Hammett: It’s Almost Like Clockwork. . .

Yesterday Jeopardy! dropped Hammett back into their clew stew in the Jeopardy Round, in the “toughest” slot — $1000 — in the category Literary Hodgepodge:

Dashiell Hammett dedicated “The Thin Man” to this fellow writer and longtime love

The contestant named Lisa clicked in and said “Who is Lillian Hellman?” Correct. Lisa had been struggling for most of the show to that point, but hitting the Hammett Voodoo got her on track and she finished the day as the winner of the whole shebang.

I’m kind of surprised that the Jeopardy! folk didn’t finagle the dope even finer and have the clew drop on June 20 — the 112th anniversary of Hellman’s birth. Me, I can’t keep track of stuff like that but I expect no less from Jeopardy!

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Two-Gun Bob: He Was a Contenda

Eighty-one years ago today the Texas pulpster Robert E. Howard killed himself at the age of thirty.

To commemorate the date, let’s bring Brian Leno back into the ring to talk about one of Howard’s predictions on boxing, one of his favored pastimes.

Brian is deep into the book he’s doing on the boxing world as Howard knew it, and in particular keeps unearthing data on the pugilist “Kid” Dula. When he gets it done, that book ought to make a hell of a memorial.

If it happens that the name Dula and the date October 2, 1929 clang any bells for you, that may be because Brian touched on them before when he showcased a ticket for that night’s bouts alongside a gold watch Jack Dempsey gave to Dula on the occasion.

Brian keeps on digging, and he’s tracked down a program for the event for his own collection — which kicks off additional thoughts about a fighter from Robert E. Howard’s short life.

Here’s Brian:


Back in 1928 Robert E. Howard wrote to the Brownwood Bulletin and forcibly expressed his belief that “Kid” Dula, a local boxing star, was destined to become middleweight champion of the world.

At that time the reigning king was Mickey Walker, one of the all-time greats in that division. Howard’s hope of a Dula-Walker match seemed about as faint as Rocky Marciano, when champion, taking on one of your neighbors. But if we take the gloves off and do some old-fashioned digging we soon discover that Howard’s hyperbole about Dula was not really so far-fetched.

About a year after Howard penned his now famous letter, “Kid” Dula — now also known by the moniker “Cowboy” Dula — stepped into the ring against the “smiling Norwegian” Haakon Hanson.

Hanson had participated in the 1924 Paris Olympics, and while he never won a medal, he had done himself pretty proud. Some fans of the pugilistic science thought he had a chance of going far. When Hanson’s manager told reporters that the fight “should be easy” there weren’t too many ring scribes ready to disagree with him.

But Dula rose to the occasion that night and headlines the next day told the story. “Dula’s Victory over Hanson Upsets Fistic World,” one read, and it seemed that the Cowboy might actually have roped himself a bout against highly rated Dave Shade.

Shade was one of those tough scrappers who fought more than 200 times in his career, taking on some pretty hard hitters, including Ace Hudkins, Ben Jeby, Rene De Vos, Maxie Rosenbloom and many others, but for our purposes we need to ask the Timekeeper to turn his clock back to 1921 when Shade took on Mickey Walker, not once, but twice.

The first bout ended in disaster for Shade when he broke his hand and the fight was stopped, becoming a TKO victory for Walker. A month later the two met again and this time Shade was the winner by a newspaper decision.

A third fight occurred in 1925, with Walker’s welterweight title on the line. Shade lost the decision, but the verdict was not a popular one with some of the fans.

The chance of Dula meeting Shade had to have been one of the “Kid’s” most important moments in his boxing career. If he had faced and beaten Shade, it’s very probable he would have gotten a shot against Mickey Walker — and Howard’s prediction in his letter could have come true.

Dula beating Walker would have been an extreme long shot, but it wouldn’t have been the first upset in the world of boxing.

When Dula beat Haakon Hanson it knocked the Norwegian out of The Ring’s top ten middleweights and a new name was added to the list — Art Dula. (The unfortunate thing is the magazine listed him as “Cowboy” Ray Dula, screwing up his first name. I can imagine this Rodney Dangerfield moment must have been a little souring, but Dula had finally gotten big league recognition.)

