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Spade & Archer: The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett's the Maltese Falconby Joe Gores
Synopses & Reviews
When Sam Spade gets drawn into the Maltese Falcon case, we know what to expect: straight talk, hard questions, no favors, and no way for anyone to get underneath the protective shell he wears like a second skin. We know that his late partner, Miles Archer, was a son of a bitch; that Spade is sleeping with Archers wife, Iva; that his tomboyish secretary, Effie Perine, is the only innocent in his life. What we dont know is how Spade became who he is. Spade & Archer completes the picture.
1921: Spade sets up his own agency in San Francisco and clients quickly start coming through the door. The next seven years will see him dealing with booze runners, waterfront thugs, stowaways, banking swindlers, gold smugglers, bumbling cops, and the illegitimate daughter of Sun Yat-sen; with murder, other mens mistresses, and long-missing money. Hell bring in Archer as a partner, though it was Archer who stole his girl while he was fighting in World War I. Hell tangle with a villain who never loses his desire to make Spade pay big for ruining what shouldve been the perfect crime. And hell fall in love—though it wont turn out for the best. It never does with dames . . .
Spade & Archer is a gritty, pitch-perfect, hard-boiled novel—the work of a master mystery writer—destined to become a classic in its own right.
"Edgar-winner Gores has not only pulled off the Herculean task of writing a prequel to The Maltese Falcon but also created a rip-roaring yarn of his own that will please even the crustiest of Hammett devotees. In 1921, Samuel Spade leaves the Continental Detective Agency and opens up his own office. One of his first cases, which the local cops have bungled, involves the robbery of $125,00 worth of gold coins from the San Anselmo, a passenger ship. Gores cuts forward twice, to 1925 and 1928, along the way setting the iconic Spade off on various adventures throughout the Bay Area. The author, who does a brilliant job of bringing Prohibition-era San Francisco to life with street-level detail and a native's perspective, also captures Hammett's spare style and tone perfectly. The only thing missing is a real femme fatale, but Gores, himself a former PI, gives us a number of young beauties to keep Spade busy until Miss Wonderly finally appears at his door." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel The Maltese Falcon is far from flawless, but it was the fountainhead of modern American crime fiction. Hammett's two-fisted, cynical, charismatic, fearless Sam Spade appears only in this one novel, but he was the prototype of all the great private eyes who followed, from Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee to John Sandford's Lucas... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Davenport. Spade is blazingly alive in the book's pages, but his immortality was guaranteed by Humphrey Bogart's portrayal in John Huston's 1941 film noir classic — a movie that in important ways improved on the novel. The fact that Hammett wrote several more novels but never returned to Spade suggests that, in his view, the portrait was complete, but now his surviving daughter has given the Edgar-winning crime novelist Joe Gores (who previously wrote the novel "Hammett") permission to write this prequel to "Falcon." Purists will say they should have left well enough alone, but "Spade & Archer" is a respectable piece of work. Gores has sought not to modernize Spade but to recapture him, writing in Hammett's voice, and to tell us more about his earlier life and career. To that end, he recounts three of Spade's cases, set in 1921, 1925 and 1928. In theory they show Spade's development — near the end he remarks on how much tougher he's become — but I can't say I saw much growth. In the first scene of the first story, he jams his burning cigarette into a bad guy's eye, so he was never exactly a softie. Cops were always awed by this "blond satan," ladies were always weak-kneed in his presence, and from start to finish he always chain-smoked his self-rolled cigarettes and stayed up late with a bottle of rum. We're not surprised to learn that he fought with valor in France during World War I; Spade was born larger than life. The plots of the three segments — which ultimately prove to have an important connection — often echo the one in "Falcon." Beautiful young women come to Spade's office and tell him stories he doesn't believe, just as Miss Wonderly (aka Brigid O'Shaughnessy) did at the start of "Falcon." In the first story, we see Spade hire the 17-year-old Effie Perine, who becomes his adoring secretary; demolish three thugs who attack him; and pose as a longshoreman as he searches for a fortune in missing gold on the San Francisco waterfront. In the next segment, another gorgeous but suspicious young woman tells Spade she is being followed by a "sinister Turk" because of the missing "chest of Bergina," a gold-bound box that once belonged to the sister of Alexander the Great, all of which recalls the missing, bejeweled Maltese Falcon. Gores sticks close to the original playbook. Hammett told us that when aroused, Spade's eyes "burned yellowly" and Gores' Spade has that same affliction. Spade's favorite toast, often invoked, is still "Success to crime." We're still treated to 1920s slang: "I got hootched up like a bat last night," and a hard-to-describe object is still a "dingus." We learn about Spade's earlier romance with Iva, who married Miles Archer when Spade went off to war, but here they continue the affair after Spade and Archer become partners. Gores also continues Hammett's habit of describing in detail virtually every character who crosses his stage. Here, for example, is a cabdriver, never to be seen again: "The gap-toothed skinny driver had rheumy eyes and a tweed cap pulled down over his ears and fur-lined gloves on his hands." Out-and-out thugs are dismissed as having "pig eyes" or a "bullet head." Gores is faithful to Hammett's largely unconscious sexism (most women are called "angel," "sweetheart" or "precious"), but he spares us the nasty homophobia that afflicted Hammett's portrait of Joel Cairo. He captures Hammett's razor-sharp dialogue and his lovingly detailed portraits of the streets of San Francisco, too. Most of us think of Hammett's dialogue as having been influenced by Hemingway, although one crime-fiction scholar argues (rather perversely) that the influence went the other way, because Hammett's early stories were appearing in Black Mask a year before Hemingway's began appearing in literary journals in Paris. This theory assumes, of course, that Hemingway was reading Black Mask. But people feel strongly about Hammett. Another scholar insists that "The Maltese Falcon" was "America's first existential novel." Perhaps it was. Existentialism aside, Hammett was an important and influential figure, one who wrote with great energy, self-confidence and imagination and a near-total lack of sentiment. His subject was never just garden-variety crime; Hammett was writing about corruption throughout society, notably in business, law enforcement and government. Gores has done a stalwart job of recapturing his highly individual voice. The difference, of course, is that Hammett came out of nowhere 80 years ago, working in the dark, struggling to create something new. Imitation can be an art in itself, but, as Gores knows, it can never equal the initial burst of inspiration that it honors. Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, who can be reached at mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"From the clipped dialogue to the emphasis on the geography of San Francisco to the carefully detailed recounting of what a PI does, Gores nails it." Booklist
"...Gores successfully weaves together plot strands that include everything from Treasure Island and Sun Yat-sen to union busting." Library Journal
"Along with the obligatory pleasures of watching Spade dealing with familiar supporting characters for the first time, Gores...keeps multiple pots boiling furiously while providing a pitch-perfect replica of his master's voice." Kirkus Reviews
A gritty, pitch-perfect noir novel, Spade & Archer is the authorized prequel to Dashiell Hammett's classic, The Maltese Falcon. In 1921, P.I. Sam Spade tangles with a villain who's planned what he thinks is the perfect crime. And he'll fall in love — though it won't turn out for the best.
About the Author
Joe Gores, formerly a private eye, is the author of sixteen novels, including Hammett, which won Japan's Falcon Award. He has received three Edgar Awards — one of only two authors to win in three separate categories: Best First Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Episode in a TV Series. He lives near San Francisco, California.
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