Spade and Archer: The Prequel to The Maltese Falcon

Spade and Archer: The Prequel to The Maltese Falcon

by Joe Gores

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Overview

A wonderfully dark, pitch-perfect noir prequel to The Maltese Falcon, featuring Dashiell Hammett’s beloved detective, Sam Spade.
 
It’s 1921—seven years before Sam Spade will solve the famous case of the Maltese Falcon.  He’s just set up his own agency in San Francisco and he gets off to a quick start, working cases (he doesn’t do domestic) and hiring a bright young secretary named Effie Perrine.  When he’s hired by a prominent San Francisco banker to find his missing son, Spade gets the break he’s been looking for.  He spends the next few years dealing with booze runners, waterfront thugs, banking swindlers, gold smugglers, and bumbling cops. He brings in Miles Archer as a partner to help bolster the agency, though it was Archer who stole his girl while he was fighting in World War I. All along, Spade will tangle with an enigmatic villain who holds a long-standing grudge against Spade. And, of course, he’ll fall in love—though it won’t turn out for the best. It never does with dames.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307271488
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 726,039
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Joe Gores, formerly a private eye, is the author of sixteen other novels, including Hammett, which won Japan’s Falcon Award. He has received three Edgar Awards—one of only two authors to win in three separate categories: Best First Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Episode in a TV Series.

Read an Excerpt

Spade's Last Case

It was thirteen minutes short of midnight. Drizzle glinted through the wind-danced lights on the edge of the Tacoma Municipal Dock. A man a few years shy of thirty stood in a narrow aisle between two tall stacks of crated cargo, almost invisible in a black hooded rain slicker. 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. His cigarette was cupped in one palm as if to shield it from the rain, or perhaps to conceal its glowing ember from watching eyes.

The watcher stiffened when the last person off the Virginia V was a solid, broad-shouldered man in his late thirties, dressed in a brown woolen suit. His red heavy-jawed face was made for joviality, but his small brown eyes were wary, constantly moving.

The passenger went quickly along the dock toward a narrow passageway that led to the city street beyond. The watcher, well behind, ambled after him. The first man had started through the passageway when he was jumped by two bulky, shadowy figures. There were grunts of effort, curses, the sound of blows, the scrape of leather soles on wet cobbles as the men struggled.

The watcher announced his arrival by jamming his lighted cigarette into the eye of one attacker. The man screamed, stumbled unevenly away holding a hand over his eye. The second attacker broke free and fled.

"'Lo, Miles."

Miles Archer, holding a handkerchief to his bloodied nose, said thickly through the bunched-up cloth, "Uh... thanks, Sam."

"Wobblies?" asked Sam Spade.

"Wobblies. Who else?"

They went down the passageway toward the street. Archer was limping. He had the thick neck and slightly soft middle of an athletic man going to seed.

"They finally made you as undercover for Burns?"

"Took 'em long enough," Archer bragged. He looked over at Spade. "Back with Continental, huh? Uh...?how'd you find me?"

"Wasn't looking. Was staked out for a redheaded paper hanger out of Victoria."

"I saw him miss the ferry in Seattle."

Spade nodded, put a smile on his face that did not touch his eyes. "Belated congratulations on your marriage, Miles."

"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, even though I'm down here most of the time. Tough on the little lady, but what can she do?"



Spade was at a table set for afternoon tea when the fortyish matron entered from Spokane's Sprague Avenue. The Davenport Hotel's vast Spanish-patio-style lobby was elegant, with a mezzanine above and, on the ground floor, an always-burning wood fireplace. When the woman paused in the doorway he stood. His powerful, conical, almost bearlike body kept his gray woolen suit coat from fitting well.

She crossed to him. She had wide-set judging eyes and a small, disapproving mouth.

"I am Mrs. Hazel Cahill. And you are..."

He gave a slight, almost elegant bow. "Samuel Spade."

Mrs. Cahill set her Spanish-leather handbag on one of the chairs, stripped off her kidskin gloves, and slid them through the bag's carrying straps. Her movements were measured. She turned slightly so Spade's thick-fingered hands could remove her coat.

She sat. She did not thank him. She said, "Three o'clock last Monday afternoon he and two other men came from this hotel, laughing about their golf scores. My husband, Theodore, and I just moved here from Tacoma a month ago, and it's been five years, but I know what I saw."

"I didn't say you didn't."

