Rediscovered: The Famous Don Herrons, Dropping Like Flies

Long ago on this blog I did a post titled “The Famous Don Herrons” — one guy said it sounded like the name of a Motown group. Looks like when I revamped the site circa 2011 it didn’t get moved up, but who knows, perhaps it exists on one of those sites that archive the web. . . .

Point was, I noticed that there were other Don Herrons out there, and about five of us accounted for most of the hits on Google. From when I was a teenager I knew about the Don Herron — or, officially, Harron — who appeared as the newscaster on Hee Haw. A Canadian comedian, he did several books, usually writing as Charlie Farguharson. I guess he would be the first Famous Don Herron.

In San Francisco, just before I began doing the Hammett Tour, another Don Herron popped up — a photog who soon became famous for his series of “Tub Shots.”

Then I began to make the name known.

Another Don Herron made the scene, a musician, who plays with BR549 and has sat in with Bob Dylan and more.

And out of Texas, yet another Don Herron had a lot of hits — a famous potter, no less.

Those five seemed to account for the bulk of the web hits, though I see occasional local politicians and ministers and salesmen trying to muscle in. Punks.

And there was another one with far fewer hits, an artist in Texas back in the 1960s, who wrote and did the illos for books such as The Sarim and Winged Beings. Every now and then someone would email out of the blue to inquire if I happened to be that guy. Nope.

A couple of weeks ago I finally tumbled to the info that the Don Herron of The Sarim was the same guy as the Don Herron of “Tub Shots.” Obviously, I hadn’t made it a priority investigation — I seldom do.

Poking around on ABEbooks I read the blurb in re: a copy of Winged Beings offered by Whitledge Books in Texas. They copied in all kinds of dope: “Born in Brenham, Texas to Johanna and Lawrence Herron on September 8, 1941. Don graduated from Brenham High in 1959 and served four years in the U.S. Air Force. He received a B.A. and an M.F.A. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin where he later taught studio courses. He also taught at Castle Hill Art Center in Truro, Massachusetts. Moving to San Francisco later that year, Don began photographing people in their bath tubs, having been inspired by medieval sculptures set in niches.”

Yep, the 1960s artist and Mr. Tub Shots were the same guy. The blurb mentions he moved to New York City in 1978, leaving the San Francisco angle to me.

They also mention he died in 2013, which was news to me.

But that nudged me enough to check into the case of The Famouses a bit more and I discovered that Don Harron died on January 17, 2015. I hadn’t heard. At least once or twice a year for many years now someone has checked to see if I was him, but I realize I haven’t had an inquiry lately.

And now I know why.

I guess I now stand as the Last of the First of The Famous Don Herrons, if you know what I mean.

To those who went before, I salute you.

Posted in News | Tagged , |

Frisco Beat: “Bob” Harrington’s The Stag

Remember the blast-from-the-past childhood memories Kent Harrington was having when I toured him and his French translator around the burg a little over a year ago? He talked about his dad working in all sorts of buildings along Market Street — but he didn’t mention his grandfather.

“Bob.” A barmaster.

Poking around some archives, Kent just popped me the image above: “Don, had to send this to you. It’s the last bar my grandfather managed — Market and Kearny. (He was in the Irish mob as was my great-grandfather.)”

A nice slice of City history, with Pisco Punch, Lotta’s Fountain, etc. Harking back to the era when, as I understand it, Market was lined wall-to-wall with bars from the Ferry Building up to at least Seventh Street.

Back when you could get a drink in this town. . . .

Kent’s next book returns to a San Francisco setting — up-to-the-minute San Francisco, not the cool gray Frisco that housed The Stag. Last Ferry Home, slated for release in March of the New Year.

Posted in Frisco | Tagged , , , , , |

Hammett: Make That an Even Eighty Stories

If you recall, the way Terry Zobeck tallied up Hammett’s output a few years ago was that he did 79 known stories and 2 “short miscellaneous pieces” — so, 79 stories or 81 stories, depending on how you count the disputed miscellanea.

But even if you concur with Terry that the 2 tidbit items don’t really count as “stories,” I guess you should correct the tally to an even 80, because “The Glass That Laughed” is running today online in Electric Literature.

An authentic “lost” Hammett short story, it appeared in the November 1925 number of True Police Stories and was spotted by a Hammett fan who happened to land a copy of that issue.

Someday someone is going to stumble across the mag with “The Man Who Loved Ugly Women,” otherwise the only unlocated Hammett yarn (that people know of, anyway — yeah, how many more may lurk in forgotten troves of vanished magazines?).

Brian Wallace, ever exploring the net for any slight mention of Hammett (and Chandler and noir and the usual stuff) is the one who tipped me to the dope. He knows that I ignore casual news, and get my info straight off the street — where, by the way, on a tour by appointment yesterday I met a woman who as a fourteen year old in Miami Beach met Meyer Lansky.

Now I have one degree of separation from the “Mob’s Accountant.” Cool. (I told her that the only person on the tour who trumped her was the guy who had the Unabomber as a math teacher in Berkeley.)

