Frisco Beat: Lit World Has Its Fans


Shot above — sales table at the Mechanics’ Library talk — shot at bottom, foreground: Nathan Ward and Vince Emery somewhere in the process of getting an inscription put into The Lost Detective — background: me talking to a guy who was a big fan of my The Literary World of San Francisco.

I may have been explaining to the guy my plans of years ago (still viable today) to do a revised edition in which I cut out all the minor writers and replace them with other minor writers (keeping Hammett, Twain, London, The Beats intact). Yeah, the big fans would then need both editions to get all the info — or, if I put everything I’ve got under one set of covers, you end up with a guide book too damn heavy to lug around!

A couple of days after the talk I happened to check the Amazon page for Lit World — which had been hovering around no. 50 on Bestselling San Francisco guidebooks — and found it was no. 3. Always amazing to me, how a book o.p. for at least twenty years can surge to the top based on the movement of 30 or so copies in the active market. Today it is no. 28.

People love that book.

The guy was so enthusiastic, I realized he was ready to move on to the next stage of the game, so I suggested he get a copy of my book Willeford. He didn’t on the spot, but he can track down a copy later. Anyone who likes Lit World as much as he did would rip through Willeford with delight.

Like the tour itself, I don’t market the various books to just anybody. I prefer a select audience. If you have no interest in litcrit or the writings of Robert E. Howard, why on earth would you want a copy of The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All? If you only want a guide to Hammett sites, then you get the Hammett Tour book and don’t bother tracking down Lit World.

But if you enjoy literary sightseeing in general, then Hammett Tour and Lit World are companion items — and if you like to plunge into the lives of writers, trust me, anyone who is as passionate as this guy was about Lit World would get the same thrills out of Willeford.

Or in other words, I personally consider the two tour books and Willeford to be a trilogy. I hope the guy follows up on my tip.


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