Rediscovered: Classic Crime Quips

Occasional Guest Blogger Michael S. Chong popped in news that Death is a Lovely Dame by Jeff Vorzimmer has hit the mean streets — classic lines from crime novels, classic covers.

Michael notes that it contains some excerpts from Hammett and Willeford (I would hope so!) and includes a couple of quotes he suggested. The array of covers on the cover includes Whip Hand, the Gold Medal crime novel it seems Willeford never knew was published.

A tantalizing sampler yanked straight from the steamy heart of the paperback jungle.

Sample: “She looked hot enough to catch fire, but too lazy to do anything but just lie there and smoke.” — Gil Brewer, The Vengeful Virgin, 1958

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Rediscovered: Derleth and Little Reviews

If you know much about August Derleth, you know he made his rep equally between writing for pulps such as Weird Tales and doing the more artsy wordplay for Little Reviews — eventually he even combined the two fields of endeavor and did weird fiction little reviews, plus poetry little reviews. A go-getter like Derleth pretty much did it all, and then more stuff in his spare time.

Suddenly, I’m tired, just from thinking about it.

John D. Haefele, the reigning and never-to-be-dethroned Derleth expert,  just began a little series of posts on the Derleth/Little Review topic if you want to surf in — worth it just to see the images of a 1934 sub to The Frontier out of Missoula.

When you think about it, Missoula has been a literary hotbed forever. I just did a tour by appointment this past weekend with a guy who last took the walk circa 1985 or 86 (he couldn’t believe I was still gumshoeing the mean streets), and he mentioned that he lived in Missoula for around eleven years and got to know James Crumley. I asked if he ever met Dennis McMillan, but my wild and accurate description of Dennis didn’t ring any bells for him. I suppose his stint in Missoula might not have crossed Dennis’ — if he was hanging around The Crumdog he’d have met Dennis, for sure.

And for those waiting patiently, don’t think that Haefele has been distracted and derailed from the main current project on the Great Tales of Lovecraft. He is plugging away, and is currently sending in chapters on Frank Belknap Long and Donald Wandrei — halfway through the manuscript or a bit more. Tens of thousands of words already done.

Tens of thousands left to go.

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Smackdown: The Morgman Beats Noah Ward

— but loses Best Fan Writer Hugo to Mike Glyer, the guy who does the newszine File 770.

Maybe next year.

But Morgan knocked the hell out of Noah Ward.

At least I think that’s what happened. If you want to look at detailed Hugo voting stats, it doesn’t look like Morgan did very well — some kind of convoluted ranked vote counting going on.

But if you glance at the major stats toward the end, you’ll see that 1568 ballots were cast for Fan Writer — Morgan took 21.81% while Glyer took only 15.50% — and only Morgan’s fellow Castalia House blogger Jeffro raked in more, with 27.23%. Which to me sounds like Morgan came in second. An impressive showing.

Weird how votes can be juggled, but I will say that nonetheless the Hugos seem more straightforward than, say, The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards, where they allow only certain names to even be considered — and consistently give the honors to the guys counting the votes.

When the guy running the awards wins Best Essay four years in a row, I sense a hint of impropriety, but maybe that’s just me.

For most awards I wouldn’t be in the running, or wouldn’t bother, but it did seem odd that the REH Foundation didn’t even mention The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All — the largest collection of litcrit on REH ever released — the year it appeared. Maybe they’re just too old-fashioned and out-of-touch with the current scene, and don’t even think an eBook amounts to anything.

Guess the Foundation could get more on point and have Morgan’s eBook listed as a contender next time. Or stay stuck in the past, not even aware that a Hugo Nominee trods their turf.

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If I don’t have the dates all messed up, I think tonight we learn whether or not Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes goes from Hugo Nominee to Hugo WINNER!

And good luck, Morgan.

As a scholar of decades standing in the arena of Robert E. Howard and Sword-and-Sorcery studies, Morgan was as amused and appalled as I was by the recent wholesale, uncredited lifting of material on the Todd Vick fan site. What can you do except shake your head in wonder and complete disbelief?

Someone has gone in and tried to patch it up to make it look scholarly, but they still haven’t gotten all the outright quotes done right — and obviously they aren’t very savvy on how to do block quotes. Morgan decided to dig out his copy of the Chicago Manual of Style to cite to give those poor guys a guide to proper scholarly technique.

And here, stepping in for a quick Guest Post, is Morgan Holmes:


One of my favorite Robert E. Howard stories is “Two Against Tyre,” with the set-up of a wandering Gaul finding adventure in the Levant. He probably got to Phoenicia in a bireme.

