Saturday, April 6, 2013


No writer enjoys receiving a bad review of their work. Sometimes the reviewer pinpoints a genuine weakness and the writer benefits from constructive criticism. Many times, the writer is left feeling the reviewer was influenced by petty jealousy or an unspecified bias or just fond of exercising the power of the pen to tear others down and amuse their own regular readers. I don’t enjoy receiving bad reviews and I can’t say I enjoy writing them either. If I take the time to read a book, I want to walk away having felt it was time well-spent. I am not a fan of "Hammett Unwritten" by Gordon McAlpine writing as Owen Fitzstephen. McAlpine is a good writer. I do not have much in the way of constructive criticism to offer. I disliked his book because I am biased. I considered dropping the review entirely. After all, why make an enemy of the author or his friends? Nothing is worse than typing the title of your book in a search engine only to find some hack tearing you to shreds for no good reason. It was the recognition of my bias against the book that I felt justified in sharing why it rubbed me the wrong way. I revere the work of Dashiell Hammett. Beyond the books and short stories, I’ve read every Hammett biography and critical analysis I could find. I’ve read his published letters. I’ve read works of fiction involving Hammett as the principal character. Some, such as Joe Gores’ "Hammett" and Ace Atkins’ "Devil’s Garden," were brilliant works that rang true in their portrayal of Hammett the man and their evocation of Hammett’s writing style. Others, such as William F. Nolan’s "Black Mask Boys" series and McAlpine’s "Hammett Unwritten," left a bad taste solely because I wanted to love the books but walked away disappointed. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY

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