Hammett: Only $227 mil

Brian Wallace just popped me the news that Sam Spade’s office building in 111 Sutter has sold for a mere 227 million bucks.

Makes the sale of Sam Spade’s big cushy armchair for $90,000ish seem like chump change.

In addition to the nuts & bolts financial screed, Brian sent a clip from this 2005 reportage: “When San Francisco’s 111 Sutter St. opened in 1927, it was the city’s fourth-tallest building.

“The 22-story building at 111 Sutter St. in San Francisco — best known as the assumed location of the fictional office of “Maltese Falcon” detective Sam Spade — falls into this category.

“Almost a century later, the 308-foot tower has been surpassed in height by dozens of high-rises that peer down on its 22 stories. But its value has continued to swell alongside much of the city’s office market.”

Best known as Spade’s office building — I should hope so!

Posted in Dash, Frisco, News | Tagged , |

Hammett: A Throne Fit for the Fat Man

Evan Lewis, a.k.a. Dave Lewis, tosses up a post on his blog which dovetails nicely into the fact that today is the anniversary of The Maltese Falcon — the book — back in 1930, with the Knopf firm doing the honors.

He’s covering auction sales of the big chair in Sam Spade’s apartment in the Bogie Falcon, the one Sidney Greenstreet spends a lot of time plunked down in. The color of the chair even kind of matches the Valentine theme. Surf over to check it out.

I can report to Evan/Dave that I am not the current secret owner of the item. If I had any memorabilia from the flick I suppose I’d want the lead statue of the Black Bird — but then having something like that around could get you killed. Worth millions.

Posted in Dash, Film | Tagged , , , |

Hammett: Valentine 89

Eighty-nine years ago today Alfred A. Knopf published the first edition of The Maltese Falcon by a writer named Dashiell Hammett.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

Posted in Dash | Tagged |

Rediscovered: Who Knows Solar Pons?

Who knows Pons?

Well, John D. Haefele for one.

Haefele just put up a post on the Allied Authors blog in which he ruminates in re: August Derleth’s Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.

He gets into all manner of esoterica, from the elusive Three Problems for Solar Pons (the really scarce, and pricey, item in the Pons first edition rollout) and some of the ephemera on the subject. He even provides a checklist of all the ephemera items Derleth released devoted exclusively to his mystery imprint Mycroft & Moran — which I’m thinking need to be included in any checklist of official Arkham House ephemera.

(Yes, despite all the other pies we have a toe stuck in at the moment, Haefele and I are seriously considering getting a full book on the ephemera out this year — it is, after all, the 80th anniversary of Arkham House.)

Do you know Solar Pons?

Read Haefele’s article and you’ll get a formal introduction.

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: Conan — in Jeopardy(!)

After getting back to the lair after rolling up to catch Peter Field’s talk in the Tenderloin Museum last night (also grabbed a copy of his new history of The TL — you’ll like it, lots of pictures), I opened the day’s episode of Jeopardy! on the VCR.

The clews ambled merrily along, nothing about Hammett among them, but suddenly in the Double Jeopardy round:

Category: Classic Adventure Novels.

The $800 clew:

Robert E. Howard’s only novel-length tale about this Cimmerian sometimes titled him “The Conqueror”

No one rung in for a guess.

Obviously the big hint is “this Cimmerian” — I’m thinking they might have had a better chance if the wording was “this barbarian,” but that wouldn’t have worked in this specific clew. The novel The Hour of the Dragon — serialized in Weird Tales (after the British publisher Howard actually wrote it for went bankrupt) — was first titled Conan the Conqueror when it went into separate boards. (Lately the original title has come back around.)

Of course, “Robert E. Howard” isn’t a bad clew, either, for lots of people. Obviously the clew writers think a good chunk of the populace has a chance at recognizing the name. I didn’t note it at the time, but awhile back they had a category called something like Famous Bobs and a clew reading something like He created Conan the barbarian. As I recall, a guy got that one:

Who is Robert E. Howard?

Indeed. Muscling his way into the cultural mind.

Posted in Frisco, REH | Tagged , , , , |

Rediscovered: Good Farny v. Bad Farny

Coming up for air after a long plunge into the edit on John Haefele’s magnum opus on Lovecraft, I thought of an observation from John Locke that I spotted awhile back.  I guess the coverage of “The Shunned House” in the Algernon Blackwood chapter brought it bubbling up to the surface, too, tentacles flailing.

Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright famously, or infamously, rejected “The Shunned House” when HPL submitted it in 1925, but when the 46-year-old Lovecraft suddenly died March 15, 1937, desperately looked around and used one story or at least a poem by HPL in every issue for a year — after rejecting many of his best stories, year after year. “The Shunned House” showed up in the October 1937 issue.

I’ve never formally met Locke, but when I saw this bit I presumed he had to be one hell of a Cup Half Full guy. He mentions “The Shunned House,” and then notes on p.227 of The Things Incredible!:

“Cool Air,” rejected in 1926, appeared in the September 1939 issue. Down to the end, Wright’s last issue (March 1940) reprinted a poem, “The Dweller,” from Lovecraft’s hometown paper, The Providence Journal. Only by being so parsimonious about publishing Lovecraft during his lifetime could Wright have unveiled so much about the author after he died.

Arrrggghhhh!!! I could not disagree more.

Essentially, Lovecraft starved to death — a lousy diet leading to intestinal cancer. From the first HPL was one of the most popular authors in Weird Tales, yet Wright never selected one of his stories as the cover subject of a single issue. The list of stories bounced by Wright that now serve as the titles of Penguin editions might blow your mind.


I’ve done lots of verbiage on this topic, in debates in the letters column of The Cimmerian specifically, and Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes and I got into it more in the essay “Conan the Argonaut.” (I’m contemplating which things to assemble in a LitCrit MegaPack or two, and realize I ought to collect “Argonaut” — much of my writings on Texas author Robert E. Howard are gathered in The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All, but by no means all. Lots more good stuff left for the old collected essays and reviews.)

Now, if that’s his opinion, Locke is welcome to it. And I’m surprised he mentions something that late in the run of the magazine, since he’s mostly covering the earliest years. If he ever climbs up to circa 1936-37, though, I hope he’ll get into how Wright’s ridiculous idea that pulp readers would be interested in The Farnsworth Wright Shakespeare Library almost foundered the publishing company. One issue, complete bomb. But Robert E. Howard had some Conan stories in inventory to save Weird Tales’ wood pulp butt.

In 1939 Wright kind of “got his” — if you want to think about a comeuppance for years of bad decisions. The company changed ownership, the new deal required Wright — suffering from Parkinson’s disease for years — to move from Chicago to New York City. He moved.

And what was the indelicate term I once used to describe what happened?

Oh, yeah — they soon shitcanned him.

Score one for Lovecraft, I guess.

A sad story, all around.

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: More on Peter Corris

John Hocking adds — in re: his discovery of the Peter Corris detective story where I cameo as “Dan Swan” — “Yeah, I figured there was almost no way you could have missed the story, but the idea that you might be unaware of it was intolerable.”

He tells me he learned about the death of Corris on J. Kingston Pierce’s estimable blog The Rap Sheet. JKP has walked the mean streets on the Hammett Tour.

John says that he “added my own sincere, if hastily composed, eulogy in the comments section.

“Corris was good.  Seems to me that his work had more of the flavor of the better detective fiction writers of the 1950’s (I’m thinking of Wade Miller and Talmage Powell in particular) than his contemporaries who also got started in the 1980’s.

“I mention it in my comments on the Rap Sheet blog post, but where the guy really shone was in his seemingly effortless creation of character.  Your detective narrator has to spend plenty of time meeting people and trying to learn things from them, and Corris could make people who showed up for a paragraph seem alive.

“This nifty shorthand with character is a fairly common virtue of both fiction and film in the first half of the 20th century and in sad decline in recent decades.  Sometimes I think a character actor in a Thin Man movie who speaks three lines comes across as more memorable and alive than the leading man of many modern movies.”

Posted in Lit, Tour | Tagged , , , |

Mort: Peter Corris

Got a note from John Hocking, reporting: “I’m reading The Big Drop, a collection of detective stories by the recently deceased Australian author Peter Corris.

“It had been a while since I’d read any of his stuff, so it felt appropriate to dip into some as a salute to one of the last guys whose writing could still sound clear echoes of old school hard-boiled detective fiction.

