Sunday, April 12, 2015
The Continental Opposite, by Evan Lewis
This dude Lewis is turning into a major threat. First there were his stories about Skyler Hobbs,who thinks he is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes. Then tales of Davy Crockett's ghost, who harasses his descendents into solving crimes. And now he has revived Dashiell Hammett's famous character the Continental Op.
Brief pause for confusion from the readers. But Hammett's family owns the copyright! And Lopresti doesn't like fan fiction (Author B writing new stories with the characters of Author A)!
True. But I am sometimes a sucker for reboots, in which Author B rethinks the original and comes up with a new twist.
This story takes place in the fifties, decades after the Op's last appearance. The main character is a young detective named Peter Collins (he notes bitterly that his father deliberately gave him a name that is gangland slang for "nobody"). Peter works for the Portland, Oregon branch of a national detective agency and when he accuses his boss of corruption the company sends in a retired op who used to work for the San Francisco branch("sometime in the forties Continental had put him out to pasture, and he'd spent the years since killing a vegetable garden, sneering at golf course, and not catching fish.") . Peter finds him sinister and refers to him as the Old Man.
Hmm. In Hammett's stories the Op's boss was the Old Man, but it is clearly not the same person. In fact, this new guy strongly resembles Hammett's hero, much older and, if possible, more cynical.
Now let's address the copyright issue. Does Lewis use the name of the characters? No, because the Op never had one. (And Old Man is hardly a unique moniker either.) The Op worked for the Continental Detective Agency. Peter works for Continental Investigations, which recently changed its name from something or other.
A brilliant story, and the first of a series. I can hardly wait.