Sinister Cinema: Hammett Easter Egg OSTRICH-Sized in Legends of Tomorrow

Screenshot 2016-02-22 11.20.26

I thought I had gotten in on something early when I did the post about spotting a Maltese Falcon statue in an episode of the CW show Arrow. A subsequent and cursory check of the web revealed that only one guy on Facebook or someplace had spotted it ahead of me. Dust off my coonskin cap and call me Davy. . . .

But then a week or three later I stumbled over the info that it was kind of old news, because the Black Bird makes a much longer and more involved cameo in the Pilot (Part 1), aired January 21, 2016, for the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow — in fact, the buzz about the statue kicked in all over the web because of a prevue trailer in which Gutman’s fancy features prominently.

I had avoided any and all trailers, wanting to go into the show un-spoiled. So as it turned out, I snoozed and I losed.

Anyway, you get much more action for the statue in the Legends pilot, if you want to check it out at some point.

Screen grab at top, you can see it on the table at the bottom of the image, as the future Hawkman and Hawkgirl have a roll in the silken sheets of Ancient Ægypt.

Bottom image, a clear shot from another angle as the Big Baddie makes the scene.

Of course, this longer scene and the variant in Arrow are of the same sequence, meaning the Black Bird has only shown up on this one occasion — so far — in the CW DC Universe.

Yet can’t you imagine a cool scene in some episode someday, where Hawkman compulsively watches the 1941 John Huston movie, riveted to the screen as if by some otherworldly occult force. . . .

Screenshot 2016-02-22 10.28.45

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Hammett: Almost Complete, If Spread Thin, Man. . .

It eBook

Image above: one cover from the new set of eBooks collecting the Op short stories.

My morning inbox featured Michael S. Chong sending along a link to an interview about the series. I’ve known for a few months that some kind of “complete” Op was being planned, but was asked to keep mum about it, and mum I kept.

I was under the impression that Otto was planning an eBook of the Op stories scanned directly from the pulp pages — and who knows, maybe that exact thing will get done someday.

The current series breaks the stories down to about three per volume, and from my quick scan of the interview, doesn’t seem to collect the Op stories Hammett revised for Including Murder — hey, if they want to do it right, a supplemental book with those can be added to the virtual pile. At almost ten bucks a pop, they’re more expensive than I like to see, but you can always cherry pick the titles for the exact Op tales you’re missing.

The interview drops mentions of me and Terry Zobeck:

[Editorial note: Don Herron at “Up and Down These Mean Streets” has been less diplomatic, using the word “butchered,” and Terry Zobeck has meticulously charted the editorial changes to “Death and Company” here.]

I don’t think there can be any doubt that Terry’s many “pure text” posts on Hammett tales helped pave the cultural trail to this project.

Michael pointedly asked me what I thought about being called “less diplomatic,” and I told him, “No problem — I translate it as me not being a kiss-ass sell-out politico type. If you want it straight, come to Up and Down. For smarmy, go elsewhere.”

The word “butchered,” though, did appear in context of my post about the specific story “Death and Company” — if you want to see a more comprehensive statement on the edits, look to a 2012 post where I say,  “Overall, I thought the changes from the pulp originals to the Random House texts were minimal, and for an average reader, inconsequential.”

That comment stands in stark contrast to the suggestion that I think each and every edit was a savage act of blue-pencil butchery, does it not?

Anyway, that why I’m saying if you want to save your coin for something serious like drinking, you can pick up however many eBooks you need to round out your Op run. Or if you want authentic pulp texts, have at it — though someone will have to report in on how smoothly the texts have been moved over from rough wood pulp to the eBook jungle.

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Rediscovered: From Two-Gun Bob to Ali

The death of Mohammed Ali yesterday spurred our resident Mean Streets boxing expert, Brian Leno — now in the thick of writing a book on Robert E. Howard and the world of pugilism he knew — to show how closely connected most things are, even people you would never think had the slightest link.

