Tour: Sunday May 17 and Sunday June 7

012412 tour16

Okay, the requests for walks have rolled in, so if you’re ready and able on either Sunday May 17 or Sunday June 7, you can just show up at noon clutching $20, with four hours available to kill gumshoeing up and down the mean streets.

In the shot above, the tour pauses in front of 891 Post Street and fingerprints the plaque next to the door. This thrill and others await the intrepid.

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

Hammett: It’s Raining Dashiells in Gotham City


Next week Gotham begins airing the last set of new episodes heading to the first season finale. It’s already been renewed, so no need to worry about an unresolved cliff-hanger — if they do have a cliff-hanger they leave unresolved next season, hey, that’s part of the peril of watching a TV show these days.

I wasn’t planning to watch Gotham. One of my major pet peeves for many years now is the “origin story” that seems to have infiltrated modern pop culture through comic books — and, yes, Dumas did it earlier, Edgar Rice Burroughs made sure we knew how John Carter got to Mars and that Tarzan was raised by a pack of apes. But I think comics pushed it over to the point where many people think you have to explain background which doesn’t need explaining. Robert E. Howard tossed Conan the Cimmerian out into the pages of Weird Tales willy-nilly, jumping from one part of his life to another on whim, but John Milius with his Conan the Barbarian movie presented a ponderous “origin” that ruined his film — it would have been better if the barbarian had just been bitten by a radioactive spider, and have done with it. And I definitely did not need an “origin” for Darth Vader — killed Star Wars for me, after the Ewoks had dealt it a cute, crippling blow.

Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon doesn’t need any more background than exactly what you get reading the novel.

But somehow I got talked into giving Gotham a chance, and mostly like it. The cop plot is good enough, but the sicko twisted angles that haunt the Batman universe are strong pluses, and I really like the fact that the butler Alfred is an asskicker. I even like the kid playing young Bruce Wayne, and the casting on Penguin and the Riddler is perfect. So, I’m getting an “origin story” I didn’t want, and enjoying it. I guess as with anything, it all depends on how well something is executed.

Plus in the last new episode before the break — “Everyone Has a Cobblepot,” S1E18 — Gotham gave me something I realize I never expected to see. I wasn’t even thinking it could occur. But suddenly, there in the opening credits, two actors in the same episode named Dashiell.

You may or may not know someone who has named a kid Dashiell, but doing the tour I have met many over the years. I don’t write them down or anything, just make a mental note — when I first became aware of the practice in the late 1970s I would tell people that the kids who got tagged with the name probably would do what Hammett was doing up to the point he became a writer and decided a fancy moniker would look good on the page: use your other name. Until he started using the byline, Hammett was known as Sam Hammett or Samuel Hammett or Samuel D. Hammett.

While my memory may be faulty after all this time, I believe the first guy I personally knew with a kid named Dashiell was Stephen Talbot — son of actor Lyle Talbot (who, as it happens, played Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin) — as a kid actor himself Steve played the neighbor Gilbert on Leave It to Beaver, and in 1982 as a producer with PBS did the first documentary on Hammett, The Case of Dashiell Hammett, with dad Lyle doing some voiceover for it. (Alas, all the scenes I shot for that doc were left on the cutting room floor, though they did use bits of them for the commercial promos at the time. And all these years later, the Hammett Tour is still standing.)

Here and there over the decades I have heard of other Dashiells — the guy who currently rents the Spade apartment in 891 Post apparently has an offspring of that name. Since I don’t keep track, I’m not sure if it is a fad that comes and goes in waves, if a TV movie or a new bio might kick in a few baffled children trying to get the spelling down — or what inspires the phenom.

My sense is that the kids who got named back in the era when the tour started had parents with leftist political bents, who liked Hammett because he stood up to McCarthy — but I’ve seen the political interest subside and more attention now paid to Hammett purely as a writer. Each cycle will recede, and then come back around.

“Everyone Has a Cobblepot” features Dash Mihok — my pal Leo Grin pointed out to me that he was named after Hammett a few years ago — an actor I’ve seen in quite a few things. He did what people in Hollywood were doing with Hammett’s name by the 1930s, cutting it down to a nice simple and effective Dash. Dashiell Eaves, also in the cast as a doomed confederate of Fish Mooney, is new to me — interesting that both actors were born in 1974.

Obviously, by 1974 naming a kid Dashiell was in the air. And now it is raining Dashiells in Gotham City.


Posted in Dash, Film, News, REH, Tour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Tour: Almost/Accidental April Fooled

Time Out San Francisco just popped up an article on tours in this grey noir city, featuring the Hammett tour and several others. Check it out if you want to know the current walking around scene.

The first version stated that my tours are “offered most Sundays” — no, they’re not. Years and years ago I did the walks every Sunday in the year, for many years, but that was a longgggggg time ago.

Now I might hike the Sunday streets one or two Sundays a month, or no Sundays at all, depending on demand.

I shot in a correction, which I hope goes up pronto. But the fact remains, if you want to know the Real Authentic Honest Tour Schedule you come to this site and check out the Current Walks page. Anything else you read anywhere, from the New York Times onward, is not my schedule.

Posted in Tour | Tagged |

Hammett: Dell Mapback Backs

As part and parcel of his ongoing Op mania, today Evan Lewis put up nice large images of the various back covers for the Dell Mapbacks containing Continental Op tales by Hammett — and if you don’t know, yes, they feature maps. Scene of the crime stuff.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think you can get much cooler than the Dell Mapbacks.

