Two-Gun Bob: Famous No.1, then Leno No.1, then. . .

After I blurbed that my new eBook Famous Someday got to no.1 on the Amazon list for Kindle — sub-category horror, sub-sub-category litcrit on horror — I realized that it probably hadn’t been the actual no.1.

It was no.1 in the further sub-division, New Releases.

I was contemplating jumping online and correcting my error, but by the time I had doped out my mistake, Famous Someday jumped into the actual no.1 spot for a few hours.  I then figured, What the hell.

That was on the 12th. The next day Famous was holding at no. 2 and 3 when I checked, but then — a real What the hell moment — Brian Leno’s Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation was no.1.

A few hours later Famous was again no.1, and was no.1 when I began typing up this report.

Brian was extremely pleased to hit no.1 — on an eBook that’s been available for three years. Classic stuff, fighting its way to the top of the heap. He’s been a frequent guest blogger on this site, so if you want to sample his wares before dropping three bucks on his eBook, dive into the archives.

Leno also pointed out to me that early in the day on the 15th — today — that all four Cimmerian Press eBooks on Robert E. Howard were in the top ten. Famous was then no.2, Leno was 5, Morgan Holmes’ Enter the Barbarian was 8 and my Litcrit MegaPack on the creator of Conan was 10.

With these titles, to paraphrase Strother Martin, What we have here. . . is ability to communicate.

For some irony, certain fanboys in REH circles have been trying recently to build a narrative that my writings on Howard are all old, out-of-date — that I am no longer relevant.


Gee, I don’t feel irrelevant. Irreverent, perhaps. . . .

Posted in News, REH | Tagged , , , , , |

Rediscovered: “Heavy Metal” — The Term

Last week I was half-reading/half-skimming John Locke’s new book The Thing’s Incredible, the Secret Origins of Weird Tales — life is short, so any clump of pages covering the ancestral background of Otis Adelbert Kline and company I let my eyes glide over like a drone in flight.

Made a note that future WT editor Farnsworth Wright did a stint in San Francisco in his youth, the family living in 3006 Steiner in Cow Hollow or the Marina (depending on where you want to set the neighborhood break) in the years before the 1906 quake and fire.

Something else caught my notice. You know how people — and the OED and related — are always trying to track down the first usages of words and terms?

Surf over and look at this bit about the term “heavy metal” — origins in chemistry, though William S. Burroughs generally gets credit for the earliest ref that might have eased the term toward the cultural moment when it nailed its rank down as the name of some specific music.

(You know, Heavy Metal. I still think Led Zeppelin ought to count as more than proto pioneers of the genre, and Blue Cheer with Vincebus Eruptum, hey, what more need be said?)

I noticed Locke quoting from an H.P. Lovecraft letter to James Ferdinand Morton for February 19, 1924 — Morton was one of the Old Gent’s most frequent correspondents and, without checking my memory, I’m pretty sure that HPL had a letter to Morton underway on his desk, left unfinished when he as taken off to the hospital where he died in 1937.

Lovecraft was commenting on the salary of Edwin Baird, the first editor for WT, vs. changes at the magazine: “I’m kinda sorry if it cuts into his incomin’ heavy metal, for I like the guy — but Fate is Fate.”

No one would have seen or noticed HPL’s dropping of the two words before Burroughs got it going in the culture, since Lovecraft’s letters didn’t show up in print until much later. But what you have here is an interim moment between “heavy metal” used in chemistry and for loud fast music —“heavy metal” used as slang for coin, loot, boodle, bundle, mazuma.

Linguistically, Lovecraft was quite the hep cat, slinging the slang like a master.

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

Tour: Mentioned in the NYT Again

Or so I’m told.

After the tour yesterday I dropped in on the Second Sunday gathering of local f&sf fans — the fanzine fans of yesteryear — since this round it was in the Elks Lodge bar near where the walk ends up. They’ve got an Elk in their midst to slip the barkeep the secret password.

One guy asked me if I’d seen the mention in the New York Times earlier in the year, and I hadn’t. Nice news, but he seemed disappointed that I didn’t display a wilder burst of enthusiasm — he concluded that I’m used to that sort of thing, and it doesn’t matter too much to me any more.

Kind of true. The first write-up I ever got in the NYT was the one that caused me to run around flailing my arms and screaming. Then I got the occasional mentions when they would do their San Francisco coverage once a year, and the most recent one that I have seen — the noir story I shadowed my way into — was pretty big, too. In fact, the mention this year apparently was a reference or link back to the noir deal, but got the Dashiell Hammett Tour evoked once again in the Times.

Always cool to get a mention in the Times. Paper of record, that sort of thing.

That I didn’t spring away from my beer and drop down into a breakdance doesn’t mean I wasn’t glad to hear the news.

Posted in Frisco, News, Tour | Tagged , , |

Two-Gun Bob: Famous Someday No. 1

Damn. I slept through it!

When I woke up today I thought to check to see if the eBook Famous Someday, which I blurbed yesterday, had made it to any kind of sales ranking on Amazon.