One of the entries in the Todd Vick “The Ships of Hy-Brasil Part 3” has an entry on the bireme:

The Bireme is a galley type ship with two bank of oars that was especially used by the Greeks and Phoenicians. The ship had a hull of wood and was used for both shipping and naval warfare possibly as early as 350 BC. The two banks of oars provided man-powered propulsion in case of calm waters or for better control in battles. The bronze armored ram on the bow of the ship was designed to be driven deep into an enemy ship. In addition to the small number of crew required, they could hold as many as 45 sailors during combat as well as additional fighting men on the main deck who were ready to board enemy vessels that had been rammed. Top speed was approximately seven knots.

The text is taken from — with some minimal rewording here and there. Since the original post with no attribution, a sourcing “footnote” has been inserted. Here’s some source text:

The Bireme was a wooden hulled vessel used by the Greeks for use in both commercial shipping and in naval warfare, from as early as approximately 350 BC… Although a very small number of men were required to crew the ship when relying on the sail, the ship could be equipped with as many as 45 sailors during times of combat, as well as additional archers or soldiers on the main deck for boarding enemy vessels once they have been rammed. The top speed of this type of ship was around 7 knots.


I became curious to see what the rules were for citation. I pulled out my trusty Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition). There is an interesting paragraph in Chapter 11, section 2 (page 444):

“Quoting other writers and citing the places where their words are to be found are by now such common practices that it is pardonable to look upon the habit as natural, not to say instinctive. It is of course nothing of the kind, but a very sophisticated act, peculiar to a civilization that uses printed books, believes in evidence, and makes a point of assigning credit or blame in a detailed, verifiable way.” — Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff.

4:83 has this: “With all reuse of others’ materials, it is important to identify the original as the source. This not only bolsters the claim of fair use, it also helps avoid any accusation of plagiarism.”

11:12: “Block quotations, a hundred words or at least eight lines — are set off as a block quotation… A quotation of two or more paragraphs is best set off (see 11.23-25).”

In regards to sourcing a block quotation, 11.81 states, “The source of a block quotation is given in parentheses as the end of the quotation and in the same type size. The opening parenthesis appears after the final punctuation mark of the quoted material.”

And so writes Morgan, being helpful. . . .

What most of the would-be scholars of the Vick ilk don’t seem to realize is that a solid essay is akin to a legal argument, where everything is pinned down precisely, the sources are not hidden but honored — and of course in the best essays you have a level of dazzling polemic, where you as the writer attempt to convince your readers — the jury — of your thesis.

Good essays aren’t just a tedious roster of uncredited quotes, blah-blah this then blah-blah that.

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Rediscovered: The Influence of Race

dalythemthatlivesbytheirgunsRace Williams, that is. . . .

I got Them That Lives by Their Guns around Thanksgiving last year, and promised I was going to give it a fair shake. Read each and every story.

And read them all I did — didn’t take long to get into the rhythm.

Lots of pleasant surprises. I never expected that Daly would haul out a Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother bit, but it turns out in “Under Cover” old Race has a brother named Balcone — I wonder if this guy will show up on occasion in the stories collected in later volumes, like Mycroft Holmes?

Or was it a one-time nod to the lore and legend of crime fiction? “I got thinking of Balcone and wondering if his Sherlock Holmes brain could dope a way out of this mess.”

Come on, you weren’t expecting that, either.

I’m hoping this series will pop Daly’s rep back up a few notches with the general reading public. As a mystery writer, his place is secure — side-by-side in the wood pulp pages of Black Mask with Hammett, both coming out of the gate with hard-boiled detective stories the same month. With Erle Stanley Gardner, Nebel, Whitfield, and crew right on their heels. If you know The Mask and the genre, you know Daly.

And then you have the fact that Daly has some fame as Mickey Spillane’s favorite writer — Spillane, the bestselling American writer of the 1950s, I believe, and book-per-book the bestselling crime writer of the 1950s, 60s and well into the 70s. Erle Stanley Gardner, with many dozen more novels than Spillane, probably has more total units sold overall, but you wouldn’t want to put most novels up against I, the Jury.

Mick even sent Daly a note once, saying, “Yours was the first and only style of writing that ever influenced me in any way.”

And most mystery fans know that Daly thought about suing Spillane for plagiarism. . . .

I’m not any kind of fan of Spillane’s writing — I read The Delta Factor in the late 60s, then I, the Jury more recently. Man, was Jury a turkey. I may find an odd moment someday to poke through other classic Mike Hammer texts, but I’m not blocking out dates for it. If anything, I figure going back to Daly is more instructive.

But even if I didn’t like Mick’s fiction, I always liked Mick. He’d show up on Johnny Carson or Tom Snyder, late night, and I remember Johnny Carson asking him, “So, Mick, the critics don’t seem to like your books. What do you think about that?”

Mickey: “I don’t care what they think about my books as long as they don’t take away my money.”

If only half the bestselling blowhards pretending to be “great writers” were half as honest!

But for Daly to actually think about suing — I had the sense that it would have to be more than just the idea of a tough dick talking tough and shooting straight and slugging his hard way through a caper.

