Frisco Beat: Virginia Rath Returning to the Mean Streets

Coachwhip has reprints of all the mystery novels by Virginia Rath in the works. Since I’m one of the few vocal proponents of Rath you can track down on the net, track me down they did to ask for a blurb.

I mocked some blurbage up, working off wording already done in The Literary World of San Francisco and my article on collecting San Francisco mysteries. I also snuck a new mention of Jack Palance into the mix, inspired by all the Palance action we’ve been having here lately on the Mean Streets.

The first “publication” of the blurb came on July 6 when Curtis Evans — he’s doing intros to the reprints — used it on his blog The Passing Tramp amidst a review of Rath’s first crime novel. If you’re too buried in ennui to surf over and check it out, it reads:  

“For around a quarter of a century I had a nice little hobby going, collecting crime fiction set within the San Francisco city limits. Hammett started that one off, of course, but I discovered quite a few other writers I liked in addition to the creator of the Continental Op — Samuel W. Taylor, David Dodge, and Virginia Rath personal favorites among them.

“Rath is far and away my favorite of her contemporary group of women crime writers — Mary Collins, Lenore Glen Offord and company. Her mysteries feature especially good use of the stair-streets on Russian Hill where she lived, making Rath a solid precursor to the end of the film Sudden Fear (1952), where Jack Palance chases Joan Crawford around the same steep grades.”

And since we’re talking literary San Francisco, don’t forget that filming of the chase scene was observed by no less than Jack Kerouac. As Dave Moore puts it on his Kerouac Corner website, “Kerouac visited the Cassadys several times after they had moved into 29 Russell Street in 1949. His longest stay was from December 1951 until April  1952. During that period he worked mainly on Visions of Cody. One of the sections of this book is ‘Joan Rawshanks in the Fog,’ an account of Joan Crawford filming a scene on Hyde Street for the noir movie Sudden Fear, which Kerouac witnessed on one of his evening rambles around Russian Hill. The ‘white San Francisco apartment house’ where Kerouac describes the action taking place was the eleven-story Tamalpais Apartments, still standing at 1201 Greenwich Street at Hyde.” 

And also, for Frisco film buffs, don’t forget that the Tamalpais is where Agnes Moorehead lives in the Bogie-Bacall classic, Dark Passage

So much San Francisco, so little time.

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Rediscovered: The Earliest Signed Inhabitants

In re: the question of possible signed copies of most classic era Arkham House titles, I believe we need to call in John D. Haefele, author of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos. He’s the expert on all things Arkham.

Now, let’s not expect too much from him. While I’m sure he knows where many signed Arkhams lurk today, he couldn’t possibly know where every copy ever autographed ended up.

Hidden in a collection somewhere?


Here’s Haefele on the subject:

August Derleth was a consummate bookman who early in his publishing career prescribed a signing mandate for his authors — a set of requirements that probably changed very little over the years. Thus a 1964 letter he wrote to author Ramsey Campbell, published in Letters to Arkham (2014), accurately suggests what might exist in the specialized collecting niche. The presentation copies to his publishing associates and a handful of local enthusiasts are undoubtedly the rarest of all:

20 March 1964

Dear JRC,

I enclose herewith a bank draft in the amount of $150.00, representing the second half of the advance due you on THE INHABITANT OF THE LAKE AND LESS WELCOME TENANTS, which is being published officially April 17th. Review copies have gone out here, and if you want copies sent to any Liverpool or other British paper by all means let me know. Meanwhile, sea mail will carry the books due you to you. You have already had one copy by air parcel post. Nine more will follow today. If I can manage, books will be shipped in packages of ten, for I want to send you others to autograph. You will get in all 30 or 40 copies of your book, in packages of 5 or 10 per. Of these books, retain 9, and return the others. I have added $2 to the check to defray postage in returning the books to us signed. The majority of the books are simply to be autographed on the flyleaf — “Sincerely, J. Ramsey Campbell” or however you customarily sign your name. But certain books are to be personally inscribed — one book to each of the following people

Donald Wandrei

Alice Conger

Maurine Nason

John Pocsik

August Derleth

Ruth Strelow

Frank Utpatel

In every case, please pack the books as carefully as possible. There are weight limitations over here, in the case of books, hence the numerous packages. There may be similar limitations over there. I send along a specimen label — I don’t know that these labels will do for the BPostal Service, but this is the form they should take, and the label should be set forth as “returned books”, or some such thing. If you can use more of these labels, let me know airmail and I’ll send more.