But instead of the “Kid” taking on Dave Shade, he was rematched with Hanson and they were given a slot on Jack Dempsey’s first Chicago promotion, at the Chicago Coliseum.

Two pictures from that program are shown: the cover, and Mr. Dempsey pointing to his lineup of fighters for that evening’s entertainment. I recently added this item, a true fistic rarity, to my collection, where it’ll stay. (And a contemporary postcard view of the venue at the top helps set the scene.)

On that night things went very badly for our Texas boxer, and Hanson scored a TKO victory in the 6th round. However, you’ll get the full story on a different day.

Research, research, research, that’ll never get me to Carnegie Hall — but it did get me to the Chicago Coliseum on October 2, 1929, when for “one brief, shining moment” Cowboy Dula was ranked as one of the top middleweights in the world.

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Hollywood Beat: When Chandler Was Home

Brian Wallace popped me the news that Raymond Chandler’s home in La Jolla — given how often he moved around, kind of his main lair — is up for serious renovation and the addition of a second story.

If that goes through, it won’t look the same. Now I can drown my regret in a drink or three that I didn’t make the effort to prowl into La Jolla last time I hit San Diego, since I don’t get much past Musso & Frank all that often.

Especially when something has been left largely untouched for many years, you get to thinking that the building will be there forever, unless fire or earthquake or something intervenes. In San Francisco, I think of the place where Jimmy Stewart “lived” in Vertigo — the building on the northwest corner of Lombard and Jones.

Most of my time in the city you could recognize it from the film, but with the addition of a couple of bushes that had been planted on the outside. Then a few years ago someone nabbed it and had a complete facelift done. Take my word for it, same building, but you wouldn’t be able to stand cattycorner today and get hit with the shock of recognition.

La Jolla is on the edge of losing its most significant lit landmark — The Long Goodbye, anyone? — but then Atlanta almost knocked down the house where Margaret Mitchell wrote most of Gone with the Wind. That one got moved.

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Rediscovered: Bruce Townley’s Oblong

To clarify the title, I’m not saying that Bruce Townley is oblong, I’m talking about Bruce’s zine Oblong.

If interested, you can surf over to a file of PDF issues and amuse yourself with the content until you’ve had enough, or run through the series. In the first ish Bruce does an extended bit trying to dope out what makes for a real noir film — lots of guys in hats is one of his criteria. In the second ish he does capsule comments on the offerings for a film noir festival in The Roxie Theatre. Plus he’s got stuff on Tiki bars and other hot topics for zining it up. And he’s witty — while he may have worked on the repartee, I find it easiest to think that he was simply born with a bon mot emerging from the old yap.

I just saw Bruce last month for the first time in several years at a small assembly of local fanzine fans. I’ve got a toe or two in that arena, and at least a box or two with copies of zines I contributed to in the day.

So, I showed up to the fanzine fan lunch and thought to mention that Bill Breiding had contacted me out of the blue and said he was sending me something. Bruce — any Spoiler Alert in his mind switched firmly to Off — said, “Oh, that’s a big collection of his fanzine pieces” or something slightly more witty than that wording.

Bill is a longtime member of that general crew of fanzine fan folk, and one of the pieces in his book is reprinted from Oblong. I was still sufficiently surprised — in my mind’s eye I was expecting a big fat mimeographed item.

At any rate, to keep the local Frisco fanzine pulse going a bit longer, check out Oblong — and notice that at the bottom of the page you can click over to the eFanzines archive and a ton of other material. Dozens of new zines added so far this year, and back files of some 300 zines.

And among the offerings you could check out Warren Harris’s pulp zine — Warren is the cool cat who figured out The Midget Bandit Mystery.

If you need a new hobby. . . .

