Admirers of that rara avis The Maltese Falcon may here study its origin and natural habitat; few others will have heard much about the last outpost of the Knights. Particularly true is that the life in the Order of Malta has interested few writers and offers virgin soil to the historian. This is a shame because, as illustrated here, life on Malta was anything but saintly and the knights themselves were extremely restless men who acted out of fiery tempers. The knights were universally talented as sailors, soldiers, ambassadors, judges, administrators, financiers, ""anything."" They had existed for about 250 years before arriving at Malta in 1530. Their original purpose was to nurse and guard pilgrims, after the First Crusade, on their way to Jerusalem. The Turks, though, drove them out and the Knights lived precariously on Rhodes and elsewhere until they were given Malta as a home. The Order attracted as members young noblemen out to strike sparks from swords rather than Bibles. The Knightly careers retailed here are uniformly interesting but stitched with unrememberable details that would make even a scholar yawn. Less detail and more gossip, please!