I hope you like the look of your book.

Best always, August

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Rediscovered: Those Signed Arkhams

Before doing the panel at Signman: John Law the other evening, I made plans to stop into Bibliomania — very close, in the heart of downtown Oakland, one of the classic bookstores of yesteryear but still in business today. I hadn’t been there in a long time, and felt like dropping a couple of bills for auld lang syne. Picked up the first couple of Solar Pons collections from Mycroft & Moran, the initial gathering blank-inscribed by August Derleth: “Greetings from a latterday Baker Street/Cordially,” then signature.

Derleth, as the author and publisher, signed many of his titles from M&M and Arkham House. In some of the catalogs and brochures he even offers to inscribe copies on request, so today his autograph is by no means uncommon. I don’t have much of a collection of actual Derleth books, but nonetheless have ended up with three or four that are signed. The guy signed a lot of books — like the great Chicago bookman Vincent Starrett, one of my favorites.

Obviously some of the Arkham offerings have a better chance of showing up signed. Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell and others hit a lot of conventions where someone might ask for an eldritch John Hancock.

Other titles. . . well, I just featured a quote from the guy who popped more than a thousand for an autographed The Phantom Fighter from Seabury Quinn, who said, “I had never seen or heard of a signed copy of this title, in some twenty years of collecting signed copies of Arkham House titles.”

And recently Kevin Cook wrote to say: “Probably the toughest Arkham House book signed by a living author was the Greye La Spina novel, Invaders from the Dark. There are supposed to be only three known signed copies. She was 70 years old when the book was published and never went to a convention or book signing event.”

Tougher than Phantom Fighter

But here’s the thing. Apparently Derleth had his writers sign a certain number of copies as soon as the books were published — I presume intended to go into the hands of his most loyal patrons. I first heard about the idea from E. Hoffmann Price, who told me that in 1967 he had signed 50 or 60 (I have the exact number he reported written down somewhere) copies of Strange Gateways. He signed them, as I recall, when swinging through Sauk City on one of his cross-country trips, probably timed to coincide with the release of his first collection.

I was interested in the Price copies, because he told me those were the only copies of that book that he simply signed (and, of course, marked with his red chop). Every other copy he inscribed to someone personally.

(Price got an aversion to just signing items when he autographed a pile of Witchcraft & Sorcery featuring his new story at a convention, and noticed the dealer had them stacked up on the table at twenty-five cents more than cover price. Ed said, “I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to sit around signing magazines so some cheap pig-fucker can make a two-bit profit!”)

At any rate, my main thought was that if you happened across a copy with just the signature (and chop mark), you’d know it was one of those earliest inked copies.

But later I began to hear rumors that getting that initial bunch of copies signed was something Derleth did routinely. Meaning, at one time, some 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 autographed copies of Invaders of the Dark and Phantom Fighter may have been floating around.

Where are they now? I guess that is the question.

And if all this intriguing speculation is too vague for your tastes, let’s bring in our resident authority on Arkham House, John D. Haefele, to chime in.

Next Autograph Hound Super-Sunday post, please: 

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Rediscovered: The Rest of the Hand

For Autograph Hound Super-Sunday, Brian Leno checks in during an autobiographical mood:

One of the bad consequences about working for 37 years in the gambling profession is you start to see things in terms of wagers placed. Bets won and lost. So when I saw Kevin Cook’s George Allan England example — very desirable, no doubt about that — I couldn’t help but think “I’ll see your England, and I’ll raise you a Cummings, an Erle Stanley Gardner, a Finlay and perhaps most rare of all, an Anthony M. Rud.”

All of these endorsed checks, except the Rud, were purchased years ago from Robert Weinberg, around 1977-78, I believe.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think the price was about 25 bucks for the lot. You won’t see that anymore.

