Frisco Beat: Native Son

Editor Matthew Asprey got a copy to me of his collection of Jack London’s best tales set in and around San Francisco, including the complete Tales of the Fish Patrol — and “South of the Slot,” the London yarn selected by Peter Maravelis for San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics. A meaty compactly packaged book. If you don’t have these stories, a great intro to a city that was lost in the 1906 quake and fire, by the most famous author born in town.

The book closes out with London’s eyewitness account of San Francisco burning down after the ’06 — somehow I don’t believe I had encountered this document before. A must read for anyone with Suicide Club inclinations, the desire to be on the scene in the middle of the action. At one point in his report London stands in the middle of Market at Third Street, deserted as people flee toward Nob Hill. The cover photo used is shot east down Market at Third circa 1900, easily recognised today because of Lotta’s Fountain standing in the left bottom corner of the frame.

The preface by Rodger Jacobs blurbing Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, a London hangout, is unexpected, since a good chunk of it covers his work writing quick scenarios for porn movies. Asprey is equally current — not the sort of introductions I’m used to seeing in a Jack London volume. But what the hell, I guess this means Modern Guys like London, too, which is good news for Jack’s continued literary longevity.

Among other things Asprey mentions, he tracks down an unnamed Latino writer: “The novelist lived in a post-divorce ranch house rental. . . . I had read his five novels and two books of poetry, all about his crazy Mexican family and marriages. . . . Hadn’t placed a manuscript since 1994.” The sort of writer ripe for a Rediscovered survey. Asprey also spots Lawrence Ferlinghetti in a cafe. And:

Back in San Francisco, I took Don Herron’s enthusiastic, super-generous, long-running Dashiell Hammett Tour.

Yeah, that’s the way I think about the walk, too.

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