Joe Gores Essay - Critical Essays


Joe Gores learned and refined his craft through the publication of dozens of crime-centered short stories over the course of a decade. These were written while he worked for private detective agencies and while he pursued a master’s degree (1954-1961), first in creative writing and later in English literature, at Stanford University. His detective work enhanced his persistence and gave him a wealth of plot material based on close contact with a wide range of people during investigations. His education—though the university discouraged commercial work and disparaged genre writing by refusing Gores’s proposed thesis exploring the works of Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Ross Macdonald—provided the means to turn Gores’s craft to art.

Gores was writing short stories when Simon & Schuster invited him to submit a novel. The award-winning result, A Time of Predators, lifted him to a new plateau of creativity and recognition, realized particularly in his DKA file novels, which are widely regarded as superior private eye procedurals.

An invitation to write for television not only gave Gores new insights into visual storytelling but also rewarded him financially better than novel writing alone could. The monies generated by his screenplays gave Gores the security and the leisure to carefully hone his later novels, both nonseries and DKA entries, into true gems of the genre.

The main difference between Gores’s nonseries and series novels is the focus. The nonseries novels typically concern stories told from the perspective of characters outside or on the fringes of the law: a drug-dealing (Interface) or retired (Hammett) private eye with a personal agenda, a shattered loner (A Time of Predators and Dead Man, 1993) seeking vengeance, or hunter and hunted (Wolf Time, 1989, and Glass Tiger, 2006) who circle each other in a battle of wits. The series novels present the point of view of upholders of the law, who must sometimes resort to bad deeds to achieve justice. Suspense and pursuit, deceit and betrayal are themes common to both. Stories are told crisply and economically and enhanced with apt similes to fix images and motifs in the reader’s mind.


(The entire section is 921 words.)