As Leno said, “I know you’re interested in degrees of separation, so I thought you might like this.”

Here’s Brian:

In 1934 Howard wrote a letter to Lovecraft covering a fight he had seen, between one Charlie Light and Duke Tramel — Kid Dula was the referee that night. Dula slapped Light because he was mad that Dula was talking to Tramel, and the fracas that followed gave Howard the idea for the Sailor Steve Costigan story “Sluggers of the Beach.”

Howard described Light as “the most peculiarly-built man I ever saw in a ring: short, stocky, with enormous legs, rather short, thick arms, a body like a barrel, an abnormally huge neck, dead-white skin, colorless blond hair, flattened nose, eyes that seemed to bulge out with an air of constant astonishment, a mouth that curved down at the corners, while the thin under lip thrust out — picture a human frog and you’ve got him.”

Charlie was no world beater, lost more times than he won.

But Charlie took on the Alabama Kid, one of those guys who fought over two hundred times, seemingly must have fought twice a week without breaking a sweat.

The Alabama Kid knocked Charlie out. This fight was in 1937.

In 1949 the Alabama Kid met up twice with Archie Moore, and both times got knocked out.

In 1962 before Ali was champion and while he was still Cassius Clay, Moore took him on and was TKO’d.

(And while Archie fought over 200 times himself and met many first class opponents, it should also be remembered that he faced Rocky Marciano in 1955 and got knocked out.)

Leno thinks this chain of pugilists is pretty cool, bringing us in an undying age of fisticuffs from Robert E. Howard up to yesterday’s headlines. I must agree.

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Tour: Sunday June 12

tour 061110 1

For this month you’ll find a walk offered on Sunday June 12, where anyone can show up with $20 and join in.

No appointment needed, but comfortable shoes come in handy.

Noon start at the “L” sculpture. Followed by some four hours of walking the walk.

(This shot from a tour of yesteryear shows us standing on Post Street opposite the Sam Spade building in 891 Post, out of frame — the tall pinkish building about a block behind rears above an older apartment building on the corner — The Warrington, erected in 1913, which happened to be the last residence of Fritz Leiber at the time of his death — Frisco is thick with literary sites.)

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Rediscovered: An Ossuary of Paper and Board for a Rajah of Words


You snooze and you lose.

Of course, it doesn’t help anything if the item you are about to buy is done in a print run of only about 85 copies, published in Bucharest. . . .

By the moment I inquired, An Ossuary for M. P. Shiel — The Final Years 1923-1947 was gone. I’d been waiting to read it — patiently enough, I must say — for a couple of years.

In effect, Ossuary is the third of three volumes of biography on Shiel by Harold Billings. I reviewed the first two books in 2012, and made clear I was ready to finish the trilogy when the set became complete.

Billings, now age 84 and climbing toward 85 later this year, decided that doing a full volume to equal in size the other two was something he no longer felt he wanted to do, using his time instead for fiction and a new story collection from Ex Occidente Press. So he cut down the explication and instead assembled under one set of covers the data you need to piece together Shiel’s final years — lots of letters, memoirs, dates, places. Starts off with Shiel kicking around Italy, ends with his famous (for Shiel fans) residence in L’Abri. Only bit I consider “missing” is Shiel fan Malcolm Ferguson’s account of visiting the writer in his last home, but any real fan of the author can find that one. I liked Ferguson’s description of the place, the info on Shiel’s maniacal running schedule, many miles every day.

While I have yet to see a copy of the actual book — a copy sold on eBay for a small fortune recently — Billings did appreciate my sincere interest enough to pop me a text. I read it the next day.

Some favorite quotes:

First, Shiel to his publisher about a new novel: “. . . but it is hardly half-finished yet. Most of my time in Italy was spent swatting flies.”

Billings: “There was trace decadence in all Shiel’s work.”

The writer Carl Van Vechten to publisher Alfred A. Knopf, dated October 3, 1923: “. . . I have now read nineteen of Shiel’s twenty-one books with growing enthusiasm. Even his less good work has a certain interest after one gets the hang of his mad and brilliant manner. . . . He is an artist, and in his strange way an important one.”

Yeah, you get the Shiel bug, you’ve got a new hobby.

I wonder if someone who has yet to discover Shiel may come along and get the biography urge, and produce a “standard” bio, mining the generous info Billings has assembled, and the bibliographical detail compiled by A. Reynolds Morse, the insights noted by Steve Eng and John D. Squires and others.

I’m not expecting or predicting such a bio, but the data from Billings crossbred with more info on the various books, it could be done.

And another option, to possibly grab more Shiel enthusiasts from the milling throngs: eBooks for the Billings bios. Why not?

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Rediscovered: ‘Bo Writin’ on the Wall

A No. 1

Image: Ernest Borgnine as Shack the railroad bull vs. Lee Marvin as the legendary hobo A No.1 in Robert Aldrich’s Emperor of the North — a definitive hobo/train cinematic statement. Brutal.

Most people I’ve met have never heard of this one, and of those I bet several think it was just made up. Well, sure, but made up out of the stuff of the real world.

For example, A No. 1 was real enough, and Brian Leno just popped me an interesting link to some hobo graffiti along the Los Angeles riverbeds which references A No. 1 — might even show his mark. Brian, famous autograph hound, tells me that he “Bought a book a few years back from a fellow that he said had an A 1 autograph.  I doubt it, but bought it anyway — still a cool book to have.”

A No. 1, Emperor of the North Pole.

You know I follow hobo lit. Jack Black. And Jim Tully. And Hammett hanging out with head-breakers on Sapping Day.

If you like that era, too, make sure to hop the internet freight on over and check it out.

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Frisco Beat: Remembering the Past

Brian Wallace tossed me another link that may be of interest to San Francisco history buffs — with most of the history really early stuff, barely making it into the 1920s.

And it’s in cartoon format.

But good cartooning, like R. Crumb.

Albert Tolf was the inkslinger in the late 1950s who knocked out a series of historical panels — enough to fill up the book This Was San Francisco. Check out the scanned and spruced up look into the past on Ron Henggeler’s webpage. Lots of info on street cars, cable cars, horse-drawn cars, amusement parks (including Buffalo Bill setting up his Wild West Show at 11th and Market), the proto-city around Portsmouth Square. I could go on, but you can breeze merrily through if you want to surf over and check it out.

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Hammett: 122 and Counting

dash as nickie

Another birthday rolls around for Hammett — no. 122. Plus Christopher Lee and Vincent Price, Harlan Ellison and Linnea Quigley. Henry Kissinger. San Francisco detective Hal Lipset. And more.

No cool birthday presents or news this year, that I know of. I’ve pretty much decided to do my Red Harvest essay as an eBook for a token 99¢ or so, instead of just tossing it on the blog. I’m comfortable with letting something germinate for years, but at some point that one needs to hit the mean streets. And having coin tossed at it might startle some people to attention.

The Big Secret Project Terry Zobeck is poking around on that I mentioned in a PulpFest report remains Secret. I wonder, if Terry ever polishes it off, would it make more of a splash as an eBook, as well?

Yeah, one or the other of those — or both — would have made good birthday fodder, but they’ll have to wait.

This year it’ll have to be tumblers of booze in celebration. Not a bad fallback.

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Hollywood Beat: John Wayne Day

The Duke

Noticed poking around the web, waiting for the coffee to kick in, that today is John Wayne’s birthday, which reminded me of a chat I had with Leo Grin a couple of weeks back.

Leo currently is the honcho of The Cimmerian Press — proud publisher of The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All and A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos, plus the TriplePunchPacks Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation and Enter the Barbarian. And more to come, no doubt.