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Sinister Cinema: Lon Chaney’s The Penalty

When I met the mysterious CitySleuth he mentioned that he was working on finding San Francisco location shooting for the Lon Chaney flick The Penalty from 1920 — one of my favorites, with Chaney in one of his greatest roles as the legless crime lord with plans to rob the Old Mint, which I maintain in the tour book is an obvious model for Hammett’s plotting in The Big Knockover, one of my top favorite Hammett Op yarns.

I realized it had been awhile, so I surfed over to ReelSF to see if anything was shaking. Hey-hey. He’s got it going, tracking down one building and street after another — and lots of the locations are standing today.

Start here with the opening scenes, then on to the next entry and the next. I can’t believe he’s scouted out so many locations. You can ponder this entry in which he reveals his methods, but as far as I’m concerned, the guy is a Zen Voodoo Master. Tell me if you ever thought someone would point out the actual address for Chaney’s lair (in Wentworth alley in Chinatown) or be able to dope out the use of Orben (between Fillmore and Webster, and California and Pine).

Some of my fellow Frisco film buffs are going to go nuts when they check his research out. I’m talking drooling. . . .


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Rediscovered: The Bill Breiding Omnibus

Pretty much the last thing I might have expected to roll in would have been an omnibus — under the banner of Rose Motel — of Bill Breiding’s “Fanzine Pieces 1980-2014.” Years pass and I don’t hear from Bill, then Bingo.

The last time Bill’s mug showed up here at Up and Down was in 2011, where you’ll see him as the long-haired and laughing guy to the left in the photo. Now he’s like me and Sean Connery, grizzled and scalped by the long years — and in the photos selected, looking at life with a serious and perhaps even noir-tinged gaze.

I don’t think this collection gathers everything Bill ever did in his zining life. Not a Complete Essays, more like a Selected or Best of Essays.

And in effect, this book could pass as an autobiography. Yeah, it jumps around, but eventually enough threads are connected where you have the start in Morgantown, West Virginia, and an abusive dad — then the Breiding clan flees to San Francisco in time for the Summer of Love when Bill is just a teen. Back to West Virginia. Back to San Francisco by the mid-70s, when I first met them. Then here and there, with Bill camping out for a year, tying back in with his dad, then ending up in Tucson, then leaving, and now back in Tucson.

While Bill edited one genzine — or general zine — Star-Fire, his best stuff is of the perzine — or personal zine — ilk. People into zines know the lingo. So you’ve got wrenching memoirs of his family life. Coverage of county music, like the tribute piece on Johnny Paycheck (and would anyone deny “Take This Job and Shove It” is one of the great American anthems?).

Given that Bill dropped out of school when he was fifteen, you’ve got to give him credit for keeping it interesting and keeping it real. I popped through painlessly.

Obviously the major market for this one are the surviving fanzine fans of Bill’s era, and people interested in that era. But it spreads from there. I don’t have most issues of Star-Fire any more because they went in with the collection of poet G. Sutton Breiding materials I turned over to Bancroft Library. One of Bill’s brothers, the one he tells about who read chapter by chapter night after night Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to family and friends in their flat in San Francisco.

And aside from details of life in San Francisco, Bill mentions how Gary Warne first came out to the city from West Virginia to stay with them — Gary, who would go on to found The Suicide Club, which would spawn and influence such things as Cacophony Society and Burning Man. Bill has a brilliantly simple and in my opinion completely accurate line:

Gary was an example of a naïve and unselfconscious charismatic personality.

Yeah, Gary could have become a cult leader — so many cult leaders back in the day — but I don’t think it ever occurred to him, and if it did he would have laughed it off.

So, from the youngest member of Clan Breiding you’ve got local history, local literary history, local secret society history — informed by his history.

(And by the way, you pronounce the name Bride-ing not Breed-ing, the reverse Germanic ei thing, as with Fritz Leiber — Lie-ber not Lee-ber.)

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Tour: Sunday June 11

In the pic above, The Dashiell Hammett Tour of that moment stands on the northwest corner of O’Farrell and Larkin, taking in the perfect 1920s blocks rolling down O’Farrell to the east (until you get to The Hamilton, a large white apartment house of post-Hammett vintage — and beyond, the new Hilton Towers). Behind the group on the left, fronted by the sign for The Great America Music Hall, is the façade of Blanco’s, where the Op eats a meal in the last Op novel, The Dain Curse.