Plus Evan does a plug for the good old/most recent edition of The Dashiell Hammett Tour book. He tells me he is on for more Op-ish posts until at least the end of the week, if you want to check in for more.

Posted in Dash, News | Tagged , , |

Rediscovered: Going Op Crazy

Op MapbackIf you want to see a bunch of covers from issues of Black Mask where Op yarns appeared, plus covers from various editions of Op books foreign and domestic, Old School and more recent, then surf over to Evan Lewis’s blog that announces his EQMM story “The Continental Opposite” and click through for the next few days until Evan pulls out of Op mania and moves on to the next thing.

I was interested to see that Evan agrees with me that
“Death and Company” feels like an early Op story, although it would be the last one published in Black Mask — but puzzled that he thinks “The Farewell Murder” (Hammett’s next-to-last Op tale in BM) also was written early on, when all the stylistic touches are what would turn out to be Late Hammett.

Evan opines that “Farewell” “was clearly written far earlier — most likely in 1923.” Me, I’m sticking with a creation date at the end of Hammett’s amazing run of fiction for The Mask.

Posted in Dash, News | Tagged , , , , |

Hammett: Trouble on Wall Street

Sam Spade said, “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”

And that’s what he’s got. Nathan Ward — whose upcoming new biography of Hammett is being proofread and copyedited and put through the hoops right now — just popped me a note:

“Don’t know if you are following the controversy, but Erik Larson is bravely curating the Wall St Journal’s book of the month online discussion of The Maltese Falcon. While a lot of readers are getting something out of it, it has been amazing how many readers can’t get past their dumbfoundedness that Spade is a . . . sexist.

“They seem disappointed in him, as if he were a prospect on

“When it comes to old movies, you don’t hear these complaints as much: I fear people are more sophisticated now about video than its literary inspiration.

“Anyway, it’s pretty nervy for readers from the era of Mr. Grey and his bondage tie collection to talk down to the 1920s.”

So reports Nathan Ward from the mean streets of New York, and the meanest street of them all, Wall Street.

Posted in Dash, News | Tagged , , |

Frisco Beat: Top of the Heap!

The Literary World of San Franciscoas I’ve been reporting — is still no.2 on the Amazon bestseller list for travel books about San Francisco as I check the stats today, but yesterday for about 4 hours muscled it’s way to the Top Spot.

Yep. No.1

Can’t beat that.

Although I popped champagne to celebrate — why not? — the statistic comes at an academic remove from the real world.  It’s not as if I have a no.1 bestseller and therefore I’m going to be raking in piles of loot. All the copies circulating come from the two print runs of several thousand copies, out-of-print now for over twenty years. And it’s still selling. I take it that the copies offered as “new” just look new, and the couple of copies offered at one cent each (plus postage, of course) are ex-library or otherwise beat-to-crap.

And I may have helped nudge the book up to first place, to be completely open about the situation. I was looking at the Amazon page and clicked on the one copy listed under Collectible, where I was intrigued to find that this copy was offered by L.W. Currey — and that it was once owned by the late John D. Squires, a pal of mine. Inscribed, of course. In excellent condition, because JDS was an arch-bookman. And the price was only $25.

Just the other day Brian Leno was telling me that Lit World was one of my books he doesn’t have, but he’d want a really nice copy. Aha. Let’s get this copy into a good home.

I told Brian, Brian popped in the order, and clearing out the one copy from the Collectible pile helped nudge the title to no.1 on the list.

Apparently Currey got the JDS library to disperse — hundreds of great titles. I’m pretty sure John had every one of my books, all inscribed, if you’re in the market. I see that the edition of Dashiell Hammett Tour with gray wrappers is up for $45, the reprint in red wrappers offered for $25. JDS faithfully collected his pals (in addition to M.P. Shiel, Machen, Lovecraft, etc. & etc.) and so had complete sets of David Drake, Karl Edward Wagner, and more.

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

Frisco Beat: Definitely a Bestseller

literary_world_of_san_francisco_2nd_cover_don_herronThe other day I recorded that my long-out-of-print title The Literary World of San Francisco had hit the no.10 spot on Amazon’s list of bestselling travel books about SF. From there it drifted down the rungs to the 20s and a couple of days ago I think it was around no.53 or so. I figured it was in a death spiral out of the Top 100, after whatever surge in sales of second-hand copies had popped it back into action.

Right now, at this moment — and, what the hell!!! — it is no.2

Posted in Frisco, Lit, News | Tagged , |

Rediscovered: Some Op-ish Action

AHMM MAY 2015 Cover and title 550

On the newsstands now, the May ish of AHMM with a salute to the Continental Op by Evan Lewis — if you keep up with that sort of thing, jump on it.

Evan got in an Op mood and did a follow-up post about the 1974 collection The Continental Op. The stories in that collection were all based on the Fred Dannay edits, instead of the early pulp texts, so that item isn’t completely necessary for your shelves. You can do better.

Posted in News | Tagged , , |

Hammett: The Falcon Flies Over Wall Street

Some idle surfing around today landed me on this blurb, where I learn The Wall St. Journal has a book club and this month the club is reading The Maltese Falcon — yeah, I’ve heard that’s a good one.

Reported here just to spread the info. I’ve done tours for one book club after another for decades now. At one point they were commonplace, then they seemed to fade away. Then Oprah kicked the interest up again.

Most things are cyclical. But The Maltese Falcon is holding steady. So reports your man on the mean streets.

Posted in Dash, News, Tour | Tagged , , |