Rediscovered: Haefele Sleuthing the Christmas Card Caper

Someone somewhere sometime may have knocked out more ephemera than August Derleth, but who it might have been I can’t imagine.

John D. Haefele and I are beginning to poke around on our book listing all the Arkham House ephemera from the classic Derleth era of the press, Stock Lists, Brochures, Inserts. But Derleth did so many items — even including match book covers — that I suppose it is impossible to track down and list them all.

We’ll stick to the material related to the small press proper, the books — we probably won’t try to squeeze the Xmas Cards into the lineup.

But the Xmas Cards, as Haefele notes, is “a subject that should probably get a summary-mention in our ephemera book.”

Yeah, hell, why not? — and how much MORE is Out There???

After many years digging around Haefele thinks he’s figured out how many Xmas Cards — all with an original wood block heading by artist Frank Utpatel — Derleth sent out, and during which years, and why those Xmas verses, and why he stopped. For Derleth fans, fascinating stuff — and a little taste of the info to come in Haefele’s next book, August Derleth of Arkham House.

Surf over and check it out, if you want to discover another collecting corner you’ll probably never be able to complete.

And if you haven’t tried Haefele’s latest study, Lovecraft: The Great Tales — jeez, you’re really missing out. But not everyone is a major Lovecraft fan.

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Rediscovered: Songs and Sonnets Atlantean at 50

On this date in 1971 Donald Sidney-Fryer, Last of the Courtly Poets, inscribed the earliest copy of his “Little Booke” Songs & Sonnets Atlantean that I have dug up.

Fifty years ago.

The last title from Arkham House released under the personal aegis of August Derleth, who died on July 4, 1971.

Jeez, just gander the image at the top — S&SA has been around so long they’re actually making facsimile copies of the dustjacket over at Facsimile Dustjackets LLC!

As I’ve mentioned in articles for Firsts: The Book Collectors Magazine, S&SA was the first Arkham I personally ever bought, after meeting the poet during one of his cross-country swings through college campuses, doing readings from the likes of Edmund Spenser, Clark Ashton Smith, and others.

Very soon after I moved to San Francisco I had DSF inscribe that copy on “15th February 1974.”

And I don’t know how I had the presence of mind to keep on top of it, but I had him once more inscribe that same copy: “Twenty years after, on the occasion of my 60th birthday. . . 10th September 1994.”

And in a super-heroic act of keeping track of dates on my part, inscribe it again: “Yet another 20 years have passed, and it is now the occasion of my 80th birthday party. . . 6 September 2014.”

I’m thinking that it is unlikely that either DSF or I will be around in 2034 to record the following 20 year-mark. But we’ll see.

In any case, we both made it to the fiftieth anniversary of first publication. Not bad.

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Hammett: World No Smoking Day

Happy No Smokers, smokers — May 31 — with a news tidbit from 82 years ago, courtesy Evan “Scoop” Lewis.

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Hammett: Couffignal

Like a bloodhound with his nose ever to the hardboiled pavement, a few days ago Brian Leno let me know that Library of America put up another Continental Op yarn by Hammett as the feature Story of the Week. I looked over the tepid intro, repeating points made decades ago, and decided I’d skip a link to it.

But then I got a note from David Potter, and reconsidered. After all, not everyone has worn out one pair of gumshoes after another leading the Dashiell Hammett Tour for forty-four years. Some New Guy might get something out of it. Got to remember there’re always going to be New Guys.

David said: “Finally, I have something that may be of interest to you. I’m a long-time reader of the blog. As a Hammett and Willeford fan, I enjoy it a great deal.

“Thanks to an email from the Library of America a few days back, I found out that ‘The Gutting of Couffignal’ was their Story of the Week for this week. 

“Makes for an interesting tidbit. Anyone can sign up for the free story email, btw.”

“Couffignal” is one of a run of white-hot Op yarns Hammett knocked out in 1925 — in many ways, he never got any better, only kept it up.

If you take David’s tip and sub for a weekly story, keep in mind they’re not all Ops (they have popped a couple of his adventures previously). And sometimes they get a little daring, like when they put up Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone.”

But it’s free, so you probably have nothing to lose.

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Hammett: Birthday 127

Samuel Dashiell Hammett was born on this date in 1894. I’ve done little birthday parties for him in the past (the home movie clip from ten years ago perhaps being the best), but for this one I’m going to let Evan Lewis do the heavy lifting with some more newsprint action he’s dug up.

The solo Alec Rush mystery “The Assistant Murderer” turns up in a Pittsburgh paper in 1939 under the title “First Aide to Murder.” Under the new title the yarn had made the rounds previously in 1938 in the newspaper supplement Saturday Home Magazine — who knows how many more times it got reprinted in how many more papers?

As I’ve said before, almost all newsprint was never covered in earlier Hammett bibliographies. With what we’ve seen turning up, man, the record of all those reprints might fill a book on their own.

