Tour: Sundays May 7 and 28

Keeping the roll going, anyone who wants to show up palming a $20 with four hours to kill can join in on Hammett Tours set for Sunday May 7 and Sunday May 28.

No appointment needed, just show up by noon, ready for some gumshoe action.

Someone hauling in from out of the burg asked for another just-show-up walk for Sunday June 11 — we’ll see if more dates pile up for June, and July.

(And of course any groups by appointment leave the station at the desired dates and times.)

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Rediscovered: Another Correct Answer for Jeopardy!

Terry Zobeck just read the most recent post about a Hammett question on Jeopardy!

To the statement about the PI hired by the “fragrant Miss Wonderly” Terry says, “I wonder what Alex would have said if one of the contestants had replied ‘Who is Miles Archer?’

Good one, Terry.

I imagine a moment of hesitation, perhaps even a “No” — but the clew team would have had to inform Alex that that response was as correct as hell, right?

If not, there’d be protests and rioting on the Mean Streets, for sure.

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Rediscovered: Jeopardy! Double-Dips the Black Mask Gang

And good old Jeopardy! has hit the Hammett Clew Pile again!

April 5, the category Avian Literature — you don’t have to be an expert in hard-boiled lit to just yell out “The Maltese Falcon!” before any hints get dropped.

Sure enough, the $800 clew: “In ‘The Maltese Falcon,’ this detective is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderly.”

Amy from Denver rang in and said, “Who is Sam Spade?”


(I admit contemplating the use of “fragrant” in the statement for a few minutes, just long enough to check the novel but not long enough to pop the DVD of the Bogie version into the machine — my guess is that the clewsters kind of mixed up Brigid with Joel Cairo. Cairo is quite notably fragrant. Chypre in the book — maybe gardenias in the flick?)

I figured that was it for the episode, but they dipped into the gang of writers for Black Mask again before the end. Like Hammett, Raymond Chandler pops up in clews pretty often, but offhand I don’t recall a single show where they referenced both titans of that wood pulp.

The category “Before,” No After — $800 slot again:

It completes the title 1001 Books You Must Read. . . of which “The Big Sleep” is one

Again Amy from Denver answered, “What is ‘Before You Die’?”

Correct. I suppose The Maltese Falcon comes up in that list of 1001 books, too.

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Two-Gun Bob: Appreciating an American Tough Guy

John D. Haefele told me I was way off the other day when I said that one of his chapters in the upcoming Lovecraft: The Great Tales ran 50,000 words, at least in rough draft. He figured it probably was more like 20,000 (maybe it was the chapter covering At the Mountains of Madness, and it just felt like 50,000 words). In any case, he’s plunging toward the finish line and estimates a word count of 300,000 or so when he breaks the tape.

Our pal Brian Leno is moving a tad slower with his book on the boxers of Robert E. Howard’s era, but he’s plugging along, round after round on the machine, and reports 30,000 words logged so far. If he didn’t have to check weigh-in stats for one fight after another, double-check all the guys who crossed fists in a thousand blood-spattered rings, he might have a higher word count.

In any event, he’ll get there. No one in Howard Studies knows as much about boxing as Brian. And while I’m willing to concede the possibility that someone out there might know as much about the pugilists of the era as Brian, I’m sure they wouldn’t know anything about Robert E. Howard.

Here’s a tidbit Brian came across in pursuit of those brawlers of yesteryear — a little tipoff that his boxing book won’t be for the faint of heart:


The pic above is of William “Bill the Butcher” Poole of Gangs of New York fame — Daniel Day-Lewis played the role in the movie. Poole certainly was a tough nut.

I know many Mean Streets readers appreciate tough guys, as did Robert E. Howard, who wrote in a September 22, 1932 letter to Lovecraft:

There have been, however, few more desperate rogues than those living in old New York, from all I can hear. In the days of the Hudson Dusters, the Dead Rabbits and other gangs. Bill Poole, the leader of the ‘native Americans’ must have possessed incredible vitality, to have lived fourteen days. . . with a bullet under his heart.