"Theodore does. Constantly." Her head shake danced carefully marcelled curls under her narrow-brimmed hat. "You men always stick together."

Spade nodded with seeming indifference.

"Theodore and he were great cronies-golf and tennis, drinks at the club. When he abandoned poor Eleanor five years ago and didn't turn up dead Theodore called him the one who got away. Eleanor is my best friend. She never remarried."

The skylight in the high vaulted ceiling laid a slanted bar of pale afternoon sunlight across one corner of their table. Spade's raised brows, which peaked slightly above his yellow-gray eyes, encouraged confidences.

"Did Eleanor's husband recognize you?"

"No. And only when they were past did I recognize him, from his voice-a distinctive tenor I'd always found irritating." She pursed thin lips and something like malice gleamed in her eyes. "Of course I immediately called Eleanor in Tacoma to tell her I had seen her missing husband here in Spokane."

"And she believed you. Even if your husband doesn't."

"My husband never believes me."

"If the man's here I'll find him."

After she had gone Spade remained, rolled and smoked three cigarettes in quick succession, muttered aloud, "What the hell?" and left the hotel.




John Graham's Bookstore was on the corner of Sprague Avenue and West First Avenue, hard by the Davenport Hotel. Spade entered with long strides, slowed as if looking for a particular volume on the crowded shelves. There were a half dozen browsers and an almost pleasant smell of old books in the air.

Graham himself, a thin bespectacled man with a trim white mustache and wings of silver hair swept back from either side of his face, was ringing up a sale on the front register. A female clerk was selling a customer a book halfway down the store.

Spade went that way, his eyes hooded. The clerk was a blonde of about his age, pretty verging on beautiful, with an oval face, blue eyes, and a moist red mouth. Her silk-striped woolen rep dress, too fashionable for a shopgirl to wear to work, clung to an exquisite body.

The big round blue eyes lit up when she saw Spade. She hurried her sale to just short of rudeness, came up to Spade, raised her face for his kiss. Instead, he put an arm around her shoulders, turned her slightly, kissed her on the cheek.

"You didn't tell me you were in town!" she exclaimed in a slightly hurt voice.

"Just for the day," he lied easily. "On a case."

"And you came into Graham's for old time's sake," she said. "Because we met here." In that light her eyes looked almost violet. "That first time, you came in to get a book and instead you got..."-she opened her arms wide-"me!"

Spade grunted. "Just as a rental."

"That's a nasty thing to say to a girl, Sam."

"Not a girl anymore. Not Ida Nolan anymore."

"What did you expect? You ran off to be a hero in France."

His eyes hardened between down-drawn brows. He said in a sarcastic voice, "I love you, Sam. I'll wait for you, Sam."

"I got lonely."

"And married Miles Archer three months after I left."

"Miles was here. Miles was eager to marry me. Miles-"

"I saw Miles in Tacoma a couple of nights ago," Spade said. "He thanked me."

She said almost cautiously, "For what?"

"Going into the army. Leaving him an open field."

"He isn't due back from Tacoma until tomorrow..."

"I'm booked on the four oh five stage to Seattle."

"To hell with you, Sam Spade," Iva Archer said viciously.




The engines growled and shook; white water boiled up around the stern of the Eliza Anderson as she backed away from the ramshackle Victoria, British Columbia, slip. Fog, wet as rain, already had swept most of the passengers off the darkening deck into the cabin for their three-hour trip down Puget Sound to Seattle.

A dark-haired man just shy of forty turned from the coffee urn with a steaming mug in one hand. He had a trim mustache over a wide mouth, narrow, amused eyes under level brows, a strong jaw, a small faded scar on his left cheek. Before exiting he set down his coffee and cinched up the belt of his ulster.

Sam Spade, who had been leaning against the bulkhead midcabin, sauntered out after him. Moisture immediately beaded Spade's woolen knit cap, the turned-up collar of his mackinaw.

The man was standing at the rail, mug in hand, staring down at the wind-tossed water. A glow came into Spade's eyes. His upper lip twitched in what could have been a smile. He leaned on the railing beside the other man.

"Mr. Flitcraft, I presume?"

The man dropped his mug overboard.




Charles Pierce slid warily through the doorway like a cat entering a strange room. He relaxed fractionally when he saw a bottle of Johnnie Walker whiskey and two glasses on a tray on the table. Spade was at the sink running water into a pitcher. The room was simple, comfortable, homey, with a private bath.