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

Rediscovered: Floyd Salas Interviewed

Shot above, Floyd Salas, foreground, and Donald Sidney-Fryer from their first meeting.

Matthew Asprey Gear just popped in word that a newly published interview with Floyd (conducted via email in 2014) is now available in Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture. Hit the link to Google Books and dig it out, if you’re hep to that sort of thing.

Posted in Lit, News | Tagged , , |

Rediscovered: Floyd Salas Meets Donald Sidney-Fryer

Left: Floyd Salas. Right: Donald Sidney-Fryer.

(Background: gold statue by Floyd titled “The Boxer.”)

I’ve had the idea that Floyd Salas and Donald Sidney-Fryer, “a pair of similar opposites” (to use a term Leo Grin came up with) really ought to meet — even if such a meeting might cause the Cosmic Spheres to shake, and reality as we know it to end.

Hey, you never know.

I guess I’ve had this vague plan cooking for a decade or more, and tried to pull it off a couple of times earlier, but the timing went against me.

However, on Saturday October 28, 2017, I checked Another Deed Done off my list. Got them together for the first time. Since Floyd is now 86 and DSF 83, I don’t know how many more meetings lurk in the future. But I got them in the same room at least once.

The impulse: in many ways, they are almost the same guy. Both lived in the Haight in the late 1960s, deep in the Hippie culture. Both are poets — though Floyd is a modernist and DSF a traditionalist given to sonnets as a preferred form. Both are loud stand-out characters. Both are about the same height, both exercise nuts — Floyd courtesy his regime as a boxer and DSF as a Marine who kept the running and calisthenics and weight-lifting going, to this day.

As soon as they started talking DSF went into one of his routines about the origins of some word in French or Russian or whatever, and after a minute or so Floyd looked over at me and said, “Is this guy for real?”

“Yes, Floyd,” I replied. “That’s him.”

Looked like it was going to be a rocky start, maybe going nowhere, but soon enough they began to talk about how many miles they run, respective weights. . . . Floyd popped himself in the abs to show how hard they are, then poked DSF’s abs on invitation. Floyd asked something about DSF’s calf muscles and DSF jumped out of his chair and began to yank down his pants — “No, man!” Floyd yelled, “Just pull up the pants leg!”


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

Hammett: The Big Book of the Continental Op

Due to hit the book racks in a month or less, you get your chance to read each and every Op story — in order, if you want — in texts taken from the original pulp appearances.

Unless you’re one of the arch collectors secreted in your redoubt, lungs scorched by cigarettes and floating flakes of wood pulp dust, you’ve never had this opportunity before.

My bylined review in Publishers Weekly popped today, if you want to check out the official word hot off the mean streets.

Posted in Dash | Tagged , |

Hammett: Prepare Yourself for the Complete Op, In Time for Xmas

In case you haven’t noticed, Vintage Crime announces publication of The Big Book of the Continental Op — just in time for Xmas.

I have to check the proof to make sure it is up to my standards, but the idea is that — for the first time ever — you’ll get all the Op stories in one place. I presume the texts will be straight out of the pulps. Plus some nice extras, like the serialized Black Mask versions of the novels Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. Plus other stuff.

If you’ve been roaming These Mean Streets for awhile you know that I’ve been howling for a Complete Op for years now — and so has our “pure text” maven Terry Zobeck. All I can say is, Buy It, and show the New York publishers who’ve been sitting on their hands all these decades that here is a book the public wants.

All that money they could have been making. . . .

And for Hammett fans, or new Hammett fans, finally you don’t have to break your neck or your bankroll to read one of the greatest series ever to come out of the pulps.

If I have any quibbles, I’ll let you know. Terry Zobeck got a proof, too, and noticed that in the bio blurbs on the back cover and front of the book some flunky for the publisher put down the name as “Dashiell Samuel Hammett” — of course it’s Samuel Dashiell Hammett.

“Ouch!” quoth Terry. “That’s embarrassing.”

Yeah, but he popped in a correction. And maybe someday that’ll be a “point” marking the early proof copies.

After years of making the case for the Complete Op, I think that Terry and I can saddle up and ride off into the sunset.

What’s the line from The Magnificent Seven?

Our job here is done.

Posted in Dash, News | Tagged , , |

Tour: 3 Sundays in October

For anyone who wants to just show up by noon near the revolving “L” sculpture with 20 bucks and four hours to kill, take your pick from Sunday October 15 or Sunday October 22 or Sunday October 29 — the tourist season goes out with a bang, as the warmer months give way to winter, and possible rains, maybe even monsoons sweeping in.

In short, if you want to do the tour this year, jump on one of those dates.

Otherwise, you can pull together a group by appointment and do the walk other days and other times. You can select a date that might get rained out, no harm no foul, or you can hoof ahead in the squalls if you’re a tough guy.

Images show the Sisters in Crime tour by appointment conducted on Saturday August 5, as we roll up to the plaque marking the Sam Spade apartment building in 891 Post.

