Hammett: “The Green Elephant”

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Terry Zobeck just did an entry in Zobeck: Series Two the other day, but I’m sure Hammett fans are always ready for another one.

Take it away, Terry:

 

“The Green Elephant” was Hammett’s sixth and final appearance in the pages of The Smart Set, which had begun publication in 1900 with the goal of targeting New York’s social and cultural elite with stories written for and by their peers. The magazine followed the pulp format in appearance, but with more literary-minded content and lacking the garish and sensational covers of the pulps. It reached its heyday under the editorship of H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan (1914-1924). Mencken was the legendary, iconoclastic social and literary critic and journalist from Baltimore (known as “the Sage of Baltimore”); Nathan was one of the leading theatre critics of his day. They were hired in 1908 to write book reviews (Mencken) and theatre reviews (Nathan); by 1914, they were co-editing the magazine.

Hammett’s first appearance in print was “The Parthian Shot,” a miscellaneous piece in the October 1922 issue of The Smart Set. Over the next 12 months he placed five more pieces in the magazine, one short-short (“The Crusader”, August 1923), three articles of which “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective” (March 1923) is the most memorable, and “The Green Elephant” (October 1923), the most substantial piece of the six.

Shortly after this story’s publication, Mencken and Nathan were let go over a satirical piece on the funeral procession of President Warren G. Harding, who they felt deserved the same satirical treatment from them in death as they had given him in life. The piece was pulled from publication (the publisher considered it to be treason) and the following year (1924) the magazine was sold to William Randolph Hearst, who changed the focus of the magazine; it ceased publication in 1930.

“The Green Elephant” is a sardonic tale featuring another of Hammett’s scared-little-man characters. This time around it is Joe Shupe, a small-time crook working the mean streets of Spokane. He possesses no particular criminal skill. As his mentor Doc Haire says:

Making a living on the mace ain’t duck soup! Take half these guys you hear telling the world what wonders they are at puffing boxes, knocking over joints, and the rest of the lays—not a half of ’em makes three meals a day at it! Then what chance has a guy that ain’t got no regular racket, but’s got to trust to luck, got? Huh?

But this day, luck is with Joe. He is in the right place at the right time. While standing idly on the corner he witnesses a heist of cash being transferred by a bank. During the shoot-out the crook who steals the bag with the cash runs toward Joe. The thief is gunned down at Joe’s feet and the bag slides right to Joe “balancing itself as nicely as a boy on skates”.

Joe picks up the bag and escapes to his hotel where he soon learns that the bag is stuffed with “all the money in the world.” He later learns that the bank was robbed of $250,000!

Joe is not the brightest of criminals and what imagination he has soon runs wild. He fears everyone and is terrified of losing the money to the extent that he changes hotels everyday and is afraid to go out except to eat. He eventually leaves Spokane for Seattle. But the change of scenery is of no help. The green elephant weighs so heavily on him he cannot function and becomes physically ill and an emotional wreck. It is a relief to him when he is finally caught and the money taken away.

I’ve always had a soft spot for “The Green Elephant.” I was young when I first read it and thought the twist ending was a delight. The mature me sees that it is minor, albeit amusing, Hammett and I still like it well enough. Doc Haire’s description of criminal skills is wonderful Hammett — my best guess at “puffing boxes” is safe cracking.

Dannay first reprinted the story in the November 1945 issue of EQMM and collected it in Dead Yellow Women in 1947. For such a short story, he made several heavy edits, chopping out substantial sections of several paragraphs. While they don’t interfere with the reader’s ability to enjoy the story, they do detract from Hammett’s intent, and are therefore regrettable. The pure text version of “The Green Elephant” is available in Vince Emery’s Lost Stories (2005).

