Two-Gun Bob: Where Are the Words of the Week of Yesteryear?

When I got up this morning to view the solar eclipse through a spaghetti strainer (not the opening words I ever imagined for a blog post), I was happy to see that my eBook LitCrit MegaPack on Texas writer Robert E. Howard had surged up to no.6 on the Amazon litcrit bestseller list for horror and related fiction. 634 digital page equivalency, far and away the largest — and yet the best — collection of litcrit on the creator of Conan, for those select few who go for that sort of thing.

In addition to Hammett and Noir and Speakeasies and Lon Chaney and the usual stuff that occupies my idle thoughts, lately I’ve been thinking of various Howardian or fringe Howardian deals.

One that sprang to mind: Where are all those “Robert E. Howard Word of the Week” posts that once littered the web?

Remember those? Started on The Cimmerian blog in its heyday, jumped over to the REHupa (short for the Robert E. Howard united press association) blog for what seemed like years, and I believe finally ended the run on the old Two-Gun Raconteur blog.

Makes me realize that REH is kind of disappearing, for the moment, from the web. Cycles coming and going — just like REH wrote about with his themes of barbarism vs. civilization, something is poking along for awhile, then pow!, it’s gone.

The Cimmerian blog after a brief resurgence has gone back into sleep mode. When you follow any link to the REHupa blog you get shoved over to a Facebook page, the blog itself in some kind of limbo. Raconteur is dead, unless someone jumps in to revive it. The old Robert E. Howard Forum, a.k.a. the Conan Board, is gone.

If you peruse some of the Howardian posts I’ve done here before, you’ll hit a ton of dead links. I’m not going to attempt to fix any of those. Get the news when it’s hot, when the links go someplace live.

I was curious enough to punch “Robert E. Howard Word of the Week” into Google, and what comes up first is my own Robert E. Howard WORD OF THE YEAR. Last year I selected “flivver.” I’ve got another one to present tomorrow. I was making fun of the Word of the Week, selecting words to re-do that had been totally messed-up in the original presentation. And, man, did they bungle the definition of flivver.

In fact, the only actual Word of the Week I can find currently are the ones Leo Grin did for The Cimmerian.

Leo tells me, “It was my idea — along with other weekly ideas like eBay REH reviews.” Something to kick the blogging action in. “Looking at the site,” Leo says, “apparently I did them for about three months, and then added a few stragglers, maybe a dozen all told.” He believes Deuce Richardson, lately a mainstay of Howardian forums, also “apparently did a few.”

Then someone else took them over and did hundreds over the course of a few years — “but as you say, they are all gone.”

The problem as Leo sees it is that the new Word of the Weeker “chose commonly known words, which completely defeated the purpose — and also posted them at places where they were the only thing getting pubbed week after week, until the whole site became dominated by them like tribbles.”

Week after week after week. . . . Just as well they let that blog die.

The place they took over so completely was the REHupa site, which began with three or four supposedly regular bloggers. You wouldn’t have heard of most of them, but soon they all fell by the wayside — except for Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes, who knows how to blog on schedule. Morgan has been doing each and every Sunday for the Castalia House blog since January 2015.

Once Morgan moved on to other venues, all you had was one dreary Word of the Week after another.

But from one of those my next WORD OF THE YEAR — perhaps that exercise in futility wasn’t a complete waste, if I can add my touch to the proceedings.

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

Frisco Beat: Corpse Reviver

Joe Hagen sent me the shot you see before your eyes — Joe’s part of the secret junto of thinkers and drinkers who meet in and around 891 Post Street.

I’d just mentioned going to Stookey’s for a Corpse Reviver, and Joe wanted to know more.

Well, I told him, Stookey’s is a bar on the corner of Bush and Taylor — and I have no doubt you’ve been there.

Joe lives only a few blocks away, and it’s a bar and the door is open. I had no doubt he’d been inside.

He had. But somehow he hadn’t heard of the Corpse Reviver, so he needed to check that off his Bucket List.

Proof is in the photo, featuring Aaron the bartender and the gleaming backbar framing the main attraction, the cocktail in question.

Aaron tells Joe there are at least eight variants of the Corpse Reviver.

I’d heard there were as many as five, so it appears further sleuthing is in order.

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Hammett: Popping into Stookey’s

A Sunday or three back I was in Frisco, just hanging out, and stopped into Stookey’s for a pop.

I needed a Corpse Reviver No. 2 to keep the old corpse going, and they’ll always shake one up for me, even if it isn’t on the current menu.

Plus there’s the added appeal that by stepping inside Stookey’s Club Moderne I know I am following another footprint Sam Spade laid down in San Francisco.

For Hammett fans, this dope is kind of news.

Brace yourselves.

