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According to Dashiell Hammett, a shadow man is "meant to blend in, to disappear by being always there." Hammett knew something about disappearing. Behind the shadows thrown by "Miles Archer," his fictional detective, was a very real detective—his partner in San Francisco, Lewis Miles Archer, a private detective so private that, when he went missing in February of 1929, no According to Dashiell Hammett, a shadow man is "meant to blend in, to disappear by being always there." Hammett knew something about disappearing. Behind the shadows thrown by "Miles Archer," his fictional detective, was a very real detective—his partner in San Francisco, Lewis Miles Archer, a private detective so private that, when he went missing in February of 1929, no one even thought to look for him. Shadow Man is the biography of the silhouette Hammett, as well as Raymond Chandler and even Ross Macdonald, eventually filled in, a man who was always there. Until he wasn't. ____ “Shadow Man is a stylish, metaphysical romp through a noir labyrinth. It manages to do for the hardboiled classics what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead did for Hamlet.” —Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection “Shadow Man's project is to unnerve biography's careless assumptions about selfhood and historical knowledge. The real detective work involved in in this bright, complex, comic, melancholy critifiction about the epistemological static at the nexus of art and the rest reveals itself in the intriguing chess game the reader is asked to play on every page with the puckish meta-author.” —Lance Olsen, author of Calendar of Regrets “Borges warns us of ‘the contamination of reality by dream,’ and with that in mind, Gabriel Blackwell’s infectious book drives us out of our minds, defying quarantine, plum crazy on Plum Island. The narrative genetics of this nonfiction fiction is masterfully mosaic. Rules are all busted and bested. Shadow Man is sicker than sick but in a good way, in the best way.” —Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter “In Shadow Man, Gabriel Blackwell stakes his claim as conductor and curator extraordinaire of shadows textual, characterological, and historical. Raising the language of noir to the nth power, and serving up a plot that might lead Ray Chandler to hang a white flag on his carriage return, Shadow Man rewards its reader richly in style, substance, and insubstance. Brace yourself to shadow Blackwell as he charts the fraught, frayed boundaries between fact and fiction, but also to lose yourself delightedly in the murky, twisting alleyways of this book.” —Tim Horvath, author of Understories and Distinguished Professor of Umbrology at the New Hampshire Institute of Art


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According to Dashiell Hammett, a shadow man is "meant to blend in, to disappear by being always there." Hammett knew something about disappearing. Behind the shadows thrown by "Miles Archer," his fictional detective, was a very real detective—his partner in San Francisco, Lewis Miles Archer, a private detective so private that, when he went missing in February of 1929, no According to Dashiell Hammett, a shadow man is "meant to blend in, to disappear by being always there." Hammett knew something about disappearing. Behind the shadows thrown by "Miles Archer," his fictional detective, was a very real detective—his partner in San Francisco, Lewis Miles Archer, a private detective so private that, when he went missing in February of 1929, no one even thought to look for him. Shadow Man is the biography of the silhouette Hammett, as well as Raymond Chandler and even Ross Macdonald, eventually filled in, a man who was always there. Until he wasn't. ____ “Shadow Man is a stylish, metaphysical romp through a noir labyrinth. It manages to do for the hardboiled classics what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead did for Hamlet.” —Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection “Shadow Man's project is to unnerve biography's careless assumptions about selfhood and historical knowledge. The real detective work involved in in this bright, complex, comic, melancholy critifiction about the epistemological static at the nexus of art and the rest reveals itself in the intriguing chess game the reader is asked to play on every page with the puckish meta-author.” —Lance Olsen, author of Calendar of Regrets “Borges warns us of ‘the contamination of reality by dream,’ and with that in mind, Gabriel Blackwell’s infectious book drives us out of our minds, defying quarantine, plum crazy on Plum Island. The narrative genetics of this nonfiction fiction is masterfully mosaic. Rules are all busted and bested. Shadow Man is sicker than sick but in a good way, in the best way.” —Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter “In Shadow Man, Gabriel Blackwell stakes his claim as conductor and curator extraordinaire of shadows textual, characterological, and historical. Raising the language of noir to the nth power, and serving up a plot that might lead Ray Chandler to hang a white flag on his carriage return, Shadow Man rewards its reader richly in style, substance, and insubstance. Brace yourself to shadow Blackwell as he charts the fraught, frayed boundaries between fact and fiction, but also to lose yourself delightedly in the murky, twisting alleyways of this book.” —Tim Horvath, author of Understories and Distinguished Professor of Umbrology at the New Hampshire Institute of Art

30 review for Shadow Man: A Biography of Lewis Miles Archer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tieryas

