Saturday, January 17, 2009

Spade & Archer -- Joe Gores

I'll bet this book gets a lot of ink before long, and probably a lot of love, too. I liked it a lot, myself.

What we have here is the "prequel" to The Maltese Falcon. Though Joe Gores is the author, he's channeling Hammett so well that after a couple of pages, you'll forget the book wasn't written in 1925. It's done as if it were one of Hammett's fix-ups, based on three novellas from Black Mask. The three separate sections of the book are all connected, though, and they're all tied together in the end.

Along the way we meet Sam Spade at the beginning of his career as the owner of his own agency. We see him hire Effie Perine. We find out how he started an affair with Miles Archer's wife. Other characters and hints from the Falcon are fleshed out, along with some stories from Hammett's own Pinkerton career.

Don't let the title fool you. Archer does only cameo appearances in parts I and II of the novel. When he takes on his role as Spade's partner in part III, he turns out to be just about what you'd have expected. Spade might not be exactly what you expected, however. He has hidden depths.

Spade & Archer is prime stuff, with pretty much everything. Mysterious women, hidden treasure (sort of), lots of tough guys, and even a dying message. It's a don't-miss for any fan of the hardboiled. I just hope nobody films it. Sam Spade is pretty much Bogart to me. Nobody can fill those shoes.

5 comments:

  1. Great review, Bill. Which means, of course, that I agree totally. Through the kindness of the good folks at Once Upon a Crime Mystery Bookstore, I was able read the advance readers edition some months back. I, too, thought I was reading Hammett. A top-notch job. Gores is one of our best writers and woefully under-appreciated.

    sas

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  2. Just started this last night, and it felt good. Not sure how close to Hammett he hews -- I need an excuse to dip into Red Harvest again -- but it reads good. It amused me to see the ARC using browned pages, as if I had found it in the back of a used bookstore.

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  3. I thought that was a neat touch, and I wonder if the published book will have the same kind of pages.

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  4. For once I agree with Stilwell. It's a great review. In fact, we'd like to run it (with credit of course) in our next catalog when we list the book for sale. Please let me know if that's agreeable.

    Enid Schantz
    Rue Morgue

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  5. Sure, Enid, that would be okay by me. I can't believe you agree with Stilwell, though.

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