March 9, 2009

Book Review: Spade & Archer: The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (Joe Gores)

The Maltese Falcon has long been one of my favorite stories, both the book and the movie.  The story itself leaves the audience with plenty of questions, though, focusing around the relationship between Sam Spade and his partner, Miles Archer.  Spade & Archer attempts to answer those questions and gives some background as to how Sam Spade came to be the man he was in The Maltese Falcon.  The story is paced well, perhaps a bit too well since I often found myself up far past my bedtime thinking to myself: Okay, this chapter’s short, I’ll read this one then I’ll get some sleep, finally shutting off my lights a good two hours later.  Fans of Hammett’s work will not be disappointed; Gores captures Hammett’s style and techniques well without being a parody or a weak imitation of the man credited with creating the “hardboiled” detective story.  The ending of the novel provides a direct lead-in to The Maltese Falcon, leaving the reader with a sense of satisfaction that the loose ends are tied up, and with an urge to pick up The Maltese Falcon for another read through.  To Gores’ credit, he sought (and received) the blessings of Hammett’s surviving daughter before writing Spade & Archer, and he also tapped into the expertise of a Hammett scholar and historian while writing the novel.  Trying to follow up a masterpiece like The Maltese Falcon certainly must have been exhausting and intimidating to say the least, but Gores does it well; Spade & Archer is a book well worth adding to the shelf of any fan of detective fiction.  From Alfred A. Knopf and available from your local, independent bookstore.  (Tell ’em you heard about it on Elephant Journal!)

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