Weinberg was a nice guy and I recall speaking to him over the phone, one time, when he was explaining the condition of the Weird Tales issue he was selling to me for $25. He wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting and was busy pointing out any flaws the mag might have.

It contained the first installment of Robert E. Howard’s “Beyond the Black River,” and I was excited; it was to be my first pulp purchase.

Anyway, we didn’t talk too long. The call was long-distance (yes, I am that old) and I was scared how much the call and the magazine were going to cost me.

Of course the pulp still rates a high place in my collection, but, being the lover of autographs that I am, the four Frank A. Munsey checks are very special to me.

I like signed books, but I love autographs that can be framed and displayed, and these checks certainly are pleasing to the eye. Now the bigger question is finding the wall space.

(And of course a side aspect of collecting these checks is finding the magazines which contain the stories — or the artwork — they paid for.)

Ray Cummings, who wrote the classic The Girl in the Golden Atom is, just like England, available if you’re willing to spend the coin.

Everyone knows Gardner as the creator of Perry Mason and he is perhaps the easiest one to locate, but you won’t get him with your allowance money.

The artist Virgil Finlay — well, I have more than one of his autographs

I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I only collect signatures with the idea of turning a profit later on — money won’t be able to pry these checks away from me.

They’ve been with me for over 40 years and I’ll still have them when it’s time to take my journey on the river Styx. Ferryman Charon will have to be paid, but I’ll make a bet with you — gamblers can’t help it — that I’ll be asking that old swamp rat for his autograph.

Any takers?

Posted in Lit, REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: “I’ll See You an England and Raise You a Rud”

Before he finally retired, Brian Leno spent many long years dealing cards in gambling dens in North Dakota — giving him some authentic Mean Streets cred and pocket money to toss against his Autograph Hound addiction.

So when Kevin Cook pulled out a George Allan England signature last Saturday, Brian simply covers that card today with one of his own. He points out that of the autographs he’s displaying this weekend, “None are impossible to find. England, author of The Flying Legion and Cursed, is available, with a little research. But it won’t be cheap, especially if the inscription is an important one.”


Of these offerings for Autograph Hound Saturday and Autograph Hound Super-Sunday, Brian is sure that “The toughest one is Anthony Rud.

“At one time he was the editor of Adventure but he’s undoubtedly best known as the author of ‘Ooze’, which was the cover story for the very first issue of Weird Tales.

“I’ve seen signed books by Rud going fairly high, but I’ve never seen another check endorsed by him for sale. Of course there must be some out there, but mine is the only example of which I’m aware.”


Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: Radio Sam Rides Again

Various and sundry alumni of The San Francisco Suicide Club showed up for the panel  I did with Signman: John Law the other night, including Robert Crabill.

Robert was mentioning Sam Spade and old time radio — punch in here

for details on an end-of-the-month meeting. Obviously, Radio Fans Rule the Roost. Some of the action as detailed:

Radio Day By The Bay 2019 – LIVE!

In Alameda… July 20th 2019 Auction Catalogue version 6

What a Deal!… $10 For A Whole Day Of Vintage Radio Fun

KCBS’ Morning News Anchor — Stan Bunger will again be our Master of Ceremonies

LIVE Auction — Almost 200 Lots of antique radio gear, hi-fi gear and more.

KGO TV’s Dan Ashley will be one of our guest auctioneers.

LIVE Jazz Concert — The Royal Society Jazz Orchestra will entertain with a toe tapping musical set. The RSJO is a well respected and very popular musical attraction. When the RSJO stages events they sell out. And charge more than $10. So pass the word if you love to hear live jazz music performed by a highly talented professional orchestra.

LIVE Radio Play – On stage The CHRS Radio Dog Theater Presents: “Sam Spade — The Blood Money Caper”. Set in San Francisco back in the 20th century. This campy radio drama will be directed by Peter Finch and stars Sam Van Zandt as Sam Spade. Featuring Terry McGovern, Celeste Perry, Miranda Wilson, Richard Gossett, Michael Bennett, Hoyt Smith, Alica Clancy and Steve Kushman. Sound Design & Live mix by Dan Healy.

