By Appointment: Let’s say you’ve got a book club and want to do a tour by appointment, because this month you’re all reading The Maltese Falcon — sure, why not? If I’m not out of town the specific date you have in mind — and so far I have traveled as far afield as Boise and Missoula to speak at Big Reads in honor of Hammett’s most famous novel — arranging a walk ought to be easy. But you need to hit a minimum of $250 to entice me away from my noir lair, to slip on the gumshoes and hit the mean streets. To work something out, just email and we can juggle details.
Extra Walks: Obviously $250 is a lot to shell out for just one or two people who may be rolling into town, and I am more than sympathetic to longtime Hammett fans who are making their first pilgrimage to San Francisco — even people flying in from as far off as Europe or Australia who may never get a chance to come back. If you let me know at least a month in advance — so I have adequate lead time to announce the walk on this website — I can see about tossing in an extra tour on a Sunday where anyone who wants can show up and take it, $20 per person like the May and September tours. But I want that month lead time. And I really want the specific people who ask for the tour — sometimes beg for the tour — to show up for it. Most times they do, but occasionally the flake factor rears its ugly head. I suppose if people ask for a walk and blow it off often enough, I will need to require a non-refundable deposit, but honestly I’d prefer to avoid that option. I like the Just Show Up and Take the Tour idea, keeping it simple.
But Why Not a Tour Tomorrow for One Person for $20?: In a perfect noir universe I realize I blew my chance — I should have rented a studio deep in the Tenderloin circa 1977, rent-controlled for all these years, so that today someone could pop me an email announcing they are in San Francisco next Wednesday and ready to pay $20 for a four hour tour, and it would almost be worth doing if they also bought me a few beers at the end. . . . Yet in real life circumstances took me out of the city limits decades back. I lived ten years in Sonoma about half a mile from the ruins of Jack London’s monumental Wolf House, another ten in the East Bay, and now I’m putting in my time deep in the South Bay, an hour or so out of town. $20 won’t quite cover gas and parking, so no offense but running up for a Hammett tour for one or two people just isn’t tempting. Plan ahead and try for the Extra Walk option as above, or assemble a big group of your pals who’ll split the costs with you. I might feel a little guiltier about the whole thing except anyone can grab a Hammett tour book for less than the cost of a $20 tour plus a few beers and track down every site covered, without me personally hoofing in the lead.