At some point, youíve probably run across Dashiell Hammettís The Maltese Falcon, which has become a classic detective story in modern literature. Whether itís through the seminal novel or the now-classic portrayal of Detective Sam Spade by the iconic Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon is a staple in American cultural history. In Spade & Archer, Joe Gores takes us back to the beginning, to Sam Spadeís start as an independent ďprivate dick.Ē
There is a lot of background information not given the in-depth treatment in The Maltese Falcon. Gores takes these little nuggets of information and expands on them, weaving an intricate storyline while staying true to Hammettís style. Goresí writing is very similar to Hammettís; even if that is a learned trait rather than a natural one, Gores does it impressively well. If a reader wasnít certain that the two novels were written by different men, it would be easy to believe that they had the same author.
The most impressive part of Spade & Archer is Sam Spade himself. Gores has him down pat; every mannerism, every word choice, every action is carefully measured. The depictions of him are incredibly vivid; Gores brings the character to life and imbues him with the personality crafted for him by Dashiell Hammett.
However, the Spade we meet in Spade & Archer is much younger and less seasoned than the one in The Maltese Falcon. It takes immense talent to do that, to take a character established by someone else and peel him apart layer by layer. Gores takes off just the right amount in order to make him a completely believable young Samuel Spade. Every detail is perfect: while I was reading, I could hear Bogie speaking the lines in my head, knowing that they were exactly what would emerge from Sam Spadeís mouth if he were real.
The mystery contained within the novel is a good one; itís not quite The Maltese Falcon quality, but after all, that was a once-in-a-lifetime case. Spade & Archer is milder and quieter, on a smaller level; every detective has to start somewhere. Gores crafts the story well and keeps the reader hooked, trying to figure out what is really going on behind the scenes and how everything is connected.
Spade & Archer is a must-read for fans of The Maltese Falcon. If you havenít read or seen The Maltese Falcon, it would still be enjoyable, but the reader would lose a lot. Also, The Maltese Falcon is such an amazing book - why havenít you read it yet? The best approach is to read Spade & Archer, followed immediately with The Maltese Falcon.