"I want to get this over with," said Pierce in a high, clear voice. "Not that I have anything to feel guilty about."

They touched glasses. Spade said, "Success to crime."

"There's no crime involved here. Nothing like that."

Without obvious irony Spade said, "Five years ago, in 1916, a man named Robert Flitcraft did a flit in Tacoma. Before leaving his real estate office to go to luncheon, he made an engagement for a round of golf at four o'clock that afternoon. He didn't keep the engagement. Nobody ever saw him again."

Pierce downed half his drink. Spade's hands had been rolling a cigarette. He lit it, looked through the drifting smoke with candid eyes.

"The police got nowhere. Flitcraft's wife came to our Seattle office. She said she and her husband were on good terms, said they had two boys, five and three, said he drove a new Packard, said he had a successful real estate business and a net worth of two hundred thousand dollars. I was assigned to the case. I could find no secret vices, no other woman, no hidden bank accounts, no sign Flitcraft had been putting his affairs in order. He vanished with no more than fifty bucks in his pocket. He was just gone, like your lap when you stand up."

"What he did makes perfect sense! He-"

"When I went into the army in nineteen seventeen he was still missing. Last week his wife came in to tell us a friend of hers had seen him here in Spokane."

Spade rubbed his jutting chin as if checking his shave.

"Now we have Charles Pierce living in a Spokane suburb with his wife of two years and an infant son. He sells new cars, nets twenty-five thousand a year, belongs to the country club, plays golf most afternoons at four o'clock during the season. His wife doesn't look like Flitcraft's wife, but they're more alike than different. Afternoon bridge, salad recipes..."

Pierce was fidgeting. "What are you getting at?"

"I was sent here to find and identify the man our informant thought was Flitcraft. I've done that. Charles Pierce is Robert Flitcraft. No definite instructions beyond that, but there's the bigamy question. Wife here, wife in Tacoma.

Kids from both marriages..." For the first time Spade addressed Pierce directly as Flitcraft. "Of course since you left your first wife extremely well fixed you could claim you thought that after all this time she would have divorced you in absentia-"

"I was on my way to lunch." He paused. "A steel beam fell from a new office building and hit the sidewalk right beside me."

"A beam." Spade's voice was without inflection.

"A chip of concrete flew up..." His hand absently touched the faint scar on his left cheek. "I was more shocked than scared. I was a good husband, a good father, I was doing everything right, and none of it meant a damned thing if a beam could fall off a building and kill me."

"As if someone had taken the lid off life and let you see how it really worked?" Spade pinched his lower lip, frowned, drew his brows together. "No logic, no fairness, only chance." His frown disappeared. "Sure. By getting in step with what you thought was life you got out of step with real life."

"You do get it! I decided that if my life was merely a collection of random incidents, I would live it randomly. That afternoon I went to Seattle, caught a boat to San Francisco. For the next few years I wandered around and finally ended up back in the Northwest. I got a chance to buy into an auto dealership here in Spokane, met my wife, got married, had a son..." He grinned almost sheepishly. "I like the climate."

"Three things not in my report," said Spade.

Ralph Dudley, resident supervisor of Continental's Seattle office, was in his seventies, fifty years on the job, white of mustache, pink of face. His kindly eyes behind rimless spectacles were misleading; they never changed expression, not even when he sent his ops out to face danger, sometimes death.

"First item," said Spade. "Nobody's said so, but before Flitcraft disappeared Mrs. Cahill made a play for him. An affair wouldn't have fit in with his view of what the good citizen-husband-father did so he turned her down. She didn't like that. So when she spotted him in Spokane she couldn't wait to try and make as much trouble for him as she could."

Dudley said in mild-voiced skepticism, "I see."

"Second item. Flitcraft was afraid his first wife wouldn't get what he did. She didn't. She just figures he played a dirty trick on her so she's going to get a quiet divorce." Merriment lit his face. "Flitcraft doesn't get it either. He adjusted to falling beams. When no more beams fell he adjusted back again."

"You mentioned three things, Spade."

"Flitcraft is my last case."

Dudley turned his swivel chair to stare out the window. Half a dozen mosquito-fleet ferries were churning their various ways across Elliott Bay between the Seattle waterfront and the distant irregular green rectangle of Blake Island.