Turns out it’s doing great at no.3 — BUT near the top it bore the banner “#1 New Release.”


And that’s No.1 in Horror and Supernatural Literature Litcrit releases. No.1 on Kindle Horror and Supe litcrit releases.

But No.1, nonetheless. Take THAT, complete short stories of H.P. Lovecraft!

(Yeah, old HPL crept back into the top spot soon after, but like I was saying, books like that aren’t right for the category — they ought to go into fiction or short stories or something. How they can expect almost any litcrit offering to beat the sales on the Complete Lovecraft is beyond me.)

Offhand, I only remember hitting a No.1 spot on Amazon once before, when my Literary World of San Francisco made it to No.1 bestselling travel book about the city — after it had been out-of-print for around twenty years.

The mysteries of the Amazon sales rankings. . . .

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Two-Gun Bob: The First Robert E. Howard Biograph TriplePunchPack

Yesterday the eBook Famous Someday popped on Kindle — another Robert E. Howard TriplePunchPack from The Cimmerian Press, but this time instead of litcrit the concentration is on biography.

Interviews with people who knew REH. Investigations into books from the library of Howard’s father — with the concurrent fascination with the amazing doodles you’ll find inside the covers.

All this material first appeared in the pages of The Cimmerian magazine over a decade ago, so if you’ve got a complete collection, in a sense you’ve got it covered. Except, TC was printed in b&w, and the eBook uses full color for the images. Those doodles really catch the eye when viewed in color.

And if you don’t have a complete collection of TC, or you’re a new guy wandering in from the wilderness, hey, there you go. The market this one is serving.

Plus — being most honest here — when I was proofing away I realized that somehow (don’t know how) back in the day I managed to leave one of the books from Doctor Howard’s library list out of the list. The print mag records twenty-five items. The eBook, you get twenty-six.

How could I have forgotten Daniel and the Inter-Biblical Period from 1915?

Cool title.

And I don’t know if there is a connection, but earlier today Brian Leno sent me notice that on the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list for horror litcrit that my eBook Megapack The Dark Barbarian That Towers Overall ranked at no.2 (couldn’t nudge the complete fiction of Lovecraft out of the top spot, but then what is a collection of fiction doing in the horror litcrit list, anyway?). The earlier TriplePunchPacks Enter the Barbarian by Morgan Holmes and Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation by Leno ranked no.3 and no.4, respectively.

Top of the world, ma!

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Tour: Some (Semi-Complicated) October Walks

Shot above: standing on the n.e. corner of Geary and Mason for a tour by appointment with Sisters in Crime, Saturday August 5, 2017. Looking west out Geary, the old Geary Theatre looming above the first red car. . . .

A couple of days ago I did my first walk since going under the knife earlier this year, partly because the guy REALLY wanted a tour, and I figured I might as well find out if I could stand up, walk around and talk for a few hours.

I made it through. Now I suppose I ought to offer some walks for anyone who wants to do them. (A group by appointment proceeds any time someone wants to book it.)

One concern — likely, unlikely, who can say? — is that because it is late in the year and people may figure this group of tours will be their last chance, the first couple of walks could well be swamped. Yeah, sure, I know if a walk is swamped we’re talking much bigger money, but who wants to be swamped?

The initial tours might all be swamped if I go with my old policy of just tossing the dates on the blog and whoever shows up, shows up.

I get it. I coulda died — and you’ve been wanting to do the walk for 20 or 30 years and never did, and now it’s in Bucket List territory. Don’t worry about it. I think, c/o the knife, I’ve got a few more years in me.

Anyway, here’s my current thinking: I’m going to do shorter tours — around 3 hours instead of 4 hours. That shorter walk is what I usually do for groups by appointment, such as Sisters in Crime and many more.

What this change means is that I concentrate on the novel The Maltese Falcon, and skip the opening leg of the walk going up Larkin through The Tenderloin. The worst site lost is 620 Eddy where Hammett lived in his early years in town. But this decision was made much easier when I saw that the classic Blanco’s sign in Olive alley just got painted over.

(In the past I have cut out chunks of the walk that by then were taking up too much time, such as the exciting “The Whosis Kid” leg of the tour — I’ll still do “Whosis Kid” by request for die-hard by-appointment types. And I began to bypass Nob Hill some years ago. . . . But that’s why I wrote the tour book, to cover everything I had ever done on the walk, even if there wasn’t time to cover it all any more on any given tour.)

So, 3 hours. $20 per person.

And we’ll meet somewhere other than the library in Civic Center.

To find out where to meet and which dates are set, pop me an email via the Contact Don button above. I’ll do some in October, and if those don’t bump me off, more in November. I’m hoping by next year to just go back to the old whoever shows up, shows up system, which I like — after any hysteria fades away.

Honest, I’m feeling pretty street-worthy.

Posted in Tour | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Frisco Beat: Alas, Poor Blanco’s! I Knew It, Horatio. . .

You know how it is, you go in for triple bypass surgery and someone figures you’re gone for sure, The Defender of the Faith is down by the wayside, and it’s now safe to paint over the tragically faded lettering advertising Blanco’s restaurant. . . .

