Tour: Sunday January 18

don9

Next walk where anyone with $20 and four hours to spare can just show up and gumshoe the mean streets will be Sunday January 18 — and, yes, rain or shine. Bring an umbrella if needed or deck yourself out Old School in hats and trench coats.

Be near the “L” sculpture by noon, ready to go. As easy as that.

(Shot above: tour across Post Street from Spade’s apartment in 891 Post, with the What a Grind coffee shop to one side of the entrance and the coin laundry in 895 Post on the other.)

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Rediscovered: That Haefele/Harksen First Edition Hardcover

DM Promo

You may recall that I had my initial encounter with John D. Haefele — author of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos — back in 2002, when he added his research into Arkham House ephemerae to the stack of notes I had on the subject. The result was an article in the October 2002 issue of Firsts: The Book Collectors magazine on all those brochures and stock lists and flyers. If you collect Arkham and don’t have that issue, you should pencil it in on your Xmas Wish List.

And for those of us who appreciate ephemerae (I used to knock out flyers and brochures for the Hammett Tour back before the website came along and occupied that environmental niche), Haefele just sent me a scan of what must be the earliest piece of ephemerae for his Derleth Mythos project: a single sheet broadside announcing the forthcoming first edition hardcover of the book from Danish publisher Henrik Harksen. He believes about 100 of these sheets were printed up and laid out on a table for just such flyers for the 2010 World Fantasy Convention.

The intended publication date of “Early 2011″ was overly optimistic. They barely squeaked the book out just before the end of 2012. Then the hardback had all of 2013 and most of 2014 to itself, before the completely revised and expanded trade paperback came alive in September.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been making a little hobby of following how Derleth Mythos is doing on the Amazon bestseller list for Horror Litcrit. It seems to hold down the no.2 or no.3 spot most days for over two months now, and at this moment is no.5. Occasionally it slips out of the Top Ten, and for a couple of days dropped out of the Top Twenty.

The most startling thing I noticed, however, was that the first edition hardcover from Harksen’s press suddenly cracked the Top Twenty. What the hell. The revamp costs under $20 — but the Harksen edition was initially selling in the $50-$60 range. When I spotted it in no.11 place on November 16 (the trade paper was at no.4), the asking price had jumped closer to $90. Lately the prices have soared. On ABE books today a single copy is listed for $696 (yes, $696, not a typo), and the last one listed for sale on Amazon — before they put the Harksen in the out-of-print category — was asking $1222.06.

I don’t know the reasons why (other than that Derleth Mythos is the best book on the subject ever done), but obviously Haefele is the object of some rampaging hyper-modern inflation. Like Stephen King back in the day.

If you’re hesitant to jump in with prices surging from $60 to over a thousand in just two months, here’s a collectors tidbit for you: Haefele tells me that the Harksen first edition hardcover apparently sold less than one hundred copies, and of course has been pulled from the market. The complete universe of available copies is in two figures, and I have no intention of selling my copy. Haefele’s Heretics have all assured me they are keeping their copies. Collectors who didn’t get in fast may simply have to get in large.

And as for the two days when Haefele in the new trade paperback dropped out of the Top Twenty — December 6 and 7 — on December 6 the Harksen hardback muscled back in at no.5, and no.15, and no.19. I guess you can’t say Haefele wasn’t in the Top Twenty that day if he cracked the list with $90-and-above copies of his book.

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Hammett: It’s Greek to Me

Greek to Me Photo courtesy Becky Dawidziak — featuring her dad Mark Dawidziak, of Jim Tully biography fame — shot for a class project to take a picture on the two-word theme Proof Reading.

I think she nailed it. Thanks, Becky.

I just crawled out from under one brutal round of proof reading after another on A Big Secret Project, which seemed to come right on the heels of proofing John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos five million times. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a full five million. Maybe it was only three million. Or two. But I feel as if I’ve been proof reading non-stop now for twenty years.

For the blog itself I don’t worry that much about proofing — if I notice a typo after something goes live, I’ll pop in and correct it, sure, but some devices — like the ‘ mark in a term like smoke ‘em — are sometimes impossible to get pointed in the right direction. (Example shown.)

I’ll mess around with one of those six or seven times, trying for a fix, and that’s it. If I can’t get it by then, enough. I’m not typesetting the Gutenberg Bible here.

On rare occasion I’ll make a larger change. About a month ago I deleted a couple of photos, and the companion blurb, per a request — now a bit of lost noir history. (Had a ref to Lee Marvin in it, too, alas. I like Lee Marvin.)

A few months before that I finally made a decision about what to do with something I just had wrong. For awhile, I thought about simply deleting the incorrect bit. Then I thought about doing a post like this one, linking to the error so people could surf back and forth, back and forth, and get the correct info.

Then I would forget about it for a few months.

Ultimately, I went with the easy fix and did a delete on the lines I had wrong. If you remember the post about the theory that in the novel The Maltese Falcon the characters Wilmer Cook and Rhea Gutman are the same person — and Rhea is in drag posing as Wilmer — that’s where the error occurred. I have no idea at this point how I got the info wrong. Maybe I had a touch of sunstroke that day. . . .

But the info I had wrong: I said that I had no idea how the theorist had it that Joel Cairo was Greek. When in the novel he has a Greek passport. Jeez.

On January 26, 2013 I got an e from an Anne Ferguson saying: “Joel Cairo has a Greek passport and says he’s going to complain to the Greek consulate.”

I replied to this effect: “Yeah, yeah, thanks — Sue Montgomery already pointed it out to me.”

Sue was the first person to really bring Rhea Gutman into the discussion on These Mean Streets, and had this to say on the idea of Rhea passing as Wilmer — beyond the bit about Spade going “through the stuff in Cairo’s pockets, it was mentioned specifically that his passport was Greek — ‘a much-viséd Greek passport bearing Cairo’s name and portrait’”:

The person who wrote about how she believed Wilmer Cook and Rhea Gutman were the same person. . . . Nope, I’m not buying that and here is why: I don’t believe Hammett was that devious. Here was a guy who loved to list all the clues (clews) that led him to his “meat” and I sincerely believe that if Wilmer and Rhea were the same person, Spade would have tipped the instant he looked at Rhea’s eyes because of their curling lashes, which were constantly remarked upon about Wilmer — but not a word about Rhea’s lashes.

He mentions nothing at all of her lashes during her drugged performance. As well, he put her to bed and removed her dressing gown. No mention is made of what she was wearing for jammies but he did see her scratched-up stomach so you have to infer that he took a pretty good look at her when putting her to bed (since he is skilled in nonverbal interaction with women, as he admits).  

What had pissed Wilmer off so badly at Spade was, of course, the constant “gunsel” comment as well as “punk,” which also has a submissive sexual partner connotation on top of the derogatory idea of the petty criminal.

Wilmer is not a girl or Cairo would not have been fawning over him.  

And Wilmer just may have liked girls too, explaining his rage at Spade’s comments about Rhea’s scratched stomach because maybe his real thing was with her. The other thing as that the hotel detective at the Alexandra said the Gutman party consisted of Gutman, his daughter and Wilmer.

I just happened to be rereading Falcon just as I read those comments and had not got that far in yet, so paid special attention for clues I may have missed the many other times I have read it.

 

My fave of Sue’s deductions is that obviously Rhea-as-Wilmer wouldn’t have fooled Cairo, which pits one Idea of Coyote — The Trickster — against another. If you’re buying in to the Feminist Idea, then a woman in drag could fool any one, Spade the detective, Cairo the gay paramour, doesn’t matter. The Trickster rules. But if you like the idea of the Gay Trickster, then obviously Cairo wouldn’t have been fooled for an instant.

And since that long-ago post we’ve hosted Midget Bandit Week here at Up and Down, where Warren Harris tracked down the real-life criminal Hammett modeled Wilmer on. In his mug shots from the era Hammett encountered him, Edwin Ware does look somewhat feminine — he may have those long lashes characteristic of Wilmer.

How close was Hammett’s version of the Midget Bandit to the real life model? Did Ware impress Hammett as being an actual gunsel? Warren is digging in to the research and will let us know if he tumbles to any hard info.