All I want to make clear up front is that I was going into Stookey’s for at least a year before the news broke among the inner circles.

I was a pioneer.

And I’ll make clear that I wasn’t the guy who figured it out. It was one of the owners and barkeeps you’ll find pulling shifts on the stick who nailed this one. And it was honcho Tim Stookey personally who handed me the ad for Faverman’s you see at the top. They lucked into it.

The barkeep was rereading The Maltese Falcon, as people often do, and got hit between the eyes by a line in Chapter II: Death in the Fog. Read it yourself if in doubt, but just after the scene ends where Spade goes into Burritt alley because Archer has been bumped, there’s a section break — and then the single-line paragraph:

In an all-night drug-store on the corner of Bush and Taylor Streets, Spade used the telephone.

Hey, thought the guy, our bar is at Bush and Taylor. . . .

So, some fast gumshoe work. Stookey’s is on one corner. But there are four corners. And if you don’t check, who’s to say you didn’t have an all-night drugstore on each corner for Spade to chose between?

They’re pretty sure their corner is the corner. So, circa 1928 and after it housed a drugstore. For decades now it has been a bar of some stripe, and currently that bar is named Stookey’s.

As I sipped my Corpse Reviver, I asked the bartender if he wasn’t the one who tumbled to the find. He was.

Are you guys going to put it up on your webpage? I asked.

Yeah, they’re getting to it, but they’re busy.

Since I try to stay as unbusy as possible, I told him I could break the news wide without working up a sweat.

Now, are there any Sam Spade fans not at this moment bolting toward Stookey’s for a pop?

Posted in Dash, Frisco, News, Tour | Tagged , , , , |

Tour: 3 Sundays in September

People have been asking if I was ever going to offer some just-show-up walks again.

I admit, it’s a fair question, this year being my Fortieth Anniversary and all. John Q. Public could reasonably expect some mean streets leadership to celebrate the landmark.

Sure, July and August got away from me — it was almost like I was on summer vacation or something! A couple of weeks ago I did slip on the gumshoes to guide an enthusiastic contingent of the writer’s group Sisters in Crime around as a group by appointment. Shots at the top and bottom show the mob trailing me up North Fifth Street, a.k.a Cyril Magnin Street.

In September, people who have been wanting to walk the walk are welcome to show up at noon, no appointment needed, and slap leather on the sidewalks. You’ll need $20. The tour takes four hours or slightly more, if people get serious with the questions.

So, noon. $20. Pick the Sunday you like best: Sunday September 3 — Sunday September 10 — or Sunday September 24.

And if I don’t blow out a knee or gasket or something, I’m planning for another threefer of Sundays in October.

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Hammett: High Ticket

I don’t keep close track, but I am well aware prices on first editions of Hammett’s novels have jumped into the big money — kicked off by the legendary 1981 auction of the Adrian Goldstone crime fiction collection here in San Francisco.

From that moment on, I haven’t noticed any of the major firsts going for cheap when they hit the auction block.

Brian Wallace, always prowling the net looking for Hammett dope, let me know about an upcoming auction in September of the KoKo Collection (gee, and I didn’t even realize gorillas built up libraries!). Check out the blurb for it. You’ll find a first in dustjacket of Hammett’s first published novel Red Harvest estimated to bid up to $30,000, and a copy of The Maltese Falcon estimated to haul it at least $20,000.

And yes, estimates are all well and good, but it is the hard cash or bitcoin that changes hands when the winner is called that clinches the deal.

Most interesting to me when I glanced over the items up for bid is that Hammett is so far ahead of his contemporaries that it isn’t even close. Other writers for Black Mask — Chandler, Paul Cain, Raoul Whitfield — are estimated to haul in $2000-$4000ish per novel. Even Poe with Tales from 1845 is estimated only nabbing $10,000.

No question that at this moment Hammett is Mr. High Ticket.

And you may be interested to know that I was yakking about this auction with Terry Zobeck, who was reminded of

an eBay auction from about ten years ago. It was for a first of Red Harvest in a beautiful dust jacket, the best I’ve ever seen. The book was easily fine condition.

The seller paid $2 for a box of books at an estate sale and it was in the bottom of the box.

She had no idea of what she had. I suggested she withdraw it and work with some reputable dealers — I recommended a few. She ended up selling it for $18,000 to a NY dealer I’d never heard of. I think she could have gotten twice that if she put it on consignment with either of the dealers I suggested.

So, moral of the story I guess is that if you get really lucky, you may stumble across one of these pricey Hammett firsts on the cheap and let somebody with deep pockets pay for it through the nose when it hits the block.

