Tour: The Maltese Eagle Caper

When I say that the usual Sunday Hammett Tour takes four hours, trust me, I’m not kidding. Four solid hours with one brief break in the middle, and if people ask a lot of questions, make that four hours and ten minutes, four hours and twenty. . . .

As a courtesy for people who reserve a tour by appointment, I do offer shorter versions — three hours, two hours, and if we leave out the Sam Spade building, I can get it down to one hour for those who want the quickest hike possible yet still see most of the sites related to The Maltese Falcon.

Point being, I can speed it up if needed, but to get the most sites and info, yeah, four hours is what it takes. Which means the tour starts at noon and ends up in front of John’s Grill, next to the rear doors of the James Flood Building where Hammett worked for Pinkerton’s, about 4:10, 4:25.

For the walk on Sunday September 16, I had to put on some speed. As the tour was starting off Ron Shore came on scene and told us that the Maltese Eagle would be on view in John’s until 4:00, and he wanted us to see it. The closest dingus to a real Maltese Falcon that’s around these days.

Originally called the Golden Eagle, Ron had brought it to San Francisco for a charity benefit where Hammett’s daughter Jo Marshall would give the okay to call it the Maltese Eagle.

I asked the eighteen people who showed up if they wanted to make a dash for it. They weren’t adverse to seeing six million or so spinning around in its protective case, and the game was afoot.

I got them there by 3:30, by cutting out the typical stop for drinks in The Ha-Ra with Jerry the Bartender. Lopped off 811 Geary and Fritz Leiber completely — sorry, Fritz. Trimmed some bits of information and verbal flourishes. I believe I even left out my usual tributes to Dwight Frye and Wyatt Earp!

I think it was worth it. The gem-laden statuette was only in town for the weekend. Plus we got the history of the eagle from Ron himself, with asides on his treasure hunting activities — if you’re curious, you can get the book and also track down thousands of articles through the wilds of the Internet jungle.

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