Friday, May 18, 2018

Forgotten Stories: THE MALTESE FALCON COMMISION by Frank McAuliffe (1973)

How this story escaped my notice for 45 years is a mystery I will never solve. But, thanks to a tip from Mr. Tony Boldt, I am finally hip to the jive. For a Hammett adict like me, this tale is a revelation, and one hell of a fun read. 

Near as I can discover, "The Maltese Falcon Commission" made its one and only appearance in the 1973 anthology Men and Malice, edited by Dean W. Dickensheet.

The hero of this one is Augustus Mandrell, a killer for hire on a mission from jolly old England who had appeared (also unbeknownest to me) in a dozen previously published adventures. This time, he's in San Franscisco, where he mixes it up behind, in front of, and within the scenes of the hugger-mugger detailed by Dashiell Hammett as The Maltese Falcon

The story opens the day after Miles Archer is killed, when Mandrell meets Sam Spade and pumps Spade for information. Mandrell, you see, is already on the trail of the black bird, and also gunning for one of the falcon-hunters. 

What follows is an intricate job of plot-meshing, as Mandrell dances in and out of scenes from the novel, and provides a few new ones of his own. He interacts with Gutman, Cairo, Brigid, Wilmer and Thursby in ways Spade never suspects, and makes some surprising revelations about who shot whom, how the ship Paloma caught fire and what finally happened to the real Maltese Falcon. We even learn the real name of Miss Wonderly/Brigid O'Shaunessy. 

Along the way, there are further hat tips to Hammett and Chandler, Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, Elisha Cook Jr. and even Lew Archer. And just to add to the fun, the scene in which Mandrell meets Spade is swiped (with the author's admission) from the opening chapter of The Long Goodbye

The adventures of August Mandrell, I have since learned, were collected in three Ballantine paperbacks, Of All the Bloody Cheek, Rather a Vicious Gentleman and For Murder I Charge More, between 1965 and 1971. All were out of print until a couple of years ago, but are now available in trade pb and Kindle format. Mandrell's final adventure, the novel (I think) Shoot the President, Are You Mad? (involving the JFK assassination) appeared in 2010. I'll be pursuing them all. 

Thanks again, Tony!

1 comment:

Mathew Paust said...

My thanks, too, to Tony, and to you, Evan, for acquainting me with a must-read author I'd not known of. Now I'm off to Kindle to make up for lost time...