Howard also writes, “I’d have given five dollars to have seen the fight John Morrissey had with Poole.”

Wikipedia states that Poole was the founder of the Bowery Boys — obviously not the Hollywood rendition in which the name lives on. And Wiki quotes the New York Daily News about the incident in 1851 when Poole and another noted pugilist, Thomas Hyer, entered Florence’s Hotel:

It appears that Thomas Hyer, William Poole, and several others entered the above hotel, and while one of the party held Charles Owens (the bar-keeper) by the hair of the head, another of the gang beat him in the face to such an extent that his left eye was completely ruined and the flesh of his cheek mangled in the most shocking manner.

In an earlier paragraph, the newspaper reported that Owens’ face was “beat to a jelly.”

When he cashed in his chips, Bill Poole supposedly said, “Good bye boys; I die a true American.” 

Posted in Boxing, REH | Tagged , , , |

Tour: Mentioned Alongside Janis and Jerry

For anyone who wants to surf over and check it out, the Hammett Tour just got a line or two in an article by Patricia Corrigan in the Napa Valley Register.

Patricia — author of 100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die — runs through a roster of famous folk who have lived in The City, with addresses for many, including Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, and lots more.

You’ve got your noir San Francisco, your rock San Francisco, Beat and movie and serial killer San Francisco.

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Frisco Beat: The Painted Gun

I should mention a new crime novel that popped earlier this month, since it’s got the local angle for those of you who may be collecting San Francisco mysteries — rife with Bay Area action, though toward the end it moseys down into Guatemala as if influenced by Kent Harrington. I thought of Kent’s Frisco/Guatemala crossovers more than once as I was reading this one.

I did my more weighty review of Bradley Spinelli’s The Painted Gun elsewhere — you can catch a few of my anonymous lines on the Amazon page (and a couple I didn’t write, from the same review). Overall, I enjoyed it, seeing it as something of a romp through a variety of “mystery” stylings. A hard-boiled start with a couple of paragraphs about inhaling cigarette smoke. A nice run of puzzle mystery clewing. Kind of a little tour de force — though one big serious fan of crime writing on Mystery*File seemed bothered by it. I don’t think Spinelli was trying to out-Pynchon Thomas Pynchon, myself, but I guess I could be wrong.

For purposes of These Mean Streets, the author blurbs mention that Spinelli lived in the Bay Area awhile, notably South San Francisco where the protagonist also lives. Most of the local details are good, though with any of these books you look — or I look — for details that don’t ring right.

Spinelli has been based in Brooklyn lately, and clearly wasn’t on scene to triple-check every Friscoid detail.

Just from memory, he suggests that Hill Street kind of where it intersects Valencia is just one block long, but it picks up again for several blocks as it climbs the rocky slope to the west.

In route to some scenes in Chinatown from Market there is the suggestion that a hill of some consequence is in the way, but that route is mostly flat by San Francisco standards — unless you go around the wrong way and have to trudge over Nob Hill, or get really lost and find yourself on some rocky outcropping of Russian Hill.

And there’s a scene where the Mission Street bus is running along Market, which I can’t wrap my mind around — though admitting that perhaps at the very time Spinelli was in town soaking up the atmosphere it may have been detoured for some sort of construction.

For this sort of thing, three quibbles isn’t bad — after all, Robert B. Parker put the toll booths on the wrong end of the Golden Gate Bridge in one of his Spencer novels.

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Rediscovered: The Lost Arkham Imprint


I forgot to mention that John D. Haefele wrapped up his three-part series on August Derleth and the Little Review. The third part is kind of the good one — the closer — since it deals with Derleth’s own little review, Hawk & Whippoorwill, and the short-lived poetry imprint that went with it.

For you Arkham House collectors out there, Haefele does a complete list of the various books printed for Derleth in England by Villiers, instead of the usual jobbing out to the George Banta Company. He digs in deep, and it appears that Derleth went with Villiers largely to keep costs down on H&W, though of course he ended up using them for several items released through Arkham House proper.