    Adding the YouTube Video of the Review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrE7AR... Shadow Man is noir at its best. Gabriel Blackwell’s debut novel isn’t just a murder mystery, but an exploration of metaphysics, identity, and historical ontology. It’s a fast-paced read and after I first finished the book, I watched Maltese Falcon, read the book again, and like any great mystery case, saw so much more with the layers stripped away. I marveled at the attention to detail, the meticulous facts giving us Adding the YouTube Video of the Review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrE7AR... Shadow Man is noir at its best. Gabriel Blackwell’s debut novel isn’t just a murder mystery, but an exploration of metaphysics, identity, and historical ontology. It’s a fast-paced read and after I first finished the book, I watched Maltese Falcon, read the book again, and like any great mystery case, saw so much more with the layers stripped away. I marveled at the attention to detail, the meticulous facts giving us a glimpse of the San Francisco and Los Angeles in a time long past. On the surface, it’s a biography of Lewis Miles Archer, the hapless partner in the Maltese Falcon who gets killed and initiates much of the mystery. Except Shadow Man switches things around and assumes Archer lived, taking us in a completely different route. This is fiction at its absolute best, which is why at times, it doesn’t feel like you’re even reading fiction. I found myself constantly questioning what is real, what is not? And with a very surprising epilogue/editor’s note, I started wondering if I was the target and author was shadowing my thoughts, my reactions, my own assumptions. It’s an amazing book that should be read. Just make sure to look over your shoulder every once in a while as Blackwell writes: “It’s easy enough to be seen when you want to be. Easy enough, too, to not be seen, if that’s what you’re after. But to be both at the same time? It’s like someone telling you to act natural, or not think of a pink elephant.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Amber Sparks

    If you're a fan of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or of the film versions of The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, or The Big Sleep - or even if you're just a fan of the hard-boiled gumshoe genre - you'll hugely enjoy this incredibly witty, incredibly colorful, incredibly complex puzzle box of a novel. Blackwell brings false leads and minor characters to life with a sure and snappy voice and an ear for the language and the tropes of the classic detective that makes this cerebral fare quite fu If you're a fan of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or of the film versions of The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, or The Big Sleep - or even if you're just a fan of the hard-boiled gumshoe genre - you'll hugely enjoy this incredibly witty, incredibly colorful, incredibly complex puzzle box of a novel. Blackwell brings false leads and minor characters to life with a sure and snappy voice and an ear for the language and the tropes of the classic detective that makes this cerebral fare quite fun and satisfying to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joe Sacksteder

