Two-Gun Bob: Famous Someday No. 1

Damn. I slept through it!

When I woke up today I thought to check to see if the eBook Famous Someday, which I blurbed yesterday, had made it to any kind of sales ranking on Amazon.

Turns out it’s doing great at no.3 — BUT near the top it bore the banner “#1 New Release.”


And that’s No.1 in Horror and Supernatural Literature Litcrit releases. No.1 on Kindle Horror and Supe litcrit releases.

But No.1, nonetheless. Take THAT, complete short stories of H.P. Lovecraft!

(Yeah, old HPL crept back into the top spot soon after, but like I was saying, books like that aren’t right for the category — they ought to go into fiction or short stories or something. How they can expect almost any litcrit offering to beat the sales on the Complete Lovecraft is beyond me.)

Offhand, I only remember hitting a No.1 spot on Amazon once before, when my Literary World of San Francisco made it to No.1 bestselling travel book about the city — after it had been out-of-print for around twenty years.

The mysteries of the Amazon sales rankings. . . .

Posted in News, REH | Tagged , , , |

Two-Gun Bob: The First Robert E. Howard Biograph TriplePunchPack

Yesterday the eBook Famous Someday popped on Kindle — another Robert E. Howard TriplePunchPack from The Cimmerian Press, but this time instead of litcrit the concentration is on biography.

Interviews with people who knew REH. Investigations into books from the library of Howard’s father — with the concurrent fascination with the amazing doodles you’ll find inside the covers.

All this material first appeared in the pages of The Cimmerian magazine over a decade ago, so if you’ve got a complete collection, in a sense you’ve got it covered. Except, TC was printed in b&w, and the eBook uses full color for the images. Those doodles really catch the eye when viewed in color.

And if you don’t have a complete collection of TC, or you’re a new guy wandering in from the wilderness, hey, there you go. The market this one is serving.

Plus — being most honest here — when I was proofing away I realized that somehow (don’t know how) back in the day I managed to leave one of the books from Doctor Howard’s library list out of the list. The print mag records twenty-five items. The eBook, you get twenty-six.

How could I have forgotten Daniel and the Inter-Biblical Period from 1915?

Cool title.

And I don’t know if there is a connection, but earlier today Brian Leno sent me notice that on the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list for horror litcrit that my eBook Megapack The Dark Barbarian That Towers Overall ranked at no.2 (couldn’t nudge the complete fiction of Lovecraft out of the top spot, but then what is a collection of fiction doing in the horror litcrit list, anyway?). The earlier TriplePunchPacks Enter the Barbarian by Morgan Holmes and Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation by Leno ranked no.3 and no.4, respectively.

Top of the world, ma!

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Tour: Some (Semi-Complicated) October Walks

Shot above: standing on the n.e. corner of Geary and Mason for a tour by appointment with Sisters in Crime, Saturday August 5, 2017. Looking west out Geary, the old Geary Theatre looming above the first red car. . . .

A couple of days ago I did my first walk since going under the knife earlier this year, partly because the guy REALLY wanted a tour, and I figured I might as well find out if I could stand up, walk around and talk for a few hours.

I made it through. Now I suppose I ought to offer some walks for anyone who wants to do them. (A group by appointment proceeds any time someone wants to book it.)

One concern — likely, unlikely, who can say? — is that because it is late in the year and people may figure this group of tours will be their last chance, the first couple of walks could well be swamped. Yeah, sure, I know if a walk is swamped we’re talking much bigger money, but who wants to be swamped?

The initial tours might all be swamped if I go with my old policy of just tossing the dates on the blog and whoever shows up, shows up.

I get it. I coulda died — and you’ve been wanting to do the walk for 20 or 30 years and never did, and now it’s in Bucket List territory. Don’t worry about it. I think, c/o the knife, I’ve got a few more years in me.

Anyway, here’s my current thinking: I’m going to do shorter tours — around 3 hours instead of 4 hours. That shorter walk is what I usually do for groups by appointment, such as Sisters in Crime and many more.

