Rita Gaspereaux (The Big Man’s Daughter)

Created by Owen Fitzstephen
Pseudonym of Gordon McAlpine

Owen Fitzstephen‘s book is called The Big Man’s Daughter, and it doesn’t really have a detective in it, but…

Explaining one of Fitzstephen’s books is a bit like skiing about soup. This is really just the author playing fast and loose (and possibly avoiding lawsuits from the Dashiell Hammett estate) with The Maltese Falcon (again).

Like, really fast and really loose.

When the best laid scams of her adopted father (a criminal known as “The Big Man,” not “The Fat Man”) to procure a priceless statuette of a bird called the Black Falcon (not the Maltese Falcon) that is said to possess mystical powers, go belly-up, eighteen year-old scam artist RITA GASPEREAUX (whose name is not Rhea Gutman) finds herself abandoned and penniless in the merciless criminal underworld of 1922 Hollywood.

Sounds intriguing, even if it’s not exactly the stuff that P.I. dreams are made of.

But then McAlpine, that crafty son of a bitch, slips us a real literary Mickey Finn.

Rita’s only comfort (and possible salvation), it turns out, is a novel she’s come across about another lost eighteen year-old that she’s become obsessed with. And as this multi-layered mash-up unfolds, Rita begins to discover some strange and disturbing parallels between herself and a certain Dorothy G. from Kansas, the plucky heroine of the book-within-a-book, and the lines between fictional worlds begin to, uh, magically blur.

Damn you, Fitzstephen! You’ve done it again!

It may not be a detective novel, or even a mystery, really, but it’s a heady brew all the same; a ballsy, carefully assembled and psychologically sharp read that tears into the guts of what it’s like to be young, scared and not sure where you’re going. Or where exactly you’ve been.

If you’re a Hammett fan, you’re going to love this. But don’t tell the lawyers.


Gordon McAlpine (who sometimes writes as “Owen Fitzstephen”) is the author of Mystery Box (2003), Hammett Unwritten (2013), Woman With a Blue Pencil (2015), and Holmes Untangled (2018)–all shape-shifting novels that play fast and loose with the mystery genre, as well as a middle-grade trilogy, The Misadventures of Edgar and Allan Poe. He’s also the co-author of the non-fiction book The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH. He has taught creative writing and literature at U.C. Irvine, U.C.L.A., and Chapman University. He lives with his wife Julie in Southern California. “Owen Fitzstephen,” by the way, is the name of a character, a dissolute, alcoholic writer, in Hammett’s The Dain Curse.


  •  “Lies, cons, shifting alliances, kidnapping, and death propel readers toward a strangely hypnotic climax, which is skillfully presaged yet still an exhilarating surprise.”
    — Publishers Weekly
  • “Like the craftiest of Dashiell Hammett’s grifters, Owen Fitzstephen plays the long con: baiting readers with a story we think we know before slipping us a Mickey Finn from which we awake unsure of where we are and what is real. The Big Man’s Daughter is stunning. Fan’s of Hammatt must not miss this multilayered, metaphysical adventure.”
    — Jennifer Kincheloe
  • “Yet another purely delightful metafictional crime novel with wit, invention and surprising humanity from that master of the improbable Gordon McAlpine… skirting metaphysics and ending with a bittersweet, moving and satisfying ending which will have you choking or wiping a tear from your eye. Damn wonderful.”
    — Maxim Jakubowski (November 2020, CrimeTime)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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