Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spade & Archer & San Francisco

Other than re-reading The Maltese Falcon, what better book to read over a long weekend in San Francisco than Joe Gore’s Spade & Archer?. Atmospheric and entertaining, Spade & Archer is a ‘prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

I am a long-time fan of Hammett and Sam Spade. And also as a long-time – though now former – resident of San Francisco I have always seen the three – Hammett, Spade and the City - as of a piece Gore’s tale of Sam Spade, told in the style of Hammett, fits nicely in that piece.

The novel follows Sam Spade over a number of years in the 1920’s as he moves from working for Continental Ops in Washington State to setting up his own detective agency in San Francisco. As it is a ‘prequel’ and as the title suggests, it culminates just at the point that The Maltese Falcon begins.

Along the way Spade is involved in a series of investigations, each in its own way leading to the books conclusion. We also meet characters that will populate The Maltese Falcon: Spade's secretary Effie Perrine and San Francisco cops Dundy and Tom Polhous. We learn much about the relationship among Spade and Miles and Iva Archer and how the Spade & Archer partnership came to be. We learn more about Sam Spade and the picture of the character we see in The Maltese Falcon becomes fuller.

But then there is that wonderful character, the city of San Francisco. Gores puts us on the streets, in the neighborhoods. He evokes the essence of the City. We feel the chill of the fog, we hear the the sound of the harbor and the bay, we taste the food.

I read the book while in San Francisco and as I noted that was so appropriate. But you don't have to be there to enjoy the read. Pick up the book, it will take you there.

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