The 1945 EQMM, however, was not the first time the story was reprinted. That distinction goes to The Smart Set Anthology (1934), edited by Burton Roscoe and Groff Conklin; it is the first appearance of the story in book form and uses the pure text from the magazine. Roscoe was a prominent writer and editor of the time and was friends with both Mencken and Nathan. He also was a long-time fan of The Smart Set, having a complete run of the magazine. He was intimately familiar with its contents and emphasized collecting stories that had not appeared in book form. Oddly, in his lengthy introduction, in which he discusses the merits of many of the authors featured in the anthology, there is no mention of Hammett, who was at the peak of his popularity at the time the book was published. This may be attributed to Roscoe’s somewhat snobbish literary tastes. On the other hand, he correctly picked the two best Hammett pieces from the pages of The Smart Set for his anthology, the current story and “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective,” which also had never appeared in book form at this point.

I’ve followed my usual style of noting the edits: page number, line number, whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the edited text; Hammett’s original text that was edited is underlined. The page numbers refer to Dead Yellow Women. The pure text of “The Green Elephant” appears in the Lost Stories.

 

Page       Line        top/bottom      Text

110         1             top                   in the original Hammett included chapter breaks denoted with Roman numerals; there should be a “I” at the beginning of the text.

110         2             top                   But the time for that next pilgrimage to the shrines of Industry, through which he might reach the comparative paradise of employment, was still some twenty hours away;

110         15           bottom             Joe had not given that a thought; and had his attention been called to it he probably would have been unable to see in it anything but further evidence of the Swede’s unfitness for the possession of money.

111         9             top                   Joe Shupe’s unaccustomed introspection.

111         11           bottom             Joe climbed into the car and found a seat.

112         11           top                   All the money in the world! [should be followed by the chapter break “II”]

112         12           bottom             Mmanilla wrappers [Dannay rightly corrected Hammett’s spelling error].

113         4             top                   a decidedly and humorously padded appearance

113         10           top                   dropped them into the fifth; after which he walked—almost scuttled—for ten minutes, turning corners and slipping through alleys, until he was positive he was not being watched.

114         3             top                   making a large but inconspicuous bundle—laundry, perhaps.

114         14           top                   to the newspaper again, and read the story of the robbery.

114         11           bottom             Or he should drop the bundle? Or someone should bump heavily into it?

114         3             bottom             or to any place at all, for that matter, [should be followed by the chapter break “III”]

115         18           bottom             “Yes,” he said. [should be a separate paragraph]

115         18           bottom             was not going to leave his hand until he had found a securer place for it. So he dozed uncomfortably through the ride over the Cascades, sprawled over to seats in the smoking-car, leaning against the valise.

115         6             bottom             in cautious amounts;:

116         7             top                   thieves in droves; so he put them away in his valise, and thereafter wore his old clothes.

 

Next time we’ll take a look at what Dannay may have done to “Laughing Masks” from the November 1923 issue of Action Stories.

 

burton-rascoe

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Hammett: “Slippery Fingers”

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Guess who’s back with another installment of Zobeck: Series Two?

You got it.

And here’s Terry Zobeck:

 

The other day, Don sent me a link to a piece by Francis M. Nevins on the Mystery File blog that mentions the work we’ve been doing here on These Mean Streets in restoring the pure text of Hammett’s short stories. Seems our work was brought to his attention via several posts by Steve Carper on The Digest Enthusiast, a blog that celebrates the old digest magazines, including those edited by Fred Dannay and featuring Hammett’s work. Carper has posted several articles on Hammett’s appearances in these digests and mentioned our work in a few of them.

It’s been more than a year since my last guest blog — but about a week before Don sent me the link I had begun comparing the pure text of “Slippery Fingers” to Dannay’s edited version. Coincidently, Nevins mentions this story in his recent blog. I know that coincidences aren’t supposed to happen in detective fiction, but in real life they sometimes happen. This is one.

“Slippery Fingers” was one of two stories by Hammett in the October 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask. In my last Series Two guest blog, I dealt with the first story, “Crooked Souls.”

