Hammett: 122 and Counting

dash as nickie

Another birthday rolls around for Hammett — no. 122. Plus Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, Harlan Ellison and Linnea Quigley. Henry Kissinger. San Francisco detective Hal Lipset. And more.

No cool birthday presents or news this year, that I know of. I’ve pretty much decided to do my Red Harvest essay as an eBook for a token 99¢ or so, instead of just tossing it on the blog. I’m comfortable with letting something germinate for years, but at some point that one needs to hit the mean streets. And having coin tossed at it might startle some people to attention.

The Big Secret Project Terry Zobeck is poking around on that I mentioned in a PulpFest report remains Secret. I wonder, if Terry ever polishes it off, would it make more of a splash as an eBook, as well?

Yeah, one or the other of those — or both — would have made good birthday fodder, but they’ll have to wait.

This year it’ll have to be tumblers of booze in celebration. Not a bad fallback.

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Hollywood Beat: John Wayne Day

The Duke

Noticed poking around the web, waiting for the coffee to kick in, that today is John Wayne’s birthday, which reminded me of a chat I had with Leo Grin a couple of weeks back.

Leo currently is the honcho of The Cimmerian Press — proud publisher of The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All and A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos, plus the TriplePunchPacks Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation and Enter the Barbarian. And more to come, no doubt.

He mentioned that he’s thinking of collecting the essays on movies he was doing for one of the Brietbart sites, back when Brietbart was alive — maybe with other material, some touchup, something like that.

Leo is a huge fan of John Wayne and John Ford, so I thought to ask him what he thought about the idea floating around in California political circles to declare a John Wayne Day — which had just been derailed by vociferous opposition.

So, no John Wayne Day.

“Every day is John Wayne Day,” Leo said. “They just don’t know it.”

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Smackdown: The Morgman vs. the Fires of Hell! and Other Perils

Enter the Barbarian - rejected cover

For the delectation of Sword-and-Sorcery fans everywhere, how about a gander at another proof cover for the eBook Enter the Barbarian by Morgan Holmes?

Maybe you’d call it a draft cover, though, since it never went out with a proof copy — the one I showcased the other day was on early electronic copies that got proofread. This one got mocked up next. But neither of these made it to the release copy that went on sale on Amazon for Cinco de Mayo.

Morgan’s book hit the ground running, coming out of the gate at number one in Hot New Releases for Horror Litcrit when stats started to surface on May 7. I think a title can only be in the Hot New category for a month or two, just after release — Morgan has been at number one or two this whole month.

Plus in regular sales he did something that is almost impossible: The Morgman unseated Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race from number one for a couple of days. I’ve been following the Horror Litcrit lists since the trade paperback of John Haefele’s hefty tome on the Derleth Mythos came out, and have seldom seen any title bump Ligotti from number one — and when they do, usually it is only for an hour or so.

Not only that, but Morgan entered the fray just when the rules for the Horror Litcrit list became murky. I used to look the list over and think everything on it was kosher, except for the occasional book on The Bible or something that got stuck in the wrong category. But lately someone has allowed the Hellfire series of “paranormal romance” novellas to show up on the litcrit list.

Dudes, all those titles are fiction, they belong in some other category.

I wonder if some staffer at Amazon dozed off and stuck the Hellfire eBooks into litcrit by accident or if the publisher thought they’d look more successful if they appeared up against litcrit — considering how poorly litcrit sells.

As it is, they are clunking up the landscape, and I wonder if other people appreciate the irony as much as I do: the Hellfires are being outsold by regular books of Horror Litcrit! I’m sorry, but any fiction that can be outgunned by a book of litcrit just doesn’t look that hot to me. . . .

And I hear that Morgan is coming under some minor attacks on social media for his article on who finished writing the Robert E. Howard novel Almuric. The scenario is outlined on the blog A Shiver in the Archives — short version, there is a letter Farnsworth Wright wrote that more or less says that he edited the two drafts of the novel together and stuck an ending from the first draft on the more polished second draft.

Yet who would believe that Howard wrote that ending, in that style?

As Morgan puts it, “People all over Facebook are saying this is new evidence. But the letter adds nothing to what I did not already know — the first and incomplete second drafts were combined with someone filling in that last chapter or chapter and a half.”

Apparently some are suggesting that in addition to editing the drafts, Wright would have done the writing — only about a year or so before he died from Parkinson’s. Morgan, talking with pulpsters who were on the scene, notes that “Hugh Cave and Jack Williamson both told me that Wright was very unlikely to have the physical stamina to rewrite and finish Almuric.

