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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Frisco Beat: “Burrito” Alley

A couple of Wednesdays back I noticed that someone had changed the lettering on Burritt alley to make “Burritt” into “Burrito” — but last night saw that the name had been returned to Burritt and all is well with the world. For the moment.

I wonder if the guy who switched it around was the same guy polishing up the actual plaque, highlighting the gold faces on the letters. I saw him up on a ladder with a brush, busily brushing away, that Wednesday. . . .

I usually mention on the tour that the “Burrito bandit” has been around for well over a decade. I assume more than one prankster is behind the occasional switcheroo. I knew the guy who claimed to be in back of it some years ago, but have no idea if he’s even in Frisco any more. He seemed to think of himself as a “culture jammer,” but you’d think if he had half a brain he’d select some other slice of culture to deface than the Mecca of Meta-Murder, the deadend alley where Miles Archer, partner of Sam Spade, came to an abrupt interruption in breathing in The Maltese Falcon.

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Hammett: In Re: The Midget Bandit, Reserve Today

Last minute notice! If you are in or around or willing to haul out to Fresno by 10 a.m. this coming Saturday, you can sit in on Warren Harris doing a talk on The Midget Bandit for the local Sisters in Crime branch — part of Fresno’s Big Read celebration on The Maltese Falcon.

But you need to RSVP sometime TODAY — check out the details and decide if you can make that scene.

Warren, of course, presided over Midget Bandit Week here on These Mean Streets, and is continuing his research. Last time he showed up he had the scoop on some of MB’s doings up in Portland.

If you can wake up that early, a chance to hear the MB expert talk about the gunsel in the hood where MB made his name.

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Tour: Sunday March 22

012412 tour8 Rain or shine — if rain is even possible any more on the mean streets of Frisco — you’ll find a Dashiell Hammett Tour open to anyone with $20 in hand and the willingness to try out a pair of gumshoes for four hours, set for Sunday March 22.

Starts at noon near the “L” sculpture. If interested, show up, ready to go.

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Rediscovered: Another Perfect Reader for John D. Haefele’s Eldritch Tome

A brooding rumination on John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos was brought to my attention recently — written by a guy named Jeffery Scott Sims, who is so in tune with the book that he may as well sign up for Gold Star Membership in Haefele’s Heretics.

So far Sims has read the book at least three times (yeah, it’s that good) and if you’re interested in thoughts about Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos and so forth, you definitely should surf over and read the remarks inspired by Haefele’s magnum opus — thus far (guaranteed to be surpassed by his upcoming book on the Great Tales of Lovecraft, though).

Lots of good moments, but a personal favorite is this observation:

A biography of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, I suppose with regret, must necessarily incorporate clinical maunderings on militant atheism, blinkered politics, blatant racism, and untutored punditry, but must we accept that this junk defines Lovecraft’s contribution to the world?

Yeah, Lovecraft as artist was better than the sum of his parts.

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