What this change means is that I concentrate on the novel The Maltese Falcon, and skip the opening leg of the walk going up Larkin through The Tenderloin. The worst site lost is 620 Eddy where Hammett lived in his early years in town. But this decision was made much easier when I saw that the classic Blanco’s sign in Olive alley just got painted over.

(In the past I have cut out chunks of the walk that by then were taking up too much time, such as the exciting “The Whosis Kid” leg of the tour — I’ll still do “Whosis Kid” by request for die-hard by-appointment types. And I began to bypass Nob Hill some years ago. . . . But that’s why I wrote the tour book, to cover everything I had ever done on the walk, even if there wasn’t time to cover it all any more on any given tour.)

So, 3 hours. $20 per person.

And we’ll meet somewhere other than the library in Civic Center.

To find out where to meet and which dates are set, pop me an email via the Contact Don button above. I’ll do some in October, and if those don’t bump me off, more in November. I’m hoping by next year to just go back to the old whoever shows up, shows up system, which I like — after any hysteria fades away.

Honest, I’m feeling pretty street-worthy.

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

Frisco Beat: Alas, Poor Blanco’s! I Knew It, Horatio. . .

You know how it is, you go in for triple bypass surgery and someone figures you’re gone for sure, The Defender of the Faith is down by the wayside, and it’s now safe to paint over the tragically faded lettering advertising Blanco’s restaurant. . . .

Yesterday I finally did my first Hammett walk since acquiring my Aztec Sacrificial Scar — a by-appointment deal for a guy’s birthday. Figured I had to dip a toe back in the torrent sooner or later. See if my gumshoes were ready for some exercise. . . if I had the moxie for another case.

We hiked along, swapping comments on Hammett and Dillinger-era gangsters and silent movies and Marx Brothers quotes — the usual, I guess. But when we made it up Larkin to the corner of Olive alley, whoa.

For those of the thousands of you who have walked the walk over the last forty years and may remember the one-story brick building housing the dry cleaners on the corner, where many of you got to step over classic sleeping drunks on the sidewalk in bygone days, and more recently have footed around the used needles as the junkies shoot up in a leg — well, hell, that great old building is gone. Big new apartment building going up in its footprint.

I ought to have taken that construction site as an omen, but I didn’t. I guided the group west on Olive to the back wall of what is now The Great American Music Hall so that they could look at the decades old lettering for Blanco’s, a place where the Op eats a meal in The Dain Curse.

The paint looks pretty fresh.

Sometime since I’ve been out of action, they finally covered over the old signage for Blanco’s, as seen on page 88 of the tour book. The building is the same, of course, and you’ll be able to recognize it because of the distinctive (and huge) metal pipe.

Since I began doing the tour back in 1977 I’ve always felt the Blanco’s signage was living on borrowed time, and I applaud the Music Hall folk along the way who decided to hold off on new paint, so Hammett fans could catch a piece of history.

A full forty years for fans to savor the sign in the course of the Hammett tour.

As recently — or as long ago — as 2013 I did a post about “me gesturing up to the faded lettering for Blanco’s and talking about the Continental Op. The Blanco’s lettering is going fast, so if you want to see it, take a tour sooner than later or check it out on your own.”

Adios, Blanco’s.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, Tour | Tagged , , , |

Rediscovered: Oakley Hall and 1940s California

If you want to check it out, my latest review for PW just popped. The gist and much of the wordage is mine (if you can’t tell the especially distinct Don Herron touch, you’re unfamiliar with my writings of the last many years).

It got juggled a bit, but then I do give them a few more words than they can fit in, and if editorial wants to move things here and there, what the hell. My name isn’t on it.

The McGinnis cover is another modern classic, but I didn’t have time to deal with it as such, or felt the need.