And reading along in Them That Lives by Their Guns I hit a moment where the lightbulb exploded. In “Devil Cat,” Black Mask, November 1924. Enough of a nudge, it occurred to me, to maybe get a guy to ring up his lawyer. . . .

On one of the talk shows I caught circa the late 60s Spillane was talking about the ending of one of his novels — a Mike Hammer, I’m pretty sure — and how the whole shebang was wrapped up tight in the last line. In only four words.

“She was a he.”

Whoa. That’s some deep Mike Hammer 50s/60s shock ending stuff, for sure.

But back in 1924, Daly wrote, “And you’ve guessed it. She was a he. Oh, I’m free to admit I didn’t tumble at first. She made a crack boy, and no mistake.”

No question Daly influenced Spillane, right?

Mick spun it his way and made more out of it, and raked in the big bucks.

After Carroll John Daly pioneered the trail through the pulp jungle.

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Hammett: And Chandler, and Nigel, Bill and Don

Bill and Nigel and Don

Slightly over twenty people did the “just show up and walk the walk” routine for the tour yesterday. I always think of twenty as being the average number of tourists gumshoeing the mean streets on the walk over the years, though I have done groups in the thirties and forties and one time seventy-eight people were waiting for me. Of course, if only one or two people show up, the tour goes on.

One guy mentioned that he had taken the tour before — in 1992. Another mentioned that he’d been thinking about taking it for decades. This guy was a film buff, and the only one out of the crowd to know the name Dwight Frye (though, as I explain, pretty much everyone knows Dwight, they just don’t know they know Dwight). I gave the guy a little test to see how much he knew. He didn’t recognize the name Dominque Pinon off the cuff, but when I said “The clown in Delicatessen” naturally he knew Dominque. What film buff doesn’t?

And when I got back to my lair, I got another kickback to the days of yesteryear when Mark Murphy mentioned in an email that he’d just seen a BBC documentary on Raymond Chandler on YouTube — one that got more than willingly hijacked into also covering Hammett. You’ve got an interview with Hammett’s daughter. Bill Arney and I jump in on the action.

And if I remember right, there is a great sequence which shows Bill pulling out the Murphy bed in Sam Spade’s apartment which incorporates a clip of Fatty Arbuckle wrestling with a Murphy bed. In those days, Bill was holding down the shrine in 891 Post.

If you’ve got an hour or so, check it out — one of my all-time fave media appearances, out of many. Maybe because Bill and I spent a lot of time hanging out drinking with Nigel and the crew, and they knew how to drink.

Screen grab at top, left to right: Bill, Nigel, then me, at the parapet on top of the Stockton tunnel, where Spade stands looking down on the first murder scene in The Maltese Falcon.

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Two-Gun Bob: Heh-heh-heh. . .

Hey-hey, after my post yesterday detailing just one example of the horrible — I say, horrible, son, truly horrible — uncredited cribbing on Todd Vick’s Robert E. Howard fan site, today they have added a [1] to the bit about Viking ships and put in at the bottom:


[1] There are several references for this citation. Each one seems to be using the other in the same reference/information. The origin of this information is unknown. Here are the citations:
The Norumbega Vinland Stone


No quote marks — as yet — to show how crudely and directly the info was lifted. . . .

Of course, the other chunks of info on the other ships, as I said, need a similar footnote to show where the dope originates — for example, British battleships is cribbed from

Needless to say, the sources for the other stuff lifted can be — and has been — found. Why they are pretending the material isn’t simply cribbed off the web is beyond me.

Someone is going to have a busy, busy weekend trying to make the presentation look “scholarly” — and that is only one post. How about any and all previous posts where wordage was lifted? Surely no one thinks this post is the first time the blogger has just gone in and done wholesale cut & paste off the net?

At any rate, as long as you have an interest, keep surfing over to see Todd Vick and crew do a wild Frankenstein monster patch job, trying to salvage some credibility out of all those scattered body parts.

(For comparison, you can look at the original posting here — but only if you get some amusement out of it. Life is short.)

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Viking ship

The last time I covered a Robert E. Howard vehicle, if you recall, it was in the form of the Model T Ford, a.k.a. the flivver. Got a whole series of posts out of that one, if you want to track them down.

Of course, flivvers don’t come up much in Howard’s writing — but Viking ships, now that’s another mode of transportation altogether!

My favorite of Howard’s many uses of the deadly dragon ships is now — and has always been — the white-hot opening to “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”:

Lightning dazzled the eyes of Turlogh O’Brien and his foot slipped in a smear of blood as he staggered on the reeling deck. The clashing of steel rivaled the bellowing of the thunder, and screams of death cut through the roar of waves and wind. The incessant lightning flicker gleamed on the corpses sprawling redly, the gigantic horned figures that roared and smote like huge demons of the midnight storm, the great beaked prow looming above.