But for some reason Derleth didn’t include the H&W imprint in Thirty Years of Arkham House. Trust to Haefele to come up with a logical answer after mulling over all his sources — and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some of his insight by casting the runes on the windswept hillside when the stars are right.

I suppose my favorite angle is musing over the poetry books that look like they were being prepped for H&W release, but instead appeared under the aegis of Arkham House, such as my pal Stanley McNail’s Something Breathing. Stan began as a regional Midwestern poet — Black Hawk Country — and seemed like a natural for the H&W set. Yet he made the cut for Arkham with his little book, and that toehold on literary immortality.

And you may be pleased to know that doing the occasional tidbit on Arkham and collecting hasn’t slowed down Haefele’s work on his monumental Lovecraft: The Great Tales. He’s been popping me chapters to look over for months now, with only one more to go. Then he’ll attack the mass of wordage overall — if I recall correctly, some chapters run over 50,000 words each.

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Tour: Sundays April 9 and 23

Image: Dashiell Hammett Tour perched atop the Stockton Tunnel, about to hike over to where Miles Archer got his. . . .

Anyone who wants to show up clutching a $20 with four hours to kill —- no appointment necessary — can hit the mean streets on the tour on either Sunday April 9 or Sunday April 23. Rain or shine.

The walk on April 9 keeps up the off-and-on tradition of doing a Palm Sunday Tour, in memoriam Charles Willeford. After a few years of my usual brooding and procrastination, I think it’s time to do a little revamp on my book Willeford for an eBook version. That’ll remind me, after it has slipped my mind for yet another month.

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Hammett: Meanwhile, Back in Alaska

For anyone interested, Devon Morf in his recent notes also mentioned:

Not sure if it’s on your radar already, but the current issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History is running a Hammett war correspondence piece called “Showdown in the Aleutians” adapted from his The Battle of the Aleutians booklet.

For Hammett completists or anyone wanting an easy look into his WWII experiences.

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Rediscovered: The Kind of Willefordian Resume of David Yow

Got a note in from Devon Morf, who sprang into action on the tip I just gave out:

“Thanks for the recommendation on I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Watched it last night.

“Recognized the villain as David Yow, who was the vocalist for Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard — two noisy, raw, post-punk, rock bands that were part of my soundtrack in the 80’s and 90’s.

“Live, he was capable of exuding some of that same creepiness.”

Trust me, if you’re like me and Devon, that Netflix film is worth watching just for Yow and his flunkies, like something out of a Charles Willeford novel.

My only hesitation in giving it an all-out plug is that the movie starts slow, with no indication you’re going to get anything out of the ordinary.

In a way, nothing wrong with that — I just don’t want anyone to miss it because they can’t sense what’s coming.

As soon as the movie got into the Willefordesque stuff, I had the thought that they must have been faced with the same decision Willeford was in his final Hoke Moseley novel, The Way We Die Now.

I describe that scenario in my book on Willeford, but the gist of it is that Hoke wanders into a farm run by the bad guys — archly Willefordian bad guys. But until that moment, the reader has no indication they were that bad (pity some poor soul who picks up Willeford thinking they’re getting some run-of-the-mill crime novel).

That’s what I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore does, just plops you down in the plot with no idea something wild is coming down the road.

With Willeford, he got kickback from the publisher, saying that the way he had it generated no suspense. If you’re blissfully unaware of the snakepit Hoke is walking into, you have no time to build up worry.

So, even though he was happy with the treatment, Willeford heeded the advice and wrote the little opening chapter showing how bad the bad guys were (the justly famous or infamous scene of cutting the baggie from the asshole of the dead Haitian — you’re either rushing out to read the book, or you’re appalled and not likely to become a Willeford fan — and if you haven’t read him, try to read the four Hoke novels in order).

The story of that new opening chapter is a lot cooler than this bare bones outline, and marks a high point in Willeford’s creative output, in my opinion.

With the movie, it’s hard to say if showing the bad guys up front would have done more creatively for the surprise and delight of the viewers than the way they work it. With this film, progressing slowly toward the creepy might be best — kind of like Blue Velvet.

Posted in Dash, Film, News, Willeford | Tagged , , , , , |