The novel is about Dashiell Hammett in 1928. At the time, Hammett was living in San Francisco and trying to make his way as a writer. He had quit being a detective and was now trying to write about detectives. The late Joe Gores also worked as a detective and he uses the novel to illuminate Hammett and his work in a way that few have really been able to do. Here we see a man in his thirties, not quite old but old enough to joke about it. Old enough to have a past and be moving away from it. The book also deals with something that Gores, himself a crime writer who worked as a detective, understood, which is that a detective and a writer require very different mindsets. The book also manages to do something that few novels try, and fewer succeed, which is to show Hammett writing and thinking things out as he is reacting to what he's seeing around him. Of course the degree to which this is 100% accurate is another story. I'm willing to bet good money I could read a biography that would take issue with some of Goes' choices, but what makes it so good is the way that he does it and makes it come alive in really interesting ways. Hammett is one of the great writers of the century and this moment in time is vital to so much art and literature that follows. And if Gores never quite manages to craft prose that pops the way that Hammett did, well, who was able to do that?