Rediscovered: Return of the Logo!

On July 29 I found a little packet in the mailbox, with the completely unexpected second addenda to John D. Haefele’s working bibliography of August Derleth enclosed.

The bibliography appeared in 2006 as the third entry in The Cimmerian Library’s series of chapbooks. Limited to 100 copies.

Cleverly channeling Derleth and his legion of Arkham House ephemera items, in 2008 Haefele added Addenda 1 under the Cimmerian Press imprint and helmeted skull logo. As I’ve said elsewhere, no copy complete without one.

But when I glanced at the back of Addenda 2 I was surprised to see a new logo in place.

Funny as hell.

The only thought that could crawl to the surface in my stunned brain was Cat Butt!

On its own, a quiet riot. (And an excellent logo, as such.)

Signifying that Addenda 2 sees release under Haefele’s old Esoteric Order of Dagon imprint of The Hesperia Press, I asked Haefele if he’d just come up with it. I have seen a few but by no means all issues of Haefele’s EOD zine and didn’t remember a logo, much less this logo.

“I created the Hesperia Press cat butt in 2001,” Haefele tells me, “when celebrating in the EOD the achievement award won that year by Marc Michaud of Necronomicon Press. If you look at the NP logo, you will see that they have a black cat in a circle, facing forward, and sitting against a white background.

“My cat in a circle is white, facing backward, and walking away against a black background.

“I began using the logo with Lest We Forget: August Derleth on the Subject of H. P. Lovecraft (Hesperia Special Issue No. 6), published by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box in 2009.

“Only, I laid down the grease pencil when I began my association with The Cimmerian Press.”

Out of all the obscure limited editions Haefele has done (and that have been reported to date), Lest We Forget is the only one I don’t have — or I’d have made the acquaintance of the insouciant logo long ago.

My copy of Addenda 2 is hand-numbered as number 5 of 10 printed. Translation: you’ll never see a copy.

Collectors can take comfort in the changeover of imprints, because you might have a chance to get the original booklet and Addenda 1 which are both Cimmerian Library. Stop there, and be happy. But — some wise advice — don’t hold your breath while you’re tracking those down.

Of his saucy logo parading boldly around Esoteric Order of Dagon country, Haefele says, “I don’t think any of the big brains fully got the joke.”

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Mort: William F. Nolan

A few days after the fact, word drifted in that William F. Nolan died, age 93, on July 15. I scanned some of the obits, all rightly selecting the science fiction novel Logan’s Run as the book of all his books with which he’ll be identified.

One movie, and you’ve got a cult — remember the Logan’s Runners who used to tear wildly down the hallways at sf conventions in the mid-70s?

But on These Mean Streets Nolan deserves notice for the Hammett connection. His Dashiell Hammett: A Casebook (1969) was the first full-length book on the writer — sure, almost every date was wrong, and the critiques of the work frozen in that 1950s/60s mindset. But it was the book on Hammett that fans wanted to read at the time, and it’s still fun to prowl through — a pal of mine was giving it another read the other day.

When John’s Grill went over to overt Maltese Falcon themes in 1976, Nolan and ex-Pinkerton’s man Jack Kaplan helped set up the Dashiell Hammett Society. I believe they had two meetings, about a year apart, before the energy waned with the death of Kaplan.

I always tell people that John’s Grill is the Society, usually hauling out the name when doing fundraisers for charities and so on. And at some point, pre-pandemic, as the Hammett tour stood in front of John’s, a plump amiable old guy came out the doors and told us he was presiding over meetings of the Society. Obviously he didn’t know who I was, but if you can cut yourself in on a gig, why not? No idea how long that incarnation lasted — or if they ever had a meeting.

With Hammett: A Life at the Edge in 1983 Nolan took another swing, a full biography. Of all the bios that came out in that era (and they were a glut on the market), I’ve said that Nolan’s no doubt is the easiest to read, if you’ve only got time for one.

As part of the publicity tour for Life at the Edge Nolan spoke before The Maltese Falcon Society in San Francisco. That Society lasted for five years, from the first meeting on May 20, 1981 (now forty years ago!) to the last on Hammett’s 92nd birthday, May 27, 1986. I got to hang out with Nolan for a couple of days, which was fun. His publisher had him installed in the St. Francis and we had a little party (nothing to compare with the Fatty Arbuckle bash).

