Frisco Beat: The Painted Gun

I should mention a new crime novel that popped earlier this month, since it’s got the local angle for those of you who may be collecting San Francisco mysteries — rife with Bay Area action, though toward the end it moseys down into Guatemala as if influenced by Kent Harrington. I thought of Kent’s Frisco/Guatemala crossovers more than once as I was reading this one.

I did my more weighty review of Bradley Spinelli’s The Painted Gun elsewhere — you can catch a few of my anonymous lines on the Amazon page (and a couple I didn’t write, from the same review). Overall, I enjoyed it, seeing it as something of a romp through a variety of “mystery” stylings. A hard-boiled start with a couple of paragraphs about inhaling cigarette smoke. A nice run of puzzle mystery clewing. Kind of a little tour de force — though one big serious fan of crime writing on Mystery*File seemed bothered by it. I don’t think Spinelli was trying to out-Pynchon Thomas Pynchon, myself, but I guess I could be wrong.

For purposes of These Mean Streets, the author blurbs mention that Spinelli lived in the Bay Area awhile, notably South San Francisco where the protagonist also lives. Most of the local details are good, though with any of these books you look — or I look — for details that don’t ring right.

Spinelli has been based in Brooklyn lately, and clearly wasn’t on scene to triple-check every Friscoid detail.

Just from memory, he suggests that Hill Street kind of where it intersects Valencia is just one block long, but it picks up again for several blocks as it climbs the rocky slope to the west.

In route to some scenes in Chinatown from Market there is the suggestion that a hill of some consequence is in the way, but that route is mostly flat by San Francisco standards — unless you go around the wrong way and have to trudge over Nob Hill, or get really lost and find yourself on some rocky outcropping of Russian Hill.

And there’s a scene where the Mission Street bus is running along Market, which I can’t wrap my mind around — though admitting that perhaps at the very time Spinelli was in town soaking up the atmosphere it may have been detoured for some sort of construction.

For this sort of thing, three quibbles isn’t bad — after all, Robert B. Parker put the toll booths on the wrong end of the Golden Gate Bridge in one of his Spenser novels.

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