Posted in Tour | Tagged , , |

Rediscovered: FLIVVER GAME (!!!)


Operatives of the Mean Streets scour the country, looking for clews. I know it. I trust you know it.

Agent Paul Herman just sent in a report after he “went to a collectible ephemera show in Hartford last weekend.” Naturally, when he saw a Flivver Game from Milton Bradley on the block, he snapped a few frames.

Paul clearly followed the dust-up here over the word “flivver,” which ended up being declared The Robert E. Howard WORD OF THE YEAR last year. You may remember that some outlandish boobs were suggesting that a flivver could have been any kind of old car in the 1920s, while I — expert enough in the era — said, nope, a flivver is a Ford.

Paul notes, “This game only mentions FORD in the instructions. I thought this will finally put to rest the deniers out there.”

Yeah, you’d think so, but anyone who doesn’t know that a flivver was a Ford just might be too dumb to be swayed by any kind of evidence. Even the Flivver Game.

(Cool as hell. Flivver Game. Wow.)

Thanks, Paul — if you see him set-up as a dealer at the various pulp shows, you can thank him yourself. Paul’s been out to Frisco on the tour, and he’s the real deal — here’s how real: he’s got almost all the Hammett issues of Black Mask. “I still need five issues to finish my run, all from the 1920s — pre-Cap Shaw.”

A gumshoe-wearing Eye watching over the Mean Streets. . . .



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


For some of us, Robert E. Howard is nonpareil — which my India paper copy of Webster’s Third says is “Something of unequaled excellence; a nonesuch; a paragon,” and, while you might not think of it, is a word “often used as a name.”

(I picked up my copy of Webster’s Third when I lived in St. Paul, after Donald Wandrei mentioned it was his preferred dictionary — sometime later, back in San Francisco, Fritz Leiber told me that he preferred Webster’s Second. I haven’t scouted out one of those as yet, but those slight differences between reference volumes indicates the subtlety of word usage and potential depths such writers explored.)

Howard collector Kevin Cook and I have been batting around points of greatness about the author and his editions. We have agreed that the only Howard collection published by the Donald M. Grant Company that you really need is The Sowers of the Thunder, in part for the content and largely for the Roy Krenkel illustrations. All the many other Grant editions can be tossed aside, if you’re shooting for a best of the best — the artwork in general is horrible, Grant did some PC-style editing in books such as Red Shadows that otherwise might have made the cut. I think that the Arkham House collections Skull-Face and Others and Always Comes Evening are milestones worthy of inclusion, and Kevin added the last Howard Arkham, The Dark Man and Others, because you have to have the nonpareil yarn “The Dark Man” in some book in your collection.

No, said I, to get “The Dark Man” what you need is the Dell paperback Bran Mak Morn with the definitive Frazetta cover.

You can pare the ideal shelf down to the highpoints, though I suppose most Howard collectors of our era have pretty much everything they’ve ever picked up.

Then we got off into the idea that we’d both hit Howard with some of his best stories — me with a book containing both “Red Nails” and “Beyond the Black River,” Kevin with the paperback Bran Mak Morn with “The Dark Man” and “Worms of the Earth.”

We agreed that if we’d encountered REH with some of his worst efforts, but kept going, the magic would have worked — as it turned out, that was the experience of both of us when reading H.P. Lovecraft. Dud, dud, heyyyyyyyy. . . .

And yet there are many self-proclaimed fans of REH who can’t seem to tell the difference between the great and the misses, between REH and his imitators. Between nonpareil and something else altogether.

A couple of years ago, or three — the post is gone now, as if it never existed — I was amused when the “Robert E. Howard Word of the Week” for that week was nonpareil. To demonstrate REH using the word the poem “Jack Dempsey” was quoted, and to illustrate the concept what else but an image of the famous heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey?

Our pal Brian Leno saw the error instantly, and on the side tried to help the clewless Worder out.

Brian, as I often say, is the most knowledgeable guy about the boxing world in REH Studies — in fact, I’m thinking we should start referring to him as The Nonesuch Brian Leno! — and he popped in the correct dope:

Thought I should let you know that the Jack Dempsey that Howard is referring to as the “Nonpareil” is not the heavyweight champ. Different Dempsey — he was thought to be unbeatable so he was nicknamed the Nonpareil. Fought heavyweights like Bob Fitzsimmons, Howard even mentions his fight with Fitzsimmons.

Of course Jack Dempsey the heavyweight champ was damn near unbeatable, but Howard means the Nonpareil.

Brian tells me there were even more guys going by the name Jack Dempsey in the era, I suppose kind of like all the Charlie Chaplin lookalikes flourishing in the teens and twenties. Or the Bruce Lee clones that popped up after his death. Man.

Here’s some Nonpareil identifying lines from the REH poem “Jack Dempsey”:

The lad who held Fitzsimmons

For thirteen gory rounds. . . .

To the name of the first Jack Dempsey,

The wonderful Nonpareil.

Posted in Boxing, REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , |