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Hammer Spade

and the

Final Quest

 

E. B. Alston

 

      In his last adventure, Hammer’s mission is to learn whether the White Horseman of the Apocalypse, Loredano Ziff, is dead or alive. If he is alive, Hammer is ordered to kill him. This is Hammer’s toughest assignment, even though he receives assistance from both Isabela and Nisreno. When this one is over, Hammer and Alonia sail away to the West in the Cypriot Alonia on a new adventure that is far, far, away in leagues and time.

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! 

 

Dave Whitford 

February 2012

 

Just finished reading Chapter 29 and,... I could not have imagined a better ending than that! Hammer's wife is a Goddess! I should have known. And when Lucy left, I especially like the smell of 'Fire and Brimstone.' So the idea was of the Ten Labors... I'm just sad that Hammer won't be having any more adventures!

 

Patti Almanza

 

c

 $14.00 plus shipping 

This is the note that Alonia slipped into Hammer’s pocket when he was leaving for this mission.

 Dearest Hammer,

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.

 

Love,

Alonia Cytherea Venus Inanna Kilya Morpho Aphrodite Panaceia Areia Mana Erycina Delia Spade