    The thing that I found most interesting about this book was how it shattered the comfortable "connection" that the reader is traditionally "supposed" to feel with the main character(s). Switching from notes to notes back to the true Shadow Man of the narrator was callous in the best possible way. I really want to teach a class called "True Lies: Un-truth in Non-fiction," and this would be a text I'd consider. I love when research gets so obsessive that we have to question the narrator's intentio The thing that I found most interesting about this book was how it shattered the comfortable "connection" that the reader is traditionally "supposed" to feel with the main character(s). Switching from notes to notes back to the true Shadow Man of the narrator was callous in the best possible way. I really want to teach a class called "True Lies: Un-truth in Non-fiction," and this would be a text I'd consider. I love when research gets so obsessive that we have to question the narrator's intentions and the validity of his/her account. It reminded me of Dimitri Anastasopoulos's writing in that regard. Blackwell is at his best when he's describing verminous characters using massive amounts of hyperbole and sensory crud. There are many examples in the book, but my favorite was that of Sheriff Albert Graves: "He's just like I remember him from the movies, only he talks. Somehow, though, he says less. He's never heard of Fraley, Sampson, O'Mara, Mars, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, the Pope, Jesus Christ, or Babe Ruth. He's never heard of the mayor. He's a little fuzzy on his wife and kids, and he intends to forget he met me within the hour." Wonderful how the progression of notable characters places Babe Ruth ahead (behind, but ahead) of Jesus Christ and the Pope. Subtleties like this reward a careful reading. I like the famous noirs, but my knowledge is limited. In fact, I started but did not finish Blackwell's "The Little Death" in Conjunctions 53 because it seemed like I had to do homework before I could understand it. You can read Shadow Man stand-alone, but I think it adds an extra dimension if you read "The Big Sleep," "The Maltese Falcon," and Blackwell's "The Little Death" first. This hefty assignment might affect Shadow Man's popularity. Although Blackwell draws attention to this noir convention Author's Note, I found that the middle of the book was so full of characters, twists, and - especially - aliases that I felt inadequate as a reader to make sense of it and started to "switch off." I didn't realize how helpful the index was until too late - interested readers should really use it as a tool rather than seeing it as something that's just cute and superfluous. I know that excessive metaphors are a convention of noir writing, and usually they worked really well - but I might have cut down on the sheer # of them. For example, I might have cut "as slippery as an oil slick in a bubblebath," amongst others. While I found the middle of the book daunting (the many-faced character of Penelope Sampson remains a mystery to me), the beginning and ending are both strong and - like a movie with a good twist - make me want to go through the book again to see the subtleties I might have missed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I like Blackwell as a person, and this book does nothing to make me think that's a mistake; while I was initially a little annoyed with the design and printing of the book—my cover was cut poorly, and I thought the decision to give so much of the book in italics and with a somewhat arbitrary margin was a little annoying. But a month since I read the book, I remember very little of that but still chuckle at some of the forced metaphors of Blackwell’s hard boiled style; really, the stylistic ventr I like Blackwell as a person, and this book does nothing to make me think that's a mistake; while I was initially a little annoyed with the design and printing of the book—my cover was cut poorly, and I thought the decision to give so much of the book in italics and with a somewhat arbitrary margin was a little annoying. But a month since I read the book, I remember very little of that but still chuckle at some of the forced metaphors of Blackwell’s hard boiled style; really, the stylistic ventriloquism here is really impressive, at once animating writers like Hammet and Chandler and gently subverting them. The plot was a little overwhelming at times—I’m slow on the uptake and haven’t read all the books this one stitches together—but when I got to the end, I saw that there’s an index, an idea so of its time that I wish all the thrillers and mysteries I read had one, so I could keep track of those characters that seem to get introduced when I’m thinking about dinner or what’s on TV. Really, a solid read, a credible love letter to the genre as well as a response to it that feels self-aware without sucking all the fun out of it. Nice work.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    I reviewed this book already for Ampersand Books. It's easily found. And much more in depth. I will just say that if you are a fan of pulp fiction, and in particular Hammett and Chandler, you need to read this book. There are some novels that when you put down, you just can't shut up about them. It seems like every other day I am telling someone to check out Shadow Man. Blackwell pulls of the niftiest trick. Be pays tribute without being derivative. He adopts the manner of speech, the tough guy I reviewed this book already for Ampersand Books. It's easily found. And much more in depth. I will just say that if you are a fan of pulp fiction, and in particular Hammett and Chandler, you need to read this book. There are some novels that when you put down, you just can't shut up about them. It seems like every other day I am telling someone to check out Shadow Man. Blackwell pulls of the niftiest trick. Be pays tribute without being derivative. He adopts the manner of speech, the tough guy bravado, in one of the most wildly original ways, telling the story of the man behind the scenes, the REAL hero of Falcon and the BIg Sleep, Lewis Miles Archer. This is a brilliant book that bridges the gap between literary fiction and genre, high and lowbrow. One of the best I read last year. One of the best I've ever read, period.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Londyn Kate

    Won book, signed by author...awesome read, interesting from the very first page!

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would both be pulling their hair out on this one as Blackwell out noir’s noir. Somewhere in between fact, fiction, and some third thing is this biographical fiction of fiction based on biography. Blackwell pulls together the fictional worlds of Hammett and Chandler (somehow weaving almost every complex plot of theirs that I’ve heard of into a single meta-conspiracy) and mashes it all up with fictionalized versions of the actual worlds of Hammett and Chandler Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler would both be pulling their hair out on this one as Blackwell out noir’s noir. Somewhere in between fact, fiction, and some third thing is this biographical fiction of fiction based on biography. Blackwell pulls together the fictional worlds of Hammett and Chandler (somehow weaving almost every complex plot of theirs that I’ve heard of into a single meta-conspiracy) and mashes it all up with fictionalized versions of the actual worlds of Hammett and Chandler, mashed together of course. It’s an amazing beast, but it’s something that really has to be read to be grasped. After reading I can’t be sure what I know about the real Hammett and Chandler, the real fictions they wrote, and where any of these things leave off and others start. It’s all a muddle and all I know is what I’ve read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brooks

    I think this book undoubtedly succeeds at what it attempts to do. It takes classic noir and extends the stories and authors of the genre until they fray and start to unweave. It asks a lot of the reader, I wish that I had a little more inkling of that before I started. As it was, I'm positive I didn't get everything out of this book. I will definitely read more of Blackwell, but hopefully go in with eyes wide open.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Renée

    Here is a link to my review online at HTMLGIANT: http://htmlgiant.com/reviews/shadow-m... Here is a link to my review online at HTMLGIANT: http://htmlgiant.com/reviews/shadow-m...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daveya

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wes

  12. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

  14. 4 out of 5

    Harris Allgeier

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert Kloss

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shome Dasgupta

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Seidlinger

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Riippi

  20. 5 out of 5

    KnNaRfF

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tobias

  22. 5 out of 5

    s.d.

  23. 5 out of 5

    John Madera

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Singleterry

  25. 4 out of 5

    Frankie Rollins

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lee Pedersen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Murphy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Muntz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ipsit

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ravi

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