Me, the best deal on a copy of the first of Red Harvest I know of — I’ve held the copy in my hands — is a guy who found one for a dollar at a garage sale. No dustjacket. But it was inscribed on the front flyleaf, “For Bettye, Affectionately yours, Dashiell Hammett” — got to be worth a few thou.

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Sinister Cinema: Back to the Tenderloin Museum

I’ll be hitting the Tenderloin Museum once again on July 13 — hey, just three days before their second anniversary on July 16 — to talk Dashiell Hammett for awhile.

Hammett, pretty much the most famous writer to have made his name as a resident of the hood.

After the talk they’ll be showing the first of the Thin Man flicks, ever popular — but of course Nick and Nora and Asta are off in New York City for that caper.

To keep it kind of local, as part of my remarks I need to pick out some moments from the first movie version of The Maltese Falcon from 1931. Pre-code stuff. I’m thinking the bed-stripping scene. The one or two shots filmed in town — actually shot on the edge of the TL.

And I guess I’m going to have to pull a few minutes of Dwight Frye being brought in to sell the character of little Wilmer Cook for the first time on screen.

If you’re a regular on the Mean Streets, you’ll remember that Hammett encountered the crook he based Wilmer on — The Midget Bandit — when he was working as an operative for Pinkerton’s right here in the burg.

You can get more info and tix off  eventbrite, and they’ve announced it on Facebook, too. Ought to be fun — well, between me and William Powell and Myrna Loy and Skippy as Asta, I guess it is guaranteed to be fun.

And if things work out, plotting is going on behind closed doors to spring another wild Hammett/Tenderloin treat your way later in the year.

Posted in Dash, Film, Frisco, News | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Hammett: It’s Almost Like Clockwork. . .

Yesterday Jeopardy! dropped Hammett back into their clew stew in the Jeopardy Round, in the “toughest” slot — $1000 — in the category Literary Hodgepodge:

Dashiell Hammett dedicated “The Thin Man” to this fellow writer and longtime love

The contestant named Lisa clicked in and said “Who is Lillian Hellman?” Correct. Lisa had been struggling for most of the show to that point, but hitting the Hammett Voodoo got her on track and she finished the day as the winner of the whole shebang.

I’m kind of surprised that the Jeopardy! folk didn’t finagle the dope even finer and have the clew drop on June 20 — the 112th anniversary of Hellman’s birth. Me, I can’t keep track of stuff like that but I expect no less from Jeopardy!

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Two-Gun Bob: He Was a Contenda

Eighty-one years ago today the Texas pulpster Robert E. Howard killed himself at the age of thirty.

To commemorate the date, let’s bring Brian Leno back into the ring to talk about one of Howard’s predictions on boxing, one of his favored pastimes.

Brian is deep into the book he’s doing on the boxing world as Howard knew it, and in particular keeps unearthing data on the pugilist “Kid” Dula. When he gets it done, that book ought to make a hell of a memorial.

If it happens that the name Dula and the date October 2, 1929 clang any bells for you, that may be because Brian touched on them before when he showcased a ticket for that night’s bouts alongside a gold watch Jack Dempsey gave to Dula on the occasion.

Brian keeps on digging, and he’s tracked down a program for the event for his own collection — which kicks off additional thoughts about a fighter from Robert E. Howard’s short life.

Here’s Brian:

 

Back in 1928 Robert E. Howard wrote to the Brownwood Bulletin and forcibly expressed his belief that “Kid” Dula, a local boxing star, was destined to become middleweight champion of the world.

At that time the reigning king was Mickey Walker, one of the all-time greats in that division. Howard’s hope of a Dula-Walker match seemed about as faint as Rocky Marciano, when champion, taking on one of your neighbors. But if we take the gloves off and do some old-fashioned digging we soon discover that Howard’s hyperbole about Dula was not really so far-fetched.

About a year after Howard penned his now famous letter, “Kid” Dula — now also known by the moniker “Cowboy” Dula — stepped into the ring against the “smiling Norwegian” Haakon Hanson.

Hanson had participated in the 1924 Paris Olympics, and while he never won a medal, he had done himself pretty proud. Some fans of the pugilistic science thought he had a chance of going far. When Hanson’s manager told reporters that the fight “should be easy” there weren’t too many ring scribes ready to disagree with him.

But Dula rose to the occasion that night and headlines the next day told the story. “Dula’s Victory over Hanson Upsets Fistic World,” one read, and it seemed that the Cowboy might actually have roped himself a bout against highly rated Dave Shade.

Shade was one of those tough scrappers who fought more than 200 times in his career, taking on some pretty hard hitters, including Ace Hudkins, Ben Jeby, Rene De Vos, Maxie Rosenbloom and many others, but for our purposes we need to ask the Timekeeper to turn his clock back to 1921 when Shade took on Mickey Walker, not once, but twice.

