Hammett: A Nick and Nora Sighting

While otherwise minding his own beeswax, Bill Mullins spotted a “quite dashing” cameo to bring to our attention:

I don’t know if you follow stuff like this, but in a 2013 Rocketeer comic book, Nick and Nora Charles make an uncredited guest appearance. 

The original creator of the Rocketeer, Dave Stevens, had died, so the art isn’t near as good as the original comics. 

The redhead and the guy with the monocle and bowler derby in panels 3 and 4 are Ham and Monk from the Doc Savage books — also uncredited.

If this is something anyone wants to chase down, the comic is The Rocketeer — Hollywood Horror. It also has some H. P. Lovecraft overtones.

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Hammett: Further “Creeping Siamese”

Today Evan Lewis spotlights another newspaper reprint for a Hammett story — “The Creeping Siamese.”

Evan says, “This Op adventure, originally published in the May 1926 Black Mask, was reprinted in the May 31, 1942 El Paso Times.”

Plus the paper includes a blurb on Hammett and his writing methods — he “never rewrites.”

Or so says the newspaper blurbage.


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Rediscovered: The Romantic Count von Cosel

Well, maybe The Maltese Falcon isn’t the sickest love story ever. . . .

Late last year Brian Leno got to poking around in the Unusual and popped some stuff my way, which I realized might not be quite appropriate for the upcoming Christmas Season — but what the hell, maybe not too far offtrail for dropping into the Feast of St. Valentine.

Got that romance angle to it.

Brian sends along images from a pulp appearance of the story, plus a local reprint — the usual guy taking a woman home, from her tomb.

He wondered if I’d ever heard of the episode, since I like Key West. But to the best of my memory, I didn’t see any plaques for it when I relentlessly hoofed around that southernmost isle.

The pulp was edited by Raymond A. Palmer (“god knows he went with some pretty flaky theories, saucers, the Shaver Mystery, etc,” Brian says), and Brian tosses in an example of Palmer’s John Hancock from his vast collection of Hancocks. It’s a reject note from Palmer to a Les Cole in Berkeley — like Palmer, a fairly famous sf fan.

Here’s Leno:

Watched some special on Karl Tanzler von Cosel yesterday. He’s the nut case that dug up (actually stole her from her vault) some woman’s grave he loved, slept with her and prettied her up a bit as she started to stink. Kind of like “A Rose for Emily.”

You mentioned you were in Key West and that’s where Karl did his nefarious deed, so perhaps you heard of him.

In the show they kept referencing his article “The Secret of Elena’s Tomb” and I looked up where it was published and found it was in a Fantastic Adventures pulp from September 1947. Cover story.

I bought a bucketful of those years ago for next to nothing, which is still what they’re worth. So I went digging in the basement and sure enough, there was that baby, just itching to be read. Sometimes it pays to be a hoarder.

Now if I could find his signature. . . he’s certainly goofy enough to warrant inclusion in my autograph hall of curiosities.

The Fantastic Adventures cover is by Robert Gibson Jones, and the cover of the book — a paperback that reprints the Count’s story — is the illustration from the title page inside the pulp. 

Palmer on his editorial page says that Karl stopped by the office and talked about his article — he was bitter about going to prison for what he had done.

Karl was trying an experiment, Palmer yaps, trying to bring Elena back to life. He doesn’t seem too put out that the man was sleeping with a corpse.

From other opinions I’ve looked up some have tried to make it into a love story, which is so fucking wrong it’s incredible.

One bio is entitled Undying Love.

For God’s sake when her eyeballs rotted away he stuck in fake ones, it’s definitely not a story for the squeamish.

The guy had a major hitch in his giddyup. 

One of the blurbs on the back of the book calls the story “endearing,” which I find really odd. The guy had a corpse in his house and was using it for, I’m sure, sexual gratification. I’m pretty positive the girl’s parents didn’t find it “endearing” when the body was discovered and the shit hit the fan.

Just started to dig into the book, who knows what else may be unearthed?

After I ordered The Lost Diary of Count von Cosel through Amazon they sent me a recommendation, which they sometimes do.

