A note rolled in just now from longtime guest blogger Terry Zobeck, always trying to keep the Hammett facts straight. He spotted a wrong detail in the Morgan Holmes bit about what kind of .32s the Op carried in “Corkscrew” — and I thought, yeah, that one nagged at my memory even as I quickly threw the link up. But I forged ahead anyway.
So, to clarify, here’s Terry:
I went to the link on the Op’s armament. Interesting article, except for the mistake about only one Op story appearing outside of Black Mask. As you know, there are two: “Who Killed Bob Teal” in True Detective Stories and my personal favorite “This King Business” in Mystery Stories.
Woke up to a note from Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes, who says, “I have my own Hammett gun post up at Castalia. Did not realize you had the Webley one up until this morning. Guess we are all thinking about guns.”
Just recently Morgan did a heavy-on-guns zine for the Robert E. Howard United Press Association which panicked one of the academics sucking around the fringes of Howard Studies. The guy was seized by the vapours, clutched his pearls, and huffed out of REHupa. Will anyone notice he’s gone?
Always amazing to me, the current crop of would-be readers, gripped by “woke” sensibilities, who insist on reading the major pulpsters, timidly covering their eyes at the politically incorrect spots. Robert E. Howard, famous as one of the most violent fictioneers of all time. Hammett, author of a symphony of bullets in the Op saga.
I don’t know what it would be, but surely these bozos could find something more current, bland enough to not offend them.
It’s been mentioned before on These Mean Streets, but among the numerous hobbies and preoccupations — Autograph Hound, Two-Gun Bob fan — of Brian Leno, he’s got an interest in Ripperology, and herewith marks a grim anniverary:
On September 30, 1888, one hundred thirty-two years ago, Jack the Ripper killed two women, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes. The ladies were not murdered at the same time.
Stride went first, with the Ripper, perhaps through fear of discovery, being forced to leave her body before he could work his usual mutilation upon it. Eddowes, found about 45 minutes after Stride, was not so lucky.
The Ripper was not too kind with her body and had time to work his trademark hideous transformations on the corpse.
This double murder has become known, to Ripperologists, as the “double event.”
Of course no one knows who the Ripper was, although many candidates have been brought forth, and one of these names is Francis Thompson, poet, author of “The Hound of Heaven.”
Around the time that Jack was roaming the streets of Whitechapel, Thompson was suffering an addiction to opium and was pretty down and out. He was rescued by an unnamed prostitute, with the proverbial heart of gold.
According to the story she let Thompson share her rooms, and provided him with food. When she realized he had the makings of a great poet she left him, not wanting to stand in the way of his chance at happiness.
She disappeared and Thompson never told anyone her name.
Some other stories, a bit more sinister, postulate that she vanished, but it was under the knife of the Ripper–perhaps one of Thompson’s first kills.
Of course this is hogwash, but it makes for an interesting story. Jack’s true identity, hopefully, will always remain unknown.
The book pictured is the first edition of Thompson’s Poems, from 1893. It has a Slipcase and two bookplates, Reverend Paul J. Barry and William Crampton.
But the most interesting thing is what one of these gentlemen affixed to the book with a little glue. It’s a library ticket from February 16, 1901 with Francis Thompson asking to look at a copy of a book by E. T. Hoffmann.
As you can see it bears Thompson’s signature, and I think that’s great. Only example of his autograph I’ve come across, but I would guess he’s signed a few things — all authors of books have signed copies floating around but this is the first I’ve seen of Thompson’s.
So there you go, Jack the Ripper’s signature. Or maybe not.
In Chapter II of The Maltese Falcon — Death in the Fog — Sam Spade describes the gun used to bump off his partner Miles Archer: “Webley-Fosbery automatic revolver. That’s it. Thirty-eight, eight shot. They don’t make them any more.”
With some time to kill during COVID our longtime pal Bill Arney decided to look up some info on the gat in question:
Webley’s surviving production and sales records show that only 107 of these revolvers in this caliber [.38] were sold, the remainder of the total of 417 originally produced in the period 1902-1903 being converted to .455 caliber or scrapped for parts before 1914: only 39 examples are currently known to have survived. Of these, few survive today with high original condition and very few are found in the United States.
It occurs to me that, in order to “convert” an eight shot .38 into a six shot .455, the entire cylinder would have to be scrapped and replaced. The barrel could simply be bored out. I found an auction ad for the .38 version on sale for $31,625, but the more numerous .455 I found on auction for $8,500 – $13,000 — one comes with the original holster, so that would definitely be the way to go.
I always wondered why W-F bothered to make the thing in the first place, since a double action revolver also fires as fast as you can pull the trigger, just like automatics. The story is that double action revolvers were kind of a new thing (W-F started making these in 1902), and a lot of extra pull was required to work the double action, as opposed to the lighter triggers on single action revolvers.
That extra pull threw the aim off. Still does, I suppose.
One more detail — in order to make the recoil work properly, you had to keep your wrist and elbow very stiff when firing. Any movement would throw off the recoil mechanism. Basically, that would cause the recoil rack to not make it all the way back, and the damn thing would jam. The whole reason for using a revolver instead of an automatic is BECAUSE AUTOMATICS JAM AND REVOLVERS DON’T.
Geez, what a hair-brained scheme.
I spoke to a guy has the largest Webley collection in the world — or so he says — with his dad. Dad died 15 years ago and the son has finally decided to sell off the collection. The .455 version that he has is yours for $12,500. He’ll do lay-away!
He reminded me that it is an investment that will NEVER devalue.
If you want the authentic Hammett .38 for over $30,000, start saving your pennies. They may also do lay-away.
Recent chatter spread the word that the place has fallen into severe disrepair. Tom Krabacher made a run up from his lair in Woodside, camera or cell phone in hand, to document the moment.
Tom reports, “I did get up to Auburn to poke around in CAS’s deteriorating birth place. It’s completely unsalvageable. Undoubtedly going to be torn down to make way for a McMansion in the near future; they’re creeping ever closer down the hill.”
If Tom found the right building, yeah, it looks doomed — but it isn’t the only one falling into ruin in the immediate vicinity.
In 1977 Don Herron began leading The Dashiell Hammett Tour, now the longest-running literary tour in the nation. On this site you’ll find information on current walks — dates, where to meet, arranging tours by appointment — plus a hard-boiled blog with news, reviews of books and film, and a dash of noir.