Blackwell’s language is one of the novel’s great pleasures. He showcases a gift—and I mean this sincerely, and not at all backhandedly—for writing the artfully bad sentence, the figure-balancing sentence that produces bizarre images and nonsense while communicating.
– The Rumpus
Shadow Man rewards that trust with more than just satisfied “A-ha’s”—the novel unfolds like Miller’s Crossing as scripted by Tom Stoppard, with the daily call sheet penned in disappearing ink.
According to Dashiell Hammett, a shadow man is “meant to blend in, to disappear by being always there.” Hammett knew something about disappearing. Behind the shadows thrown by “Miles Archer,” his fictional detective, was a very real detective—his partner in San Francisco, Lewis Miles Archer, a private detective so private that, when he went missing in February of 1929, no one even thought to look for him. Shadow Man is the biography of the silhouette Hammett, as well as Raymond Chandler and even Ross Macdonald, eventually filled in, a man who was always there.
Until he wasn’t.
“Shadow Man is a stylish, metaphysical romp through a noir labyrinth. It manages to do for the hardboiled classics what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead did for Hamlet.
—Jedediah Berry, author of The Manual of Detection
“Shadow Man‘s project is to unnerve biography’s careless assumptions about selfhood and historical knowledge. The real detective work involved in in this bright, complex, comic, melancholy critifiction about the epistemological static at the nexus of art and the rest reveals itself in the intriguing chess game the reader is asked to play on every page with the puckish meta-author.”
—Lance Olsen, author of Calendar of Regrets
“Borges warns us of ‘the contamination of reality by dream,’ and with that in mind, Gabriel Blackwell’s infectious book drives us out of our minds, defying quarantine, plum crazy on Plum Island. The narrative genetics of this nonfiction fiction is masterfully mosaic. Rules are all busted and bested. Shadow Man is sicker than sick but in a good way, in the best way.”
—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter
“In Shadow Man, Gabriel Blackwell stakes his claim as conductor and curator extraordinaire of shadows textual, characterological, and historical. Raising the language of noir to the nth power, and serving up a plot that might lead Ray Chandler to hang a white flag on his carriage return, Shadow Man rewards its reader richly in style, substance, and insubstance. Brace yourself to shadow Blackwell as he charts the fraught, frayed boundaries between fact and fiction, but also to lose yourself delightedly in the murky, twisting alleyways of this book.”
—Tim Horvath, author of Understories and Distinguished Professor of Umbrology at the New Hampshire Institute of Art
GABRIEL BLACKWELL is the author of The Natural Dissolution of Fleeting-Improvised-Men: The Last Letter of H. P. Lovecraft (CCM, 2013), Critique of Pure Reason (Noemi, 2013), and Shadow Man: A Biography of Lewis Miles Archer (CCM, 2012).