They suggest a book titled The Necrophiliac.

Guess now I’m typecast.

Just another day around the household of Brian Leno, a.k.a. The Cryptkeeper.

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Hammett: 92 Years Ago Today

Valentine’s Day — for some reason or just random coincidence, one of those beams falling you hear about, in 1930 the Alfred A. Knopf company selected this date for the official publication of a little noir love story titled The Maltese Falcon.

You know, the one where the female love interest gets shipped off to prison and may get hanged?

As I always say, the sickest love story ever.

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Sinister Cinema: Scary Monsters

Brian Leno continues to “splash the field,” sneaking articles into mags hither and yon — and this time he gets into a publication that has won numerous Rondo Hatton awards. Brian and I decided that the only award we’d really like to nab at this point would be a Rondo, but then of course I’d have to do something Rondoesque — at least Leno is on the hunt.

“Here’s the Scary Monsters Magazine I am appearing in — their Monster Memories annual,” Brian reports. “My memory is titled ‘Monsters in the Closet.’

“I think it’s a pretty classy looking periodical, the cover is great. The issue can be picked up at Barnes & Noble most places, I imagine.

“Always wanted to see my name in a monster magazine ever since I was a kid. Was raised on Famous Monsters of Filmland and Castle of Frankenstein, great stuff.

“This issue also contains articles on Lovecraft, H. H. Holmes, and of course much more. Even something on Norman Bates and his Ma.

“Should be fun.”

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Rediscovered: More Mountains of Madness

John D. Haefele, author of Lovecraft: The Great Tales, sends in a link to a little discovery of ranges of supermountains in the dim past of the planet.

“Another example of why I find HPL fascinating and fun,” he explains.

Here’s JDH:

Everest Out of the Running!

Apparently Lovecraft — somehow — extrapolated earth’s actual past, aspects unknown at the time, to incorporate into his fiction….

This newly discovered super mountain range existed 2 billion years ago, on the southern super-continent. One might say it arose just before, or during, the period HPL’s Old Ones lived on earth, initially undersea.

It was certainly in their sphere millions of years later, and undergoing further changes — “mountains of madness” — when they occupied the land, a stage in their earth-history that began about 1 billion years ago.

The second new-found range, per the article, existed 650-500 million years ago; whereas Lovecraft’s fictional more terrible range, if one accepts conventional interpretation of “At the Mountains of Madness,” made its appearance merely 50 million ago.

Only, there’s no reason to necessarily think the two need be conflated, that this older range didn’t exist somewhere outside the framework of his story. (Which, as you know, fits my own interpretation of “At the Mountains of Madness,” that doesn’t see HPL’s second range on our earth at all — rather it is a darker, different version of the first super-range, appearing suddenly amidst the din of an impinging, adjacent reality.)  

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Mort: Richard L. Tierney

Word made the rounds that Richard L. Tierney died on February first — I heard the news in an email from Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes, who just put up an obit blogging for Castalia House.

Dick made it to age 85, which I don’t imagine he’d have ever believed he’d reach. When I first met him early in 1975, he was talking about not wanting to live past his fortieth birthday, coming up fast that August.

I’d moved to St. Paul, Minnesota from San Francisco and found a place on Summit Hill not many blocks away from Tierney’s rooms. Two years, 1975-76, hanging out with Dick and the weird fiction fan sub-group a.k.a. the MinnCon — Count Koblas, Joe West and others. Stopping in on Donald Wandrei — a bit farther off than Tierney, but not that far.

As I’ve said elsewhere, most of my hour-by-hour hanging out was with Dick, and in retrospect it seems we were mostly tooling around in his VW bug. We made a run up to see the Kensington Runestone (as fans of Robert E. Howard, neither of us had any problem believing Vikings might have made their way along epic waterways into the middle of Minnesota). We went down to Dick’s hometown of Mason City, Iowa where he showed off the bank Dillinger once robbed. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis of the Barker-Karpis gang had lived in our neighborhood. Al Capone had a getaway home on the banks of one of the rivers. Indian mounds. We did it all.