Dudley told the window, "In nineteen seventeen you couldn't wait for us to get into the war. Disregarding my direct order, you went over the border to enlist in the First Canadian Division." He turned to look at Spade. "While training in England you took up competitive pistol shooting. You made some records."

"The pistol made the records. All I did was point it and make it go bang," said Spade. "Eight-shot thirty-eight Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver. Only three hundred of them ever got made because they jammed in combat, but they were so accurate on the firing range they got banned from competition shooting."

Dudley went on coldly as if Spade hadn't spoken.

"You were assigned to the Seventh Battalion of the Second Infantry Brigade and saw action in the trenches of the Lens-?Arras sector of France. You were wounded. You got a medal. Upon your return, against my better judgment, I took you back." His voice took on a nasty edge. "A competitive pistol shot, a war hero, and suddenly you don't like guns. Suddenly you're quitting the detective trade. Do you mind telling me why? Or have you just lost your stomach for real man's work?"

Spade stood. He did not offer his hand.

"I think if you need to use a gun you're doing a lousy job as a detective. As for resigning, I don't like the work here much since the war. Too much head knocking, not enough door knocking. And who says I'm quitting the detective trade?"

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Spade and Archer: The Prequel to The Maltese Falcon 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1921 San Fransisco, Sam Spade quits the Continental Detective Agency to open up his own private investigative practice; partnering with Miles Archer who he knew married Sam¿s girlfriend Iva Nolan, when Spade volunteered for war service while he was serving overseas during the Great War. They hire Effie Perine as their secretary.

Sam works on a missing person¿s case as banking heir Henny Barber vanished, but the sleuth believes he took a ride on the San Anselmo passenger ship to the South Pacific. That case leads Sam into investigating stolen gold coins purloined on the San Anselmo. Though he hands the case to the cops on a gold platter the police blow the case allowing the mastermind to escape.

In 1925, insurance man Ray Kentzler surreptitiously hires Sam to determine the cause of death of banker Collin Eberhard as a homicide, a suicide or unfortunate accident. At the same time a friend of Effie, who still works for Spade & Archer, employs him to find her chest of Bergina.

In 1928 Mai-lin Choi seeks money stolen from her famous father who never recognized his offspring. Her efforts take Spade & Archer back to the 1921 stolen gold coins case and the mastermind of that heist.

This daring prequel to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is a great historical private investigative tale that grips the audience from the onset as Spade goes into partnership with Archer. The story line is fast-paced with the sleuthing top rate. The tale would work as a superb one sitting stand alone even without its obvious roots, but the most fun is following the early days of characters who are in the Maltese Falcon as fans will relish Joe Gores¿ excellent homage to the classic.