I got a few of his books inscribed at the time, and of his other hard-boiled material my fave is the anthology The Black Mask Boys from 1985. And as it happened both Nolan and I were hitting the pages of Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine in the 2000s, sometimes side-by-side. Currently I have out the October 2002 issue with my article and checklist of classic era Arkham House ephemera, prepping for a book-length expansion to be co-authored with John D. Haefele — in that issue Nolan appears with “Collecting Howard Browne.” I met Browne once, too.

I didn’t cross paths with Nolan again until PulpFest, July 30-August 1, 2010, where he was a Guest of Honor. I didn’t want to take up too much of his time — he was swamped with people — but thought I should say hello. And I wanted to ask him about the status of another bio he’d reportedly done, A Man Called Dash: The Life and Times of Samuel Dashiell Hammett.

Vague rumors about that book had reached my ears. Supposed to be under contract with Knopf. But when Nolan turned in a 900 page manuscript they balked. Too many pages. (Publisher Vince Emery once told me, But 300 of the pages are Notes! Notes. Yeah, right. A page is a page.) Anyway, from what I was hearing it sounded as if it was dead.

So I asked what the status was, and Nolan seemed to think it was still in the works. Currently on his Wiki page a tentative release date has it coming from Knopf in 2015. That’s six years ago now, but who knows?

A last word on Hammett from Bill Nolan might still roll out someday.

And at 93, he certainly had a good run.

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Two-Gun Bob: The Best and the Worst

The discussion of pastiche writing the other day — and how even the original authors didn’t always excel with their classic characters — spurred the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook to send in additional thoughts:

Well, if we’re going to pick out the best of the work by the creators of famous characters, then by all means there are probably a half dozen great Conan stories, another half dozen very good stories and a third half dozen potboilers, plus a couple duds (“The Vale of Lost Women” and “The God in the Bowl”).

Burroughs ranks about the same with a half dozen excellent Tarzan books, a half dozen very good books, a half dozen potboilers and a few left over duds.

With Sherlock Holmes there are two great short story collections, Adventures and Memoirs, and one great novel.

Ranking The Return of Sherlock Holmes is the hardest because the quality of the stories varies so much, but some people would choose it as a third great collection. I would not. The rest, mostly potboilers.

With that topic in mind, there is a review of Skull-Face and Others in the UK’s Fantasy Review # 1 (February-March 1947) where the reviewer, Arthur F. Hillman, castigates Derleth for leaving out “Red Nails” and “The People of the Black Circle” — “among the finest in the [Conan] series” — from the collection.

Hillman would have tossed “Skull-Face” in exchange for the two Conan novelettes.

He also notes, “For Howard’s imagination was soaring on stronger pinions as the years passed, and his earlier tales do not, in my opinion, compare with the promising epics he produced before his untimely death cut short his career.” 

I bought a set of Fantasy Review and it is interesting to read what critics of that time thought and wrote about these books 75 years ago.

The funny thing is that Hillman might very well have come up with the same list of the half dozen great Conan stories then, as we would today.

You’ll find the review of Skull-Face on pages 12 & 13 of the zine — but the whole thing is worth browsing for historical interest. And if anyone is in doubt about which novel is the standout of the Sherlock Holmes series, I’m pretty sure Kevin intends The Hound of the Baskervilles. Has to be, right?

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Frisco Beat: Kent Harrington in Person in Green Apple

Quick. Before they concoct an excuse to shut everything down again.

Get over to Green Apple on Ninth Avenue tomorrow night to see Kent Harrington interviewed by Kevin Hunsanger about his new San Francisco crime novel Last Seen.

I’ve already got my copy, inscribed and everything — when this one was coming along I checked my Kent shelf and believe I found that I have every novel inscribed except for one (but it’s flat signed).

I don’t quite have every first edition, because a couple came out in France, but overall, a solid set.

If you’re in striking distance and have an interest in Posse McMillan noir writers, you’ll no doubt enjoy hearing Kent and Kevin chewing the fat.

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Tour: By Appointment with Drake

The walk I did years ago for science fiction and fantasy writer David Drake, in town to do a signing in Borderlands Books, came up the other day in a blog from Deuce Richardson.