To avoid the appearance of having two “Hammett” stories in a single issue, the editor attributed “Slippery Fingers” to Peter Collinson, the pseudonym that Hammett had used for “Arson Plus” — the first Op story — and other early stories published in Black Mask; although Hammett was to use the penname two more times, “Slippery Fingers” was the last of the Op stories signed with it. Dannay collected the story in Woman in the Dark (1951); the pure text version was collected in Crime Stories and Other Writings (2001).

“Slippery Fingers” was the third Op story to see print. Hammett had not yet perfected his ability to meld his real-life detective experience with an exciting story. Here he builds his story on the alleged ability to forge fingerprints to hide the identity of the criminal. It is a weak plot and Hammett telegraphs the centrality of the fingerprint dodge to the solution of the crime too many times.

Hammett was obviously aware that readers might doubt the credibility of his method for forging fingerprints since the same issue of Black Mask contained a letter from him attempting to demonstrate its feasibility.

By 1923, the use of fingerprints in criminal investigations had been in wide use in the United States for about 20 years. The thought that criminals could forge prints and thereby circumvent justice was of great concern to law enforcement and the courts. Several methods were proposed, most of which involved making a cast of the fingers of a donor whose prints were not on file with the authorities and using that cast to leave prints to misdirect the police.

A recent book chapter by Champod and Espinoza (2010) reviews the history of claims of forged prints and discusses the various proposed methods and their limitations, including metal plate etching, the method chosen by Hammett’s villain. The unique (and suspect) aspect of Hammett’s method is transferring the forged prints to the criminal’s fingers via a gelatin.

The bottom line is that if such methods of forgery were easily executable by criminals and difficult to detect by forensic experts, fingerprints would have been discredited as reliable evidence in the courts decades ago. They haven’t.

The most important aspect of Hammett’s letter in the same issue is that he clearly identifies himself as the author of “Slippery Fingers,” thus exposing the Collinson pseudonym.

I’ve followed my usual style of noting the edits: page number, line number, whether it is from the top or bottom of the page, and the edited text; Hammett’s original text is underlined.  The page numbers refer to Woman in the Dark.  To just read the pure text of “Slippery Fingers,” look to Library of America’s Crime Stories.

 

Page       Line        top/bottom      Text

29           4             top                   but I’ll have to have the whole story

29           15           top                   best poker player west of Chicago. He was a cool, well-balanced, quick-thinking little man.

29           8             bottom             to have heard anything during the evening night.

30           3             top                   father had drawn ten thousand dollars $10,000

30           9             top                   After “Do you know of any enemies your father had?” should be a separate paragraph: He shook his head.

30           14           bottom             nineteen twelve 1912

32           9             top                   ten thousand dollars $10,000

33           7             top                   for considerable money had been involved in the dispute, and Waldeman was a “mean cuss, for a fact,”

33           18           top                   in the city for a week or 10 days longer.

34           8-7          bottom             Dannay added the year “1922” to each of the dates after the first one and before the last date, which occurred in 1923.

35           10           top                   twelve thousand, five hundred dollars $12,500

35           11           bottom             have him thrown in the can, but I don’t think he will.

36           3             top                   most natural thing in the world—and it was at that—for me to suspect him.

37           4             top                   a chance to turn up his partner, : the owner of the fingers that had smeared blood on the knife, the table, and the door.

37           10           top                   apartment number twenty-seven 27

37           18           bottom             a photographer by trade, with a studio on Market Street.

37           10           bottom             after “Nothing” should be:

“Nothing at all?”

“No, sullenly.”

37           9             bottom             after “No.” should be:

What can you do with a bird like that?

38           3             top                   I got a split lip and kicked shoulder in the scuffle

38           11           bottom             I blurted, my face a nice rosy, red.

38           7             bottom             Clane laughed again, like a crow cawing,

38           6             bottom             Mr. Slick Private Detective?”

40           18           top                   and gave me the ten thousand.  I told him this was the last time I’d ever bother him—I always told him that—it had a good effect on him.

