Gores, Joe. SPADE & ARCHER. (2009). ****. Touted as a prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” it could be – especially with the end that obviously leads into that case. It’s really a P.I. novel using Sam Spade and his one-time partner, Miles Archer, as the protagonists. Although several cases are covered, there is a common thread through all of them – the villain. Sam has just left the Continental Detective Agency in Seattle and moved on to San Francisco to start his own business. He immediately begins to get clients, all because the word on the street is that he can do the job and keep his mouth shut. His first case involves finding the missing son of a banker. Spade finds the son about to stow away on a freighter set to sail from San Pedro leaving for exotic isles in the Pacific. He also discovers a crime – the theft of gold coins equal to $200,000. He manages to discover where some of the gold was hidden, but the majority of it was still missing. In his inimitable way, he manages to learn the identity of the thieves, except for the man who mastermined it. It is this man who flows through the rest of the plots of the book. During the next seven years covered in this novel, we will see Spade dealing with booze runners, waterfront thugs, stowaways, banking swindlers, gold smugglers, bumbling cops, and the illegitimate daughter of Sun Yat-sen. The situations will involve murder, other mens’ mistresses, and long-missing money. We also get to learn about how Archer joins up with Spade, and why Spade manages to sleep with his wife on a regular basis. We also learn how Sam managed to hire Effie Perine, his innocent secretary. In all, it’s a good stab at establishing the early life and times of the two detectives we later meet full-blown in Hammett’s novel. Recommended.