Rediscovered: Another Manchette Down

mad and badWhile I wasn’t paying close attention, New York Review Books has slipped another novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette into English translation — excellent. Only took them three years, but that is much better than the previous gap of nine years between novels for those of us who don’t read the French language.

Now we have four of the ten Manchettes available and only six more to go. Guess I’m going to have to work on living for a few more years, because I really like these books. As I said when bemoaning the nine year gap, Manchette probably isn’t for every crime reader, but ought to suit the taste of Up and Down These Mean Streets regulars. If you surf in searching for Willeford and Kakonis, Red Harvest and noir, you have a target on your forehead and these novels are the bullets in the clip.

Found this blurb for The Mad and the Bad surfing around — as you can see, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, and they should.

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Blog: Say “Cheese”

Bill Arney

In the shot above — used previously for a post of yesteryear — Bill Arney stands against the frame of the Murphy bed in Sam Spade’s apartment in 891 Post Street and regales a tour group with some anecdotage.

Bill is famed as the greatest (and alas, former) inhabitant of those rooms, and also has some renown for acting as the Voice of Noir City when it does its annual run in the Castro Theatre. And lately he’s been hosting his own theatre on cable — Cheese Theatre.

Bill and Cheese finally have entered the blogosphere if you want to surf over and check out his bio, see which flicks are coming up. Not a lot of content yet — you can get lots more Bill images by clicking on his name in my Tag Cloud — but I’m betting he’ll get in the swing of things. It’s like going into a new bar — at first you don’t want to say much, scoping out the terrain, but pretty soon everyone knows you’ve got opinions.

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Rediscovered: Tom Kakonis

Criss_CrossOn the tour Sunday various people asked me at various times as we hiked along whether or not Pinkerton’s was still around — couldn’t say for sure, but something easy to Google up and resolve. Not that any of us bothered at the time.

But it reminded me that it seems that I haven’t noticed a Pinkerton’s armored car in a year, two years, which at the end got a few of us talking about armored cars.

Which led to me doing a plug for the movie Palookaville, one of my favorites — it’s got an armored car caper in it. Plus there’s the classic Armored Car Robbery (sampled in Palookaville), and the more recent Armored — a whole little sub-genre.

And of course I mentioned the Tom Kakonis novel Criss Cross, a novel no fan of armored car capers should miss. As I said in a tour brochure back in 1992, Criss Cross is more or less the Kakonis version of The Maltese Falcon, a modern hardboiled masterpiece.

That micro-essay on Kakonis and the ultra-hardboiled just got reprinted on July 18 on the Brash Books website, part of the promo effort to bring the Kakonis backlist into print. Hey, anything I can do to help out.

I’m digging into an advance copy of the new Kakonis novel now — release date September 2 — and unless he screws the pooch with the ending, he’s still got it.

As always, he’s especially good with the scenes of lowlife thugs. Very, very funny.

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Sinister Cinema: In Hilly Alabam

AlabamWhen last seen here on Up and Down These Mean Streets, Hollywood tour guide Charlie Morfin supplied us with a shot of the Dashiell Hammett Street sign when they got the spelling wrong — white hot news back in 2011, kicked off a little series of posts.

Plus he did some mugging in Burritt alley — not that kind of mugging, this kind of mugging.

And I always liked that shot of me and Charlie hoofing up Elwood alley.

Now it turns out he’s writing books, too. I glanced at the title Location Filming in the Alabama Hills and my first thought was, why the hell would some guy like Charlie — with a toehold in Hollywood — head off to Alabama?

A bit of attention paid to the blurb, though, tipped off that that’s the name of some hills outside LA where tons of movies have been shot. Looking at the rocks on the cover, I’m betting that the 1957 Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher oater The Tall T was shot there — great little movie, with Richard Boone, and Henry Silva chewing up the Alabama Hills scenery as a creepy psycho killer owlhoot. If they shot that one someplace else, Silva chewed up that scenery, too — came close to stealing the film with his performance.

For all you film fans — especially the ones who like to track down the shooting locales.

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Tour: Hot Off the Mean Streets

My gumshoes have barely stopped smoking after leading the tour yesterday and I learn that Bill O’Such already has a photo gallery up for any and all to see. He wasn’t lugging around that camera just for grins.

You’ve got some shots of me in hat and trenchcoat, of course, plus Hammett landmarks and literary plaques. But the selection is more offtrail than the usual you see when I run pics — whatever Bill wanted to shoot, signs, logos, fire escapes — even a photo of the old Key Klub bar. I have a wooden nickel from the Key Klub. Someplace.

The guy in the red shirt in one image was kind of the star attraction, because he reminded me so much of my pal and local Hammett stalwart Bill Arney that I almost couldn’t believe it. Could easily pass for brothers if not twins, and it wasn’t just the looks — similar sense of humor, the works. I haven’t seen a doppelganger in awhile now, but I have before, and I did yesterday.

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Tour: July 20 AND July 27


Okay, kind of last second, but some people asked about a tour on Sunday July 27 — and you may consider it a Go.

I figure the New York Times article may have kicked up enough dust to cause way too many people to show up for the walk on Sunday July 20. To take some of that pressure-cooker tension off, you could hold off a week and walk the walk on the 27th. Or wait it out a little longer and hit tours on Sundays August 10th and 31st — and Sunday September 21st. Plus others may get added in as the requests build up.

Have gumshoes, will travel.

