Hammett: The Passing of Fechheimer

Just heard from Terry Zobeck, who heard it from Larry Block, who must read the New York Times, that David Fechheimer died April 2 at the age of 76 — reportedly from complications after open heart surgery.

Once again, ouch. Brings it all forcibly back to mind.

In the pic above l. to r. you have me, Fechheimer and Nathan Ward, from a Hammett deal we did in the Mechanics’ Library. Pretty sure that was the last time I saw Fechheimer.

I’d spot him on the street occasionally. Many years ago when the tour kicked off from the old Main Library in 200 Larkin I noticed him coming out the doors and pointed him out to the group as one of the main and certainly most important researchers into Hammett’s life. He did that detective thing of turning his face away and moving off — as opposed to coming over and saying Hi to the crowd — because detectives don’t want too many if any people recognizing them.

I understood. No offense taken.

In more recent years I especially recall bumping into him once near 4th and Mission, where he told me he had a ticket to a performance by Ken Nordine (believe Fechheimer referred to him as “the first rap artist”) in the Yerba Buena Arts Center — but for some reason he couldn’t use the ticket and urged me to see the show. And so I did. Expanded my cultural horizons.

The way I look at it, when Fechheimer’s old boss Hal Lipset was alive, he was the most famous real detective in San Francisco (nobody is going to ace out Sam Spade overall). When he died, then Fechheimer took the title.

I always enjoyed seeing him and hearing the occasional story, such as the time he and another prominent detective — then young guys — hit a remote compound to rescue a kid whose rich father had abducted him in a custody dispute. When the other op didn’t make it back to the helicopter in time, Fechheimer left him behind and he had to walk out. Hard-boiled.

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