Damn. Now that, my friends, is a Howardian boat ride!

I was reminded of those far-faring ocean and river-roving vessels yesterday by Brian Leno. Leno was moping about the web, doing routine glances over the handful of specialty sites devoted to the Texas writer. He came to a new post on the Todd Vick site, which catalogs a lot of ships — Vick is a prof or a teacher, apparently, and seems to talk a lot about how his site is academically credible, things sourced, and maybe even some footnotes. I never read the posts there, because if not outright boring, they tend to be much too tedious for my tastes.

But I had to read that one, because Leno was certain it lifted material uncredited from various sources.

And so much for academic credibility.

Unless they’ve changed the rules in teaching, plagiarism has always been a big bugaboo. Yet, here was Vick proudly showcasing a raft of direct quotes with no quote marks, no links to the sites where they were lifted from — or, imagine me quoting the opening to “Bal-Sagoth” as above and pretending I wrote it.

And it is so easy to avoid such theft — just change the sentences around, to show you’ve absorbed the info. If you’re using direct quotes, toss in some quote marks. Put in a hyperlink to where you found the info you’re ripping off.

Not that hard, unless you’re terribly lazy.

Anyway, Leno was looking it over and thought, No way was the blurb on Viking ships written by the byline on the post. He sat down and in ten minutes found the site the description came from — the Vick site doesn’t use every word from the Viking site, but every word they do use is taken from there, with no acknowledgement.

I won’t do the whole thing, but on Vick you will find:

In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently.

On under a more extensive survey of Viking ships (well worth reading), you’ll find:

In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. . . . In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently.

Wow. Some genuine déjà vu going down, don’t you think?

And of course the other descriptions of other ships are lifted — without credit — from other sites.

I have to presume Vick does no vetting whatsoever of the material he tosses on his site — hey, it’s the net, who cares, right?

Does he only have one or two bad apples who have no idea how to do scholarship and cite sources — or is he hosting a den of thieves, stealing intellectual property like the Vikings looted Lindisfarne?

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Hammett: A Really Old and Highly Inaccurate News Flash

Suddenly people are popping me links to a 2011 article from The Guardian about Hammett’s Lost Works Found in Texas — must have surfaced on Facebook or someplace.

Yeah, yeah. I knew about it at the time and ignored it, because I thought it was incredibly stupid. Anyone who knew anything about Hammett understood that an archive of unpublished stories and fragments was being held in the Ransom Center, but the Guardian piece makes it sound as if this guy was the first to find them. I did link to a much more rounded piece on the subject, which even quotes Vince Emery — in that one finding some files in a library doesn’t sound like you’re up to your armpits in snakes in the Amazon and emerging from the jungle with a fabulous jewel.

Or, as I mentioned to Betsy Willeford, maybe someday some rocket scientist is going to look through the Charles Willeford Collection in the Broward Library and go, Hey! There are unpublished stories here!

Yep, just sitting there. You’d need permission to publish them, of course, but if you’re dumb enough to think no one else on earth knows about them, well, you’re pretty dumb.

The story from the Hammett archives that got printed in The Strand magazine at the time was untitled, but the guy stuck on the title “So I Shot Him” — which is an Elmore Leonard line. I figured someone must have gotten shot, but when I finally read the story later, learned no one got shot.

Anyway, for all of you who have gotten heated up over the recycling of this old news, you can relax. The unpublished stories from the archive were collected in The Hunter and Other Stories. I reviewed it for Publishers Weekly. Terry Zobeck reviewed it here.

One development worth an endnote: you won’t find The Strand story “So I Shot Him” on the contents page. Since no one gets shot, for The Hunter they changed the title of that yarn to “The Cure.”

And for my money the next most exciting thing still sitting in those archives is Hammett’s first story collection, Including Murder.

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Frisco Beat: Tenderloin Museum, Year One


Coming up fast on July 16, The Tenderloin Museum celebrates its first anniversary — details on the website or the Facebook page. From 10a.m. to 9p.m., free admission, with workshops, talks, jazz, a drag show — the whole historical and contemporary shebang of what makes the Tenderloin the TL.

I’m making a return to the venue in the 5p.m. slot to talk about — who else? — Dashiell Hammett, Reigning Writer of the Mean Streets, who lived in or on the edges of the TL in the 1920s when he created a distinctive American literary genre known as the hard-boiled detective story. Think I have about an hour to fill.

A whole hour.

Only wrinkle will be deciding what to leave out. . . .

I must congratulate the guys and gals of the museum on reaching the one-year mark — and I trust many more to come. Next year — should I live so long — I hit Forty Years on the Mean Streets with the Hammett Tour, so I know what it’s like to put in the time and rack up the mile markers.

If you’re free, come on down for any or all of the festivities.

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