In the shot above the tour pauses, as usual, across the street from 891 Post, abode of Sam Spade. I’m gesturing up to the windows (top story, rightmost panes). Did a tour by appointment yesterday and found that the broken, boarded-up windows I was talking about the other day have been fixed, and they look pretty much like the windows in this pic.

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Rediscovered: The Death of Willeford’s Grandfather


Michael S. Chong keeps surfing the net, looking for stray tidbits concerning the late great Charles Willeford. In with some other info he sent the above clipping, saying:

“As a bonus, a small biographical detail in the column ‘The Time Has Come’ by Ben Wasson from the Delta Democrat Times, Greenville, Mississippi, for Sunday, February 13, 1972. Willeford relates in a letter how his grandfather was killed, shot at his work desk with a shotgun.”

To read it easily, just click on the image and blow it up.

Until someone can prove it, I’m not guaranteeing that this story is true — obviously local newshound Ben Wasson has his doubts, too. If it was almost anyone else, I might accept it as 99% likely. But since it is Willeford, it could be true, partly true or just another story he made up. The “premeditated” bit sounds like classic Willeford spinning a yarn.

(And by the way, Michael keeps plugging away at short crime fiction, as well — he’s got more stories coming out: “Trespassing” in editor K.A. Laity’s Drag Noir and “Unredeemable” in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir from editors Claude Lalumière and David Nickle.)

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Frisco Beat: The Bragg Series by Jack Lynch

Front-Cover-215x330A new publisher operating under the handle Brash Books caught my attention recently — they’re planning on doing eBooks of the Tom Kakonis backlist, all of it, I think. Great news.

Even better news: they’re prepping a NEW Kakonis crime novel for release in a couple of months.

Needless to say, I will link the hell out of it, since Kakonis is one of the finest hard-boiled writers of recent years. I said so back in 1992 and I meant it.

But you might also be interested in another set of books they are picking up, the novels about Bragg, a San Francisco P.I., written by Jack Lynch.

I’m pretty sure I had some of those in the collection of San Francisco Mysteries I donated to Bancroft Library some years ago. If you’re poking around the edges of that collecting game, or just want to read everything you can get your mitts on with that local angle, here’s the chance. First one is The Dead Never Forget. Then several more, including Pieces of Death. Knock yourself out.

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Noir: Bum Rap

Andre Hunt of Smokin’ Mirrors dropped me a note about checking out his film Bum Rap: A Noir Fantasy — much of it shot in North Beach and Chinatown.

Not a lot of plot, but it is as much surrealist as it is noir (and surrealism always is kind of weak on plot). Takes ten minutes. Looks really sharp.

For those who crave more noir imagery, and I think that’s most of us.

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Sinister Cinema: Adios, Tuco


While I’m not even trying to mention the passing of every movie star, I’ve got to acknowledge the death of Eli Wallach (1915-2014) on June 24, taking out another third of the trinity from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

My occasional Guest Blogger Brian Leno and I talk about Wallach from time to time. If you know Brian’s article “Down the Rabbit Hole” from The Cimmerian V4n4, August 2007 you may remember the scene he describes where he had talked his parents into taking a detour on a family vacation and driving into Cross Plains, Texas, so Brian could see the Robert E. Howard house. (No museum open to the public then — Brian was only about eleven or twelve years old, making it around 46 years ago.) They started out from Bismarck, North Dakota, so I think his mom and dad get some kind of Parents of the Century Award.

They find the house and afterwards drive around a bit, coming across the graveyard about three blocks away. Not knowing that Howard was interred in a cemetery in Brownwood, some 40 miles distant, Brian told me he ran desperately among the tombstones like Tuco, looking for a grave that wasn’t there.

So, that Howard Days in 2007 as we walked from downtown back to the Howard House, I guided our direction so that we came up to that graveyard unannounced — and Brian had the sudden shock of recognition: this was it, this was the place where he had staggered and plunged among the tombstones like Wallach’s Tuco!

You’ll find that moment in his article, which won First Place Essay of the Year in The Cimmerian Awards voting — comprehensive coverage of Howard Days, made richer with his memories of that first trip with his family. Good essay. (I thought the Cimmerian Awards were savvy enough to carve out some credibility beyond just Howard fan circles, but when the awards moved over to the Robert E. Howard Foundation they instantly lost steam — the Best Essay awards often being especially weak, and in the most recent polling [if polling actually applies] only one Best Essay presented to a generic boilerplate article written by one of the people on the awards committee, which wouldn’t have made the cut a few years ago — oh well, the difference between awards that mean something in the larger world and getting a Gold Star on a grade school paper).

When Wallach died Brian remembered that he had gotten his autograph. Brian is a fan of Robert E. Howard — and Lizzie Borden. And the Old West. An expert on old time boxing. A Ripperologist of sorts.

But above all else he is an Autograph Hound.

Brian tells me, “I got his address from an autograph mag and sent a letter on September 18, 1997 — and he got two signatures back to me just eleven days later. Around this time I sent letters to a lot of celebrities. It was cool to see who would answer with an authentic signature, or a secretarial signature, or not at all. Peter Falk sent me a signed photo of him as Columbo, and Janet Leigh returned my letter with a couple of photos and a letter of her own. Class acts, most of them.”

From Wallach, Brian received two signatures. “One is just his name, but it would go pretty good with a photo from The Magnificent Seven.” The other Brian “really treasures,” and shares with us below:



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