Anyway, pretty much everyone with some savvy believes Morgan is correct — he tells me that even a professor interested in stylometrics (!!!) told him last year that “his analysis showed that Howard did not finish Almuric.

As the blog post on Shiver in the Attic ends the summary, “On the other hand, Holmes’s stylistic analysis of the final chapter is cogent and persuasive. Unfortunately the facts of whatever actually happened in the editing process are apparently lost to history.”

If someday the first draft of Almuric surfaces, then you’ll have new evidence to consider. Meanwhile, I think Morgan has the most definitive take on the issue thus far. One third of his hot bestselling TriplePunchPack.

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Hammett: Via the Film Buff Lens

Mifune Op

A Mean Streets tip from Brian Wallace took me over to Paste Monthly and an article on Hammett with a heavy emphasis on movies pulled from Hammett’s work — such as Mifune doing a Samurai version of the Op. If interested, surf over and check it out.

It’s by no means perfect — you’ve got to grin at the movie buff idea of the “largely forgotten crime writer Dashiell Hammett.”

Please. And you think lots of people today are watching the b&w movies you’re referring to?

The line that Hammett’s T.B. “spared” him from the draft in WWI is of course incorrect — he picked up the Doc Holliday disease while he was serving in the war effort. Anyway, lots of little quibbles can be made, but it’s worth it to see some attention paid to Red Harvest.

And as the author of Bogie’s star-making turn in the 1941 Falcon — or creator of the essence of the plot for Clint Eastwood’s first Spaghetti Western — it’s obvious Hammett is embedded in the culture as much or more than the average writer who died 55 years ago.

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Frisco Beat: More William Worley

Trying — unsuccessfully, no doubt — to clear the decks of multifarious backlogged potential posts and flat-out delayed posts, I found this note from James Langdell, who surfed into Up and Down after finding the bit Lester Hardy contributed about San Francisco crime writer William Worley, who had taught his English class in Lowell High School.

James also sat in some of those classes, and reports:


I took two English classes with Worley at Lowell, the high school I attended a year later than Lester Hardy. He was quite a character. I credit him with getting me to write much better and clearer, learning lessons that have helped in my now long career as a technical writer.

As to his mysteries, Worley said he had written and published a number of them under carefully concealed pseudonyms, after the experience of a student’s psychiatrist father reading My Dead Wife and accounting far too accurately about the mind of the author of that book.

He didn’t name the psychiatrist at that time. My father is a psychiatrist as well, and I would have asked after Worley’s nemesis if I knew.

Occasionally he’d bring up his experiences as a writer as examples parallel to the classic authors we were studying. One time he gave an example from the most recent book he had completed (around 1970). He said his title for the mystery was The Pink Bathtub — a detail he felt was safe to reveal because the publisher had already given the book a different title for publication.

I can try to remember more, though I’m not coming up with more specifics about his own books. He was an inspiring teacher.

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Hammett: More “Gutman’s Daughter”

You may remember Marc LaViolette from the caper where he noticed something wrong in the Hammett collection Nightmare Town, and rang up Terry “Race” Zobeck, Pure Text Dick, to get to the bottom of it.

Mystery solved. Case closed. The usual.

Now Marc sends in his thoughts on another Mystery of These Mean Streets — you know, the one where Sue Montgomery pointed out that Hammett mentions the idea of Gutman and Gutman having a daughter wayyy before Sam Spade could have had a clew about Gutman or a daughter.

Read the background from Sue first.

Then for some deep-deep Hammett fun, pop back for Marc’s take on the situation. Here’s Marc:


I noticed the discrepancy about ten or fifteen years ago, which would have been on maybe my fifth or sixth reread of The Maltese Falcon. I think I may know what Hammett was driving at, and here is my view of the matter at hand.

The first hint to Gutman’s existence is in the chapter The Black Bird, where Joel Cairo makes a $5000 offer on behalf of “the figure’s rightful owner” — also the point in the plot where we find out that everyone is chasing “a statuette. . . the black figure of a bird.”

From this point on, and into the next chapter, Hammett clearly lets the reader know that Spade is trying to milk Cairo for information.

An example, at the end of the chapter: Spade remarks, “It’s an interesting figure,” as if he has intimate knowledge of it.

