“Patient Zero” by Jonathan Maberry and “Spade & Archer – The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon” by Joe Gores

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If I’d read the inside cover of “Patient Zero” by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin’s Griffin, $14.95, 421 pages. Soft cover. www. jonathanmaberry.com) I’d have never read the book. Then instead of being up all night reading, and dragging myself to work the next morning looking like the new daddy of Octababy, I’d have missed out on Joe Ledger, an incredible new character by a great writer I’d never heard of before.

You wonder, I’m sure, what a knowledgeable publishing house could put in a book that would immediately drive a tough, dedicated, wade-thru-the-tracers-to-get-to-the-enemies-machine-gun reader like your Grit-Lit columnist to take a book and drop it directly in the shredder. And I’m sure you are thinking to yourself, “Wow he can shred an entire book – all at once? What POWER!” And I can with my V-8 Powered Turbo Equipped Super Shredder – For Professional Use Only. Just $1095. Ask your favorite editor where they got theirs.

 

“Patient Zero” would never qualify for a Grit-Lit review because on the inside, right before the title page under “Nonfiction” they list the author‘s previous books on Vampires and Zombies. Vampires and Zombies under non-fiction!? What’s next? Non-fiction titles like “Paris Hilton Acts” and “George W. Bush on Grammar”? Come on. Zombies and vampires are fiction—aren’t they?

 

Based on that page all by itself, I’d have blown the entire book off as yet another tome by a guy who sleeps in a crystal pyramid with a huge bottle of pepper spray he uses to protect himself from the monster under the bed.

 

And I would have been oh so very, very wrong. Here are some quotes that explain why.

 

This is Chapter one in its entirety.

 

“When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.”

 

Later, they put Ledger in a locked room to audition with a guy that might be dangerous.  Ledger recognizes him: “The DVD player in my head kept running and rerunning the scene back at the warehouse where I’d shot him in the back. … I’d put two .45 slugs in him from 15 feet. Pretty much does the trick. If it doesn’t then your only logical ammunition upgrade is Kryptonite.”

 

This crazy book features weird characters that are not real. And at Grit-Lit we hate weird made up stuff. That’s why we don’t do talking animals, tea cozies, friendly cats that don’t scratch mysteries, ghost stories and we especially don’t do foolish made up stuff like zombies.

 

I’ve learned that the thinking that got me to where I am has got to change if I’m going to get somewhere else. And my thinking on zombies has got to change. To paraphrase our new President, “This time I almost screwed up.”

 

“Spade & Archer – The Prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon” by Joe Gores. (Alfred A Knopf, $24, 337 pages. Hard cover.) www.aaknopf.cpm

 

Horrible as it sounds; Grit-Lit has never read the Maltese Falcon. Hard to believe, but true. Alas the classics have never interested me. Up until now, my way of thinking makes me a Jack Reacher kinda guy.

 

But, when an icon like Joe Gores writes a book, you gotta pay attention. Gores is the author of 16 other novels. He’s one of only two authors to win awards in three categories: best first novel, best short story and best episode of a TV series. He’s pretty much the Jerry Rice of hard-core classic detective novels.

 

If you like Sam Spade and the old hard hitting Mickey Spillane type books you’ll love “Spade & Archer”.

 

It’s 1921 and Spade has set up his own agency in San Francisco. Clients are streaming through the door, and Spade is flooded with booze runners, waterfront thugs, stowaways, banking swindlers, gold smugglers and bumbling cops.

 

“Spade and Archer” is hard-boiled the way hard-boiled was meant to be.

 

So take your pick — classic private investigator takes on the bad guys, gets the dame and wins or Ledger the warrior against terrorist zombies. All it takes to move to a new and better place is to change the way you think.

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