Sinister Cinema: Karloff

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday — what signature could Brian Leno possibly offer on the altar of Movie Titans Past for the John Hancock Ritual?

Especially after his tour de force rollout yesterday.

I think he’s got it covered. Here’s Brian:

Nobody will ever get through a night of Halloween movies without seeing at least one featuring Boris Karloff.

No one has ever done the Frankenstein Monster as well as Karloff, and I doubt anybody ever will.

It would be crazy to try to list all the great flicks Karloff was in — if you have seen Boris, you know, if you haven’t, well it’s time to turn off the crap that passes for scary movies today and start watching the real stuff.

Boris isn’t cheap, as a penciled notation shows on the autographed slip of paper.

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Sinister Cinema: Dracula’s Daughter

And Brian Leno rings the knell on today’s Autograph Hound Saturday:

We can’t have Halloween without some mention of Dracula and that brings us to an often overlooked horror movie.

Gloria Holden, best known for Dracula’s Daughter (1936), is a tough signature to locate, even though she lived to the age of 87.

Viewed by modern audiences Dracula’s Daughter perhaps comes off as a bit stiff and old fashioned but I enjoy it and during this time of year try to see it at least once. It’s a worthy addition to the Universal Pictures series of monster movies.

The card of Holden’s has the signing date on the back: 2–16–82.

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Sinister Cinema: Beverly Garland, The Alligator People

In preparation for Halloween, Brian Leno needs to get in the mood by showcasing some signatures from his vault: 

The signed card of Beverly Garland being mishandled in The Alligator People (1959) is a real keeper for me.

I remember watching this movie at a drive-in theater and loved the hell out of it.

Bruce Bennett and Lon Chaney were co-stars and I have fond memories of Chaney holding up a hook where his hand had once been, spitting out “Gators did this to me!”

Years ago I wrote Garland and asked for an autograph, and she was gracious enough to send back three or four signed items. Beautiful and a class act, hard to find combination.

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Sinister Cinema: Barbara Payton, Bride of the Gorilla

You can’t fool Brian Leno. He knows it’s October, and that means Halloween horror — so he dug up some cinematic Jane Hancocks to fill in his Autograph Hound Saturday crypt-keeper duties. Enjoy — if you dare!

Halloween is one of the great times of year. Leaves crunch underfoot, the air is crisp, kids dressed as goblins pester you for candy and television is filled with old ‘monster’ movies; it is what is good in life.

The story of Barbara Payton is a Hollywood horror story.

Beautiful and talented enough to be cast opposite Jimmy Cagney in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), her life spiraled into a blackness that can only elicit sympathy from the hardest Tinseltown heart.

Drugs, alcohol and even charges of prostitution were standard fare in her life and an engagement to Franchot Tone didn’t settle her down.

She was having an affair with Detour (1945) tough guy Tom Neal despite the engagement to Joan Crawford’s former husband, and things took a decidedly bad turn when Neal, a former boxer, encountered Tone in Payton’s apartment.

It couldn’t really be called a fight — Neal smashed Tone into a coma that lasted almost a day, broke his nose and caused other injuries that only a trained boxer could inflict on another man.

Payton’s was featured in Bride of the Gorilla (1951), a low budget flick scripted by Curt Siodmak. The movie may be terrible, but just watching Barbara Payton is a delight and well worth the time.

Her signature is rare and won’t be bought with candy corn.

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Frisco Beat: Where are the Fanzines of Yesteryear?; or, a Little Riff on David Mason’s Devil’s Food

Aha! I warned uber fanzine guy Bill Breiding that if he messed up any bits in an article on Sword-and-Sorcery writer David Mason (Kavin’s World, etc.) I sent in for his new zine Portable Storage Two that I’d correct on the trusty blog.

If he wants he can correct it on his end as more copies get ordered, then anyone who has the repudiated version can claim it’s a marker of an early state — that’s how we do “first edition” stuff in the POD realm. I guess.

Here’s the textual change that didn’t get made:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often.

He told me that he was a fan of the guide book, using it to track down things he might want to read. And he told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I told Bill: “in bit above I double-up the ‘track down’ wording (see, nothing like writing something the last day), so change to”:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often. He told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I was knocking it out on the due date, as I usually do things, so I accept a full share of any blame. It’s not as if we’re talking The Gettysburg Address — but you’ll agree the revamp is smoother.

