Hammett: Here Comes Da Judge!

I was on the horn yesterday with Brian Leno, and thought to say, “Hey, Brian. Want me to tell you something you don’t know?”

Brian didn’t hesitate. “Sure.”

“You know that building on TV they keep showing where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding stuff?”

“Yeah. . . .”

Like, in the last few days, everyone hasn’t seen that great old building pop up on the screen time after time.

“Forget the judicial stuff. That’s the old Main Post Office in San Francisco, where near the start of the Hammett story ‘The Golden Horseshoe’ the Op is gumshoeing around on a case.”

You’ll see a shot of me above, pointing to the building which stands on the east side of Seventh Street between Mission and Market. In now forty years of leading the Dashiell Hammett Tour, I have never (to the best of my memory) taken any tour group past the building. It is just enough off trail to the other sites I want to get to that it never made the cut.

Which doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of my personal favorite Op sites. For several years after I’d first moved to Frisco, it was still the Main Post Office, and I’d go inside, soak up the atmosphere. Imagine where the short fat detective faked a fall to get a look at some mail pulled from one of the boxes. I don’t care one way or the other about the court (my one prevailing thought is that I’d be bored out of my mind if I was forced to be a judge and sit for hours listening to arguments — that’d be as bad as being forced to go to church), but I was kind of happy they decided to retool the Post Office for the new purpose. Much better than tearing it down.

The exterior, and I’m sure much of the interior, evokes the moment when the Op stalked those hallways in the November 1924 issue of The Black Mask.

And now, like Brian, you know.

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