LIVE Announcements — Ben Fong-Torres and Kim Wonderley will present The Bay Area Radio Hall Of Fame Class of 2019.

Silent Auction — Featuring wonderful and unusual items, events and opportunities for fun. A GIANT Electronics Surplus Event — Make a small donation and take home thousands of electronic items and other things that need to be saved from the landfill.

Hungry? — The CHRS Doggie Diner has food and beverages plus the CHRS Bake Sale.

Explore Radio Central — See the progress on our efforts to build this center devoted to Radio. And learn about ham radio in our new amateur station W6CF. New information will be posted soon. Stay Tuned! Please check back often. It’s only a $10 donation for the whole day. Children are Free.

July 20th 2019 8am — 3pm Veterans Auditorium 2203 Central Avenue and CHRS Radio Central 2152 Central Avenue in Alameda, CA.

Posted in News, SFSC | Tagged , |

Rediscovered: Derleth in re: Weird Tales

In about a month John D. Haefele’s third article for the newly revived Crypt of Cthulhu will hit the eldritch and squamous streets — covering August Derleth’s various published commentaries on the magazine Weird Tales. The mag where a teenaged Derleth sold the first of many stories, where H.P. Lovecraft made his name.

I blurbed Haefele’s first article in Crypt 110, let notice of the second one go. The three articles aren’t a trilogy as such, so it doesn’t matter which order you read them in. Haefele tells me that the most recent article’s “main claim to fame is that it is one of the original chapters trimmed from the economical Redux.” It was tentatively slated for that limited edition monograph, but if you squeeze too much material in, a monograph is a monograph no more — maybe not a full book, but definitely not a monograph.

In any event, having a run of items in Crypt of Cthulhu is cool, too.

Plus I notice that Deuce Richardson just had a “Haefele Day” of sorts over on the DMR blog. He cogently explains why Haefele’s debut on the Lovecraftian litcrit scene shook things up.

If you read the Deuce bit, you’ll notice at least a couple of references to how I personally talked Deuce into giving Haefele’s first edition hardcover a shot, even though it retailed at around sixty bucks. Deuce was wailing about that sixty pazoor layout, but he bravely forked it over — and I did tell him (and I was serious) that if he didn’t think the book was all I said it would be, I’d take the copy off his hands at full cost.

That first edition hardback published by Henrik Harkson now is a rarity and you’ll seldom see one on the block. Maybe a couple of months ago I happened to notice that a seller on Amazon had put one up at the original $60 price, told Haefele about it — and at that moment he was corresponding with a serious Derleth collector who wanted one. Instant sale. The one copy offered in months, gone.

And at a ridiculously low price.

I wonder if I can trick Deuce into selling me his copy for sixty bucks and turn it around for a couple hundred? 

Posted in Lit, News | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: Some Semi-Simulated John Hancocks from Michael Connelly

So what signature-related extravaganza could Kevin Cook dazzle us with for Autograph Hound Super-Sunday?

How about an array of Michael Connelly autos progressing from fuller signature to the squiggly “MC” I’ve mentioned here before?

Kind of like a reversal of those images of early ape-like dudes evolving up into Neanderthals and finally Home Sapiens.

Back to the Stone Age kind of stuff.

Now, a Super-Sunday or two back I showed you what Connelly’s signature looked like during his first ever autograph session in a bookstore, for his first book The Black Echo (1992). 

 That auto was authentic as hell — even hand-dated.

While Kevin has his Connelly collection all signed — and many other authors he collects all signed — he had to work some magic to get the early firsts signed, autographed much as they would have been inked at the time. A chrono-series of progressive signatures. Give him credit — who else would even think of such a thing?

Kevin lugged those first firsts over to Otto Penzler’s The Mysterious Bookshop during one of Connelly’s visits and told them what he wanted. 

“Yes, the early signed Michael Connolly books were all recreated signatures done a decade or so ago at The Mysterious Bookshop on one of his stops there. We used the Dennis McMillan limited editions as a guide, so to speak, as to what his earlier signatures were like. What he did for me was sign a series of his books showing how his signature went from a full ‘Michael Connolly’ with The Black Echo to the present just ‘MC’ as he gradually shortened how he signed.”

