Frisco Beat: Powell Hotel

Speaking of Willeford, I owe my pal, boxing fan Brian Leno, for bringing to my attention the postcard of Sailor Tom Sharkey, giving an address in the Powell Hotel. As I detail in my book Willeford, the author of Cockfighter and Miami Blues remembered he stayed in the Powell in the period when he was writing his first novel, High Priest of California — but as I also detail in the book, Willeford’s memory was wrong after some forty years and he was working on another novel, most likely Deliver Me from Dallas!, during his stops in the Powell.

I wouldn’t think that Willeford would have known about Sharkey’s stay in the same hotel (in fact, from the youthful mug printed on the postcard, it’s likely enough that the pugilist resided in the hotel before the 1906 earthquake and fire took the original structure down — Willeford rented a room on weekends off from Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato in the early 1950s). Maybe the new bio of Sharkey can clear that up. 

As Brian also points out over several posts about Sharkey on the Two-Gun Raconteur website, the brawling sailor undoubtedly served as the model for Robert E. Howard’s series character Sailor Steve Costigan, whose pulp exploits rival those about Conan in number written. So, in the meta-fictional universe, you have the original of Sailor Steve hanging his hat in the same building where Willeford’s Private Eye named Jacob C. Blake later lives and maintains an office in the novel Wild Wives, a.k.a. Death Takes a Bride

Howard-Willeford. Sharkey-Willeford. The Powell Hotel is ALL Willeford.

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