The article deals with my decades-long quest to track down the David Mason porno novel Devil’s Food, set in San Francisco. One of my off trail books about books pieces, kind of in-line with the stuff I used to do in Firsts.

The zine itself (you can sample the first pages) deals with the usual variety of general zine concerns, pushing the idea that POD opens up wide vistas for Pubbing Your Ish. Music. Books. Mimeo. Everybody dying.

And in the letters column I tell Bill he sounded like an egghead in Portable Storage One

His rebuttal?

With only a fifth grade education I’ve never even remotely thought of myself as an egghead. Existentially, it’s as improbable for me not to acutely examine the processes of fanzine publishing as it was for Bill Bowers!

Sounds like an egghead, right?

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

Frisco Beat: My Earliest Kent Inscription

And to wrap up this auto weekend — to give you yet another holograph sample to consider in your meditations — here’s the earliest inscription I personally got from Kent Harrington, during a signing for his second novel in Kayo Books on Post Street. Pretty sure that was the first time I met him.

Kent’s signing was on Friday December 5 1997, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

I had a signing the next day, from 4:00 to 6:00, for my book Willeford.

Both titles were published by Dennis McMillan, in his Opus Two return to the book biz after a hiatus following Opus One.

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

Rediscovered: Line v. No Line

Cordelia Willis, who tipped Kent Harrington — both pictured above — off to some crime lab info for Last Ferry Home, joined in on the food and talk in Street, September 21.

What was the ridiculous description I noticed recently in an academic journal? “Polyvocal discourse unfolding in a diversity of ways.” Yeah, sure, that’s what we were doing.

As stories were swapped, Kent mentioned that in fact he does get a little nervous if he notices lots of people waiting in a signing line — he doesn’t like keeping them on hold too long.

And he also told us about the first time he was slotted for a signing at a Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. No one knew who he was, no one came to stand in his theoretical line.

But he was seated next to “a ninety-year-old lady who wrote cat mysteries” and her line must have numbered four hundred people. Kent says she was very nice to him, and told him, “It’ll get better.”

Cordelia — daughter of science fiction writer Connie Willis — took up the theme. She’s known George R. R. Martin from since she was a kid, he’s part of her mom’s circle of friends. You may have seen GRRM when he clambered up on stage at the recent Emmy Awards with the Game of Thrones crew.

Long years before Game of Thrones made his bones, GRRM was at some science fiction convention, same scenario as Kent. He was starting out, kind of unknown, and they seated him next to Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, who was known.

No one was in Martin’s line.

The Doug Adams line stretched across the hall, out the door, and a few blocks down the street.

Some well-intentioned but clewless convention worker took up an electronic bullhorn and went outside, walking down the blocks and yelling, “No line for George R. R. Martin!”

Nobody budged from the Hitchhiker queue.

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Frisco Beat: Kent Harrington, Signatory

Image above: Kent Harrington (with Lynn behind the bar) in one of my favorite restaurants, Street on Polk, on Saturday September 21.

We got there as soon as the doors opened and had the place to ourselves for a few minutes, as it gradually began to fill up, get noisier — the Street experience. Great food, by the way.

Even though he’s a San Francisco native, Kent hadn’t been there before (so many restaurants, so little time, right?), so it seemed like a good rendezvous point.

After I read a proof copy of Last Ferry Home, I tipped Kent off to a few arcane points of information about San Francisco streets, so he had a copy of the hardback for me, to say Thanks. (In book collecting mode, I of course think that any serious Kent collector needs to have the ARC in addition to the final release, since they have somewhat alternate texts.)

At the bottom you’ll see part of Kent’s inscription in the copy (I’m cutting out the mushy stuff), which he says he did at home, in his office, at his desk — the most perfect possible conditions.

I’m no Kevin Cook, sensitive to every curve of the pen, but I can’t tell much difference between this signature and every other signature I’ve gotten from Kent over the years. But know that this records the most recent Kent siggie featured this weekend. Penned less than two weeks ago.

