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 by Joe Gores X
Spade & Archer by Joe Gores
  • Critics' Opinion:

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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2009, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2010, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman
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About this Book

Book Summary

When Sam Spade gets drawn into the Maltese Falcon case, we know what to expect; what we don’t know is how Spade became who he is. Spade & Archer completes the picture.

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, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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...continued

Full Review (573 words).

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(Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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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 Labor, and the International Workers of the...

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