Plus some random math impulse invaded my math-resistant little gray cells and it dawned on me that Hammett is closing in on being dead for as long as he was alive. He made it to January 10, 1961, aged 66. That’s 60 years ago.

And still the guy hangs in there. Celebratory shots all around, please.

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Sinister Cinema: Ditko

Brian Leno sends in a pithy movie review that for some of us, says it all:

“Last night watched Doctor Strange and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. Amazing that with all the computer generated special effects to display the sorcerous world of Strange, Steve Ditko, with only a goddamn pencil, did it better.”

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Hammett: Fechheimer Wiki’ed

Just got a note from William Denton, of RARA-AVIS fame, who says, “You probably won’t remember, but in February 2008 you very generously took me on a solo Hammett tour, including going up into Bill Arney’s apartment, which made the trip out there one of the best of my life.”

Of course I remember, but if I forget I blurbed it on this website at the time.

Bill brings me up to date on some Mean Streets stuff: “I recently got my PI license and have been reading about PIs. I was reading Tink Thompson’s book Gumshoe and was interested to see how much Hammett talk there was in it, especially due to David Fechheimer. If I’d seen Fechheimer’s name before, I’d forgotten. It’s remarkable how strong an effect Hammett had on people that he inspired them to become PIs — me included, though I’m not going to move to California, or even change careers.

“Fechheimer had no Wikipedia entry, so I made one. If there are any other secondary or tertiary sources you’d recommend for improving the article, please let me know. Feel free to spread the word around — the more people that see it, the better; I hope it’ll get attention from others who will beef it up even more.”

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Rediscovered: The First of Many, Bumped Off by Haggard

Kevin Cook, noted book and pulp collector, provides a footnote to his recent musings:

The adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines was not H. Rider Haggard’s first book, but it introduced the protagonist Allan Quatermain. In between King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain he wrote She.       

Another nugget about H. Rider Haggard that I find unique, something that he is not often given credit for starting, is that in Allan Quatermain — only the second Quatermain book — Haggard killed off the character. He would spend the rest of his career writing additional Allan Quatermain stories or novels to fill in the gaps in his life. 

Skip forward several decades and Michael Moorcock, in his first book, The Stealer of Souls, introduces Elric. In the second Elric book, Stormbringer, Moorcock kills off Elric and then spends the rest of his career (still ongoing) writing Elric stories and novels to fill in the gaps in his life.

David Gemmell did them one better, killing off his most famous character, Druss the Legend, in his first book, Legend. Gemmell continued writing Druss novels for the rest of his career, filling in the gaps in his life.

Notice a trend?

They’re all British authors. Must be something in all the tea they drink over there.

Seriously, I do not believe that anyone has given Haggard credit for originating this pattern.

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Rediscovered: Wittgenstein Dug Norbie

Kent Harrington pops in a link to a CrimeReads article about how the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wolfed down a steady diet of hardboiled American pulp crime fiction. Not something your average guy on the street would be expecting to hear, I bet.

Good article, surf over and read or skim as much as interests you. A high point for me was the section where Wittgenstein singles out Black Mask regular Norbert Davis and one of his Doan and Carstairs mysteries for special praise. He was thinking about sending Davis a letter telling him how much he liked his work, but that didn’t happen. Davis committed suicide in 1949 at the age of 40.

Ed Price — prolific pulpster E. Hoffmann Price — once told me that for awhile Davis was one of the writers in their circle (around Redwood City) who’d show up for parties. He called him Norbie.

The Comments section, by the way, is also interesting, as all these Wittgenstein fans try to digest the pulp info. One even asks if someone someday maybe could track down the Norbert Davis writings.

Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?

Our pal Evan Lewis did the intro for the complete Doan and Carstairs series if you’re curious (and you can find more Norbie if you want to look).

But what I’m really curious about now: Did writing that intro make Evan a de facto egghead?

And, what would Wittgenstein think about Kent Harrington’s new one, Last Seen?

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Rediscovered: Great Scott!

You want to talk about Sir Walter Scott suddenly being in the air?

Kevin Cook stumbled over his name during his current reread of Machen’s Far Off Things and then noticed coverage of the flick Ivanhoe in the new issue of Firsts. And just now — out of the blue, no knowledge of Kevin puzzling over why Scott’s name should be flung before his face when he hasn’t thought about him in years — Brian Leno jumps into action.

I figure Brian simply noticed the bit in the course of his usual perambulating about the web, and its the sort of info that would attract his attention. Or is it more than mere coincidence?

Brian writes, “I had never heard that Sir Walter Scott’s mother was buried as dead, awoke when thieves or thief tried to steal from her body and bore Walter five years later.”

Truth or fiction? You decide. Check it out in an old comic book feature by the seminal figures of Simon and Kirby. With the success of the Marvel Universe movies, Jack Kirby must be one of the most imitated artists of all time.

“Cool story,” Leno notes. “Wonder what it would take to bring Scott’s novels back from the dead?”

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