40           1             bottom             letters or telegrams—though they were wrote in careful enough language. Anyway I figured

41           18           bottom             fixed up my hands this morning. That’s my yarn.

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Rediscovered: Arrggghhh. . .

When I was roaming the Internet the other day, browsing memoirs of Ed Gorman (and I just had the memory that during my phone chat with him, Gorman also rushed to the defense of John D. MacDonald, who gets a little roughed-up in my book on Willeford — a couple of generations of paperback writers like Gorman held John Mac up as King of the Paperback, which I wasn’t disputing, all I was saying was that I thought Willeford was an infinitely greater writer), I surfed into one writer’s site and noticed the first blurb he had up in his long list of blurbs came from Publishers Weekly.

From a review I had written.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t even look at the reviews as they appear — pretty much, I only spot one when it shows up somewhere I happen to look. A website. On the jacket for the next book in the series.

In large part that’s because the wordage often gets changed out in editorial, so I don’t have any great investment in the final product. I do the review, cash the cheque, an author gets some potential publicity out of it, however the review reads, and I figure my job here is done.

But this review had a flashy bit of wording in it that I liked. A novel of the Mob, I called it a goombah gumbo.

When I popped it in, I pointed out that goombah might be too offensive to someone somewhere, but it’s a novel of the Mob, so what the hell, I’d try it. If it was too much, they could delete it.

A change was made. Per the author’s website, what I turned in as “goombah gumbo” hit print as “goombah stew.”

Arrggghhh!

Not as good, at all, at all.

But at least the guy got a useable blurb out of it.

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Hammett: Nivens Discovers Zobeck

Surf over to Mystery File and check out the new post where Mike Nevins discovers that Terry Zobeck has been pure texting the hell out of the Fred Dannay edits on Hammett here for a few years now. Nevins was given the tipoff by something titled The Digest Enthusiast, where Terry apparently got quoted in a recent article.

I’m glad to see Terry’s good work is gaining notice — but he’s got a lot of pure text posts sitting in the archives, you’re not going to get through them in five minutes.

If you want the full experience, I suggest hitting Terry’s name in the Tag Cloud and working your way up from his earliest mention. Won’t be long before you get to his epic wrestling match with Dannay and his blue pencil.

But of course we have mentioned Nevins and his speculations on the Dannay edits here before — as early as 2011. And I liked the bit Nevins did on “Arson Plus,” which I linked to in 2012.

Relatively few people get into the deep text stuff, so it’s nice to see them assemble. Mr. Nevins finally has met the rough and tumble Tenderloin Terry Zobeck, pure text maven of These Mean Streets.

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Frisco Beat: Lit World of San Francisco Now Podcasted

If you missed the live transmission of my interview on BFF.fm a month ago, it is now in an archive and ready to be listened to.

One minute short of two hours, most of the chatter concerns my book The Literary World of San Francisco. I thought to check the page on Amazon yesterday and found that it was number 2 on the list of bestselling travel books about San Francisco.

At this moment it is no. 5.

Since it has been out of print for twenty years, I am always amazed that enough secondhand copies circulate to keep it popping back up toward the top of the heap.

At any rate, the interview covers angles no other radio interview ever has or probably ever would, real on the street stuff. And even so, almost half the time is spent on blocks of music — I got to pick two of those, and rounded up a selection from my blues music pal R. J. Mischo, and faded the time out with a barnburner from Beau Jocque.

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Rediscovered: Ed Gorman and a Book That Could Have Been

Noticed that today is Ed Gorman Day across the web.

After a long battle with cancer, Gorman died on October 15. I spotted immediate tributes by fellow writers such as Bill Crider and James Reasoner. The appeal of his fiction got a good blurb from Brian Drake.

I knew of Gorman mostly because he started Mystery Scene magazine, and I picked up an anthology or two he edited. Maybe someday I’ll do a burst of reading in his backlog, but then I always associate him with the “quiet” school of writers in his era — like Charles Grant or Bill Pronzini — and I never cared for that style. He thought Pronzini’s Blue Lonesome was a masterpiece, and as anyone who cares to read my review of it from December 1995 will see, man, do I disagree. The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece. The Burnt Orange Heresy is a masterpiece. The Prone Gunman is a masterpiece.

