Monday, February 09, 2009

Richard Layman's comment to the review of Spade & Archer

Richard Layman (who knows what he's talking about) posted this response he'd sent to The New York Times, when I a bit lazily posted the link to the negative review of Joe Gores's Spade & Archer.

To the Editor:

Regarding David Gates’s review of Joe Gore’s Spade and Archer I am reminded of Louis Armstrong’s observation—There’s some folks, that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em.
Spade and Archer, has at its center the ethos and the professional habits of the private detective, like the masterpiece that precedes it (which is not, to many worthy of an opinion, inferior to The Thin Man—where did Mr. Gates get that idea?). Spade acts according to a strict set of rules necessarily of his own devising—an existential quality that does not obviate a past. He is a careful observer: people’s physical characteristics, their clothes, and the places they frequent are vitally important to him in his work. He inhabits a real world of San Francisco in the 1920s, reliably described.
Mr. Gates misses the point. To question Gores’s common sense because he suggests Sam Spade has a history is simply absurd. To criticize Gores for being overly precise in his descriptions is strangely illogical. To take him to task for using period language in a period story suggests a most unusual critical standard—even in the 21st century. To suggest that Spade lacked the time to read or listen to music defies comment. To express those criticisms in language dripping with vitriol is altogether repugnant.
Richard Layman


Jeremy Burwell said...

Thank you Richard Layman. I had the misfortune to read Gates' review of Spade and Archer this morning and was amazed at how nonsensical his criticisms were. I don't think he really enjoys Hammett or hardboiled lit. And to say that the writing is too detailed for 21st century readers is just plain lazy and insulting.
I'm a long-time Gores and Hammett fan and after reading Gates' review, I went to the Amazon web-site and read many positive reviews of the book (And also had to weather James Ellroy's comment about Raymond Chandler being a "florid gasbag" What's wrong with these people?) So after only reading excerpts, I am looking forward to reading Spade and Archer in its entirety.
On the other hand, I hope that I will miss any future reviews by Mr. Gates. He's just plain nasty!
Jeremy Burwell

mintonmedia said...

Having had problems stomaching James Ellroy's self-inflation as well as his over-praised body of work (though he can be amusing playing the pervert in public appearances), I would adapt an old schoolyard taunt to answer his Amazon comment about Raymond Chandler: "It takes a florid gasbag to call a superior writer one."

Though I think his point about Chandler creating the man he wished he were and Hammett the man he feared he might become rings true, I appreciate your distress at Elloy's rude and innacurate slam at Ray. Perhaps, wishing he were as good a writer as Chandler, Ellroy fears his sometimes indecipherable prose might become forgotten, collecting dust on the shelves as future generations continue to read his successor (and superior) in chronicling the dark heart and mean streets of L.A.