Anyone who wants to show up and join in this month has one shot at it on Sunday June 11. Bring $20 per head. Shoes made for walking. Noon start. Allow four hours to negotiate the Hammettian mean streets.

Don’t think I’m completely goofing off as summer rolls in — groups by appointment keep hiking up and down the hills.

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Hammett: The Lewis Mania Continues. . .

Evan Lewis leads off his post today with the image above, a bronze figurine of Bogart as Spade that sold at an auction of Lauren Bacall’s stuff two years ago for $16,250 — compared to the loot hauled in from sales of the Black Bird figurines from the Bogie flick, pretty cheap.

Anyway, if interested surf over for Evan’s 37 Different Looks at The Maltese Falcon (1941), which continues his new burst of Hammett mania — and if you’re just now looking, go back a few days for more visual and even audio treats, and keep going until Evan moves on to the next thing after he runs pages from the Golden Age comic book of the Falcon.

He popped me a note explaining how he got himself lined up to jump into the deep end of this particular pool:

Here’s the skinny.

My Falcon burst was spurred by the fact that — after ten years of searching boxes in my storage unit for the Maltese comic book — I found it in my top desk drawer, buried in a stack of 3-D comics. It was right there the whole time, about two feet from my nose. I’ve been wanting to post it on my blog ever since I started the thing. I was going to start the comic on May 27 in honor of the Birthday, but decided to kick off on the 26th, when I’ll get a lot of traffic from the Forgotten Books crowd.

Hey, I know that feeling — just the other week I stumbled across my copy of Irving Rosenthal’s novel Sheeper, which I was going on about in the recent radio interview with Burrito Justice.

Evan mentions that he wasn’t yet aware of the “new” Spade story: “And no, I didn’t know The Hunter had a Spade fragment. I have a copy here from the library, but haven’t got around to inspecting it.” Me, I’m not sure that the Spade item actually is a fragment, as described — it feels like it could be a full story to me, but with lots of the plumping-up left out.

Among other things Evan thought up to do, he reports, “I’ve also been wanting to post The Kandi Tooth for years, and only recently found my old cassette tape. Thought I was going to have to post it myself to YouTube, but I see someone did that a couple of months ago and saved me the trouble.” If you don’t know, Kandi Tooth is a sequel to the Falcon performed on radio — kind of goofy, but fun. Punch it into YouTube and find out for yourself.

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Hammett: Birthday 123 Coming Up

Dell 411 (1950). Cover Art by Robert Stanley

I can’t tell if Hammett’s upcoming birthday — no.123 — on May 27 is what triggered a burst of posts on Evan Lewis’ blog, or if he just suddenly felt like it. But if you care to surf over and follow in his wake, he indicates he’s building up to presenting the old Maltese Falcon comic book “beginning Friday, May 26.”

Who knows what he might sneak in before then?

Already up for viewing is an image-laden rumination on the Sam Spade short stories (I also can’t tell if Evan knows about the “new” Spade short, or fragment, presented in The Hunter and Other Stories, or if he’s just dealing strictly with the contents of The Adventures of Sam Spade collection).

Next up he presents a gallery of covers for The Maltese Falcon — some, but no means all.

And we’ve got a whole week to go before lighting any candles.

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Hammett: Jeopardy! Does Another Lightning Strike

Good grief.

After the recent use of Hammett on Jeopardy! I thought I was safe for awhile, especially during the currently airing Teachers Tournament. Surely they wouldn’t be posing Hammett-themed clews for the nation’s educators.

But on May 9 during the Double Jeopardy Round, the $1600 clew in the category People on the Page:

The archetype of the hard-boiled detective, Sam Spade was created by this author & featured in “The Maltese Falcon”

The teach named Mary rang in first and asked, “Who is Dashiell Hammett?”

What next?

Hammett clews during the Teen Tournament?

Will they expect Celebrities to field deep-deep Hammettian concepts later in the year?

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