How could he know the figure is interesting? He found out about its existence less than five minutes ago. Spade is pretending to know more so that Cairo will reveal more.

The other important information given to us in that chapter is that it is clear that Cairo is homosexual. Effie Perrine says so to Spade before she lets him in the office. All the descriptions of Cairo and of his possessions indicate to the reader that fact in the strongest possible language, without using then-censored words.

In the following chapter, The Levantine, both Cairo and Spade are trying to find out what the other knows — apparently without much success until the conversation about Gutman’s daughter that has us baffled.

Near the end of the chapter Spade asks outright: “What sort of proof can you give me that your man is the rightful owner?”

I think Hammett uses the slang “your man” as a double entendre.

On the face of it, the man for whom Cairo is working. But it could also mean a lover or ex-lover. Only one example of irony on the part of Spade in this chapter.

In reply, Cairo is given a six-line paragraph in which he divulges very little apart from the fact that he thinks the rightful owner was wronged by Thursby.

Then comes the fishing expedition by Spade:

“What about his daughter?” Spade asked.

Excitement opened Cairo’s eyes and mouth, turned his face red, made his voice shrill. “He is not the owner!”

Spade said, “Oh,” mildly and ambiguously.

“Is he here, in San Francisco, now?” Cairo asked in a less shrill, but still excited, voice.

Here is the important part, the original emphasis by Hammett on the first pronoun — He.

Spade, again using irony with the word “daughter,” appears to ask about a female. But is he really hinting about an effeminate male, the rightful owner’s possible present lover?

Does Cairo, flustered, fall into the trap — revealing that Gutman has a new lover with him in San Francisco?

Spade is talking about a man and so is Cairo. Though we do not know the man’s name yet, they are talking about Wilmer. They are not talking about Rhea.

I don’t see it as a plotting error. It shows Spade’s cunning in obtaining information without us even knowing what he is up to.


Thus proposes Marc! And you no doubt can figure out where he’d stand on the question of whether or not Wilmer Cook and Rhea Gutman are the same person, another favorite pastime of the deep thinkers haunting this blog. . . .

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Smackdown: The Morgman vs. Noah Ward!

Enter the Barbarian by Morgan Holmes

In case someone is interested, how about a look-see at the cover of the new eBook from Morgan Holmes before he got a Hugo nomination?

Still a great graphic — the trick is to make the eBook covers pop when displayed in the postage stamp-sized thumbnails on Amazon — but when your author suddenly gets a Hugo nom, then obviously the term Hugo Nominee needs to be tossed around wildly.

Yeehaw! Go, Morgan, go!

Morgan is the first Robert E. Howard critic up for a Hugo that I can think of, except of course for the late great Fritz Leiber — multiple Hugo Winner, though not specifically for his brilliant litcrit on REH or Lovecraft. If you get into Fritz, then the savvy he displayed in re: REH and HPL in various essays plays off into his own fiction, especially the Sword-and-Sorcery and horror. All part and parcel of a writer worth reading, and if you’re inclined, worth some study and even attempts at deep thinking.

If Morgan actually cops a Hugo when the World SF Con is held later this year, then I’m confident he’ll get a new cover with the term Hugo Winner REAL BIG — maybe even variant colors or fonts. (Although as I have suggested decades ago, for anything on REH you don’t need anything other than black and red. Howard is The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All.)

Other than cheerleading for Morgan on the side, I’m not following the Hugo voting — if you’ve got a vote, consider The Morgman and his years in the trenches, and his flashy turn last year with lots of blogging and a.p.a.s and essays here and there.

I’ve heard that his main competition may be someone named Noah Ward, who swept several Hugo categories last year and looks poised to duke it out in multiple categories again this round.

Morgan vs. Noah Ward.

Up and Down These Mean Streets sez Vote Morgan.


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Rediscovered: Enter the Barb!

Enter the Barbarian - coverBarbarian, that is. . . .

Just about a week ago I mentioned the news that Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes was up for a Hugo Award, and said, “Now, if only he had a book out collecting some of the best of his work. . . .”

And look here, a new Robert E. Howard LitCrit TriplePunchPack collecting three of his best essays from The Cimmerian.

It’s almost Biblical.

Invoke, and ye shall Conjure Up!

If you are undecided on Morgan’s general worthiness as a Hugo Nominee, this eBook triple-essay showcase ought to erase any doubt:

“Enter the Barbarian,” celebrating the 75th anniversary of Conan first hitting print in Weird Tales.

