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler” (grades 3-5) or “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett (grades 6-8).
A teacher’s guide to using Hammett’s book and children’s events are posted online at www.bigreadwichita.org/ForYoungReaders/.
More information also is available by calling the Wichita Public Library at 316-261-8500.