Sinister Cinema: Barbara Payton, Bride of the Gorilla

You can’t fool Brian Leno. He knows it’s October, and that means Halloween horror — so he dug up some cinematic Jane Hancocks to fill in his Autograph Hound Saturday crypt-keeper duties. Enjoy — if you dare!

Halloween is one of the great times of year. Leaves crunch underfoot, the air is crisp, kids dressed as goblins pester you for candy and television is filled with old ‘monster’ movies; it is what is good in life.

The story of Barbara Payton is a Hollywood horror story.

Beautiful and talented enough to be cast opposite Jimmy Cagney in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), her life spiraled into a blackness that can only elicit sympathy from the hardest Tinseltown heart.

Drugs, alcohol and even charges of prostitution were standard fare in her life and an engagement to Franchot Tone didn’t settle her down.

She was having an affair with Detour (1945) tough guy Tom Neal despite the engagement to Joan Crawford’s former husband, and things took a decidedly bad turn when Neal, a former boxer, encountered Tone in Payton’s apartment.

It couldn’t really be called a fight — Neal smashed Tone into a coma that lasted almost a day, broke his nose and caused other injuries that only a trained boxer could inflict on another man.

Payton’s was featured in Bride of the Gorilla (1951), a low budget flick scripted by Curt Siodmak. The movie may be terrible, but just watching Barbara Payton is a delight and well worth the time.

Her signature is rare and won’t be bought with candy corn.

Posted in Boxing, Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Frisco Beat: Where are the Fanzines of Yesteryear?; or, a Little Riff on David Mason’s Devil’s Food

Aha! I warned uber fanzine guy Bill Breiding that if he messed up any bits in an article on Sword-and-Sorcery writer David Mason (Kavin’s World, etc.) I sent in for his new zine Portable Storage Two that I’d correct on the trusty blog.

If he wants he can correct it on his end as more copies get ordered, then anyone who has the repudiated version can claim it’s a marker of an early state — that’s how we do “first edition” stuff in the POD realm. I guess.

Here’s the textual change that didn’t get made:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often.

He told me that he was a fan of the guide book, using it to track down things he might want to read. And he told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I told Bill: “in bit above I double-up the ‘track down’ wording (see, nothing like writing something the last day), so change to”:

In 2016 a guy showed up for one of the first Hammett Tours of the spring—one of the guys who track down the odd and eccentric and interesting writers I slipped into Literary World of San Francisco. Brian Doohan—you wouldn’t have heard of him—and David Mason are two of those names that come up most often. He told me he had just read Devil’s Food.

I was knocking it out on the due date, as I usually do things, so I accept a full share of any blame. It’s not as if we’re talking The Gettysburg Address — but you’ll agree the revamp is smoother.

The article deals with my decades-long quest to track down the David Mason porno novel Devil’s Food, set in San Francisco. One of my off trail books about books pieces, kind of in-line with the stuff I used to do in Firsts.

The zine itself (you can sample the first pages) deals with the usual variety of general zine concerns, pushing the idea that POD opens up wide vistas for Pubbing Your Ish. Music. Books. Mimeo. Everybody dying.

And in the letters column I tell Bill he sounded like an egghead in Portable Storage One

His rebuttal?

With only a fifth grade education I’ve never even remotely thought of myself as an egghead. Existentially, it’s as improbable for me not to acutely examine the processes of fanzine publishing as it was for Bill Bowers!

Sounds like an egghead, right?

Posted in Frisco, Lit, News | Tagged , , , |

Frisco Beat: My Earliest Kent Inscription

And to wrap up this auto weekend — to give you yet another holograph sample to consider in your meditations — here’s the earliest inscription I personally got from Kent Harrington, during a signing for his second novel in Kayo Books on Post Street. Pretty sure that was the first time I met him.

Kent’s signing was on Friday December 5 1997, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

I had a signing the next day, from 4:00 to 6:00, for my book Willeford.

Both titles were published by Dennis McMillan, in his Opus Two return to the book biz after a hiatus following Opus One.

Posted in DMac, Frisco, Lit | Tagged , , |

Rediscovered: Line v. No Line

Cordelia Willis, who tipped Kent Harrington — both pictured above — off to some crime lab info for Last Ferry Home, joined in on the food and talk in Street, September 21.

What was the ridiculous description I noticed recently in an academic journal? “Polyvocal discourse unfolding in a diversity of ways.” Yeah, sure, that’s what we were doing.

As stories were swapped, Kent mentioned that in fact he does get a little nervous if he notices lots of people waiting in a signing line — he doesn’t like keeping them on hold too long.

And he also told us about the first time he was slotted for a signing at a Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention. No one knew who he was, no one came to stand in his theoretical line.

But he was seated next to “a ninety-year-old lady who wrote cat mysteries” and her line must have numbered four hundred people. Kent says she was very nice to him, and told him, “It’ll get better.”

Cordelia — daughter of science fiction writer Connie Willis — took up the theme. She’s known George R. R. Martin from since she was a kid, he’s part of her mom’s circle of friends. You may have seen GRRM when he clambered up on stage at the recent Emmy Awards with the Game of Thrones crew.