He mentioned that he’s thinking of collecting the essays on movies he was doing for one of the Brietbart sites, back when Brietbart was alive — maybe with other material, some touchup, something like that.

Leo is a huge fan of John Wayne and John Ford, so I thought to ask him what he thought about the idea floating around in California political circles to declare a John Wayne Day — which had just been derailed by vociferous opposition.

So, no John Wayne Day.

“Every day is John Wayne Day,” Leo said. “They just don’t know it.”

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Smackdown: The Morgman vs. the Fires of Hell! and Other Perils

Enter the Barbarian - rejected cover

For the delectation of Sword-and-Sorcery fans everywhere, how about a gander at another proof cover for the eBook Enter the Barbarian by Morgan Holmes?

Maybe you’d call it a draft cover, though, since it never went out with a proof copy — the one I showcased the other day was on early electronic copies that got proofread. This one got mocked up next. But neither of these made it to the release copy that went on sale on Amazon for Cinco de Mayo.

Morgan’s book hit the ground running, coming out of the gate at number one in Hot New Releases for Horror Litcrit when stats started to surface on May 7. I think a title can only be in the Hot New category for a month or two, just after release — Morgan has been at number one or two this whole month.

Plus in regular sales he did something that is almost impossible: The Morgman unseated Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against the Human Race from number one for a couple of days. I’ve been following the Horror Litcrit lists since the trade paperback of John Haefele’s hefty tome on the Derleth Mythos came out, and have seldom seen any title bump Ligotti from number one — and when they do, usually it is only for an hour or so.

Not only that, but Morgan entered the fray just when the rules for the Horror Litcrit list became murky. I used to look the list over and think everything on it was kosher, except for the occasional book on The Bible or something that got stuck in the wrong category. But lately someone has allowed the Hellfire series of “paranormal romance” novellas to show up on the litcrit list.

Dudes, all those titles are fiction, they belong in some other category.

I wonder if some staffer at Amazon dozed off and stuck the Hellfire eBooks into litcrit by accident or if the publisher thought they’d look more successful if they appeared up against litcrit — considering how poorly litcrit sells.

As it is, they are clunking up the landscape, and I wonder if other people appreciate the irony as much as I do: the Hellfires are being outsold by regular books of Horror Litcrit! I’m sorry, but any fiction that can be outgunned by a book of litcrit just doesn’t look that hot to me. . . .

And I hear that Morgan is coming under some minor attacks on social media for his article on who finished writing the Robert E. Howard novel Almuric. The scenario is outlined on the blog A Shiver in the Archives — short version, there is a letter Farnsworth Wright wrote that more or less says that he edited the two drafts of the novel together and stuck an ending from the first draft on the more polished second draft.

Yet who would believe that Howard wrote that ending, in that style?

As Morgan puts it, “People all over Facebook are saying this is new evidence. But the letter adds nothing to what I did not already know — the first and incomplete second drafts were combined with someone filling in that last chapter or chapter and a half.”

Apparently some are suggesting that in addition to editing the drafts, Wright would have done the writing — only about a year or so before he died from Parkinson’s. Morgan, talking with pulpsters who were on the scene, notes that “Hugh Cave and Jack Williamson both told me that Wright was very unlikely to have the physical stamina to rewrite and finish Almuric.

Anyway, pretty much everyone with some savvy believes Morgan is correct — he tells me that even a professor interested in stylometrics (!!!) told him last year that “his analysis showed that Howard did not finish Almuric.

As the blog post on Shiver in the Attic ends the summary, “On the other hand, Holmes’s stylistic analysis of the final chapter is cogent and persuasive. Unfortunately the facts of whatever actually happened in the editing process are apparently lost to history.”

If someday the first draft of Almuric surfaces, then you’ll have new evidence to consider. Meanwhile, I think Morgan has the most definitive take on the issue thus far. One third of his hot bestselling TriplePunchPack.

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