I got a call from Gorman once, after my book Willeford came out late in 1997.

He liked it, and had the idea that I could do a series of articles on other writers such as Willeford for Mystery Scene — the little writers or “forgotten” writers who never get covered (or didn’t in that day).

He’d pay a penny a word — or perhaps it was as much as three cents a word, but it was definitely a pay rate that would have been understood in the pulp era.

And if I did enough of the articles, then I’d have a book.

I wasn’t bothered by the penny a word rate — for a lit survey, not so bad. I’ve had at least a couple of essays on writers that have cleared well over a thousand each, but most earn out around $100 or so, if that. The book collecting the set might have sold 100 copies, maybe 200 — if it plowed through a run of 500 or more, I’d have been amazed.

For a second or two I believe I can say I actually considered the idea.

But what I said was something like, “You know, I appreciate the offer, I do — and if you had gotten to me twenty years ago, or fifteen, I probably would have said Yes.”

I understood the time it would have consumed — to do the job Gorman grasped from Willeford that I ought to be able to do, I would have had to read the complete inventories of Gorman and some of his contemporaries, and PBO writers such as Peter Rabe and a hundred more — or at least ten or twelve, enough for a book.

A lot of work, something someone with the inclination really should write. Paperback Writers. The Dirty Dozen of the Paperback Jungle. They Had Typewriters and Used Them.

But me, what I had in me at that point was Willeford.

And unspoken at the time, although I thought about it later, was the fact that I didn’t do a book on Willeford simply because he had been neglected or because he emerged from the paperback original market. All those angles were interesting, of course, but I did the book because I thought — and still think — he was a great writer.

If I began to drudge my way through the idea, it could have become hackwork — and the fact that I am lazy has saved me from producing the usual body of hackwork you see from some of my contemporaries in the litcrit arena.

So Gorman and I chatted a bit more about Willeford, and before he rang off, he said, “Some time I’m going to have to explain to you why Blue Lonesome is a masterpiece.”

I guess my review of Blue Lonesome got around. . . .

“Sure,” I said, but we never picked up that thread. But in memoriam Ed Gorman, let me repeat: he thought Blue Lonesome was a masterpiece.

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Rediscovered: Something Else Fishy for Hallowe’en

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If you surf over to Element 118 Books you’ll find a new horror story by Brian Leno served up for Hallowe’en.

Brian must have gotten deep into the spooks and goblins mood this year, since he just did a little rundown on the Romeo Poole story “A Hand from the Deep” for us here.

I’m not sure there’s enough evidence to indicate that H.P. Lovecraft definitely picked up thematic elements from the Poole yarn, but I think it’s safe to say after reading Brian’s ripper that he has savored “The Shadow over Innsmouth” more than once.

Yeah, the witchy season is on us.

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Rediscovered: “A Hand from the Deep”

poole-issue

To get our surfing safari in the Hallowe’en mood, Guest Blogger Brian Leno popped in a post on an early yarn in Weird Tales from an obscure scribe — but it may have had some trace influence on another obscure scribe of the day who isn’t so obscure any more.

Hit it, Brian:

 

The ownership of a fairly large library brings not only joy, but also great responsibility. The shelves should be dusted quite often. Books need to be arranged in proper order. Either alphabetically, by genre, or by however the caretaker of the library damn well pleases.

I was engaged in this time-consuming task a while back. Being a procrastinator by nature, I decided to take a break and ramble through the contents of one of the books that was awaiting shelf-space — or, to be precise, I needed to get off the floor.

The book was Not at Night, “selected and arranged” by Christine Campbell Thomson, and is a reprinting in hardcover of stories taken from Weird Tales in the early years of the magazine.