This Oakley Hall novel is a rediscovery from 1950, and half of it is really solid. Fine period details such as tin shower stalls and wing windows on cars. Covers territory from the Central Valley to San Diego — even a sequence set in and around Hamilton Fields, where if you recall Charles Willeford was stationed just as he finally began writing novels in the early 1950s.

Hall might have noted his details just slightly earlier than Willeford was there, but, man, it’s pretty close. One kind of noir guy using turf tread by another kind of noir guy.

Ah, but the other half of the novel — hysterical emoting, the lead couple splitting and getting back together again. Time after time.

I know it happens — as a kid in Tennessee the couple who owned the nearest grocery store divorced then remarried then divorced then remarried till I lost count — but the emotional strum und drang, honest, doesn’t make for compelling reading.

Call it quits, morons, and move on.

Posted in Lit, Willeford | Tagged , , |

Hammett: Zobeck Research Cited, Too

I whipped together a quick post the other day after noticing Mean Streets buddy and Hammett biographer Nathan Ward got some mentions in Anne Diebel’s article for Paris Review titled “Dashiell Hammett’s Strange Career.”

Like I said, I gave it a casual gander, at best, and skipped over something interesting. The prolific poster Terry Zobeck just brought it to my attention.

Terry writes, “Someone sent me a link to the article before I saw it on Mean Streets.  In the first sentence she quotes Hammett from the Daily Eagle interview I ‘discovered.’  And I like that she acknowledges Nathan’s book.

“Hey, we made it into the Paris Review, sort of.”

Nice to see that the “Lost Interview” is spreading around.

Contributions to the culture, that’s our game.

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Suicide Club: Roscoe Arbuckle Kidnapped Caper

On a rotting wharf over the Islais Creek channel, a climactic gundown gets a reenactment — left to right, R. Faraday Nelson as Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (but I’m thinking Ray’s major claim to immortality probably is serving as the model for Roy Batty in PKD’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a.k.a. Bladerunner); John Law as Vito Lawtoni (John with a number of toeholds on lasting fame — taking Burning Man to Black Rock Desert surely one of the major blurbable moments); and Don Herron as Rocco (“More, get me? I want more. Lots more! Sure. More than you can cram into this lousy little shootout!”).

On his blog today John Law does some history on the infamous Suicide Club of San Francisco, and dives deep into the event where the plot involved Fatty Arbuckle being kidnapped, see, and mugs like Hammett and the Op try to dope out the caper, see?

Anyway, if you want to check out one of the things I was doing back in 1981, follow the clew highlighted in the paragraph above.

Now, beat it.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, Lit, SFSC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Hammett: A Strange Career? You Decide!

Brian Wallace just dropped a link into my Inbox, Anne Diebel in The Paris Review ruminating on Hammett’s career as a writer — and much of it seems to be riffing off Nathan Ward’s bio The Lost Detective.

Kind of like I did with the Jesse Sublett review of The Big Book of the Op, I didn’t really read the article (honest, I already know all this stuff, right?).

I scanned down the wordage, spotted the refs to Nathan’s book, which got a lot of play here, and figured Mean Streets types might want to give it a glance, too. Or even read the whole thing.

And aside from the Nathan angle, I kind of like the Paris Review connection, too. Years ago I went to a big writers deal in Florida, and George Plimpton was one of the major figures in attendance. I was on a panel about biography with him. Incredibly nice guy — and a founder of The Paris Review.

In memoriam George Plimpton, then, hop on over to see what they’re doing in his mag today.

Posted in Dash | Tagged , , , , |

Hammett: Some Corrections If You Please

Awhile back I did a link to a review of The Big Book of the Continental Op by Jesse Sublett. I’m sure there are numerous reviews of Big Book of the Op I haven’t linked to yet, and never will, but Jesse got the nod because he was part of Posse McMillan, and it gave me an excuse to summon up once more the dope on the copies of Measures of Poison signed by eleven contributors during the Bouchercon in Austin in 2002.