So, the first run of these signatures are simulated — they’re the real deal, genuine Connellys, but not signed in the correct historical moment. The Black Ice (1993). The Concrete Blonde (1994). The Last Coyote (1995). The Poet (1996).

The last three signatures aren’t “recreated,” but appear on the limitation pages of the Dennis McMillan limited editions of Blood Work (1997), Void Moon (1999), and City of Bones (2002).

Kevin notes that after 2002, “From then on Connelly has basically signed the same ‘MC’ up until the present.”

Posted in DMac, Lit | Tagged , , , , |

Rediscovered: 1924 Inscription from George Allan England

Kevin Cook steps in to cover the autograph action this weekend — if you’ve followed previous weekends, you know he’s been champing at that bit. I’m not sure how Autograph Hound Brian Leno is going to react to someone intruding on his turf. Maybe he’ll enjoy seeing samples from Kevin’s collection. Maybe the rivalry will hit white heat, and it’ll be mano a mano, auto a auto, for weeks to come.


For today’s Autograph Hound Saturday Kevin Cook pulls one of his inscriptions from George Allan England, famed author of the Darkness and Dawn trilogy. Take it away, Kevin:

Here’s a George Allan England inscription — that is in English. It’s an important one, as A.L. Sessions was a major pre-1920 pulp editor at Street & Smith.

Most of the information we have regarding Sessions comes from Irwin Porges’ Edgar Rice Burroughs biography, where their correspondence back and forth is reproduced. There is some thought out there that if Sessions had not accepted “The Return of Tarzan” to print in New Story Magazine and subsequently “The Outlaw of Torn” as well — the two early novels rejected by Munsey — that Burroughs might have thrown in the towel and given up his writing career as unsuccessful. Just like he did with every other previous profession he had tried.

It is doubtful that “Under the Moons of Mars” and “Tarzan of the Apes” would have had any influence on popular culture if they had just remained stories buried in the pages of old pulp magazines, if Burroughs gave up writing and stopped trying to market his new stories or get them printed in book form.

I could make a counter argument here about Munsey still wanting the John Carter sequels so that ERB would have continued writing those, but his career would certainly have gone in a different direction if Tarzan had ended after just the one book.

ERB would not have become wealthy at the start because there would have not been any Tarzan movies, of course.

Posted in Film, Lit | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Frisco Beat: Secret San Francisco

How about a couple of pics from the panel last Sunday in Jack Kerouac alley? A trifle in front of the stage, to the your left is Vesuvio’s Bar and to the right City Lights Books. At the back Grant Avenue — and Chinatown.

L. to r. on that micro stage is Don Herron, Ruth Carlson, and John Law.

Top image: Don and John both gesturing wildly to display copies of Ruth’s new release Secret San Francisco: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure.

Cool book. Covers Doggie Diner Heads (John Law) and Hammett Tours (me), and surviving earthquake shacks as well as sewer walks and pretty much everything you might be interested in. And here’s the trick: it’s up to date. 2019, baby. The off trail and esoteric that’s still around.

The talk covered a lot of territory in a half hour or so, from me recounting a small fraction of my meeting William Forsythe when he was in town shooting The Rock, to Suicide Club adventures in North Beach bars, to poet Gregory Corso getting 86ed from City Lights. Someone mentioned, accurately, that he finally got 86ed after trying to rip off the cash register — while I conflated that incident with another one where someone broke into a side window (next to where we were seated) and made off with the tiny safe. My bad. You’ve got to watch out for info delivered in the hot and heavy of a rocking panel.

So much info, so little time.

I will say that Gay Pride Day was a perfect time to slip into North Beach. Easy parking, you could get into the bars and restaurants. Cool day, but sunny. Perfect.

I did notice lots of empty storefronts, though — not one or two, lots. North Beach has endured changes for decades and the main places seem to be holding their own. But I can see the day that the neighborhood gets changed to the point of no return.

Baseline for me: San Francisco will maintain as long as you have the hills and the views. But on a smaller scale, if North Beach and Chinatown are ever plowed over, the city is done. You can call it San Francisco, but it won’t be San Francisco.

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