“The First Posthumous Collaborator,” in which Morgan makes an I.D. on the shadowy author who completed Howard’s fragmentary Sword-and-Planet novel Almuric.

Plus the justly famous “The Statement of S.T. Joshi,” where Morgan gently encourages the Lovecraft specialist to get up to date on historical info before he derides REH’s handling of the scene in the Bran Mak Morn series — while showing how wrong Joshi was, and how often. Really funny.

This eBook also features an afterword by Howard scholar Richard Toogood (who politely suggests Joshi might want to brush up on his Roman history, too, since it shows some severe rust staining), and as an eBook eXtra selections from Morgan’s numerous contributions to The Lion’s Den, the legendary Cimmerian lettercol.

The first in The Cimmerian Press series of Robert E. Howard LitCrit TriplePunchPacks came out late last year, Brian Leno’s Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation. Now we’ve got a worthy follow-up, with The Morgman — Hugo Nominee — at the authorial wheel, burning rubber and taking names from front cover to last page.

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Rediscovered: The Morgman, Hugo Nominee

A quick congrats to my longtime pal Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes, who just made the short list for this year’s Hugo Awards — honoring the best, or perhaps only the most popular, achievements in science fiction, plus fantasy and related forms.

Morgan is up for Best Fan Writer — which covers everything from kind of serious litcrit on the field to the most faanish of fan writings. The uber faan stuff used to concern itself more with sf fandom and its personalities than science fiction (hell, you didn’t even need to read much sf to be a Big Name Fan). I’ve met many, many BNFs in my day — Terry Carr, Paul Williams, Redd Boggs, Bill Donaho, Teresa Nielsen Hayden. . . . Bet if I sat down to it I could mock up a list easily topping one hundred, and who would have thought there’d be over 100 BNFs tromping about? After over seventy years of sf fandom, though, there could be thousands.

On the serious side of fan writing, Morgan has been at it for at least a couple of decades now, with lengthy stints in various amateur press associations, online forums, plus lots of published essays — a ton of writing, when you start to consider it all. I think he got his breakout moment when he picked up a blogging gig for Castalia House, which put him in the thick of the political action needed to crack the Hugo ballot.

Now, if only he had a book out collecting some of the best of his work. . . .

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Rediscovered: Fritz Cracks Jeopardy!

The_Wanderer_(Fritz_Leiber_novel_-_cover_art)As I was just reporting, Jeopardy! didn’t have any Hammett clews in March — but they snuck in another Up and Down These Mean Streets favorite that was much more of a surprise.

March 31, snowballing toward Final Jeopardy, with a category in play that I know pretty well: Hugo Award-Winning Novels.

I almost couldn’t believe that none of the contestants could guess Robert A. Heinlein when a clew cited a couple of his Hugo winners, but that’s how it goes.

Back in the 1970s and 80s it seemed as if Heinlein was the great science fiction writer, a rep he’d had since the 1950s. But somehow that position dimmed, and sf guys such as Asimov and Bradbury and Clarke rose higher. Maybe movies at the right moment put them over, but I’d never have believed someone as big as Heinlein was when I began doing litcrit in the field could fall so profoundly.

I remember Fritz Leiber saying that he thought that Heinlein was the great sf writer of their generation. And now he’s not as known by the general public as Asimov. Not even Starship Troopers made him a household name in brainy households. . . .

As the $2000 slot under Hugos popped up — the last one in play before the game moved to Final Jeopardy — I got a start.

“They’re using Fritz! It’s The Wanderer! From 1964!”

One of Fritz’s best, The Wanderer appeared as a paperback original — great book, I’ve long maintained that it would make the best disaster movie of all time. And here it was!

The statement read: “A new planet’s appearance wreaks havoc on Earth in this 1965 winner named for what ‘planet’ means in Greek.”

If, like me, you know the Hugo winners of yesteryear (I pay no attention to what wins today), easy as pie.

They don’t expect you to know Fritz’s name — that would be a bit much, especially if the panel can’t dredge up Heinlein.

The only clew to doping it out — without just knowing what it is — seems to be an understanding of Greek.

In this case, none of the contestants rang in. They didn’t know Fritz or Greek — or enough about the Hugo winners to hazard a guess.

But at least now the unnamed ghost of Fritz Leiber is haunting the Jeopardy! scene. And as far as I’m concerned, Fritz is one of the great science fiction writers. If they make a movie out of The Wanderer, I bet everyone else would realize it, too.

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