Yesterday I finally did my first Hammett walk since acquiring my Aztec Sacrificial Scar — a by-appointment deal for a guy’s birthday. Figured I had to dip a toe back in the torrent sooner or later. See if my gumshoes were ready for some exercise. . . if I had the moxie for another case.

We hiked along, swapping comments on Hammett and Dillinger-era gangsters and silent movies and Marx Brothers quotes — the usual, I guess. But when we made it up Larkin to the corner of Olive alley, whoa.

For those of the thousands of you who have walked the walk over the last forty years and may remember the one-story brick building housing the dry cleaners on the corner, where many of you got to step over classic sleeping drunks on the sidewalk in bygone days, and more recently have footed around the used needles as the junkies shoot up in a leg — well, hell, that great old building is gone. Big new apartment building going up in its footprint.

I ought to have taken that construction site as an omen, but I didn’t. I guided the group west on Olive to the back wall of what is now The Great American Music Hall so that they could look at the decades old lettering for Blanco’s, a place where the Op eats a meal in The Dain Curse.

The paint looks pretty fresh.

Sometime since I’ve been out of action, they finally covered over the old signage for Blanco’s, as seen on page 88 of the tour book. The building is the same, of course, and you’ll be able to recognize it because of the distinctive (and huge) metal pipe.

Since I began doing the tour back in 1977 I’ve always felt the Blanco’s signage was living on borrowed time, and I applaud the Music Hall folk along the way who decided to hold off on new paint, so Hammett fans could catch a piece of history.

A full forty years for fans to savor the sign in the course of the Hammett tour.

As recently — or as long ago — as 2013 I did a post about “me gesturing up to the faded lettering for Blanco’s and talking about the Continental Op. The Blanco’s lettering is going fast, so if you want to see it, take a tour sooner than later or check it out on your own.”

Adios, Blanco’s.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, Tour | Tagged , , , |

Rediscovered: Oakley Hall and 1940s California

If you want to check it out, my latest review for PW just popped. The gist and much of the wordage is mine (if you can’t tell the especially distinct Don Herron touch, you’re unfamiliar with my writings of the last many years).

It got juggled a bit, but then I do give them a few more words than they can fit in, and if editorial wants to move things here and there, what the hell. My name isn’t on it.

The McGinnis cover is another modern classic, but I didn’t have time to deal with it as such, or felt the need.

This Oakley Hall novel is a rediscovery from 1950, and half of it is really solid. Fine period details such as tin shower stalls and wing windows on cars. Covers territory from the Central Valley to San Diego — even a sequence set in and around Hamilton Fields, where if you recall Charles Willeford was stationed just as he finally began writing novels in the early 1950s.

Hall might have noted his details just slightly earlier than Willeford was there, but, man, it’s pretty close. One kind of noir guy using turf tread by another kind of noir guy.

Ah, but the other half of the novel — hysterical emoting, the lead couple splitting and getting back together again. Time after time.

I know it happens — as a kid in Tennessee the couple who owned the nearest grocery store divorced then remarried then divorced then remarried till I lost count — but the emotional strum und drang, honest, doesn’t make for compelling reading.

Call it quits, morons, and move on.

Posted in Lit, Willeford | Tagged , , |

Hammett: Zobeck Research Cited, Too

I whipped together a quick post the other day after noticing Mean Streets buddy and Hammett biographer Nathan Ward got some mentions in Anne Diebel’s article for Paris Review titled “Dashiell Hammett’s Strange Career.”

Like I said, I gave it a casual gander, at best, and skipped over something interesting. The prolific poster Terry Zobeck just brought it to my attention.

Terry writes, “Someone sent me a link to the article before I saw it on Mean Streets.  In the first sentence she quotes Hammett from the Daily Eagle interview I ‘discovered.’  And I like that she acknowledges Nathan’s book.

“Hey, we made it into the Paris Review, sort of.”

Nice to see that the “Lost Interview” is spreading around.

Contributions to the culture, that’s our game.

Posted in Dash | Tagged , , , , |

Suicide Club: Roscoe Arbuckle Kidnapped Caper

On a rotting wharf over the Islais Creek channel, a climactic gundown gets a reenactment — left to right, R. Faraday Nelson as Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (but I’m thinking Ray’s major claim to immortality probably is serving as the model for Roy Batty in PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a.k.a. Bladerunner); John Law as Vito Lawtoni (John with a number of toeholds on lasting fame — taking Burning Man to Black Rock Desert surely one of the major blurbable moments); and Don Herron as Rocco (“More, get me? I want more. Lots more! Sure. More than you can cram into this lousy little shootout!”).

On his blog today John Law does some history on the infamous Suicide Club of San Francisco, and dives deep into the event where the plot involved Fatty Arbuckle being kidnapped, see, and mugs like Hammett and the Op try to dope out the caper, see?

Anyway, if you want to check out one of the things I was doing back in 1981, follow the clew highlighted in the paragraph above.

Now, beat it.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, Lit, SFSC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |