Fun stuff. Three pedals, none of them for the gas.
Some historical footage woven in.
Honest, check it out.
Fun stuff. Three pedals, none of them for the gas.
Some historical footage woven in.
Honest, check it out.
Before I forget to mention it, yet another entry in the ongoing saga of the quiz show Jeopardy! riffling through Hammett’s life and work for clews. He’s not as much of a constant as the Periodic Table of Elements or State Capitals, but for just one guy with a couple of famous books, he’s doing alright.
On January 15 they had the category The First Chapter.
The $1200 slot revealed its conundrum:
1930 “Spade and Archer”
The champion of the moment buzzed in and said, “What is The Maltese Falcon?”
Yep, “Spade and Archer” is the first chapter in The Maltese Falcon.
Hammett strikes again. . . .
To give him a different sort of wrap for his multi-part series on the Centennial of Leigh Brackett, I sent Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes some images from a copy of the program book for the 1964 World Science Fiction Convention — the personal copy of E. Hoffmann Price.
Awhile back I was selling various books from Price’s library for the estate. If you don’t know of Ed Price, I blurbed him this way:
The prolific pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price (1898-1988) remains a legend today as the only fellow writer to have met the “Big Three” of WEIRD TALES — H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith — and as co-author with Lovecraft on “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” Price’s BOOK OF THE DEAD, “Memories of the Pulp Fiction Era,” published posthumously by Arkham House in 2001, covers these and many other figures, including Edmond Hamilton, Seabury Quinn, Robert Spencer Carr, Otis Adelbert Kline and more.
I blurbed this item from his collection this way:
In his day Price attended many small fan gatherings and quite a few conventions, and if memory serves he began his conventioneering career in 1964 with Pacificon II in Oakland, California — the 22nd annual World Science Fiction Convention — because his longtime friends Edmond Hamilton (creator of Captain Future) and Leigh Brackett (screenwriter for Rio Bravo, Hatari, The Empire Strikes Back) were Guests of Honor. A short hop up from his home in Redwood City, hobnob with his pals, sit in on the panel about “An ‘If’ World of Sword and Sorcery,” hobnob some more — you know the drill.
As we’ve noted almost countless times, Price wasn’t one to keep the books in his library in pristine condition, and they typically show signs of wear, casual staining, and occasional annotations. Since Price housed his library in the darkened living room of The Lamasery, his Oriental-carpeted eyrie in the hills above Redwood City, California, you can detect the very weak ghost of a musty smell if you bury your nose in the pages — always worth a warning for the super-sensitive.
Price’s copy of the Pacificon II program book is in much finer condition than is usual for the general run of Price library items, having been kept in a file instead of on the open (and dangerous) shelves. No spills. Some light age toning and a couple of tiny indents to the wraps (probably made in the course of lugging the program around during the con). Price has underlined a few names, such as Anthony Boucher (who contributes the Rules of the Business Meeting as the convention Parliamentarian), Forry Ackerman, and a few more. Made a couple of notes on the front panel.
I gave Pacificon a mini-history:
As a piece of history, this item is pretty cool — with a memorial notice for Hannes Bok, who had just died, an amazing Who’s Who in the list of 551 attendees — Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, etc. — plus a reference to the infamous Breendoggle with Walter Breen’s membership having been pulled, and nine other attendees resigning their memberships in protest. (And if you specifically like fan history, ads show Terry Carr battling it out for TAFF, though the Breendoggle is probably the Big Fannish Deal.)
And of course I mentioned another major reason someone might want this booklet for a collection — “with the overall interest greatly enhanced by the only two autographs Price bothered to acquire, personal inscriptions from Brackett and Hamilton.”
Unfortunately, the images shot at the time aren’t the sharpest, but you get the idea. And I’m putting them here since Morgan’s use of them doesn’t allow you to click and pop up a larger image. The failure of technology.
You should be able to read the messages from Brackett (consider this a centennial year bonus) and her husband Edmond Hamilton. Get a sense of their calligraphy circa 1964, and their regard for E. Hoffmann Price.
Race Williams, that is.
Terry Zobeck just updated me on his Pilgrim’s Progress through the Lovecraft reading list I gave him, and it turns out that my blurb for Them That Lives By Their Guns by Carroll John Daly sold him on the first omnibus of Race Williams detective stories.
So, here’s what Terry has been doing:
“I am alternating reading Daly and Lovecraft stories. Last night I finished Daly’s ‘The Man Behind the Mask’ and a few nights before ripped through three HPL stories: ‘The Outsider,’ ‘Music of Erich Zann,’ and ‘The Festival’ all of which were superb.
“I think I liked Erich Zann best of all. Coincidentally, the next day I came across the fact that it is the HPL story chosen by Hammett for Creeps by Night — how’s that for making a Mean Streets connection?
“I’m really beginning to enjoy the Race Williams stories. I’m not quite sure whether the writing is improving (I suspect not) or I’m just getting into his rhythm (more likely).
“Just a little bit ago I was reading ‘Devil Cat.’ I nearly laughed out loud at: ‘That girl moved across the floor as silently and gracefully as a young — whatever it is that moves that way.’ I’m chuckling again as I quote that sentence.”
Yep, if you get into the roll of the Race yarns, they rip along, with lots of funny moments. And of course I stand solid behind that Lovecraft reading list. The thrill level for Terry is about to jump wayyyyy up in the next round of tales.
And on the side Terry knocked out a second review for the Washington Independent Review of Books, on Minette Walters’ The Cellar. If he keeps at it, he could build up a body of work, though it will take him awhile to catch up with me — and even I could never catch up with some mystery reviewer like, oh, Anthony Boucher, who did weekly reviews for several newspapers for years.
It’s all relative. Keep plugging, Terry.
Mere months after putting the wraps to Hobgoblin Apollo, Donald Sidney-Fryer has placed his autobio with Hippocampus Press and they’re offering it at half-off — I think that is the presale price. The sample cover is an early draft version, so I guess it’ll take them awhile before the finished product is ready. But probably not all that long.
Surf over to Hippo to read the blurb. Looks like it covers DSF’s famous encounters with Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth of Arkham House, but I was somewhat surprised to see that it includes
his long association with esteemed Robert E. Howard scholar Don Herron
I’m not saying I’m not pretty well known, and shouldn’t get a mention in the book, but I think if I were writing that blurbage I’d have pushed me aside and gone with DSF’s long association with fantasy and science fiction great Fritz Leiber. Believe DSF first met Fritz around 1961 and I know he visited him on his deathbed in 1992, as did I — 31 years.
I encountered DSF late in 1973 and since we’re both still alive, yeah, we’re at 43 years and counting. And I think I can claim the status of DSF’s most famous litcrit protégé. He once told me that of all the people — and there were so many — that he encouraged over the years that of the lot I showed the least initial promise, but produced the most results.
Yeah, I know, don’t you love back-handed compliments?
Yet how could DSF have known that I’d plug away, and among other things produce The Dark Barbarian, The Literary World of San Francisco, the Hammett tour?
I’m looking forward to reading the book. Depending on what he did with the text, it ought to have a lot about his years in San Francisco. A city of the hippies when DSF rolled into town, a metropolis now as vanished as Sidney-Fryer’s favorite image of Lost Atlantis.
Boxing is in the air I’m breathing this weekend. Need to drop in for a birthday party for my pal Floyd Salas, who is hitting 85 years on the Mean Streets — and some of the streets he went up and down were unquestionably mean. If he had to, I can still see Floyd get into a fistfight today. . . .
Nathan Ward just sent in a link to a boxing article he did, and none other than Brian Leno popped in some idle ruminations occasioned by reading in boxing biographies. Leno is thinking hard about doing a book on Robert E. Howard and the boxing world of his era and before. You can see him gearing up for it.
And I can only hope he goes for it — Leno knows more about boxing than anyone who has ever put a toe in Howard Studies. Could be one of the best books of its kind ever.
To cover all that territory, it would have to be a big book. Limbering up, Leno already tossed a jab out there with a little book on Howard, Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation — which two days ago returned to no.4 on the Amazon Horror Litcrit Bestseller list, one of the categories where they put books on Howard and Lovecraft.
Here’s Brian — on Ketchel and Papke:
Writing a book on boxing is tough work. The recollections of old boxing fans can be notoriously difficult to navigate, and if you ask three people about the same fight you’ll almost always get three different responses.
So it is when reading biographies of fighters from the so-called “Golden Age.” It is a fascinating hobby, but it’s a hobby where you have to go slowly and do some research on your own, because you’ll soon discover that one writer’s conclusions almost always vary from the other author’s take on the same subject.
This fact was brought forcibly home to me lately by the reading of two recent books—Stanley Ketchel: A Life of Triumph and Prophecy, by Manuel A. Mora, and The Illinois Thunderbolt: Billy Papke, by Larry Carli — both of which, despite some criticisms which follow, I wholeheartedly recommend for the boxing fan. I also reread John Lardner’s marvelous article on Ketchel, “Down Great Purple Valleys,” which helped me get an idea of how a boxing historian viewed the great middleweight champion over sixty years ago.
All students of the squared circle know Ketchel and Papke fought four battles during the years 1908-09, with Ketchel winning three contests, his only loss coming in the second in the series when he was knocked out.
According to Manuel A. Mora, Ketchel lost this bout due to unsportsmanlike conduct by Papke, who, ignoring the traditional tapping of the gloves at the beginning of the first round viciously struck Ketchel, who was unprepared.
Mora relates what occurred. “Papke…pummeled a straight right at Ketchel’s neck, hitting him squarely in the Adam’s apple, and following it up with another straight right…smashed Ketchel on the bridge of his nose. The combination instantly made breathing difficult for Ketchel and caused both of his eyes to swell shut.”
Ketchel fought on but was never really in the fight after those first few unexpected punches; however it’s a testament to his gameness that he lasted into the twelfth round before being knocked out. This is the view most accepted by Ketchel biographers: Mora certainly agrees with it.
There have, however, been no Papke books, and no one to tell us his side of the story. But now, over a hundred years since the last Ketchel-Papke contest, Larry Carli has produced the first biography of this troubled pugilist, something sorely needed by Papke fans. This slim volume enters the literary ring weighing less than ninety pages, with one-fourth of that total devoted to photographs, always a welcome addition to lovers of boxing.
Carli is obviously a Papke fan as much as Mora is a Ketchel fan, and so he does address the infamous start to the second bout, seeing things a bit differently. He states it was Pete “the Goat” Stone (what a great boxing name!), who, in 1936, first wrote of Papke’s duplicity in striking Ketchel before he was prepared in their 1908 slugfest. He adds this soon “became one of boxing’s legends” but in his opinion never happened.
Carli declares it was Ketchel who actually threw the first punch, adding that he believes “the official Associated Press account of the fight”, which, according to him, proves his point. But Carli does not quote for his readers the pertinent passages from that press release, something which would help his case immensely.
The Papke biographer also states Stone was Ketchel’s trainer “during the last portion of his career” and that this article first appeared in a “national sports publication in October 1936.” He further writes that “Stone was paid well by the magazine,” adding that in 1936 Stone was “in desperate need of money.”
Regrettably, Carli does not furnish the name of the “national sports publication” nor does he reveal how he knows Stone made out like a fat rat in terms of what he was paid for his story.
This is where a reader must tread warily and do a little research on his own, because Mora also sins by omission. In his account of this infamous second fight, he merely gives his version and doesn’t tell us where he got his information. If it comes from first-hand press reporting or the written memories of boxing fans that were there we’re never told.
It gets even trickier when we start to look up information on Pete “the Goat” Stone.
Mora, in his Ketchel bio, quotes a lengthy passage which he states comes from Nat Fleischer’s The Michigan Assassin: The Saga of Stanley Ketchel, published in 1946. The Fleischer account contains an interesting view of the great middleweight champion by Hype Igoe, who states that he and Ketchel were “pals inseparable.”
Igoe’s story relates that Pete “the Goat” Stone “acted as a chore boy” for Ketchel, and that Stone was possibly the one person Ketchel liked more than anyone else at his training camps. If Igoe’s memory is true, “a chore boy” does not exactly sound like a trainer. However, to further complicate things, John Lardner, in his classic piece on the life of Ketchel, “Down Great Purple Valleys” which appeared in True May 1954, wrote that Stone was Ketchel’s “faithful trainer” and at one point labeled Igoe as a “romantic journalist.”
Carli, as recounted earlier, claims that Stone was “in desperate need of money,” and yet Igoe’s memory sees it quite differently. “Peter”, he writes, “became interested in night-clubs and was rated one of the wealthiest men on Broadway. He had a huge bankroll and collection of jewels, deposits made on loans to New York’s Broadway gamblers and men about town.” He adds that after Stone’s death there was probably a lot of money hidden away in vaults that wasn’t found for years. All this sure doesn’t sound as if “the Goat” was destitute, “in desperate need of money.”
And, if we want to muddy the waters a bit more, we can go back to Lardner’s article. He writes, evidently in agreement with Mora, that when Ketchel stuck out his glove to shake hands Papke let loose with a series of punches that had the middleweight in trouble for the rest of the contest. But while Mora writes it was customary to tap gloves, Lardner states “In those days it was customary for fighters to shake hands — not just touch gloves when the first round began.”
There you go — three boxing historians, three different views of the same fight.
Even in the recounting of the violent deaths of Ketchel and Papke we come into conflicting accounts, and not just through the three writers discussed here. However if this post attempted to cover all the foggy territory concerning the different theories — and just plain guesses — of how both these men met their early ends it would soon become a book itself.
