Tuesday, November 12, 2013


"I loved detective work, I truly loved it."

Dashiell Hammett created the genre of "hard-boiled" detective fiction in American literature, and decades after his death is finally starting to get the respect and honor his writing is due. His work was perfected by Raymond Chandler, and followed in later years by writers such as Ross McDonald, Ed McBain, Walter Mosley, Elmore Leonard, Mickey Spillane, Loren Estelman, and Joe Gores.

The last of these was one of the finest, writing a whole series of books about an auto repossession business called Dan Kearney Associates (DKA) based on his early years on the job. He wrote fourteen novels, dozens of short stories, and screenplays for television series such as Kojak, Columbo, Magnum P.I., Mike Hammer, Remington Steele, and others. Gores won the Edgar Award (America's prize for best mystery fiction) three times, was the president of the American Mystery Writers of America, and won the Maltese Falcon award in Japan. Like Dashiell Hammett, Gores was a private detective who wrote books based on and influenced heavily by his experiences.

Fifty years to the day after Dashiell Hammett died, Joe Gores died as well, at age 79. Gores leaves behind a wealth of mystery and suspense writing as well as adventure and other genres. If you've not heard of him or read him, I highly recommend reading anything he's written, but a good starting point is Dead Skip, the first DKA story. Cases is another good offering, made up of short stories.

Joe Gores was a Hammett historian and fan, studying the man, his writing, his person, and his family so well and so scrupulously that he wrote a novel based on Dashiell Hammett's life that was approved by the family. Called simply Hammett, it was a very interesting book, but the movie adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola did not carry over enough of the writing, style, or story. He also wrote an authorized, official prequel to the Maltese Falcon named Spade & Archer about the times before Brigid O'Shaunessey walked through the door of their offices.

Joe Gores was an American author with not enough fame and attention, but plenty of talent and skill. Take a look at his writing some time, you'll not be sorry.

No comments: