891 Post: Threatened by Fire — Again

The title on the email just received from Mark Murphy, a current inhabitant of 891 Post:

Major Fire at 642 Hyde almost spreads to 891 Post

On the car radio around midnight I heard about a fire near the corner of Post and Hyde, but figured, Naw, the Hammett/Sam Spade building can’t be that unlucky. We had the Buddhist temple fire on the top floor a few years ago, and before that the building right across Hyde Street blew up, but another one. . .?

Mark tells me, “Came home about 11:00 last night, and half an hour later I hear loud crashing noise outside my back windows. I look out the window and there are major flames licking out one of the windows in the 642 Hyde building behind me.

“I can literally feel the heat and some of the flames are just inches away from my window. Had to evacuate the entire building for about an hour.

“Fortunately Sam’s place escaped any damage, far as I can tell, and they let us all back in about an hour later.

“Will the drama never cease?”

If you stand facing the front of the building so you can see Sam’s Place top floor right, Mark is on the same floor but in the rear, kitty corner.

Close one. Always a close one.

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Rediscovered: “Lost” Lovecraft in the Ransom Center

And just in time to serve as additional background for the Weird Tales panel planned for PulpFest — the panel to cover the editorial policies of longtime WT editor Farnsworth Wright, but of course concentrating on how those often bizarre policies impacted the writers who have emerged triumphant from those pulp pages, notably birthday boy H.P. Lovecraft.

Brought to light from the extensive Ransom trove in the Humanities Research Center in Austin — where the last unpublished Hammett stories and fragments and Including Murder have been housed — the letter is from Lovecraft to WT’s publisher dated February 2, 1924, at a moment when the first editor for the magazine is preparing to leave and they kind of want Lovecraft himself to take over the editorial reins.

Instead, they got Wright.

Must reading, needless to say, especially if you plan on witnessing the panel at PulpFest. And it is actually a typescript for the most part, rather than Lovecraft’s squiggly holograph, so you can breeze through without any translating-the-hieroglyphs pauses.

Lots of good stuff, including a plot synopsis for the “lost” HPL novel Azathoth — which by one turn of imagination or another obviously became The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

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Rediscovered: Lost Books of the Amazon

Amazon DonAfter who knows how many years of goofing off, I finally got around to getting my Author Page on Amazon looking pretty.  Some photos, a basic blurb, updates fed in from this blog — and a few but by no means all of the books with some connection to me scrolling across the top.

It’s odd what the techno hoops you jump through will allow vs. what they won’t. At the moment, the only link they’ll do for the current edition of the Hammett Tour book is for the Kindle — but there is a main page for that item that offers the options of hardback, paperback or eBook. Obviously that would be the page to send people to, but Noooooo. . . .

And I checked some of the other books to make sure the Author Page was presenting with them — and what did I discover? Only that a page for the second edition of The Literary World of San Francisco — which has been out-of-print for, what, twenty years? — listed the overall sales rank as 2,781,588 (like I said, it has been o.p. for decades) but that it still managed to crack the Top 100 in sales for travel books about San Francisco.

Yeah, yesterday it was logging in at no.97.

I perhaps will never understand the complexities of the Amazon bestseller sub-lists, but I’m guessing enough copies are out there moving around on the used book market to keep it in the game. Somehow.

And more power to those used copies. I’ll be lugging one along tonight for backup as I conduct a literary walk around North Beach, by appointment with the Alfa Romero Club. I hardly ever do those walks any more, but the public asked for it, so why not?

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Rediscovered: Dustjackets for Derleth


Even though we are nearing the end of over four months in release, it is still fun for me to keep track of how A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos by my pal John D. Haefele is doing on the Amazon Bestseller List for Horror Litcrit. For a day, three days, he sometimes has fallen out of the Top Twenty, but bounces back into the Top Ten. On January 21/22/23 it looked like the book might be in a death spiral, in free fall out of the Top 21-40 — positions 27, 29, 32, 34. . . . Uhoh.

Then by noon on the 23rd it was back to no.2 and as I mock up this post, it sits at no.4. A brutal little tank of a book.

While my favorite aspect of the book is the brilliant criticism it contains on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft (Haefele tells me he believes he’ll have the first draft of his next book, Lovecraft: The Great Tales, ready before PulpFest), he approaches that subject via a look into August Derleth and Arkham House, and the birth of the Cthulhu Mythos. (I wonder, if we talked Haefele into coming to PulpFest, which panel exactly would he have to appear on?)

Out of the blue another pal, Brian Leno, sent me a link to a business that manufactures facsimile dustjackets for collectable books — since, let’s face it, no one is going to pay money for a replacement dustjacket on an uncollectable book. And the page Brian selected features an array of jackets for what I take are the high ticket items from the Derleth bibliography. Once you are on site, you can poke around and see what else they have available — as harmless a hobby as keeping track of bestseller lists, unless you are possessed by the impulse to replace all the battered djs in your library with shiny new ones. But the business apparently is in San Francisco, so in that case at least you’d be contributing to the local economy.

Me, I’m more or less a purist for that sort of thing, which is to say I prefer to match the book on the shelf with the dustjacket it has lived its life in. If the book has some damage or bookplates, hey, who hasn’t taken some punches along the way.

In a choice between a book that has no jacket and slipping on a new one, however, I won’t deny a spine looks much better on the shelf inside that jacket.

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Frisco Beat: Home of the Hoodlum


I’m always interested in slang, and one tidbit I picked up somewhere is that the term “hoodlum” originated in San Francisco — seems like it should have jumped to life in Brooklyn, or the London slums, but no. Right here.

Tony Oertel just popped in a link to some very thorough background on those origins, including a mastermind nicknamed Fagin (for you Charles Dickens fans, and who isn’t?). Cites for contemporary newspaper articles. Maps.

If you also like that sort of thing, as usual knock yourself out.

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Hammett: Adak and Environs

Hammett alaska

Barb Johnson just sent in a link to a new article on Hammett in Alaska by Peter Porco — with a slideshow of images. By all means surf over and check it out.

Thanks, Barb.

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Rediscovered: Better Off Ted Season Two

ted 2

Recently on his blog James Reasoner did a blurb for the Brit sitcom The IT Crowd, which sounded like something I’d like — yep, hilarious. So I just returned the favor and suggested he look up Better Off Ted.

I’ve only mentioned Better Off Ted once before on this blog, casually, with the plaintive lament: “Will I ever own a hard copy of Season Two of Better Off Ted?”

Yeah, plaintive. One of my all-time fave TV shows, endlessly watchable — and re-re-watchable. So it irked me that Season Two wasn’t available on DVD, much less BluRay. Sure, at the moment both seasons are streaming on Netflix. Until they get pulled. Or the signal stops. Which is why — for my faves — I want hard copies. Same for movies. Authors. Music.

That lament rang out two years and two days ago, but I am happy to report that I put my money where my mouth is and got Season Two as soon as it hit DVD, just before Xmas last year. Now I think what I need is a BluRay compilation of The Complete Better Off Ted, with extras like contemporary commercials, interviews and outtakes — stuff you can look up on YouTube, but it all deserves to be part of the total package. If they’re going to cancel a great show the least they can do is put everything together. The vulgar outtakes which could never have been aired on broadcast TV for the episode “The Impertence of Communicationizing.” Or the cast reunion for the rap video “Revenge of the Nerds.”

I was hoping for a bit of deja vu when I learned that Phil and Lem were going to be reunited in the 2014 TV pilot Mission Controlbut like Hoke, that one was killed off before ignition. We probably need a cable channel that only screens pilot episodes for series that never get picked up.

But then, what if we really liked those pilots. . . .

Yet another thing to get depressed about, hence the need for Better Off Ted. The IT Crowd. My Name Is Earl. . . .

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Rediscovered: Jeopardy! Loves Hammett Trivia

Oh, yeah — on the episode of Jeopardy! broadcast on January 9, a category in the Double Jeopardy! round was titled Arlington National Cemetery.

The $2000 clew (supposedly the most difficult) read: A veteran of both world wars, this creator of Sam Spade was buried in Arlington in 1961.

And in this case the guy answering got it right.

Just in time for the 54th anniversary of Hammett’s death on the 11th. . . .

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Tour: Sunday February 22

012412 tour18

We’ve got a Hammett tour coming up fast, where anyone can show up palming twenty bucks and walk the walk — this Sunday, January 18.

Next one in line rolls up on Sunday February 22. Meets at noon, near the “L” sculpture. Ought to take four hours or slightly longer. If interested, just show up with $20, comfortable shoes, and a cynical world-weary attitude coupled with a line of quick patter.

Gumshoes will travel, rain or no rain.

Image above: the tour near the spot where Miles Archer, partner of Sam Spade, took a tumble in Burritt alley.

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Hammett: The Midget Bandit in Portland

I also got in a note from Warren Harris — he of the legendary Midget Bandit Week here on Up and Down These Mean Streets — who continues to delve into the life and criminal exploits of Edwin Ware.

Warren included a link to a blog post out of Portland with “some new information I dug up on the Midget Bandit.” Needless to say, all you fans of the MB should surf over instantly.

He also tells me that the Fresno County Library is doing The Maltese Falcon as the Big Read this spring: “I’ve been invited to speak at the Sisters-in-Crime meeting on March 14 at the the Yosemite Falls Cafe’s (Ashland & 99) meeting room in Fresno.” More details as they are solidified.

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