But I think the fact that Hammett modeled Wilmer off a specific male yegg further argues against the idea that he really was a dame passing as a two-gun shadow.

Not that anyone really went for that theory — but among the various ideas that have come into play, it is one of the most fun to prod and pry.

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Hollywood Beat: Bogart vs. Raft

bogie

There’s a theory that Humphrey Bogart owes his superstar status to George Raft, because Raft kept turning down key roles that propelled Bogie from second string to Icon.

If you’ve been on the tour, you know that I touch on the subject — The Maltese Falcon from 1941 is a landmark moment.

And if you want to read a more thorough survey of the choices and roles, film-by-film, hop over to the Almost Holmes website and knock yourself out. I emphasize some details differently on the walk, and of course don’t mention as many films — I’ve only got four hours to walk the walk and get people from start to finish. You could yak about this subject for weeks, even the rest of your life. I know I do.

(The Almost Holmes site usually concentrates on Sherlock, of course, but with a strong emphasis on Solar Pons — Pons is the pastiche version of Holmes done by August Derleth, a main subject of the book A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos by my pal John D. Haefele. The book that took me by surprise by becoming an Amazon bestseller — in the horror litcrit category, at least. Coming up on a month in the Top Ten. I’ve seen it drop as low as no.8, but usually it seems to muscle its way to no.3 or no.4. Just did a quick check: back to no.2! A brutal little tank of a book. . . .)

raft

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Rediscovered: A “Lost” Spade-Marlowe Connection

Got a note a couple of days ago asking me if I’d seen the bit “Finding Marlowe” in the LA Times. Guy named Erik Cummins spun it my way, with the preface:

I met you some years ago (about 10-12 or so) on a Dashiell Hammett Tour, which I enjoyed immensely. We concluded the tour with a martini or two at John’s and discussed the relative merits of Hammett and Chandler. We agreed that it was too tough to call, in terms of who was the more important writer.

“Meanwhile,” Erik added, “I found this article extremely interesting, not just for the attempted Chandler-esque. What do you think?”

On a quick inspection, my opinion is that the article is a very clever, richly detailed hoax. (The premise is that an actual black detective in LA inspired Hammett to create Sam Spade and Chandler to give us Philip Marlowe.) If they’d just stuck to Chandler, it would have been more convincing, perhaps — but it’s as if they never heard that Hammett had been a detective himself. The “original” detective didn’t think Red Harvest was authentic? Must never have done any head-breaking in Butte.

And the missing trove of hand-written letters from Hammett and Chandler that could prove it all true? Search harder, dudes. Holograph letters from Hammett and Chandler, especially from that era, are worth thousands of dollars. Thousands. And thousands more.

After Erik popped in the link, Warren Harris also sent it along, with the comment: “Sounds like a load of crap to me. Maybe once I’ve finished with The Midget Bandit, I’ll work on debunking this mess.”

From the guy who gave us Midget Bandit Week, I’m guessing that’s a promise and a threat.

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Rediscovered: Klarkash-Ton for Hallowe’en

cas-enchanter

Toward my seasonal Hallowe’en reading this year, I decided I’d dive back into the eldritch oeuvre of Clark Ashton Smith — it has been far too long since I did any kind of major rereading, though of course I have read his story cycles more than once over the decades.

One of my favorite authors forty years ago, still a fave today.

Plus I have a practical reason for the refresher course: I can use my expertise in Klarkash-Ton Studies as a backstop for John D. Haefele as he works on his next book, Lovecraft: The Great Tales. Some months ago we were chatting and “Out of the Aeons,” a story ghost-written by Lovecraft, came up. I’d just reread that one, and said, yeah, that’s Lovecraft doing his version of one of Smith’s tales of prehistoric Hyperborea — with another nod to Smith in the hapless thief invading a place he really should have steered clear of. . . . So many thieves scaling towers or towering mountains in Clark Ashton Smith, so many. And if you read “Aeons,” you can see Lovecraft paying homage to that action.

Haefele mentioned that many of the so-called major Lovecraft critics don’t know how to deal with Smith’s Hyperborean cycle, which obviously becomes a key component of the Cthulhu Mythos — but they don’t want to include it in the Mythos! Too much work, I guess.

Yet Lovecraft instantly adopted Smith’s funky little demon-god Tsathoggua into his pantheon, and that circle of writers traded influences back and forth constantly, played with each other. (Lovecraft snuck “Out of the Aeons” into print without giving Smith any warning, and when Smith asked if he’d had a hand in the story, Lovecraft replied that “I should say I did have a hand in it . . . I wrote the damn thing!” To amuse and delight one another, that was part of the fun — and what led quickly to the shared-world Cthulhu Mythos.)

So, at the least I figured I’d look over the Hyperborea tales again, and some others of my favorites. And as I read through “The Testament of Athammaus,” about a headsman trying to execute a bandit with some Tsathoggua blood on his mother’s side, I pointed out to Haefele that it shows heavy influence from Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” — in the third return of the beheaded bandito the “cephaloid appendage” came back on the chest, and “one eye had slipped away from all relation with its fellow or the head and was now occupying the navel, . .  . arms had lengthened into tentacles, with fingers that were like knots of writhing vipers” and so forth. Obviously riffing on the large tentacled giant-face-on-the-back Dunwich Horror itself, in what Smith decided was his “best monster to date.”

And the way the Tsathoggua spawn climbs atop the execution block and grows, and grows, reminded me of the similar monster that appears atop the menhir in Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone”. . . .

Made me ponder. “Dunwich Horror” saw print in Weird Tales for April 1929 (but was written in 1928). “Black Stone” in WT for November 1931, but Haefele tells me HPL and REH were talking about subjects that might have inspired the monster in 1930. Apparently CAS thought of the plot of “Athammaus” in 1930 and after he finally wrote it up it hit print in WT for October 1932.

I’ll be curious to see how Haefele fits all these parts and influences together, as CAS nudges HPL’s imagination and HPL inspires CAS, with REH also in the thick of the initial Mythos tales.

And meantime, I get the deep pleasure of revisiting Klarkash-Ton, and at the right time of year.

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Rediscovered: Brian Leno Reviews a Bestseller; or, Amazing Exploits of the Tallest Midget

When I began my casual gig reviewing books for Publishers Weekly back in 2000, I told Pete the editor that I wasn’t interested in covering any novels that were being packaged as “bestsellers” — I did my time earlier in those salt mines doing essays about Stephen King, and that was enough for me. I will on occasion read a bestseller (Hammett sold pretty well, after all), but my plan is to read each and every crime thriller by Jean-Patrick Manchette before I ever crack open a spine on a James Patterson title. Personal preference — if you’re a Patterson partisan, go for it.

I imagine my occasional Guest Blogger Brian Leno thinks the same, yet here we are today both talking about a bestseller: John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos!

A complete surprise to me, though I did kind of predict it in a post the other day when I observed:

Meanwhile, I wonder if we could say that Haefele’s book is a bestseller? On Amazon, it sometimes hovers in the 100,000s but sudden sales drop it down into the 10,000s — highest sales rank I noticed was 27,749. Out of all the books in all the world, I think that’s pretty hot for a volume of litcrit/lit history.

What I didn’t know was that Amazon actually keeps track of sub-categories — even horror litcrit! And for about a week now Haefele’s revamped trade paperback has held down the number 2 spot day after day, dropping to number 3 on occasion, but so far always climbing back up. Considering it is in the market against books about a bestseller like Stephen King and pop topics like zombies and vampires, again, I think that’s pretty damn hot.

If anyone had told you a month ago that a book on August Derleth and Arkham House ever would outsell something about King or the living dead, would you have believed it?

And you won’t hear me griping about unfair competition: as far as I’m concerned, all the books in the horror litcrit category belong there. It is apples to apples. Of course Haefele couldn’t be expected to outperform the new James Patterson novel or a fad diet book.

But some people don’t grasp that idea — such as my longtime pal Scott Connors, who on the Two-Gun Raconteur Facebook page for October 23 chipped in, after news that Haefele made the cut for the horror litcrit bestseller list, that: “A Best Seller in Horror and Supernatural Literature Criticism is like the tallest midget.”