Deuce liked the anecdote Drake told me about selling his first story to August Derleth at Arkham House, and wanted to circulate it around some more.

Plus if memory serves, Drake told me as we hoofed the mean streets that Hammett was one of his favorite writers — his favorite writer? I can’t say for sure after all this time, but certainly one of his faves.

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Rediscovered: Splat Like a Cat on the Wall, a Review by Brian Leno

The Shadow.

Gangdom’s toughest foe.  

Wearing a black slouch hat, and a cloak with upturned collar, he carries twin automatics and depopulates the world of criminals faster than a poor relation diving for a seat at your dining table.

And his laugh, low and sinister, sends hardened gangsters scurrying to locate a fresh change of underwear.

That’s The Shadow, right? One of the great recurring pulp characters, a true iconic American hero.

Not according to The Shadow, a new novel by James Patterson and co-author Brian Sitts. 

I had heard that the beginning in 1937 with Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane was supposed to be exciting. That was as dry as a donkey turd. No excitement there. (I don’t care for the Margo Lane business. You don’t need dames in The Shadow novels. Dames is poison.)

Most of the book takes place in the dystopian world of 2087, and how The Shadow got there, and what happened, I won’t reveal. If you want to find out — well, torture yourself, just as I did.

When he wakes up after 150 years it would have been cool if he’d have looked around and yelled “Where’s my fucking hat!?!”

Alas, it was not to be.

When his new teenage sidekick, Maddy, shows Cranston her collection of old pulps with him on the cover, he’s a bit mortified. He states he would never dress like that and he doesn’t wear hats, doesn’t even own one.

She plays one of the old radio shows for him with the signature laugh and he says he’s never laughed like that in his life.

“Total showbiz nonsense!”

Won’t be caught carrying guns around either. Calls them “ridiculous.”

It is all labeled as “dime store trash.”

A show of the respect the authors have for the many thousands of Shadow fans?

Still, it gets worse. Lamont Cranston really can make himself invisible, not just by clouding men’s minds, but really invisible.

He shoots balls of fire from his hands (kind of Dr. Strange-like) and he turns himself into a cat.

A cat.

No creepy laugh for Patterson’s Shadow, maybe a meow or two.

They’ve turned our hero into a pussy.

Oh yeah, he is thousands of years old.

Plus he can turn himself into a brick wall.

I know this all sounds perhaps a bit unbelievable. He has to be clouding men’s minds. Got to be. But I’m pretty sure my reading is correct. This book is not exactly what one would call “a tough read.”

A few times as I was cruising along I was reminded of Obi-Wan saying, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

This wasn’t The Shadow I was looking for, either.

Plus a Bonus One-Line Review:

Looks like those old Dennis Lynds Spy-Fi Shadow books just got a WHOLE LOT more authentic by comparison. — Tex (Lost in the Shadows Since 1982) Albritton

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Rediscovered: Purist Outrage!

The idea that Brian Leno and Tom Krabacher and I cast wary eyes toward the new James Patterson “Shadow” novel recently drove the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook into a berserker frenzy.

“Why the [sulphurous blasphemy] do you guys keep reading pastiches?” Kevin demands to know.

“Brian and Tom, you both know better.”

(Wait a second here — don’t I know better, too?)

“Read the original. There are over THREE HUNDRED of them!!!

“Hell, just the 21 Conan stories written by Robert E. Howard are enough.

“You don’t need cheap imitations.

“I only read Tarzan written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Conan written by Robert E. Howard and Sherlock Holmes written by Arthur Conan Doyle.

“Join me by not buying and supporting this knock-off crap.”

I was in the vanguard of the anti-pastiche movement — Kevin Cook didn’t mount up in 1976 and write “Conan vs. Conantics.”

But it comes down to regarding something as literature vs. the commercial use of characters someone thinks they can sell to a newer maybe wider audience. My baseline concern would be that readers don’t get confused over what’s what — REH’s Conan is Conan, L. Sprague de Camp’s (pronounced El Spray guh dee Kamp’s) Conan is not.

Chandler is Chandler, Robert B. Parker trying to imitate him is laughable. The Joe Gores prequel to The Maltese Falcon serves as a way to protect the character rights, but anyone who takes it seriously needs to stop reading and start drinking.

