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Hammer Spade and the Final Quest
Hammer takes on the biggest challenge of his life.
Hammer's Last Adventure
Hammer Spade and the Final Quest
By E. B. Alston
Paperback-188 Pages-$15.00 plus shipping
Review of Hammer Spade and the Final Quest
What’s a trilogy with ten parts instead of only three? A decilogy?
Despite whether the dictionary recognizes this word, E. B. “Gene” Alston created one in his ten-novel detective series with Hammer Spade as the hero and a cast of fictional characters, some drawn from real-life people, and some with names from the pantheon of ancient Greek gods and goddesses.
Gene spins a good yarn using plain words, one of his primary writing strengths. Another is his use of credible, natural-sounding dialog to briskly move his narrative. This approach was also used by other good writers such as Hemingway and Robert B. Parker of Spenser for Hire fame. Gene’s overall style makes his stuff accessible to the widest possible audience, no doubt in part because of his previous technical-writing experience. Snootier literary critics might dismiss the simplicity of Gene’s writing as too unsophisticated for a serious reader. They miss the point that clear writing is the hardest kind to do, and that scholars are not Gene’s primary audience anyway. You read Hammer Spade stories when you want to have fun.
Some of that fun results because Gene never shies away from useful violence. His cowboy shoot-‘em-ups are delightful for folks like me who have the same righteous indignation about evil that Gene seems to have. Also refreshing is that Gene’s lifelong love of firearms as both a hunter and competition shooter lends accuracy to his references about them. Gene would never, for example, make the girlie gaffe that a detective writer in California once published when she used “the smell of cordite” cliché to refer to a recently fired pistol shot. Gene knows enough to recognize that the obsolete cordite was never a pistol propellant.
Gene departs from his normal Hammer Spade detective-and-adventurer motif in Final Quest to put his characters into the fantasy-and-science-fiction realm. In this closing novel he reveals what he only hinted at here and there in the previous nine. I’m embarrassed to admit that I failed to notice the clues that Gene had dropped, so the Final Quest was a surprise and pleasant revelation. I’ll not reveal the surprise.
The body of ten novels constitutes comprehensive consistency to provide many pleasant hours of reading. Although Gene probably intended for us to start with the first novel and work our way through in sequence, he so structured each novel with character descriptions and clarifying back references that you can really just jump right in at the middle anywhere. Thumbs up for The Final Quest and the preceding Hammer Spade adventures!
Excerpts From the Manuscript
Alonia’s ex, Steele Vulcan made a surprise visit the week before I left. He was more sociable than usual when I met him at the airport. On the way to my office, he explained that he had heard I was going a difficult assignment and he wanted to help.
After we were inside my office, he closed the door and placed a leather briefcase on my desk. He opened it to reveal an ordinary looking briefcase.
“This briefcase has four hidden compartments,” he explained. “Two are on the outside and two more are on the inside. All of the hidden compartments are shielded to prevent electronic scans from viewing their contents.”
He pressed a spot in the left rear corner. Then he pushed his finger inside an ordinary looking seam to reveal a small leather pocket containing a row of gold coins.
“These are South African Krugerrands,” he said. “There are twenty on this side and twenty more in a pocket just like this on the other side. A Krugerrand contains one Troy ounce of gold. I checked this morning and today, they are worth $1,375.69 apiece. You have a little more than $55,000 of emergency money. They are legal tender in any country in the world. If you find yourself in difficulty without acceptable money, these are your financial insurance.”
Then he showed me how to open the pocket on the other side and the other coins.
“That’s mighty generous,” I said.
Then he closed the briefcase and showed me how to open a hidden pocket on the left side and pulled out an odd-looking flat knife.
“This is made of composite materials stronger than steel and it is sharper than a razor.”He grinned. “If your gun is out of bullets, this knife is always loaded. There’s another knife just like it in a pocket on the other side. These too will not be detected by electronic scanning devices.”
Then he pointed to the handle of the case. “If the case is stolen a device in the handle emits a signal that allows the GPS feature of your cellphone to track its location.”
He handed me the keys. “Good luck, Hammer.” He smiled. “We are pulling for your success on this one so you can become one of us.”
“One of us” I thought. “What is it with this ‘family’ and their strange urge to induct me into it?”
Then, in Steele’s usual abrupt way, he said he was ready to go back to the airport. He didn’t even stick his head into Minerva’s office to say hello.
I left for Casablanca a week later. Alonia seemed sadder than usual at our parting. I had contacted Cheriet and he would meet me at the international gate of the Mohammed V Airport. Cheriet liked Dave, which was a good sign. Dave was a good judge of people.
Alonia took me to the airport and kissed me goodbye at the entrance of the secure check in line. She stuck an envelope into my coat pocket before she turned to leave.
“Come back to me,” she whispered as we parted.
After takeoff I took out the envelope and read:
Last night I felt hot tears: they bathed my cheeks
And lay upon my neck in a circle of pearls
I know not how it chanced that the fierce flame
Of that atrocious fear of separation from thee
Consumed me not.
My heart asked, in this sad hour of parting
“To whence has gone the light of my life?”
My heart’s sole treasure, there, and not beside me.
Thou didst steal part of me and take it.
Now, where thou art ever, Pole star of my life,
Soul of my soul, mine own, the rest of me waits
For the hour of thy return.
Alonia Cytherea Venus Inanna Kilya Morpho Aphrodite Panaceia Areia Mana Erycina Delia Spade
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