Like Scott himself has ever had any kind of bestseller in his life, and horror litcrit is the precise field he writes in!

And apparently Scott doesn’t understand that he is labeling the poor guys who aren’t selling nearly as well as Haefele this week — such as Bobby Derie, Jason Colavito, S.T. Joshi, Stanley Wiater, Matt Cardin and others — as uber runts.

Short midgets.

The Lollypop Guild choir.

Better to be the Mayor of Munchkin Town, right?

And it’s not as if Scott disagrees with Haefele on the subject of Lovecraft and Derleth.

But I am curious to see how long Haefele stays on this list, at number 2 or in the Top Ten — or Top Twenty. Today he hit his highest sales rank (that I’ve noticed, anyway) at 20,898. Finally, a bestseller I can muster some enthusiasm for!

On the Two-Gun Raconteur blog today Brian Leno blurbs the book — he doesn’t do anything with the bestseller angle, instead concentrating on Haefele’s vital roots in Robert E. Howard fandom/literary criticism. Haefele had labored in Lovecraft fandom for years without getting any particular attention, but when he came over to Howardtown, he was unleashed. Won some awards. Learned to write.

And he displays all those chops in the revised trade paperback. Reflects well on the Howard critics who showed him the ropes.

A bestseller.

Amazing.

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Tour: Walking the Walk

working-stiff-cover

On the tour for October 19 two more writers with a crime connection chalked their names on the mean streets of Hammettville: Judy Meliner and T.J. Mitchell.

One book out so far, non-fiction, on the corpse trade — with plans for fiction.

Noble lineage. Quincy. Bones. Ducky.

I’ve met MEs and coroners before — the late great Boyd Stephens notable among them. Somewhere around here I have some photos of me Dr. Stephens shot, in full tour regalia, hat, trenchcoat.

Maybe not the most lively-looking poses ever recorded, but, hey. The majority of his photographic subjects didn’t move around much.

Yep, lots of writers have done the tour. Willeford. And Ace Atkins. And David Drake. To name a few.

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Tour: On Sunday November 2 and November 9

tour with arms

Two more tours this year where anyone with $20 and four hours to kill can just show up and walk the walk — and after that we’re into Xmas Season, and rains, bleak noir rains (if luck for Frisco is running good).

Translation: show up for one of these or wait for 2015.

Sunday November 2 or Sunday November 9. Noon. Near the “L” sculpture.

Image above: expansive gesture in Olive Street, with the back of the Great American Music Hall looming — the fading letters for “Blanco’s” are just out of range above the top row of windows. Blanco’s, stop 8 for those of you who have the tour book.

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Two-Gun Bob: “Der finstere Barbar”

german reh

I haven’t held an actual copy in my hands as yet, but have been told that the new collection of Robert E. Howard stories from Festa is indeed out and about in the world — offered for sale on Amazon, German-style.

Cool cover. Dark.

Black, even — like the stories by the Texas author that lie within.

Of course, this news might not normally make the cut for Up and Down These Mean Streets — there have been many collections of the fiction of Robert E. Howard in Germany for decades now — but this is the one that includes my “The Dark Barbarian,” title essay from the 1984 book of the same name.

They popped me the reprint fee early last year (received on Howard’s birthday, as it turned out), and I’ve been waiting patiently to see the book hit print. And here it is.

“Der finstere Barbar.” Has a ring to it, you know?

And the late great Robert E. Howard remains The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All.

(Unless, of course, you prefer lightweight nonsensical fare, in which case other books by other authors might suit your tastes better. Nothing wrong, at all, with P.G. Wodehouse, but he wasn’t much with barbarism tearing at the walls of civilization.)

If you want litcrit on REH, The Dark Barbarian still towers over all, thirty years later. A classic — the guys at Festa knew that, and I’m glad they didn’t embarrass me with some pretty brightly-colored un-Howardian cover. They asked for “The Dark Barbarian,” and it seems they knew what they wanted, all the way through.

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