The first bout ended in disaster for Shade when he broke his hand and the fight was stopped, becoming a TKO victory for Walker. A month later the two met again and this time Shade was the winner by a newspaper decision.

A third fight occurred in 1925, with Walker’s welterweight title on the line. Shade lost the decision, but the verdict was not a popular one with some of the fans.

The chance of Dula meeting Shade had to have been one of the “Kid’s” most important moments in his boxing career. If he had faced and beaten Shade, it’s very probable he would have gotten a shot against Mickey Walker — and Howard’s prediction in his letter could have come true.

Dula beating Walker would have been an extreme long shot, but it wouldn’t have been the first upset in the world of boxing.

When Dula beat Haakon Hanson it knocked the Norwegian out of The Ring’s top ten middleweights and a new name was added to the list — Art Dula. (The unfortunate thing is the magazine listed him as “Cowboy” Ray Dula, screwing up his first name. I can imagine this Rodney Dangerfield moment must have been a little souring, but Dula had finally gotten big league recognition.)

But instead of the “Kid” taking on Dave Shade, he was rematched with Hanson and they were given a slot on Jack Dempsey’s first Chicago promotion, at the Chicago Coliseum.

Two pictures from that program are shown: the cover, and Mr. Dempsey pointing to his lineup of fighters for that evening’s entertainment. I recently added this item, a true fistic rarity, to my collection, where it’ll stay. (And a contemporary postcard view of the venue at the top helps set the scene.)

On that night things went very badly for our Texas boxer, and Hanson scored a TKO victory in the 6th round. However, you’ll get the full story on a different day.

Research, research, research, that’ll never get me to Carnegie Hall — but it did get me to the Chicago Coliseum on October 2, 1929, when for “one brief, shining moment” Cowboy Dula was ranked as one of the top middleweights in the world.

Posted in Boxing, REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hollywood Beat: When Chandler Was Home

Brian Wallace popped me the news that Raymond Chandler’s home in La Jolla — given how often he moved around, kind of his main lair — is up for serious renovation and the addition of a second story.

If that goes through, it won’t look the same. Now I can drown my regret in a drink or three that I didn’t make the effort to prowl into La Jolla last time I hit San Diego, since I don’t get much past Musso & Frank all that often.

Especially when something has been left largely untouched for many years, you get to thinking that the building will be there forever, unless fire or earthquake or something intervenes. In San Francisco, I think of the place where Jimmy Stewart “lived” in Vertigo — the building on the northwest corner of Lombard and Jones.

Most of my time in the city you could recognize it from the film, but with the addition of a couple of bushes that had been planted on the outside. Then a few years ago someone nabbed it and had a complete facelift done. Take my word for it, same building, but you wouldn’t be able to stand cattycorner today and get hit with the shock of recognition.

La Jolla is on the edge of losing its most significant lit landmark — The Long Goodbye, anyone? — but then Atlanta almost knocked down the house where Margaret Mitchell wrote most of Gone with the Wind. That one got moved.

Posted in Film, Lit, News | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: Bruce Townley’s Oblong

To clarify the title, I’m not saying that Bruce Townley is oblong, I’m talking about Bruce’s zine Oblong.

If interested, you can surf over to a file of PDF issues and amuse yourself with the content until you’ve had enough, or run through the series. In the first ish Bruce does an extended bit trying to dope out what makes for a real noir film — lots of guys in hats is one of his criteria. In the second ish he does capsule comments on the offerings for a film noir festival in The Roxie Theatre. Plus he’s got stuff on Tiki bars and other hot topics for zining it up. And he’s witty — while he may have worked on the repartee, I find it easiest to think that he was simply born with a bon mot emerging from the old yap.

I just saw Bruce last month for the first time in several years at a small assembly of local fanzine fans. I’ve got a toe or two in that arena, and at least a box or two with copies of zines I contributed to in the day.

So, I showed up to the fanzine fan lunch and thought to mention that Bill Breiding had contacted me out of the blue and said he was sending me something. Bruce — any Spoiler Alert in his mind switched firmly to Off — said, “Oh, that’s a big collection of his fanzine pieces” or something slightly more witty than that wording.

Bill is a longtime member of that general crew of fanzine fan folk, and one of the pieces in his book is reprinted from Oblong. I was still sufficiently surprised — in my mind’s eye I was expecting a big fat mimeographed item.

At any rate, to keep the local Frisco fanzine pulse going a bit longer, check out Oblong — and notice that at the bottom of the page you can click over to the eFanzines archive and a ton of other material. Dozens of new zines added so far this year, and back files of some 300 zines.

And among the offerings you could check out Warren Harris’s pulp zine — Warren is the cool cat who figured out The Midget Bandit Mystery.

If you need a new hobby. . . .

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