Harriet Klausner
deweys on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have not read "The Maltese Falcon", so I did not know what to expect. That said, I really enjoyed the novel. Sam Spade leaves Continental and opens his own PI office. He hires Effie Perine as his secretary and starts investigating cases. There is a villan who runs through 3 cases and eludes Spade. Why it is named "Spade & Archer", I have no idea. Archer is hardly in the novel and only used as a way to get his wife, Spade's lover, into the San Francisco area. The 1920 language, prices, fashions, and decor really adds to the story. I definitely plan to read "The Maltese Falcon".
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this prequel to The Maltese Falcon, Joe Gores does an excellent job creating a believable history of private detectives Samuel Spade and Miles Archer. Mr. Gores captures Dashiell Hammett's voice perfectly and, in some respects, even does a better job with Spade and company. There are three parts to this book, each focusing on a case that has a common thread, although the reader doesn't know the full extent until the end of the book. Although the book is called Spade and Archer, the focus is squarely on Spade, and shows how the two eventually became partners, leading the reader right up to the Maltese Falcon.Mr. Gores does an superb job plotting the book, creating a much tighter story that spans several years than Hammett did in the days that the Maltese Falcon took place. I especially liked the homage to Hammett's other famous detective, the Continental Op, by throwing in a cameo of Mickey Linehan, another detective that worked with the nameless shamus.Overall, Joe Gores did a great job tackling a difficult task. Most readers are wary of stories that are continued by a different author, and I am usually in that group as well, but I think Spade and Archer nailed it. It's hard to match a classic book like the Maltese Falcon, but Joe Gores did just that, and in some respects, surpassed it.
wdwilson3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Full disclosure: 1. I¿m a Dashiell Hammett fan. 2. I¿m a Joe Gores fan. 3. I live in Marin County and worked in San Francisco for 30 years. Bearing all of these predispositions in mind, it would be pretty remarkable if I was anything but enthusiastic about Gores¿ Spade & Archer; the Prequel to Dashiell Hammett¿s The Maltese Falcon. I loved it. Gores writes like a reincarnated Hammett. He¿s had practice, having penned the novel Hammett 35 years ago. A good, convoluted plot involving many of the characters we meet in The Maltese Falcon ¿ Effie Perine, Miles and Iva Archer, Dundy and Polhaus for a start ¿ presents a very plausible backstory for Sam Spade in the years 1921-1928.For a Bay Area resident, what makes this book even more delicious is the local color, the glimpse of San Francisco and environs as they were nearly a century ago. Nothing seemed out of place or time to me. Spade & Archer wraps you in a foggy cocoon and transports you to San Francisco in the Twenties. I wanted to stay so much that I¿ve put The Maltese Falcon and Hammett in my ¿to be read¿ pile.
randoymwords on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A serviceable thriller. I became annoyed at the author's tendency to have the characters constantly explain the 1920's environment to us. Lot's of "Oh look, that's the so-and-so building where so-and-so happened!" This is either not up to Dashiell Hammett's writing standard (for instance, a room is lazily described as "virtually empty"), or Hammett isn't as good as I remember.
kmaziarz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Detective Sam Spade has become an archetypal character in American popular culture¿the hard-bitten private eye beating the gritty streets of the city in search of a justice he isn¿t even sure exists, a fool for the femme fatale. But have you ever wondered how Sam Spade became Sam Spade? Well, even if you haven¿t, this well-written prequel to Hammett¿s 'The Maltese Falcon' is a definite pleaser. The author, Joe Gores, is a former private eye himself, and it shows in the finely tuned series of steps his Spade takes to solve the cases presented to him. Over the course of seven years, we see Sam leave the Continental Detective Agency to start on his own, meet innocent young secretary Effie Perine, match wits again and again with a master criminal who always seems to escape at the last minute, and take on dim-witted Miles Archer as a partner in his agency and Archer¿s wife Iva as a partner in his bed. Extremely well-written with pitch-perfect hard-boiled style, 'Spade and Archer' is a delight for fans of Hammett old and new.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful plot and cast of characters. Very satisfying. Immensely enjoyable. Recommended highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Swagstar
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of spadeclan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the book had a slow start, the pace picks up rather quickly. I am a huge fan of Hammett's original writing, and as a fan I enjoy the nostalgic style that Gores invokes. It is important to note that the Sam Spade portrayed in the novels does differ from the Sam Spade in the movies. Great read.
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FlintNC More than 1 year ago
It's a bad sign when all the good lines come from the original work. For a work that is so sketchily written, it, nevertheless, drags. Well, more meanders than drags. I had to give up on the novel somewhere beyond the halfway point. Take out all of the Hammett derivatives and there's not much left but bad dialogue and truncated, disconnected, implausible episodes. Gores is a prolific writer. My only other foray into his work was the novel, Hammett(another abandoned book, I don't remember why). His other work may be great, but to satisfy the "noir," I recommend the original, The Maltese Falcon. If you like a spare Hemingwayesque style of "noir," try Westlake writing under the Richard Stark pseudonym.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A step into a time when characters were vivid, unexpected and fun to know. If you've seen the Maltese Falcon lately - it's even better.
mombass More than 1 year ago
Joe Gores goes back in time to the beginning of Sam Spade's solo career and his partnership with Miles Archer. You also discover the relationship between Sam and Miles' wife, Iva, and how he acquires his great secretary/girl of all trades Effie Perine. This book stands on its own, and is also a great introduction to Dashiel Hammett's characters. You have a better understanding of the "before" of Sam Spade when you read The Maltese Falcon, and now you know why he wiped Archer's name off the door so quickly. Gores has a good feel for that era in America, the little day-to-day features and local description that let you picture the scenes and action much more clearly. His prose style doesn't mimic Hammett's but it's close enough that there's a feeling of continuity when you finish Gores' book and pick up Hammett's.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Original as it could be, interesting plot, good character development, but what is missing is the author wasn't alive in the 1920s and consequently the dialog isn't the snappy, hard-bitten patois that was present in the MF. I kept looking but I couldn't find Bogey in this book.