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

Rediscovered: An Otto and Ellroy

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday opens with Kevin Cook refining his terms, and letting us know he’s got even worse autos than the one from Kent Harrington he was talking about yesterday:

With Kent’s autograph, what I meant to express was that it was the worst autograph ever given to me in a book that I personally asked to have signed — not the worst autograph that I possess. Here’s another piss-poor one from James Ellroy. I wish that I had remembered this one from The Best American Noir of the Century when you were discussing Ellroy’s “signature” the other week. The difference between his effort and that of co-editor Otto Penzler is night and day.

Ellroy’s is a terrible effort, but he did not sign the book for me. His autograph was already in the book when I bought it.

When my office in Manhattan was a couple of blocks away from The Mysterious Bookshop I could bring books there to be signed by authors who came in for readings, talks — or just to sign. Those included Michael Connolly, George Pelecanos, Don Winslow, T. Jefferson Parker and others.

I got Pelecanos to smile and give a little laugh when I told him that I loved the title Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go — because I said it out loud inside The Mysterious Bookshop and Otto absolutely hated the title.

Kent Harrington’s autograph ranks even or perhaps just ahead of Pelecanos. Even when we had a great talk together at The Mysterious Bookshop he still provided me with the sloppy “GPl” autograph in the books I asked him to sign. You can probably see for yourself what I am referring to if you have copies of the Dennis McMillan books that he signed.

Whatever the case, at least I can say that I have “signed” copies of all the early Pelecanos books.

By the way, I suppose most of the sloppy autographs are probably a result of the writers just having lousy handwriting. Only some popular authors such as Michael Connolly deliberately shorten and simplify their autographs because of the shear volume of books that they are asked to sign.    

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Rediscovered: Kent Harrington, Have Squiggle — Will Inscribe

Strap in!

Autograph Hound Saturday kicks off a weekend long rumination on the topic of nigh indecipherable signatures, by no less a collector than Kevin Cook. Now, don’t take the first thoughts on the subject as the Be All End All.

No, sir or madam. Kevin gnaws on this bone like the autograph hound he is, digging for the marrow.

As he’ll tell you, Kevin has selected a Kent Harrington inscription done at NoirCon in 2008 to kick it off. I actually met Kevin for the first time at that convention in Philly.

And I’ve known Kent for years, too. I told him that his holograph was going to be put under the microscope, as some of the worst handwriting around.

Kent said, “I’ll try to do better in the future.”

And here’s Kevin Cook:

The awkward James Ellroy signatures remind me of the sloppiest autographed book that I own: The Good Physician by Kent Harrington, signed at the Noircon in Philadelphia.

I do not know how Dennis McMillan set up his signing procedure in normal circumstances, but that time you plunked down your $35.00 and stood in line for Kent to sign the book. Looking at it now I am not even sure what he wrote!

Kent never had the neatest handwriting anyway, but the ones on the other Dennis McMillan editions are much neater than the one I got in person. I don’t mind really, as it was nice to have that one opportunity to talk with Kent.

But now that I inspect the book more closely I think that I understand why he signed twice. All the copies were probably already signed as Kent Harrington and then he added the “For Kevin Best Kent” to the book when I was speaking with him.

That makes more sense than him signing it twice while I was right in front of him.

Kent probably had not signed for a line of people with his other books from Dennis, so the different circumstances could explain the “sloppier” than usual signatures.

For comparison, I am also sending two other Kent Harrington signatures, one from Dark Ride, his first novel from 1996, and one from another McMillan release, The Tattooed Muse; none are actually that clear.

If he had just signed a piece of paper like Arthur O. Friel you would have a tough time trying to figure out whose signature it was.

I really like Kent Harrington’s books, especially The American Boys and Red Jungle. I have read them all (or at least those available in the English language!) from Dark Ride up through last year’s Last Ferry Home —  Ferry is my only unsigned Harrington book. 

If I ever run into Kent again I will have to get it signed.

That was one of the great things about the Dennis McMillan publications: almost every book is signed, and in the case of a deceased author the person who wrote the Introduction signed. (The cool one there is the Leigh Brackett book signed by Michael Connolly and Ray Bradbury, who wrote the Intro and Afterword.)

Unlike my McMillan editions the new books I have bought by that crew of writers — Kent, Bob Truluck, Lono Waiwaiole and Kent Anderson — are all still unsigned.

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