Suffice it to say, for now, that perhaps the most famous early death of a fighter occurred in 1910 when Stanley Ketchel, “the Michigan Assassin,” was shot in the back and robbed by Walter Dipley and his girl-friend Goldie Smith, dying a few hours later.
More tragedy occurred to the Ketchel family in 1928 when the fighter’s parents were discovered, dead, on their farm. Mora writes that Stanley’s father’s “body was found in a hayloft, with his throat cut from ear to ear, and Julia [Ketchel’s mother] was either shot or stabbed to death inside the house.”
Billy Papke, whose greatest moment in boxing occurred when he knocked out Ketchel, would also meet a violent end — after shooting and killing his ex-wife he turned the gun upon himself and committed suicide.
Boxing, called by Pierce Egan “the sweet science” can breed men of terrific violence.
In a poignant passage from Lardner’s article, we’re reminded that no man is ever totally violent, just as no good man is always without fault. Lardner writes that Ketchel once “wept when he saw a painting, on a wall of a room in a whorehouse, of little sheep lost in a storm.”
Violent men and sheep certainly don’t mix, but, along with their families, Ketchel and Papke both became lost, with their lives, and those of their loved ones, ending in the sound of gunfire.
You haven’t heard the last of Nathan Ward on These Mean Streets — but you knew that.
And make that Edgar Nominee Nathan Ward.
If he wins, he’ll be Edgar Winner Nathan Ward. (And as far as I know, no one is boycotting those awards, at the moment.)
To keep us amused while we wait for the votes to be tabulated, and the award ceremony to be held, Nathan pops in a link to his article on boxing great Rocky Graziano, with info on Brando and DeNiro and so on.
Boxing, definitely a Mean Streets subject.
No doubt I shoulda/woulda done a post yesterday for the anniversary of Hammett’s death in 1961, but I got a request close to the last minute to join a podcast about August Derleth and the Cthulhu Mythos for The Lovecraft eZine.
No problem yakking about The Augman for an hour or so, but juggling some kind of media hookup to sit in on it was more involved. If I’d known the image I was seeing would be reversed for the final product — and that the boxes for other panelists would be screen right instead of screen left like I was seeing them live — then I would have moved the Gahan Wilson statue of Lovecraft to the other side so a bit more of it might be seen peeking up. Still, not bad — The Old Gent fronting me with The Innsmouth Look.
And the podcast kind of continues the whole Lovecraft/Robert E. Howard thing this year has started off with, so why not? I do a quick history of my role in Lovecraft/weird fiction fandom, kind of shock the other panelists with the info that Derleth was bi-sexual (apparently general fandom today doesn’t know it, but everyone of my generation knows it). And so forth.
They also wanted John D. Haefele in on the talk, but it was too last minute and he was otherwise engaged. But of course he was hovering over the proceedings as much as did the Ghost of Derleth, since his A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos is the place to go if you want the background on Derleth, the Mythos, and — as I hope I made clear for the eZine — Lovecraft.
The Derleth and Mythos stuff in the book is all good, but the info on Lovecraft is great.
I promised the eZine guys that I’d work on Haefele to get him roped in on some future panel. The deal hitting the Internet pumped the eBook of Derleth Mythos up to no.5 on the Amazon Horror Litcrit lists, so it is obvious to me that it would be in his best interests.
And Lovecraft fandom deserves a chance to hear from someone who has been on the scene since the 1960s — like Haefele. Or me.
When Terry Zobeck told me he’d picked up a Complete Stories of H.P. Lovecraft, I quickly mocked up a reading list to sell him on The Old Gent — a list of thirteen stories and one dream fragment. I could have done fewer, perhaps, for the same effect, but Terry’s got an attention span on him and I thought he could handle it.
Selected to get across what I like best about Lovecraft, and provide enough background and bounce to nail down his developing mythology. If you like these, you’ll like most of Lovecraft, and can dive in as deep as you wish.
Terry looked at the list and asked, “I was thinking of starting with some of the better known stories, but I am familiar with only a few. What about At the Mountains of Madness? That seems to get a fair bit of acclaim.”