Long years before Game of Thrones made his bones, GRRM was at some science fiction convention, same scenario as Kent. He was starting out, kind of unknown, and they seated him next to Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, who was known.

No one was in Martin’s line.

The Doug Adams line stretched across the hall, out the door, and a few blocks down the street.

Some well-intentioned but clewless convention worker took up an electronic bullhorn and went outside, walking down the blocks and yelling, “No line for George R. R. Martin!”

Nobody budged from the Hitchhiker queue.

Posted in Frisco, Lit | Tagged , , , , , , |

Frisco Beat: Kent Harrington, Signatory

Image above: Kent Harrington (with Lynn behind the bar) in one of my favorite restaurants, Street on Polk, on Saturday September 21.

We got there as soon as the doors opened and had the place to ourselves for a few minutes, as it gradually began to fill up, get noisier — the Street experience. Great food, by the way.

Even though he’s a San Francisco native, Kent hadn’t been there before (so many restaurants, so little time, right?), so it seemed like a good rendezvous point.

After I read a proof copy of Last Ferry Home, I tipped Kent off to a few arcane points of information about San Francisco streets, so he had a copy of the hardback for me, to say Thanks. (In book collecting mode, I of course think that any serious Kent collector needs to have the ARC in addition to the final release, since they have somewhat alternate texts.)

At the bottom you’ll see part of Kent’s inscription in the copy (I’m cutting out the mushy stuff), which he says he did at home, in his office, at his desk — the most perfect possible conditions.

I’m no Kevin Cook, sensitive to every curve of the pen, but I can’t tell much difference between this signature and every other signature I’ve gotten from Kent over the years. But know that this records the most recent Kent siggie featured this weekend. Penned less than two weeks ago.

Posted in Frisco, Lit | Tagged , , , , |

Rediscovered: An Otto and Ellroy

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday opens with Kevin Cook refining his terms, and letting us know he’s got even worse autos than the one from Kent Harrington he was talking about yesterday:

With Kent’s autograph, what I meant to express was that it was the worst autograph ever given to me in a book that I personally asked to have signed — not the worst autograph that I possess. Here’s another piss-poor one from James Ellroy. I wish that I had remembered this one from The Best American Noir of the Century when you were discussing Ellroy’s “signature” the other week. The difference between his effort and that of co-editor Otto Penzler is night and day.

Ellroy’s is a terrible effort, but he did not sign the book for me. His autograph was already in the book when I bought it.

When my office in Manhattan was a couple of blocks away from The Mysterious Bookshop I could bring books there to be signed by authors who came in for readings, talks — or just to sign. Those included Michael Connolly, George Pelecanos, Don Winslow, T. Jefferson Parker and others.

I got Pelecanos to smile and give a little laugh when I told him that I loved the title Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go — because I said it out loud inside The Mysterious Bookshop and Otto absolutely hated the title.

Kent Harrington’s autograph ranks even or perhaps just ahead of Pelecanos. Even when we had a great talk together at The Mysterious Bookshop he still provided me with the sloppy “GPl” autograph in the books I asked him to sign. You can probably see for yourself what I am referring to if you have copies of the Dennis McMillan books that he signed.

Whatever the case, at least I can say that I have “signed” copies of all the early Pelecanos books.

By the way, I suppose most of the sloppy autographs are probably a result of the writers just having lousy handwriting. Only some popular authors such as Michael Connolly deliberately shorten and simplify their autographs because of the shear volume of books that they are asked to sign.    

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: Kent Harrington, Have Squiggle — Will Inscribe

Strap in!

Autograph Hound Saturday kicks off a weekend long rumination on the topic of nigh indecipherable signatures, by no less a collector than Kevin Cook. Now, don’t take the first thoughts on the subject as the Be All End All.

No, sir or madam. Kevin gnaws on this bone like the autograph hound he is, digging for the marrow.

As he’ll tell you, Kevin has selected a Kent Harrington inscription done at NoirCon in 2008 to kick it off. I actually met Kevin for the first time at that convention in Philly.

And I’ve known Kent for years, too. I told him that his holograph was going to be put under the microscope, as some of the worst handwriting around.

Kent said, “I’ll try to do better in the future.”

And here’s Kevin Cook:

The awkward James Ellroy signatures remind me of the sloppiest autographed book that I own: The Good Physician by Kent Harrington, signed at the Noircon in Philadelphia.

I do not know how Dennis McMillan set up his signing procedure in normal circumstances, but that time you plunked down your $35.00 and stood in line for Kent to sign the book. Looking at it now I am not even sure what he wrote!

Kent never had the neatest handwriting anyway, but the ones on the other Dennis McMillan editions are much neater than the one I got in person. I don’t mind really, as it was nice to have that one opportunity to talk with Kent.

But now that I inspect the book more closely I think that I understand why he signed twice. All the copies were probably already signed as Kent Harrington and then he added the “For Kevin Best Kent” to the book when I was speaking with him.