Idly scanning the contents I was taken by the title “A Hand from the Deep,” written by Romeo Poole. I had never heard of either the author or the story, but the title reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones and his masterpiece “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”

Needing a break from my hard work, I sat in my chair and read.

The story begins with an explosion and fire in the second floor of a sanatorium operated by Dr. Whitby, a man who is considered somewhat of a crackpot in the area. Sole survivor of this destruction is Simon Glaze, a patient whose arm was amputated just above the elbow by Whitby.

The doc qualifies as a mad scientist of sorts — realizing that lobsters or crabs can regenerate a limb that has either been broken or bitten off, Whitby had been injecting Simon with “glandular extracts” from lobsters, hoping this might spur Glaze’s arm to grow back.

While this horrible lapse of medical ethics is not yet known to the doctors now taking care of Simon, they do notice strange behavior occurring in their patient.

Glaze insists that his stump be kept soaking wet, and he pleads to be able to take a bath, in cold water, two or three times a day.

Under stress, he doubles up into a ball, “rolling on the floor… like a wooden thing.” Once, when startled by the sudden entrance of a doctor into his room “he gathered his legs and his good arm under him like a flash and sprang backward, clear on to the next bed.”

The doomed Glaze also loses the power of speech, and is “frequently found…doubled into the familiar ball, sleeping with his eyes half open.” Marsh, an intern at the sanatorium who narrates the story, feels that Glaze’s head is “losing its prominent crown and sinking into a more brutish line.”

By the time the doctors really understand what Whitby was attempting to do, it’s too late for Glaze, whose stump is developing into an almost perfect lobster-like claw and his right hand has also begun to morph into a pincher-like member.

Glaze, becoming a sort of science-induced lobster-man, is now diving for long periods beneath the water in his bath tub (must be one huge tub), coming up “half-strangled, yet seeming to enjoy it all.”

And this is where the doctors find him, at the end of the story, in a “tubful of cold water…doubled and curled up, face far down under the water — dead.” Lancey, another of the interns, diagnoses that because of Glaze’s now lobster-like brain he would have undoubtedly felt safer under the water, but since his lungs had never developed along the same lines as his brain, he was a goner.

Where this tale takes place is never mentioned, but I couldn’t help but think of Innsmouth and H. P. Lovecraft while I was reading it. And of course when I saw that the narrator’s name was Marsh it obviously brought to mind HPL’s mad Obed Marsh, who helped turn Innsmouth into a town of horror.

And when Marsh notices the changing of Simon Glaze’s skull I remembered Lovecraft’s description of the “Innsmouth look” in “The Shadow over Innsmouth:”

Only a very rare affliction, of course, could bring about such vast and radical anatomical changes in a single individual after maturity—changes involving osseous factors as basic as the shape of the skull…

Even the explosion on the second floor of the sanatorium sparked my recollection of the Whateleys and what lived on the upper floor of their home, for a time, in Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” And the name Whitby does bear a close resemblance to Whateley.

Romeo Poole, the author of this Lovecraft-like tale, had three stories published in Weird Tales. His “A Hand from the Deep” appeared in the December 1924 issue, years before “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” saw print anywhere.

In this same issue were Lovecraft buddies Frank Belknap Long with his “Death-Waters” and C. M. Eddy Jr. with his cave-man story, “Weapons of Stone.”

Obviously it’s an issue Lovecraft would have been familiar with, and it’s very conceivable that he read Poole’s sea-food extravaganza.

Of course the stories differ in their approach of how these lobster/fish creatures come about. Poole has his aberration come alive pseudo-scientifically, almost Frankenstein-like, while Lovecraft dwells upon the mating of humans with creatures that should never have made their way onto land.

I’m certainly not saying that Lovecraft plagiarized Romeo, but I did find the coincidences between the two stories interesting, worthy perhaps of further study. You never know, there could have been something fishy going on.

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Tour: The Kermit Sheets Copy

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Grizzled eBay gunhawk Brian Leno told me that a signed copy of an old tour book currently is on the block — Buy It Now for $39.50.