Mostly of course we circled around the narrow tombstone-bordered lanes of graveyards, talking weird fiction. Dick is the one who made “the Arthur Machen time of day” part of my mental fabric — the time as the sun sets when light flashes off distant windows, twilight dropping down. I wrote up one of his instantaneous observations for Crypt of Cthulhu, when as we were talking about the Clark Ashton Smith story “Ubbo-Sathla” Dick realized “Ubbo-Sathla is US!” — the primordial mire we all arose from over the eons. It’s a great thing to have someone around you can fully engage with on such matters — you’ll find mention of Dick and his ideas in various essays I’ve done over the years, such as “The Dark Barbarian.” I’ve said before and will always maintain that I wish Dick had written down more of his thoughts — but I’m happy I was on scene to get the living ideas fresh off the synapses. Wish you were there.

The only thing I recall not agreeing with him on was his notion that Henry S. Whitehead was the best prose stylist to write for Weird Tales. Perhaps on strictly technical grammatical grounds, but Whitehead couldn’t get close to writing by Lovecraft, Smith or Howard when they were kicking it.

I made my major discovery in MinnCon terms as we circled a cemetery. Tierney and West and Koblas already had discovered the monuments bearing the necrophagous names Skoog and Kroll, but I happened to glance to one side and saw it.

A stone bearing one word: DRKULA.

Dracula’s tombstone! Holy crap. We were estatic.

Later I learned from a longhair guy at some place I was working briefly that the name wasn’t quite as mysterious as it seemed — he was a regular at Drkula’s Bowling Alley.

He pronounced it Dra-cool-ah. Dra-cool-ah’s Bowling Alley.

Tierney and I drove out to see it.

Count Koblas, always more a hysterical type than the others, kind of ginned up the notion that he was sure Dick was going to commit suicide before turning 40.

I wasn’t all that worried about it. Not impossible — Dick was a big fan of Robert E. Howard, who shot himself at age 30. Dick had a handgun.

His rationale was purely intellectual. He had decided over the years that he’d never met anyone over the age of 40 worth talking to, and not to put himself in those ranks it’d be better to cash out.

But eventually he had met some older people worth talking with, including Bigfoot hunter George F. Haas in Oakland, during a Tierney stint in the Bay Area — and during those years he was a frequent visitor in The Lamasery above the hills of Redwood City, the lair of pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price. Price once told me that Dick was the absolute favorite guest he and his wife hosted. And then there was Don Wandrei. . . .

So, birthday 40 came and went and Dick told some of us a story to explain why he didn’t kill himself. I think the story was real, something that had happened. Maybe from the newspaper.

A wife in St. Paul came home to find a note from her husband that he was going to end it all by jumping off the High Bridge over the Mississippi.

The High Bridge is really high up, strung between two enormous cliffs overlooking the river at that point. Even worse, if you’re afraid of heights, the pedestrian walkway on the side consists of slats of wood laid between iron supports — and they aren’t nudged tight. An inch spacing here, two inches there.

You can look through the gaps all the way down. . .

The wife calls in the police, they’re examining the suicide note when the husband walks in the door. A dour Norwegian or Swede or other Minnesotan pioneering type.

They ask him why he didn’t jump to his death.

Tierney looked at us and in sepulchral tones quoted the man: “Changed my mind.”

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Rediscovered: “The Great Lovecraftian”

An hour long interview with Ken Hite on an international podcast finds him referring (roughly from counter 45-48) to “the great Lovecraftian John Haefele” — and don’t panic, the language breaks into English after two or three minutes.

I especially enjoyed Hite’s atmospheric account of how he first read “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” Very cool.

But for purposes of These Mean Streets, his namedrops for my Kid Protégé — author of Lovecraft: The Great Tales — are the main excuse for mentioning the podcast.

Hite obviously has much better taste than the majority of current so-called Lovecraftians. Hard to believe that publication of Haefele’s tome — the longest (and best) litcrit coverage of The Old Gent — passed without mention in the various HPL fanzines for 2021.

You’d think an author of Lovecraft’s standing would have a Journal of Record by this point, but I guess not.

