Summary and book reviews of Spade & Archer by Joe Gores

Spade & Archer

The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon

By Joe Gores

Spade & Archer
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Feb 2009,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2010,
    352 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 Archer’s wife, Iva; that his tomboyish secretary, Effie Perine, is the only innocent in his life. What we don’t 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 men’s mistresses, and long-missing money. He’ll bring in Archer as a partner, though it was Archer who stole his girl while he was fighting in World War I. He’ll tangle with a villain who never loses his desire to make Spade pay big for ruining what should’ve been the perfect crime. And he’ll fall in love—though it won’t 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.

Spade's Last Case

It was thirteen minutes short of midnight. Drizzle glinted through the wind-danced lights on the edge of the Tacoma Municipal Dock. A man a few years shy of thirty stood in a narrow aisle between two tall stacks of crated cargo, almost invisible in a black hooded rain slicker. He had a long bony jaw, a flexible mouth, a jutting chin. His nose was hooked. He was six feet tall, with broad, steeply sloping shoulders.

He stayed in the shadows while the scant dozen passengers disembarked from the wooden-hulled steam-powered passenger ferry Virginia V, just in from Seattle via the Colvos Passage. His cigarette was cupped in one palm as if to shield it from the rain, or perhaps to conceal its glowing ember from watching eyes.

The watcher stiffened when the last person off the Virginia V was a solid, broad-shouldered man in his late thirties, dressed in a brown woolen suit. His red heavy-jawed face was made for joviality, but his small brown eyes were wary, ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Faced with a momentous task, Gores inevitably stumbles, and if you come to the book expecting a perfectly executed exemplar of the genre you will be disappointed. Where Gores succeeds is in breathing life into a story that has been left at loose ends for more than half a century.   (Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).

Full Review Members Only (1001 words).

Media Reviews
Booklist

... Gores not only creates a compelling backstory for Spade but also does it so completely in the Hammett style that we suspend disbelief in an instant ... He’s equally on the mark with Hammett’s characters.

Library Journal - Bob Lunn

Starred Review. This homage should both please fans of the original and alert new readers to what they've been missing. As such, it is highly recommended for all public libraries.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. ... Gores, a far more virtuoso plotter than Hammett, keeps multiple pots boiling furiously while providing a pitch-perfect replica of his master’s voice.

New York Times - David Gates

[I]f anyone had to write this book, Gores would be the guy. .... Gores doesn’t call himself a Hammett scholar, but he’s clearly an obsessive — and for a writer of the 21st century, this obsession isn’t entirely wholesome.

Los Angeles Times - Sara Weinman

The net effect is uneven, but never less than entertaining.

Cleveland Plain Dealer - Rollie Welch

Spade & Archer amounts to a fine re-imagining, and a relief from the overworked tales of teenage heroes, wielding techno gadgets, saving the world.

San Francisco Chronicle - Cara Black

Gores pulls the reader in with Hammett-style sparse economy and telling details. He paints every scene vividly, evocatively and with a savvy like Spade's own. Spade changes and is more hardened as he's forged by the city and the crime he investigates. Spade & Archer brims with plot twists, and just when the reader thinks "aha," the story switches back, and you never see it coming. Hammett would have approved. So would Sam Spade.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

American Labor on the Docks
The Miles Archer character in Gores's novel has earned his tough-guy reputation by helping quell labor unrest on the docks of Seattle, in part by outing "Wobblies." For the unfamiliar, this plot line may be a bit confusing, but it is historically accurate, and adds welcome color to the novel's setting.

The history of American labor is one of conflict and compromise, and nowhere has this been more true than on the docks. Port cities were among the primary engines of economic growth in the country's early industrial period, and some of the first attempts to build labor unions were carried out by dockworkers (also called longshoremen and stevedores). The Knights of Labor, the American Federation of ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Spade & Archer, try these:

  • City of Dragons jacket

    City of Dragons

    by Kelli Stanley

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    San Francisco's Chinatown, 1940: Miranda Corbie, a private investigator, stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops acquiesce. But Miranda wants justice - whatever it costs.

  • Fearless Jones jacket

    Fearless Jones

    by Walter Mosley

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Walter Mosley, "one of crime fiction's brightest stars," returns to mysteries at last! Fearless Jones is a dazzling new thriller, set in 1950s L.A. and featuring the most engaging hero since Easy Rawlins.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and ambitious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.