Hammett: Win Some Lose Some


How about the Hitchcockesque pic above to close out the year? Shot in the stairwell in the Mechanics’ Library after one of my talks about Hammett or noir.

I feel noir just looking at it. And kind of dizzy, too.

And how about a last mention for the year of Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective? I’m sure it’ll come up again — in fact, at the talk in the Mechanics’ Nathan said he’d correct various points people quibbled over in the paperback, when the paperback pops.

In addition to changing out his usage of the word “serially” (that would be the Nathan Ward WORD OF THE YEAR), I’ve got another one for him. On page 37: “switches.” As in

go to work on someone with these long, cut switches, or “saps”. . . .

The word he wants is “clubs” or something like that.



Nathan got “switches” from me, kind of. From my post about discovering that the clubs the head-breaking crew Hammett was pictured with were called “saps.”

I mentioned that a wild kid might get the attention of a switch to calm him down (hope I didn’t need to put up any Trigger Warning notice — just how it used to be, kids got switched, hoboes got clubbed with saps). Yeah, I got switched a few times. A tough break, but it prepares you for the mean streets.

The whole bit about “saps” on pages 36-37 is the one place in Nathan’s book where I wish he’d given me on-page credit for the discovery, but he didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I get lots of mentions in the bio. The tour and this website receive plenty of acknowledgement. Even Mean Streets stalwart Tenderloin Terry Zobeck gets some thanks.

But the discovery that those clubs were called “saps” remains one of my personal favorite discoveries of all time.

When I tumbled to the info, I think that only one other person in the world — Hammett’s daughter — even knew we were looking for the origin story for those items. Maybe she told a couple of other people, I don’t know. But I’m the lucky sap who caught a break and made the discovery.

Yeah, I know the post gets mentioned in a footnote. You know how I feel about footnotes.

At any rate, I’m not expecting Nathan to stick my name in that section (though I might buy him a beer next time he’s in the burg, if he does), but he does need to yank “switches” — thin, lightweight, sting like hell — and sub in another word.

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