Just yesterday a guy happened to ask me if I had any idea who did some of the signatures that day, and I told him, Yes, I do — and I pointed him to my definitive explanation. You’ll never find a clearer guide to that set of John Hancocks.

I don’t think I even read the review before I quickly mocked up the link. I wasn’t worried about any errors that occurred — essentially, I consider any article done for a paper and most magazines to be at best marginal on accuracy. Reader, beware. . . .

But I’m not the only gumshoe patrolling These Mean Streets, and you guys know that Tenderloin Terry Zobeck is picky as hell. A stickler for accuracy. A tireless defender of the facts. And so forth.

“I just dropped into the Mean Streets,” Terry said, “and saw the link to Sublett’s review of the Big Op Story collection.  I felt like the Op reading that sign behind the Mexican bar and counting the number of lies, in this case the number of errors.

“How could he make so many mistakes in a couple of paragraphs?”

Here’s a sample paragraph from the review, that got Terry’s attention:

Born in 1896, Dashiell Hammett was a detective for the Pinkerton Detective Agency between 1915 and 1922, his employment interrupted by service in the trenches in World War I. The latter ruined his health. Wracked by TB, he turned to writing to support himself and family. His first story in the American hard-boiled style, “Arson Plus,” appeared in Black Mask in October 1922. Hammett set down standards for the genre with a deceptively stark prose style, American vernacular and cadence, and an unsentimental point of view. The stories bristled with realism, urgency, and momentum. Hammett is best known for his monumental first novel, The Maltese Falcon, featuring detective Sam Spade (immortalized in the film, starring Humphrey Bogart and a stellar supporting cast) and his later, alcohol-soaked Thin Man novels, featuring Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy in the film adaptations). In between came a personal favorite, The Glass Key, helmed by a fixer named Ned Beaumont. Which leaves the vast treasure of short stories featuring a certain nameless operative of the Continental Detective Agency, referred to as an operative, or “op.”

The Maltese Falcon was Hammett’s first novel?” Terry asks. “He ruined his health in the trenches of WWI? Hammett a left-winger when he created the Op? And best known for his Thin Man novels, plural?  Yikes!”

But from that otherwise innocuous and no doubt forgettable little post, Terry figured out that we had encountered each other a decade before the official meeting at PulpFest in 2012.

“And you are in Measures of Poison?  I’d forgotten that,” he said. “I must have met you in Austin if only for a second. I was there and bought a copy from Dennis. I remember the signing.”

Ships that pass in the night. This blog, in its still formless infancy, was only two years old.

Terry wouldn’t start contributing until 2011.

He might want to read or reread that story I did for Measures of Poison, specifically because Dennis McMillan asked me for a neo-pulp yarn. That one was written for guys like Terry, even if I didn’t know who he was at the time.

I just knew he was out there.

Posted in Dash, DMac | Tagged , , , , , |

Sinister Cinema: A Heist Flick, with Jagger

And a Tip of the Fedora to John Hocking, who popped in the news that Mick Jagger has been plugged into the cast for the movie of The Burnt Orange Heresy.

The more potentially distressing news unveiled by Variety portrays the action as a “heist thriller” — racking the aging brain I don’t recall much heist action in the classic Big Deal on Madonna Street or  Topkapi sense in Willeford’s novel. Or even the antics of The Italian Job and dozens more. I like heist thrillers, I’m thinking I would have noticed.

But as I was telling John, the mere fact that they are changing up names and locations suggests to me that they’ll drift so far away from the book that it won’t be the book. As happened with World War Z, where they used the title and had some zombies, and nothing else.

I figure if it turns into some major talked-about movie, all is swell. Float Willeford’s name to the top for a moment. Bring some people to his novel, even his backlist.

Of course, if it diverges just enough I can see the meetings where Someone in Power doesn’t want the Movie too closely associated with the Book.

It would be primo Willefordian if they brought in some struggling contract writer to do a novelization off the screenplay.

Jeez, the mere thought. . . .

Posted in Film, Willeford | Tagged , , , |