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Author Topic: RIP Joe Gores  (Read 6619 times)

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JIM DOHERTY

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RIP Joe Gores
« on: January 13, 2011, 09:12:08 AM »

I heard elsewhere on the 'Net that Joe Gores, the former San Francisco private eye who fictionalized his experiences in the ultra-realistic DKA series, passed away.

I've often said that Gores was the most important PI writer since Ross Macdonald or Mickey Spillane (and yes, that includes Robert Parker), for bringing something new, a sense of procedural verity, to private eye fiction.   And his 1974 novel, Interface, is one of the best PI books ever written, worth to stand with The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

He was the first writer to win two Edgars in the same year (for A Time of Predators, best first novel of 1969; and "Goodbye, Pops, best short story of 1969).  A few years later, he became the first writer to win three Edgars in three separate categories when he won an Edgar for Best Teleplay from a Serie of 1974 for "No Immunity for Murder," and episode of Kojak.

His career, both as a PI and as a writer, had a lot of parallels with Dashiell Hammett's, and, and, as a consequence, he became something of a Hammett authority.  He would write one novel, Hammett, in which he featured the aspiring pulp writer as the hero, starting a brief vogue of novels in which the heroes were pulp writers of the Depression era (e.g. William Denbow's Chandler, Gaylord Larsen's A Paramount Kill, and William F. Nolan's The Black Mask Murders).  His most recent book, Spade & Archer, was a prequel to Hammett's Falcon, and both a worthy and appropriate swan song.

He'll be very sorely missed.

JIM DOHERTY

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Re: RIP Joe Gores
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2011, 02:24:22 AM »

Some years ago, on Rara-Avis, an e-mail list dedicated to hard-boiled and noir fiction, I had the honor of moderating a month-long discussion on Joe Gores's works.

Because of the many parallels between Mr. Gores and Dashiell Hammett (a particularly eerie parallel is that Mr. Gores's date of death, 10 Jan 2011, is exactly 50 years, to the day, after Dashiell Hammett's), some of you might find the post I wrote to introduce that month-long discussion interesting:


Subject: There Was a Young Man

Some years ago, after completing a stint of stateside
service in the US Army, a young man arrived in San
Francisco, where he found a job as an operative in a
large detective agency in that city.

Having an ambition to write, he began a series of
short stories, most of which were published in the
leading crime fiction magazine of the day,
fictionalizing his experiences as a private
investigator, using his old detective agency boss as
the model for his hero.

The stories were successful enough that he decided to
try book-length entries in the series. He eventually
wrote three novels fictionalizing his experiences with
the S.F. detective firm.

He followed it up with a non-series private eye novel,
arguably one of the best PI novels ever written,
featuring a character who was not an operative of a
large firm (though he had been at one time), but who
owned his own small business. Though the young writer was
known for his spare, direct style, this novel was
particularly terse, told in a relentlessly objective,
third-person voice that was a close as prose can get
to a camera and a tape recorder. The hero's motives were
difficult to discern, in it's not until the end of the
book that you find what his real interest in the
goings-on were. Somewhat disappointing short fiction
about this character followed.

His success as a magazine writer and novelist led to
other venues. Soon he was writing scripts for
Hollywood films and enjoying success in the broadcast
medium. He gave up novel-writing for the new mediums,
but always intended to get back into books.

*********

Most of you probably recognized the subject of that
capsule biography as Dashiell Hammett. And, in all
likelihood, most of you also realized that it as fit,
in virtually all respects, this month's featured
subject at Rara-Avis, Joe Gores.

Hammett served in the Army during World War I as a
stateside ambulance driver. Gores served at Ford Hood
and the Pentagon shortly after the Korean War.

After his military service ended, Hammett got a job
with the San Francisco office of the Pinkerton Agency
(he had previously worked in Pinkerton's Baltimore
office prior to entering the Army).

After his military service ended, Gores arrived
in San Franciso and got a job with David Kikkert
& Associates.

Hammett started a series of short stories,about a
nameless operative in the San Francisco office of the
Continental Detective Agency, a fictional doppleganger
for the Pinkertons.