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Rediscovered: Arkham Ephemera — Last Call

As John D. Haefele and I sit down to the ordeal of finally pulling together a book on Classic Era Arkham House advertising ephemera, an obvious challenge will be tracking down every possible scrap of paper that acted as Arkham promo.

We’ve been working at that task for decades, but if you think you’ve got an Item no one else on earth could possibly know about, by all means pop me a note.

When I did my list for Firsts back in 2002 — with Haefele consulting — I greatly expanded on the previous ephemera checklist the bookseller Roy Squires published based on the Phil Mays collection, and put some Items in different (and better) order.

For the book, we have enough info to expand the 100 Item list from Firsts by (at least) half, and we’re going to make another try at establishing best order.

See the image at top, from The Haefele Collection?

The Last Call brochure is no. 43 in the Firsts list (and does not appear in the Phil Mays list), with the note from Derleth it goes with incontrovertibly recording that this one copy is going out months before the 1957 Stock List. (And wouldn’t some of you liked to have had the chance to grab that copy of The Outsider and Others for $40?)

“As far as the Last Call brochures go,” Haefele writes, “I recall little or no real evidence that suggests May’s order is accurate, since most Last Calls I have seen came out of the same envelope with the matching Stock List.

“Obviously a postmark earlier than a catalog mailed subsequently must trump that order. My logic, however, is that Derleth had to decide which Items to drop first, before ordering the catalog — then he often ordered them simultaneously.

“Plus there are one or more examples where two Last Calls were issued before their matching catalog, with all titles subtracted.

“I tend to systemize Derleth’s activities. For example, he obviously decided before he did a Stock List which titles had too few copies on hand to justify the cost of including them. Thus, though they may have come out of the same earliest envelopes in any order, I always present the Last Call inserts ahead of the Stock List they are married to — for the same reason the typical first addendum always follows.”

I told Haefele that I’m nurturing some disagreement on that idea — jumbling the numbers up just to put Last Call before a concurrent catalog (especially when they may have been printed and shipped at same time) strikes me as too formal.

Why if the Items were done at same time would Last Call logically come first? You’d think Derleth would drop the big Stock List (cutting out the titles in low stock) and include the Last Call more or less to appear “after the fact” just to create panic buying.

I guess it’s like thinking of the Last Calls as lone scout ships sent out ahead of the battle cruiser, on their own, pitching around on the rolling seas — or thinking of them as part of the larger convoy, part of an expeditionary force, doing their bit to sell some Lovecraft and company.

We’ll figure it out — and if you’ve got an opinion based on these thoughts, here’s your chance to chip in. Influence history.

Was Derleth always systematic (certainly), or was he also open to a little improv when the moment called for it?

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Rediscovered: Some Arkham in the House

Courtesy an eagle-eyed bud of mine, ever perched over eBay, I landed a couple of Items of Arkham House ephemera I needed just a couple of days ago.

If you consult the list I did of the classic era Derleth-Wandrei ephemera in the October 2002 issue of Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine, you’ll see that the postcard from 1951 announcing The Dark Chateau by Clark Ashton Smith is no. 34 — the card for Three Problems for Solar Pons — no. 37 — came out in 1952.

The 1950s was a bleak decade for Arkham House and the other specialty genre publishers, but August Derleth pulled every trick out of the hat to keep it going, and survived.

(Notice that Derleth throws in a plug for The Double Shadow by CAS — some time back when I was talking with Scott Connors about the biography of Smith he is working on, he had to admit new respect for Derleth for constantly doing promo for CAS. And anyone with a brain can see that Derleth gave CAS prominence in the Arkham list second only to Lovecraft. Now I guess the question becomes: Will Scott ever do his bit to get that bio finished and out into the world?)

Those list numbers are about to change. John D. Haefele and I are plugging merrily away on a full book on the Classic Ephemera. Glancing at the hand notations in my working copy of Firsts, I see at least ten Items that need to be added in — which will bump The Dark Chateau card up to at least 44, and Three Problems to 47.

We will, of course, report what the current numbers were when cited in Firsts — and also in that Ur reference source, The Phil Mays Collection of Arkham House Ephemerae.

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