My answer went something like Good-God-No! That one could kill your budding interest deader than hell. Eventually, it might become your absolute fave HPL yarn, but first try to ease in with these, in order:
The Outsider (1921)
The Music of Erich Zann (1921)
The Festival (1923)
The Call of Cthulhu (1926)
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927)
The Colour out of Space (1927)
The Dunwich Horror (1928)
The Whisperer in Darkness (1930)
The Shadow over Innsmouth (1931)
The Dreams in the Witch House (1932)
The Thing on the Doorstep (1933)
The Haunter of the Dark (1935)
“Last night I read ‘Dagon’ and ‘Nyarlathotep.'” Terry reported. “The first impression I had was how they reminded me of Poe. I read all of Poe nearly fifty years ago as a teenager and loved him. Reading these two Lovecraft stories, especially ‘Dagon,’ I got that same sense of feverish anxiety that Poe did so well. I also got a kick out of the monolith — I wonder if Kubrick read ‘Dagon’?
“I’m not sure I completely understood ‘Nyarlathotep,’ but some great images.”
“Nyarlathotep” is the dream fragment, it was either that or “The Statement of Randolph Carter” — but I think “Nyarlathotep” works better if you’re new and going in fast, conjuring up names that come back in story after story.
As I told Terry, if at some point you just want to cut loose of the list and plunge wildly into the fiction, no one’s going to stop you.
And Terry said, “I suspect it is a kick for you to be introducing a favorite author to an initiate.”
Sure it is, but I’m not going to be having half as much fun as Terry. Who knows, if he gets into the material as much as he has with Hammett and others, we might have to recruit him for Haefele’s Heretics when it’s time to proof Lovecraft: The Great Tales in a few months.
Image above: Frank Belknap Long, left, and H.P. Lovecraft clowning around for the camera.
Terry Zobeck just told me that he picked up a Complete Stories of Lovecraft on January 3, after seeing all the references to HPL here on These Mean Streets plus lots of chatter on the FictionMags list.
What a way to kick off a New Year — and he’s never read a single yarn by The Old Gent, as far as he remembers.
I almost envy Terry the experience, being able to dive into a writer such as Lovecraft completely fresh, with only the barest hints about his work to suggest you might enjoy it.
But as I’ve said before, I’m glad I got in on HPL early, in time to meet several of his pals, hang out with the major Lovecraftians of our day, reread my favorite stories over the years. Hell, even reread stories I don’t like that much, but if you get into the experience, even those have benefits to offer.
All of which reminded me that I was doing more rereading around Hallowe’en, went through “The Whisperer in Darkness” again (even noticed a bit I tipped John D. Haefele to, a reference dropped in so casually it is easy to miss), and also read once more “The Thing on the Doorstep.” Neither one is in my top tier of faves, but they offer their own sort of thrills.
“Doorstep,” for example, from 1933 — I can’t recall on previous readings ever realizing the fact that the two main characters are based so directly on Lovecraft, as the narrator, and Young Belknapius, as the doomed Edward Pickman Derby — if perhaps not quite as bluntly as the “Howard” and “Frank” of Long’s 1929 yarn “The Space-Eaters,” famed as the first yarn to use Lovecraft as a character.
But this reading it hit me, with such descriptions as “his attempts to raise a moustache were discernable only with difficulty” — HPL was always kidding Long about his ′stache — and “his pampered, unexercised life gave him a juvenile chubbiness rather than the pauchiness of middle age.” In the era Lovecraft knew him, Long was living at home with his affluent parents — you can track down a thousand supporting quotes from the HPL letters.
Lovecraft is describing his young associate exactly, though he does attempt a bit of a disguise by Aryanising Derby as “blond and blue-eyed.”
I enjoyed other aspects of this tale of Black Magick, and the fact that it is a casual, kind of party-lite re-do on the short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which Lovecraft had been unable to sell.
But the picture of young Long is haunting, especially as he falls under the spell of Asenath Waite, and marries her. (Yes, other and deeper levels develop, but I’m not shooting for every spoiler in the story here.) Once married, Derby/Long is sometimes held prisoner in his home by the much more forceful personality.
I wonder, could Lovecraft — who died early in 1937 — have had a glimmer of the truth that he was predicting the eventual fate of his protégé? Did he sense that Long — pampered, sheltered — would eventually be scooped up by a domineering woman?
If so — if not — that is what happened, when Long finally married his wife Lyda in 1960. The forceful one in their marriage, from everything I’ve heard Lyda pretty much kept Young Belknapius under her thumb for the rest of his life — some thirty-four years.
I got my scoop on that from my pal Ben Indick, who knew the Longs, and some others in the New York fan circles.
The best account of the relationship to hit print is Long Memories by Peter Cannon, the same guy who is my review editor at PW. If you get a chance to pick it up, it’s excellent — and you can see what happened to Derby if “Doorstep” had been set in the real world and not the fantastic milieu haunted by Miskatonic University, Innsmouth and The Necronomicon.