“The last story in the book is called ‘Maltese Falcon.’  In it our Aussie detective protagonist Cliff Hardy finds himself in San Francisco trying to figure out who’s sabotaging the Sam Spade Walking Tour.  The fellow that conducts this tour is named Dan Swan.

“I really can’t imagine that you wouldn’t know about this, but searching ‘Corris’ on your web site produces nothing, so I couldn’t take the chance you’d missed it.”

I assured John that I knew about it (I blurb the whole “Dan Swan” deal on p.178 of the most recent Hammett Tour book, mentioning that Peter Corris came out on the walk twice). But then, you don’t know what you just don’t know, so I appreciate John keeping an eye out for me.

I think I’ve never blurbed Corris on the blog because he made it into the tour book, although if I’d really been racking my brain I could have mentioned him in a quick roster of writers who have walked the walk that I did back in 2012.

Very nice guy. I hadn’t heard he’d died, since it was in August last year when my attention was otherwise distracted after I’d eased past The Big Drop — for the moment.

(Oh, who am I kidding — I hadn’t even heard about a couple of The Famous Don Herrons dying! Most times, someone has to tell me this stuff.)

So, a memorial toast to Peter Corris. John says, “The story is pretty good fun and paints an agreeable picture of ‘Dan Swan’.”

(And by the way, if you want a recent sample of John’s writing, hop over to a piece he did about the second published Conan story in a little series Bob Byrne has going this year. John’s pastiche novel Conan and the Emerald Lotus has some collectors’ dollars being thrown at it.)

Posted in News, REH, Tour | Tagged , , , |

Suicide Club: Peter Field Drops a Book

A fellow adventurer from the glory days of The San Francisco Suicide Club, 1977-82, has dug around, done a bunch of research, and written a book. I went on one of the first walking tours of the Tenderloin that Peter Field did, a few years ago when he was at the outset of this quest.

Excellent info-packed tour, and I assume the same for the book.

I’ll have to pick up a copy during one of Peter’s upcoming talks, some with slideshow, some just badinage. If you go to the same one I do, maybe I’ll see you there:

Feb 12 Tuesday Tenderloin Museum 7 p.m. Talk and slides.

Feb 14 Thursday Green Apple Books (Clement Street) 7 p.m. Talk only.

May 10 Friday Mechanics Institute 12 noon. Talk only.

May 22 Wednesday Main Branch SF Public Library (Koret Auditorium) 6 p.m. Talk and slides.

Posted in Frisco, SFSC | Tagged , |

Two-Gun Bob: Sherlock Leno

Leno giveth, and Leno taketh away.


First Brian alerts me to the fact that REHupa mailings from the estate of Carl Osman are on the block at eBay (some with deadlines today).

Now he sends at least tentative proof that Carl is in fact a goner, with an online obit.

When Carl was in REHupa he titled his zine The Burkburnett Papers — at the time he was living in 926 Cropper in the burg of Burkburnett, Texas. Since Carl Osman isn’t that uncommon a name, Leno needed to reconcile the info that Obit Carl was a resident of Baraboo, Wisconsin at the time of his death. He does so in classic deductive style:

The obit says Carl was from Baraboo and the guy selling the REHupas is from Baraboo, so it fits. (Right now he has 16 mailings for sale on eBay, with numbers in between 175-192.)

For purposes of The Great Extinction Event countdown, however, poor Carl just can’t be the kickoff, only an outlier. Born  on June 12, 1950, he passed away on Friday, April 26, 2013.

Six years ago.

(I have to wonder how long the eBay seller hangs on to stuff picked up at estate sales, before putting it on the block. . . .)

I’m still thinking that today, Robert E. Howard’s 113th birthday, nonetheless is the day to set the countdown clock ticking. Too many of us came too close last year to keep postponing it.

So, I’m in — odds makers in Vegas, take note.

(By the way, Leno reflects on the passing of the author of The Tales of Taul: “Poor guy was young, only a year older than me.”

(Don’t think I’m not keeping an eye on Brian. He’d make a swell start for the Event. Lend it some gravitas.

(I bet he’s got an eye on me, waiting to see if my holdings show up on eBay.

(Sharpening his knife.)

Posted in REH | Tagged , , , , , |