First printing of the second edition from 1982. Same printing as the copy I turned up at PulpFest which had the letter mentioning my first meeting with Bill Arney.

I guess now that we have reached 34 years later, the folk who bought copies back then are falling by the wayside and the books are looking for new shelves to house them.

Brian asked if I even remembered signing this one, and I said, Sure — Kermit was a really nice guy, a regular at meetings of The Maltese Falcon Society. Offhand, I can’t recall a meeting he might have missed.

In other words, a genuine associational copy, not just an inscription knocked out in a line at a bookstore or a Bouchercon someplace, although it seems I did sign it at that Bouchercon I was chairman of that year.

Kermit gave us one of my favorite moments from The Maltese Falcon Society. A little guy, kind of mousey, you wouldn’t expect any rabble-rousing from him at first glance. But when we had the enormous burly bounty hunter Tiny Boyles speak the first time (Tiny was a Society favorite, he got to come back), Kermit struck.

In the course of his talk, Tiny mentioned that he got guns for all his kids, including a shotgun for his four-year-old — or maybe the kid was six. Anyway, it seemed like a lot of gun for a kid, and may have caused a gasp or two from the audience.

During the Q&A Kermit stood up, ramrod straight, and boldly asked, “Mr. Boyles, do you think your sickness should be spread?”

Uhoh.

People started glancing at each other, convinced Tiny was going to whip out a gun from under the roll of fat over his belt and cap Kermit off right then and there.

In fact, Tiny gave what I thought was a pretty eloquent answer, defending his right to have and like guns and Kermit’s right to be outraged.

But by any standard, one of the top moments in the history of the late great Maltese Falcon Society.

Yeah, a really nice associational copy.

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Frisco Beat: Big Sale at Kayo; or, The Adventure of the French Translator

Yesterday I met up with noir writer Kent Harrington from Posse McMillan and Nordine Haddad, Kent’s French translator who is in the burg for a little visit before he and Kent wander off to NoirCon in Philly in a week or so. Did parts of the tour for their amusement, introduced Nordine to the name Charles Willeford. Told him to start with Miami Blues, if he likes that, then plunge in.

When he was a kid Kent’s dad worked in various buildings in the downtown part of Market Street, and he has vivid memories of the city as it was. You know me, I really like the city as it was — the city as it was yesterday, with traffic completely stopped on major freeways for hour after hour all over the area all day, hey, not so much.

As we wandered around Kent decided we should duck into Kayo Books, Post between Leavenworth and Hyde. He did a signing there roughly twenty years ago, for Dia de los Muertas I believe it was. Pretty sure I attended that one. The first Kent novel published by Dennis McMillan.

Got the news from the Kayo guys that at the end of this month they will no longer be open to folk just walking in, like we were doing. At first I thought they were abandoning the storefront, continuing only as an online biz — if so, another loss to that block similar to the closing of the House of Fans.

But no, they’re keeping the space. You can make an appointment if you’re a collector rolling in from out of town.

Guess it’s kind of like when I used to do the Hammett tour every Sunday during the year, year after year, and finally began to cut back. After twenty-one years they don’t want to man the desk for a few days every week, but they’ll still sell you stuff.

Turns out we walked into the midst of an 80% off almost everything sale. They had an ex-library copy of the first edition of Miami Blues, priced around $35ish. But knock 80% off so it was under a tenspot, and Nordine decided he’d grab it and find out real fast if he’d like Willeford or not.

I spotted a perfect copy of the Solar Pons miscellany A Praed Street Dossier by August Derleth for $30 — or $6.50 on sale. Guess finally I will be reading some Solar Pons. . . .

If you’re in striking distance of Kayo, the 80% sale continues today and tomorrow. Next weekend, Thursday-Friday-Saturday, as they clear out the stock Kayo will do a final slashing of prices down to 90% off.

You’ve been informed. 90% off.

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