Rediscovered: HPL at 124

I was well aware that yesterday was birthday 124 for H.P. Lovecraft — been doing a lot of rereading of The Old Gent in the past year or so, even grabbed a moment in memoriam to decipher some of his squiggly holograph off a photocopy of a 1932 letter. Noticed a nice tidbit that was left out of the Arkham House Selected Letters set, where Lovecraft mentions:

Oh, yes — about my 46 titles, only 31 have been professionally published. The two long novelettes — “Kadath” & “Charles Dexter Ward” — have never been even typed (god, how I hate that damned machine!), & besides myself no living soul but Donald Wandrei (while on a visit here in 1927) has even read them.

Think about that. As late as November 1932 — Lovecraft would die early in 1937 — Don Wandrei was the only reader for “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” and “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” Might not mean anything to the General Public, but for any Lovecraftians in the audience I think a little awe is in order. Makes me appreciate my days hanging out with Wandrei all the more — never met HPL, but knowing Wandrei had to be close to the same experience.

And if you want to read a nice article on Lovecraft, John J. Miller’s piece from the Claremont Review of Books earlier this year is worth checking out. It became available just in time for the birthday festivities. “Wake me when the stars are wrong again” — great line.

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

Hollywood Beat: Becoming an Instant Icon

bacall first film

Just got a note from Nathan Ward, who is in LA doing more on-the-ground research for his biography of Dashiell Hammett — needless to say, as soon as that one is available I’ll alert everyone who surfs Up and Down These Mean Streets.

Nathan noted, “Well said on Bacall. Was there ever a greater film debut than a 19-year-old saying a line co-written by Faulkner from a book by Hemingway?”

Yeah, To Have and Have Not by itself probably would have done it for her, made her a legend.

Image at top: Bacall lights herself up in To Have and Have Not.

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

Hollywood Beat: An Icon Among Icons


Image above — of course — Lauren Bacall being lit up by Bogie in that classic of San Francisco film noir, Dark Passage.

As everyone from The Hollywood Reporter on down has been saying, when Bacall died on Tuesday August 12, an era passed. The last icon of that age of Hollywood, gone. When you think that Bogart himself died in 1957, it is quite amazing.

But I think it is safe to say that the legends will live on.

If you refer to your copy of the latest tour book, page 180 and 181, you see the report on how The Dashiell Hammett Tour once crossed paths with Bacall — as I wrote, “there are icons and then there are icons,” and Bacall was an Icon.

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

Tour: Sundays, August 10 and August 31


On Sunday August 10 and again on Sunday August 31, anyone who wants to show up with $20 and four hours to invest can hike the Hammett trails that thread through the jungle of mean streets that is San Francisco.

Show up by noon — yes, high noon, not noon-thirty, not 1p.m. — near the landmark revolving “L” sculpture.

No reservations. Sure, you can promise on your complete collection of the pulp Black Mask that you’ll be there, but if in fact you aren’t there, what can I do about it?

A few weeks back someone popped me an email solicitation to get The Dashiell Hammett Tour signed on for Groupon, so that I could “fill up” the walks. Please. This walk is for Hammett and pulp and noir fans — and more casual folk who sense that even without extensive background knowledge, it’s simply a great tour. If only one or two people show up, then I take only one or two people. If no one shows, I return to my lair and go back to sleep. No hard feelings.

(Photo at top — tour halfway back Burritt alley, where Miles Archer got the lead pill drilled through his pump.)

Posted in Tour | Tagged |

Rediscovered: Another Manchette Down

mad and badWhile I wasn’t paying close attention, New York Review Books has slipped another novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette into English translation — excellent. Only took them three years, but that is much better than the previous gap of nine years between novels for those of us who don’t read the French language.

Now we have four of the ten Manchettes available and only six more to go. Guess I’m going to have to work on living for a few more years, because I really like these books. As I said when bemoaning the nine year gap, Manchette probably isn’t for every crime reader, but ought to suit the taste of Up and Down These Mean Streets regulars. If you surf in searching for Willeford and Kakonis, Red Harvest and noir, you have a target on your forehead and these novels are the bullets in the clip.

Found this blurb for The Mad and the Bad surfing around — as you can see, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, and they should.

Posted in Lit, News | Tagged , |

Blog: Say “Cheese”

Bill Arney

In the shot above — used previously for a post of yesteryear — Bill Arney stands against the frame of the Murphy bed in Sam Spade’s apartment in 891 Post Street and regales a tour group with some anecdotage.

Bill is famed as the greatest (and alas, former) inhabitant of those rooms, and also has some renown for acting as the Voice of Noir City when it does its annual run in the Castro Theatre. And lately he’s been hosting his own theatre on cable — Cheese Theatre.

Bill and Cheese finally have entered the blogosphere if you want to surf over and check out his bio, see which flicks are coming up. Not a lot of content yet — you can get lots more Bill images by clicking on his name in my Tag Cloud — but I’m betting he’ll get in the swing of things. It’s like going into a new bar — at first you don’t want to say much, scoping out the terrain, but pretty soon everyone knows you’ve got opinions.

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

Rediscovered: Tom Kakonis

Criss_CrossOn the tour Sunday various people asked me at various times as we hiked along whether or not Pinkerton’s was still around — couldn’t say for sure, but something easy to Google up and resolve. Not that any of us bothered at the time.

But it reminded me that it seems that I haven’t noticed a Pinkerton’s armored car in a year, two years, which at the end got a few of us talking about armored cars.

Which led to me doing a plug for the movie Palookaville, one of my favorites — it’s got an armored car caper in it. Plus there’s the classic Armored Car Robbery (sampled in Palookaville), and the more recent Armored — a whole little sub-genre.

And of course I mentioned the Tom Kakonis novel Criss Cross, a novel no fan of armored car capers should miss. As I said in a tour brochure back in 1992, Criss Cross is more or less the Kakonis version of The Maltese Falcon, a modern hardboiled masterpiece.

That micro-essay on Kakonis and the ultra-hardboiled just got reprinted on July 18 on the Brash Books website, part of the promo effort to bring the Kakonis backlist into print. Hey, anything I can do to help out.

I’m digging into an advance copy of the new Kakonis novel now — release date September 2 — and unless he screws the pooch with the ending, he’s still got it.

As always, he’s especially good with the scenes of lowlife thugs. Very, very funny.

Posted in Lit, News, Tour | Tagged , , , , , |

Sinister Cinema: In Hilly Alabam

AlabamWhen last seen here on Up and Down These Mean Streets, Hollywood tour guide Charlie Morfin supplied us with a shot of the Dashiell Hammett Street sign when they got the spelling wrong — white hot news back in 2011, kicked off a little series of posts.

Plus he did some mugging in Burritt alley — not that kind of mugging, this kind of mugging.

And I always liked that shot of me and Charlie hoofing up Elwood alley.

Now it turns out he’s writing books, too. I glanced at the title Location Filming in the Alabama Hills and my first thought was, why the hell would some guy like Charlie — with a toehold in Hollywood — head off to Alabama?

A bit of attention paid to the blurb, though, tipped off that that’s the name of some hills outside LA where tons of movies have been shot. Looking at the rocks on the cover, I’m betting that the 1957 Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher oater The Tall T was shot there — great little movie, with Richard Boone, and Henry Silva chewing up the Alabama Hills scenery as a creepy psycho killer owlhoot. If they shot that one someplace else, Silva chewed up that scenery, too — came close to stealing the film with his performance.

For all you film fans — especially the ones who like to track down the shooting locales.

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

Tour: Hot Off the Mean Streets

My gumshoes have barely stopped smoking after leading the tour yesterday and I learn that Bill O’Such already has a photo gallery up for any and all to see. He wasn’t lugging around that camera just for grins.

You’ve got some shots of me in hat and trenchcoat, of course, plus Hammett landmarks and literary plaques. But the selection is more offtrail than the usual you see when I run pics — whatever Bill wanted to shoot, signs, logos, fire escapes — even a photo of the old Key Klub bar. I have a wooden nickel from the Key Klub. Someplace.

The guy in the red shirt in one image was kind of the star attraction, because he reminded me so much of my pal and local Hammett stalwart Bill Arney that I almost couldn’t believe it. Could easily pass for brothers if not twins, and it wasn’t just the looks — similar sense of humor, the works. I haven’t seen a doppelganger in awhile now, but I have before, and I did yesterday.

Posted in Frisco, Tour | Tagged , , , |

Tour: July 20 AND July 27


Okay, kind of last second, but some people asked about a tour on Sunday July 27 — and you may consider it a Go.

I figure the New York Times article may have kicked up enough dust to cause way too many people to show up for the walk on Sunday July 20. To take some of that pressure-cooker tension off, you could hold off a week and walk the walk on the 27th. Or wait it out a little longer and hit tours on Sundays August 10th and 31st — and Sunday September 21st. Plus others may get added in as the requests build up.

Have gumshoes, will travel.

In the shot above the tour pauses, as usual, across the street from 891 Post, abode of Sam Spade. I’m gesturing up to the windows (top story, rightmost panes). Did a tour by appointment yesterday and found that the broken, boarded-up windows I was talking about the other day have been fixed, and they look pretty much like the windows in this pic.

Posted in Tour | Tagged , |