Joe Gores Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Like fellow mystery writer and hard-boiled pioneer Dashiell Hammett, Joe Gores is one of a handful of authors who has actually worked as a private investigator. He worked for a dozen years during the 1950’s and 1960’s in San Francisco—the same city where Hammett worked—at agencies specializing in skip tracing, repossessions, and embezzlement and insurance investigations. Gores immensely enjoyed detective work and from the beginning kept extensive case notes that he has mined for material ever since. His initial Dan Kearney & Associates (DKA) file short story, “The Mayfield Case,” appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1967.

Gores’s work has received critical acclaim from his first novel, A Time of Predators (1969), which won an Edgar Award. He also received Edgar Awards for best short story for “Goodbye, Pops” and for best episode in a television series for “No Immunity for Murder.” Two other novels, Come Morning (1986) and Thirty-two Cadillacs (1992), were also nominated for Edgar Awards, and Gores has received the Japanese Maltese Falcon Award. However, he has experienced considerably more commercial success from script writing than from novel writing. Gores has served as secretary, vice president, president, and on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America.

The first DKA file novel, Dead Skip, was published in 1972. Expanding on the format of Hammett’s Continental Op stories, Gores follows the activities of many DKA detectives individually and collectively as they pursue subjects and the solutions to questions such as What really happened? Who did it? What punishment fits the crime? Gores’s nonseries novels likewise often revolve around similar investigative techniques as employed by goal-oriented amateurs and professionals seeking answers to specific questions.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Accardi, Catherine A. “The Cool Gray City.” Mystery Readers Journal: San Francisco Mysteries 11, no. 2 (Summer, 1995). Accardi identifies noteworthy San Francisco mysteries, citing Gores’s Thirty-two Cadillacs for its portrayal of the city in the 1990’s and Hammett for his description of the city in 1928.

Garfield, Brian. “Joe Gores: A Private-Eye Novelist You Should Know.” Chicago Sun-Times, March 2, 1986, p. 26. Profile of Gores on the publication of Come Morning looks at his personal history and his development as a writer.

Gores, Joe. “A Foggy Night.” In Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade, edited by Richard Layman. San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2005. Reprint of an article that originally appeared in the November 4, 1975, issue of City of San Francisco Magazine. Employing the investigative techniques he used as a San Francisco detective, Gores sifts through the text of The Maltese Falcon to reveal the real-life settings of the book, including Sam Spade’s apartment, the Spade & Archer office building, and other locations.

_______. “It Was a Diamond, All Right.” In Lost Stories, by Dashiell Hammett, edited by Vince Emery. San Francisco: Vince Emery Productions, 2005. Gores’s introduction recaps the highlights of his life, focusing on his discovery of hard-boiled crime fiction, particularly the work of Dashiell Hammett, which inspired him to follow Hammett by becoming a private investigator and later a writer. Gores makes a compelling case for Hammett’s influence, not only on the hard-boiled writers who followed him but also on many mainstream writers and on films and television as well.

Kenney, Peter. “Specialists in Skip-Tracing and Repossessions.” Mystery Readers Journal 11, no. 2 (Summer, 1995). Kenney looks at private eye novels in San Francisco, including Gores’s DKA files series.

McKimmey, James. “Joe Gores.” Writer’s Digest (August, 1988): 31-35. Brief overview of Gores’s life and career that is particularly useful for Gores’s pithy advice to aspiring writers—“Believe in yourself”—and for its demonstration of how he writes and edits, based on a succession of prose-tightening and tension-increasing revisions of the opening page of his novel Interface.

Scaggs, John. Crime Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2005. Contains a chapter on the hard-boiled detective novel, which sheds light on Hammett’s work and provides background for Gores’s writings.

Schaal, Carol. “Mystery Writer Gores Shares Life Lessons.” Notre Dame Magazine (Summer, 2000). Comments from Gores regarding what he has learned in the course of living and writing.