Spade and Archer by Joe Gores
Advertized as the "prequel to the Maltese Falcon", this book takes you back to 1921, when Sam Spade, the hero of that famous novel is just getting started in his own private detective agency. There are three separate stories here, beginning with 1921, and then four years later in 1925, and yet again in 1928.
Each story is a separate mystery in itself, but there is a running theme that connects all three. I won't give it away here, but it is probably the best part of what is really a rather mediocre output.
For one thing, the dialogue just doesn't ring true. Not to mention the fact that the author chose to use the word "of" in dialogues instead of "have", which, while maybe true to the way the people were talking, still was annoying to this reader.
Another thing is that, aside from Spade, and his woman Friday, Effie, most of the characters in the book are barely cardboard characters. Even the villain is barely drawn in the climatic scene at the end of the book. You want to care about the people, but are denied enough to actually care.
It is my opinion that the author did a fairly good job of imitating the style of Hammett, but as for crafting a story worthy of being called a "prequel" to such a classic is something I can't agree.
Give this one 5 stars