A funeral mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m., Friday, at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Greenbrae, for acclaimed crime fiction writer Joe Gores, a longtime San Anselmo resident. Mr. Gores died Monday, Jan. 10, at Marin General Hospital, of complications from an upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage. He was 79.
A prodigious author, Mr. Gores won three Edgar Allen Poe Awards and penned a prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Mr. Gores brought authenticity to his work, learning about the criminal element while pounding the pavements in San Francisco as a private eye and repo man. His fictional detective agency, Daniel Kearney Associates, earned its bread and butter by repossessing automobiles.
Sue Kirton – co-owner of on San Anselmo Avenue, where Mr. Gores and his wife dined every day for years – recalled the story Mr. Gores told of his first date with his future wife, Dori.
Assigned to take back a car from “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno, while the mobster attended an Italian wedding, Mr. Gores asked Dori if she wanted to come along for the ride. “She said, ‘I’m up for it,’ and Joe said, ‘I knew that was the dame I was going to marry,’” Kirton said.
“Joe was just so loved in here,” the restaurateur added, describing how regulars stopped by the couple’s table to say hello and hear one of his stories. And Mr. Gores loved to eat. His favorite dishes on Hilda’s menu were the bacon-and-blue-cheese sandwich and the macaroni salad.
Michael Whyte, proprietor of , remembered Mr. Gores as friendly, jovial and funny. “Joe was always ready with a clever quip or observation,” Mr. Whyte said. “His was a warm wit.”
Joseph Nicholas Gores was born on Dec. 25, 1931, in Rochester, Minnesota. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Notre Dame University, followed by a master’s degree in the same subject from Stanford University in 1961. He sold his first short story to a pulp-fiction magazine, Manhunt. Mr. Gores’s first novel, A Time for Predators, won the Best First Novel Edgar in 1969. He won two more Edgar Allen Poe Awards for Best Short Story, and Best TV Series Segment.
San Francisco mystery writer Mark Coggins noted, “He will be remembered for winning Japan’s Maltese Falcon Award and for being entrusted by the Hammett family to write 2009’s well-regarded prequel to The Maltese Falcon.”
Mr. Gores died on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Dashiell Hammett, author of The Maltese Falcon.
“He was a great writer, not just noir, not just one genre,” said his stepdaughter, Gillian Monserrat. “He had a great interest in people, he thought all people had stories to tell.”
Before becoming a fulltime writer, in addition to 12 years working as a gumshoe, Mr. Gores labored at other jobs including as a truck driver, an assistant motel manager, and as a teacher at a boys’ school in Kenya.
Drafted into service
Like other young men of his day, Mr. Gores was drafted into the Army as soon as it could get its hands on him – in his case after he completed his master’s degree. The notice arrived while he was visiting Tahiti.
According to Stanford Magazine, he was at first assigned to retyping file cards and later to writing biographies of generals.
Mr. Gores’s first marriage ended in divorce. In 1976 he married Dori, and the two settled in San Anselmo. “He dedicated every last book to her,” said his stepdaughter. “They were the closest couple I’ve ever known.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his stepdaughter, Gillian Monserrat of Antioch; stepson, Timothy Gould of Carson, Los Angeles County; and two step-grandchildren.
Mr. Gores also leaves behind his dog, a mutt named Foxy.