Gores started a series of short stories about the
various operatives for Dan Kearney Associates, a
fictional doppelganger for David Kikkert & Associates.

Hammett modeled the Continental Op on Jim Wright, the
superintendent of the Pinkerton Agency's Baltimore
office, who first hired Hammett and taught him the
detective business.

Gores modeled Dan Kearney on Dave Kikkert, founder of
David Kikkert & Associates, who first hired Gores and
taught him the detective business.

The Op stories appeared primarily in Black Mask, the
leading crime fiction magazine of the day.

The DKA stories appeared primarily in Ellery Queen's Mystery
Magazine
, the leading crime fiction magazine of the day.

Hammett eventually wrote three novels about the Op,
Blood Money, Red Harvest, and The Dain Curse
Gores eventually wrote three DKA novels, Dead Skip,
Final Notice, and Gone - No Forwarding.

Hammett followed up the Op series eith The Maltese
Falcon
, arguably the best PI novel ever, written in a
rigorously objective third person mode, featuring Sam
Spade, a tough PI who plays things so close to the
vest that it's difficult to tell whose side he's on.
Spade later went on to appear in three short stories,
"A Man Called Spade," "Too Many Have Lived," and "They
Can Only Hang You Once," which, while quite well-done,
didn't do justice to the novel.

Gores followed up the DKA series with Interface,
arguably one of the best PI novels ever, written in a
rigorously objective third person mode, featuring Neil
Fargo, a tough PI who plays things so close to the
vest that it's difficult to tell whose side he's on.
Fargo went on to appear in a single short story "Dance
of the Dead," which, while quite well-done, didn't
really do justice to the novel.

Hammett was wooed by Hollywood, and wrote screen
treatments and full scripts for a number of films,
some of them featuring characters from his books.

Gores was wooed by Hollywood, and wrote screen
treatments and full scripts for a number of films,
some of them based on his books.

Hammett had some success in radio drama, with shows
like Sam Spade and The Thin Man being based on
characters he created for his novels. He is credited
with creating the radio series The Fat Man.

Gores had major success in television, writing scripts
for shows like Kojak, Strike Force, Eischied, and Mike
Hammer
. He was a producer and head writer for the PI
show B.L. Stryker.

Here though, the story diverges.

Hammett always intended to get back into novels, but
never did. Recognizing that his Op series, for all
its realism, gave an idealized portrait of detective
work, one of his ideas was a semi-autobiographical
book about the picaresque adventures of a young fellow
who eventually falls into the private investigative
business, to be called There Was a Young Man It
never came to fruition.

Gores did come back to novels. He wrote three more
DKA novels years some years after the initial trilogy
was published, a bunch of stand-alones, and, as if to
draw attention to the many parallels between his life
and Hammett's, a novel in which Hammett himself is the
private eye hero. Recognizing that his DKA series,
for all its realism, was a somewhat idealized portrait
of detective work, he had an idea for a
semi-autobiographical book involving the pcaresques
adventures of a young fellow who eventually falls into
the private investigative business, to be called
Cases. He eventually brought it to fruition.

Gores, in other words, has been a much more productive
writer than Hammett, over a much longer period of
time. As this is being written, he is reportedly
putting the finishing touches on a novel to be called
Spade & Archer, a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, about
the tempetuous partnership shared by the titular
characters in the year preceding the events described
in Hammett's classic novel.

I'm only sorry that it's not out yet so that we can
discuss it during this month.

Fortunately, Gores has completed a lot of other
material, short stories, novels, scripts for movies
and TV shows, non-fiction, and criticism, so we
shouldn't lack for subject matter to discuss.

Welcome to Joe Gores month.

********


Thank you for your attention. For those of you might be members of Rara-Avis, and who, conseqently, rlaready saw it some years ago, I hope you didn't mind the repeat.

Indy

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Re: RIP Joe Gores
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2011, 11:44:42 AM »

Thanks for posting this, Jim...really interesting. 

I wasn't a major fan of Gores--just a genre thing--, but I do like the "Good by, Pops" story a lot.
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