That makes more sense than him signing it twice while I was right in front of him.

Kent probably had not signed for a line of people with his other books from Dennis, so the different circumstances could explain the “sloppier” than usual signatures.

For comparison, I am also sending two other Kent Harrington signatures, one from Dark Ride, his first novel from 1996, and one from another McMillan release, The Tattooed Muse; none are actually that clear.

If he had just signed a piece of paper like Arthur O. Friel you would have a tough time trying to figure out whose signature it was.

I really like Kent Harrington’s books, especially The American Boys and Red Jungle. I have read them all (or at least those available in the English language!) from Dark Ride up through last year’s Last Ferry Home —  Ferry is my only unsigned Harrington book. 

If I ever run into Kent again I will have to get it signed.

That was one of the great things about the Dennis McMillan publications: almost every book is signed, and in the case of a deceased author the person who wrote the Introduction signed. (The cool one there is the Leigh Brackett book signed by Michael Connolly and Ray Bradbury, who wrote the Intro and Afterword.)

Unlike my McMillan editions the new books I have bought by that crew of writers — Kent, Bob Truluck, Lono Waiwaiole and Kent Anderson — are all still unsigned.

Posted in DMac, Lit | Tagged , , , , |

Tour: Sundays in October — and Sunday November 3

The Dashiell Hammett Tour meets at noon every Sunday in October. The walk starts in front of 870 Market and goes for three hours. About two miles long. $20 per person.

If interested, pick a Sunday and show up. No reservations needed or taken.

Plus, I just got a note in from someone in Portugal who can’t quite make the cut for October, but will be in the burg on Sunday November 3.

Okay, why not? Pencil in Sunday November 3 if that works better for you. Again, just show up clutching a twenty with three hours to kill. (But watch out for the end of Daylight Savings Time that day, which will monkey with the clock.)

How often do you get a hard-boiled tourist in  from Portugal, anyway? (Although, come to think of it, I did have a guy from Portugal on a walk earlier this year — I wonder if they know each other. . . .)

Posted in Tour | Tagged |

Rediscovered: H. Rider Haggard

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: What kind of Lost Race Auto Weekend is this, anyway, if you don’t lay down an H. Rider Haggard?

I agree, so we sent Brian Leno into the darkest corners of his cubbyholes and closets, digging, digging — and did he excavate a Haggard?

Sure he did.

Brian notes, “Pretty cool — since it is dated Sept. 1904 it is exactly 115 years old.

King Solomon’s Mines, a book I’ve read a few times and have always enjoyed, came out in 1885, and was quickly followed by She and Allan Quartermain. These three novels pretty much started the ‘Lost Race’ genre. In 1905 another great Haggard tale, Ayesha: The Return of She, would come out in bookform.

“Any writer worth his salt would have given much to be able to sign his name to the above Haggard novels.

“So I had to have a Haggard signature, and I’ve had this one for a while. Haggard, if the collector takes his time, can be acquired for a fairly decent price.

“Autograph collecting, while not having the epic vitality of an Allan Quatermain quest or the excitement of poking about in ruins thousands of years old, is, though, a lot safer.

“Armchair adventure. Haggard’s one helluva guide.”

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , |

Rediscovered: Andrew Lang

Continuing today’s Autograph Hound Super-Sunday theme of Lost Race — sometimes known as Lost World, guess the fine line drawn depends on how exotic the race involved in the action may be, but the baseline is the Lost part — we bring in Brian Leno to display a John Hancock for a collaborator of H. Rider Haggard. Haggard pretty much kicked this genre into gear.

Brian reports, “The autograph of Andrew Lang can be had fairly cheap.

“In a 1927 letter to Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft wrote, ‘Now — if I can get the leisure — I mean to read The World’s Desire, by Haggard & Lang.’ It is pretty apparent the Old Gent was a fan of H. Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang.

“HPL even gives Lang some credit for helping him to create one of his most famous characters, Abdul Alhazred. In a 1930 letter to Robert E. Howard he says, ‘Abdul is a favourite dream-character of mine — indeed that is what I used to call myself when I was five years old and a transported devotee of Andrew Lang’s version of the Arabian Nights.’  

“There’s a bit of a problem with this statement. Lovecraft, born in 1890, would have been five in 1895 — according to an Internet bibliography of Lang, his ‘version of the Arabian Nights‘ didn’t see publication until 1898.

“But, hey, if Lovecraft wants to credit Lang with his creation of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred that’s fine by me, especially since I have a copy of Lang’s signature.

“Coincidentally, The World’s Desire was published in 1890, the year of the horror master’s birth.

“The book tells of a journey Odysseus took after the events related in Homer’s Odyssey and we find that his Queen Penelope has died and this sets in motion events that ultimately take him to Egypt and Helen of Troy.

“I’m not going to ruin the novel for those who haven’t read it but it’s a good book and for those lovers of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series it showed up in the set in 1972, with an introduction by Lin Carter.”

Posted in Lit | Tagged , , , , , , , , |