Spade & Archer: The first thirty pages
"Samuel Spade’s jaw was long and bony, his chin a jutting v under the more flexible v of his mouth. His nostrils curved back to make another smaller, v. His yellow-grey eyes were horizontal. The v motif was picked up again by the thickish brows rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down – from high flat temples – in a point upon his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a blond satan."Here's how Joe Gores picks up — and displaces — the v motif in his new Maltese Falcon prequel, Spade & Archer:
"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. ... The watcher stiffened when the last person off the Virginia V was a solid, broad-shouldered ..."
I'll file that under "clever solution to a problem." An author picking up such a well-known story needs to recreate without copying. I don't know if the boat name Virginia V has any narrative significance, but it certainly alludes to the original's v motif, rekindling memories of Hammett's Spade without descending to word-for-word copying. Damn, that's clever. And if not, it's a hell of a lot of fun.
And remember that line about looking pleasantly like a blond satan? Here's Gores, on page 30 of Spade & Archer: "`You will,' said Spade. His grin made him look pleasantly satanic." Gores takes bits of Hammett's original description and appears to be sprinkling them throughout his own book, an interesting choice that ought to make Hammett readers smile.
I haven't written much about Gores because he's not beyond my borders, but I recommend his DKA Files novels. Of these, 32 Cadillacs and Cons, Scams and Grifts are two of the great comic crime novels ever. The protagonists are repo men and women. How can you beat that?
"Yeah, uh, thanks, Sam." Something sly and delighted seemed suddenly to dance in Archer's heavy, coarse voice. "We're living over in Spokane so's she can keep working at Graham's Bookstore ... "© Peter Rozovsky 2009