And so on.

And even the real thing doesn’t always come off the Top Shelf.

REH did several Conan yarns nowhere near his best level. Doyle lost the magic in a lot of the later Holmesian adventures. And pretty much everyone concedes that the 24 Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs break down into 10 or 12 good ones, with the rest ERB merely imitating himself as if he too were a pasticheur.

For something like The Shadow, I go easier on someone wanting to give it a shot. A deliberate commercial creation at Street & Smith, soon running parallel with a popular radio series, it was made for someone like James Patterson to come in at this late date with an assistant from his fiction factory and have a go.

(Personally, I wonder what some great action writer like Jean-Patrick Manchette might have done with the framework — think of the exquisite bullet battles between The Shadow and the desperate thugs of gangdom!)

And of the 325 issues of The Shadow magazine issued by Street & Smith and “authored” by Maxwell Grant, not all are great. Walter B. Gibson did most, and curated the definitive version in the early issues — but after awhile the editors told him to stop monkeying around with his wildass scenarios and make the pulp narratives more like the radio show. Bring in Margo Lane. Have Lamont Cranston be The Shadow’s Bruce Wayne, instead of the intriguing alternatives Gibson introduced.

I figure there must be at least 10 to 20 top Shadow novels by Gibson, and for my own reference think I’ll sit down when I get a moment and knock out a list.

Meanwhile, Leno tells me, “I just started reading Patterson’s book, fifty pages in maybe. 
I stopped reading for a bit because the suspense was killing me.

“I don’t think this book is going to send me on a quest to own a complete Patterson library.

“But, to be fair, it’s early.”

When Leno reviews a book, he gives it an even shake.

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Rediscovered: First, Classic Shadow

Before he makes an attempt at reading the new “Shadow” novel by James Patterson, Brian Leno selected one of the original pulp era sagas to compare it against.

“Pretty close to being done with Gray Fist, one of the earlier The Shadow novels. Taking my time.”

I heard that the new book opens with a scene set in 1937, and some reviewers thought it was exciting. And I realized that I probably could read most of it on the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

Yep.

The banter between Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane is painful, straight out of a romance novel (a multitude of readers LOVE romance novels, but I’m not one of them). Then some speedy driving after a plot development. Then the narrative jumps to the future with a high school kid, and I skimmed that stuff in a minute or two until I ran out of the Look Inside.

Guess I’m clear of any interest, my morbid curiosity more than satisfied. If Leno barely makes it a couple of pages in, I won’t blame him.

But the real Shadow he’s enjoying, as usual.

“I like the way he’s always laughing about things,” Brian tells me.

“No one can hear him but he still cracks himself up.

“Kind of a psycho.

“Cool.”

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Hammett: vs. Burdine’s

And it sounds like Hammett won, if you don’t factor getting arrested into your win/lose calculations.

Brian Wallace pops another Hammett item my way from his constant scouring of the web, but he is provoked to mention, “This really sounds like an ‘urban legend’ to me.”

Who knows? But it takes place in Miami, and mentions Hammett’s extended stay in the Keys — one of the things I keep an idle eye out for is any solid evidence to pinpoint the year (1935?) that Hammett rode out a big hurricane in Key West.

One thing to quibble about is the line about The Maltese Falcon “coming out in paperback” — not in 1934, it wasn’t. Perhaps the reporter confused the Modern Library reprint that year (a neat little hardback) with a paperback, but they didn’t have paperbacks in the modern sense on the market quite yet.

Quick, kind of fun — with a picture of the department store where Hammett was tossing rocks through the windows.

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Rediscovered: More Cap Shaw

A few days ago Brian Leno sent in scans of a book he has that comes from the library of famed Black Mask editor Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw — nothing less than the Hammett-edited Creeps by Night.

Today he sends in somewhat blurry (Leno is no techno-wizard) evidence of another book he has secured, this time one Shaw gave away as a presentation copy. Another primo item: the landmark 1946 anthology The Hard-Boiled Omnibus compiled by Shaw.

“Anyway,” Leno notes of his recent acquisition, “now I have a book he once owned, and a book he once gave away.”

Plus he landed a bonus item of ephemera with a little card requesting reaction to the book from the publisher, Simon and Schuster.

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