Friday, April 17, 2009

Spade & Archer

In an earlier post, I wrote that I was looking forward to reading the new noir mystery "Spade & Archer" by Joe Gores, a prequel to Dashiell Hammett's 1929 classic, "The Maltese Falcon."

Gores did not disappoint. The novel did an excellent job of recreating the Hammett-esque world of 1920s San Francisco, with its grifters and dubious cops and longshoremen. I felt his Samuel Spade and Miles Archer and Effie Perine and Lieutenant Dundy were dead-on, and the dialogue, if at times somewhat stilted, generally crackled.

In the Feb. 8 New York Times Book Review, David Gates took issue with some of Gores' phrasing, including his overly detailed descriptions of people, which was a Hammett hallmark. Fair enough. But Gates also conceded in critiquing the dialogue that "Anyone who undertakes to impersonate a beloved and highly mannered writer has...problems."

He then went on to write that "When Robert Goldsborough channels Rex Stout, his Nero Wolfe naturally has to say 'pfui' and 'satisfactory.' " (I appreciate the mention, as my name doesn't pop up in The New York Times every day. And were I ever to write another Wolfe book, those Nero-isms no doubt would reappear.)

With minor reservations, I recommend "Spade & Archer." It nicely echoes that shadowy, gritty, and essentially urban world created by Dashiell Hammett.

Robert Goldsborough

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