Now that The Maltese Falcon is a Big Read title, more and more people may be asking themselves why Sam Spade was willing to say, “When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t matter what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it.” 

The new novel Spade & Archer:  the Prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon by Joe Gores, has the answer.  Joe Gores is one of a few authors to be a winner in three difference Edgar categories from the Mystery Writers of America.  He was himself a private detective, wrote a great series about a P.I. agency led by Dan Kearny, written a detective novel with Dashiell Hammett as the main character, as well as many other great books. 

Written with the approval of Hammett’s daughter, Spade & Archer tries to explain the back history of the archetypal fictional private detective, Sam Spade.  Using the same spare style of Hammett, Gores recreates historic San Francisco with stunning detail.  The plot is divided in three time periods (1921, 1925, 1928) as Spade chases a master criminal, puts together his own agency, partners up with Archer, and deals with the women in his life.  I think this book has everything a reader would want who likes the traditional private detective and historical stories.  The cool thing about this book is you can literally end this book and transition right into The Maltese Falcon without missing a beat.  It is a masterful job at maintaining the excitement and relevancy of this classic work to a contemporary reading community. 

Further, why not consider paring these two books up with a viewing of the classic John Huston film from 1941 starring Humphrey Bogart. 



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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