Books by Joe Gores

Born Joseph Nicholas Gores, he's one of only two authors to receive Edgar Awards in three separate categories: Best First Novel, Best Short Story and Best TV Series Segment. His novels 32 Cadillacs and Come Morning were nominated for Edgars as Best Novel,

Released: Feb. 14, 2009

"Along with the obligatory pleasures of watching Spade dealing with familiar supporting characters for the first time, Gores, a far more virtuoso plotter than Hammett, keeps multiple pots boiling furiously while providing a pitch-perfect replica of his master's voice."
Veteran Gores (Glass Tiger, 2006, etc.) spins the straw of an origin story for the firm of Spade & Archer, violently dissolved in the opening chapters of The Maltese Falcon, into storytelling gold. Read full book review >
GLASS TIGER by Joe Gores
Released: Oct. 2, 2006

"Thin plot, derivative characters. A disappointment from a writer whose work has so often sparkled (Cons, Scams and Grifts, 2001, etc.)."
Only one man in America can foil a world-class assassin: his doppelgänger. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 28, 2001

"Gores's skill at juggling multiple plots is unparalleled. Not every one has an equally surprising solution, but all are wonderfully ingenious—and the design behind them positively breathtaking."
According to gypsy legend, Jesus himself gave the Rom license to scam. But murder is quite another thing. So when Efrem Poteet comes back from a hard day of pick-pocketing to a tender kiss from his wife followed by a knife in the belly, Yana Poteet becomes a hunted woman. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, two SFPD hard cases known so universally by their nicknames that no one can recall their real ones, are scouring San Francisco's palm parlors and restaurants to pick up her trail. Dirty Harry Harrigan, also of the SFPD, is looking for her too, for reasons a little more personal. But more than anyone else, Staley Zlachi, king of the Bay Area's Muchwaya gypsies, wants to find her and find her fast, before the gadjo cops launch a murder probe that puts the kibosh on his clan's latest enterprise, a mega-scam scheduled for the papal jubilee celebration in Rome. So desperate is Staley that he turns to his old nemesis, Dan Kearney, whose repo agency short-circuited the Muchwaya's last major con (32 Cadillacs, 1992). And always obliging, the men and women of DKA take time from chasing down the vintage demos Big John Wiley stashed in the garages of his UpScale Motors salespeople to chase Yana, too, as she lies and cheats and charms her way across two continents. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 15, 2001

"Best of all, the DKA files remind you that one reason detective stories are so much fun to read is because detective work itself can be so much fun to do."
This collection of the complete shorter works (1967-89) featuring San Francisco's Daniel Kearny Agency, repo men (and women) extraordinaire, demonstrates convincingly how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, Gores's unusually detailed introduction and headnotes root both the twelve individual stories and the private-eye procedural genre they invented so firmly in the realities of his own work in skip-tracing and auto repossession that the first two tales seem barely fictionalized at all. But by the third story, with its briskly evoked carnival setting and its unexpected sympathy for the fleeing embezzler, Gores has hit his stride. Subsequent adventures of the DKA are all over the map. The perps range from a vengeful gypsy to a Dominican nun, the vehicles the agency's assigned to recover from a fire engine to a hearse, the moods from the trancelike calm of "Beyond the Shadow" (a puzzle story that pays off in a particularly handsome surprise) to the rollicking gaiety of "The O'Bannon Blarney File." Yet each one contrives to mingle vivid backgrounds, authentic procedural detail, the cleverness of the Kearny regulars—maverick Larry Ballard, ex-boxer Bart Heslip, eternally sozzled Patrick O'Bannon, brainy Giselle Marc—and soap-opera outtakes from the saga that's continued from Dead Skip (1972) through Contract Null and Void (1996), with another installment due later this year. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Fans of Gores's peerless DKA Associates p.i. procedurals (Contract Null and Void, 1996, etc.) will want this collection of 14 reprints (1958—91) no matter what. Others should be warned that although Gores is the master of many voices and formulas—from hipster ("The Second Coming," about two cool cats who want to witness an execution) to sci-fi ("The Andrech Samples," whose heroic couple struggle to protect a baby whose birth is a crime), from Twilight Zone ("Quit Screaming," whose hired killer ventures a little too deep into a Florida swamp) to affectionate parody ("Sleep the Big Sleep"—a nerdy wannabe shamus gets his shot at a big case)—most of the stories here expertly embody their formulas rather than transcend them. Gores-watchers won't be surprised that the stories most limited by their conventions are the whodunits ("Plot It Yourself") and the portraits of cunning killers ("Watch for It," "Killer Man"), the most satisfying the stories that pull off utterly unexpected surprises ("You're Putting Me On—Aren't You?") or that make do with no surprises at all (the Edgar-winning "Goodbye, Pops"). All in all, the collection demonstrates the variety of Gores's pitches while reminding you that he kept his best stuff for his novels. Read full book review >
CASES by Joe Gores
Released: Jan. 12, 1999

It's 1953, and Pierce Duncan, fresh out of Notre Dame, has decided to see this great country of ours and fill some of the notebooks he'll be using in his career as a writer. He gets arrested for passing through a Georgia town with a black friend, does a stint on a chain gang that ends with shocking suddenness, gets abandoned in the desert by a lovey-dovey couple who earlier pick him up, tags along to Jua'rez with a brawler who drives off with his notebooks, hitches to Vegas and a job tending a heavyweight contender who's in over his head, tangles with the schemers who are using the San Fernando Mission of the Priests of Melchizedek to smuggle wetbacks, finds that the girl of his prophetic dreams is a real person named Penny Linden who's engaged to a quarrelsome lout, and ends up on Gores's home turf of San Francisco, a town that still has all the seedy glamor of the dying pulps. It's here in San Francisco that Dunc, seasoned by dozens of acquaintances and scores of anecdotes, settles down to learn the business of skip-tracing—a business Gores (Contract Null and Void, 1996, etc.) knows better than any other writer alive—from seen-it-all shamus Drinker Cope, and here that all the pieces of this beautifully textured picaresque, from a killer Dunc should have remembered to an impossible penance that's been waiting for him ever since Georgia, finally fall together. Though this autobiographical pipe dream has been gestating so long that parts of it were published in the long-dead Manhunt, Rogue, and Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, it all seems as inevitable in retrospect as a Judas kiss. Read full book review >
Released: July 3, 1996

Just another month, the first since 32 Cadillacs (1992), for the repo specialists of Daniel Kearny Associates. Larry Ballard is looking for barman Danny Marenne, a union exec whose life expectancy has plummeted with the shooting of Local 3 president Georgi Petlaroc. He's also getting come-ons, finally, from more women than he can handle. (Too bad his boss, tossed out by Mrs. Kearny, has decided to crash in his apartment.) Trin Morales, meanwhile, takes time out from blackmailing underage Chicanas into bed to break into a plush mansion, then finds himself deep in the pocket of assemblyman Rick Kiely. Patrick Michael O'Bannon starts out by chasing some hot tires, then ends up taking away every stick of a mild guitarist's furniture, and the guitar too. Giselle Marc and Ken Warren hunker down to keep computer nerd Paul Rochemont alive till he can sign a half-billion-dollar contract that'll eliminate the motive for his partner, Frank Nugent, to kill him, and transfer the motive to the wife his mother so disapproves of. And Bart Heslip, supposedly on vacation in Detroit, is working undercover in the Tenderloin, two steps ahead of the cops who want to know more about why he punched out Danny Marenne. There's more—much, much more—all of it purring along in Gores's patented procedural overdrive, like Ed McBain on uppers. Miraculously, the DKA staff eventually manages to tie some of these deliriously overgalvanized cases in to each other. Don't count on being able to do the same. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

The day before she dies, brilliant, randy Atlas Entertainment corporate counsel Molly Dalton phones her paleoanthropologist husband, Will—estranged from her since he returned early from an African trip to find her deeply immersed in the delights of Atlas president Kosta Gounaris—to ask for a meeting about a computer file she's found that ties Atlas's assets to the Mob. Stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, Will arrives too late for their dinner date and misses his chance to get executed along with her. Fifteen months later, as grieving Will marks his return from Africa to Berkeley by giving a lecture on violence and evolution, Lt. Dante Stagnoro, head of San Francisco's organized crime task force, reviews the series of killings that proceeded from Molly to a crooked cop, a druglord, a mob lawyer, and so on. The killer, identifying himself as Raptor, repeatedly phones Stagnoro to taunt him and at one point leaves a message pinned to his chest as he sleeps; the lieutenant is determined not to let Will become Raptor's final victim. The interplay between killer and cop has been done much better before, and the mystery fizzles like a damp firecracker, but the interleaving of the story with excerpts from Will's lecture and Raptor's confession shows just how magnificently ambitious this failure is. Assassination as evolution? Only the callowest of first- timers—or an old pro as canny as Gores (Dead Man, 1993, etc.)- -would ever have the brass to root an otherwise unmemorable tale in such a dazzling conceit. Read full book review >
DEAD MAN by Joe Gores
Released: Dec. 1, 1993

Eddie Dain's career as a lighthearted player of games from chess to computer research and private investigations ends the night two goons—hired by somebody unhappy about the way Dain's been sniffing around a conveniently accidental death—kill his wife and child and leave him for dead. Bent on revenge, Dain resurfaces years later as a high-priced finder of unfindable people, waiting for a client shady and desperate enough to have hired his family's killers. But is that client Teddy Maxton, a mob-connected Chicago investment lawyer who's been neatly fleeced out of $2 million by James Zimmer, a spineless law clerk, and Vangie Broussard, the Cajun exotic dancer Zimmer's caught on the rebound from Maxton? Dain's hunt for Zimmer and Vangie in New Orleans' darkest dives and bayous is a story—and what a story—in itself, but every time you get lulled into thinking that that story's winding down to a pursuit yarn, Gores pulls the rug out from under you with a professional snap. Together with Gores's sublimely comic, and utterly different, 32 Cadillacs (1992): a towering pair of back-to-back home runs. Read full book review >
32 CADILLACS by Joe Gores
Released: Dec. 1, 1992

Hours after gypsy king Staley Zlachi tumbles down an escalator in a Steubenville, Iowa, department store, word goes out that the dying king is prepared to anoint his successor—and the two leading candidates, Rudolph Marino and Madame Miseria (also known as Yana), both decide to ingratiate themselves with the king by bringing him a pink 1958 Cadillac ragtop convertible (just like the one he drove to his own coronation) to be buried in. But the ragtop's only the icing on their cake, since Marino's running a beautiful scheme to swindle 31 other new Cadillacs out of Bay Area dealers for the trip east. A panicky call to Dan Kearny Associates, car repossessors extraordinaire, unleashes enough wildly inventive scams and counterscams—especially as DKA investigators Larry Ballard and Giselle Marc find themselves romancing Marino and Yana in order to plot against each other for that ragtop—to send a TV series into syndication, and Gores's fans into nirvana. Gores's first DKA novel since Gone, No Forwarding (1978) is the crown of a distinguished career. You'll wish the shenanigans could go on forever—and they almost do. Read full book review >
WOLF TIME by Joe Gores
Released: April 13, 1989

More hard-nosed thriller entertainment from the veteran author of the DKA mystery series (Dead Skip, etc.) and four other novels (Come Morning, 1986, etc.); here, a man stalks his would-be assassin against the whirlwind backdrop of a presidential campaign. Engineer-turned-pro-hunter, and impotent since his wife's death in a hit-and-run five years back, Hollis Fletcher, 56, is a magnetic and unusual hero; he's also a peaceful, solitary man without a clue as to why—as happens in the novel's abruptly violent opening—someone should shoot him and leave him for dead in the Minnesota woods. A man's man—much flashback here to boyhood macho training at the hands of an ancient Indian—Fletcher's not one to forgive or forget; after crawling on broken legs 1000 yards to his cabin, then mending in a local hospital, he proceeds to track down the gunman with the help of his daughter, Nicole—who's married to David Ross, top speechwriter for her old lover and Fletcher's old pal Gary Westergard, Minnesota governor and dark-horse candidate for president. As Fletcher scours the state for clues, Nicole learns the troth: ambitious hubbie David shot Fletcher, hoping to curry favor with Westergard after "the guy's" remark that only Fletcher can deny him the presidency. Anguished, Nicole decides to shield her husband from Fletcher's wrath and joins him on the campaign trail; but Fletcher soon fingers David anyway and, aided by an Indian woman who reawakens his sexuality, comes gunning—leading to a rain of bloodshed, a revelation of youthful scandal implicating now President-elect Westergard, and a viscerally satisfying but inconclusive ending that props the door wide open for a sequel. Fitfully suspenseful, and featuring Gores' usual strong dialogue and visual detail; but ruled throughout by morally bombastic and atavistic clichÇs—the corrupt politician, the noble Indian, the honorable hunter, etc—that undercut realism and reveal this as nothing more—or less—than a fancied-up man's action comic. Read full book review >