I’m keeping a falcon-like eye on the current Jeopardy! battle of the super-champions, to see if Hammett pops up. I bet they all know the difference between Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.
But on January 7 in the regular season (S36E87) the long-standing confusion between the two dicks surfaced yet again.
Category: Soft Words. $400 slot:
“The Long Goodbye” finds this gumshoe describing various blondes, including a shadowy one who “speaks softly out of nowhere.”
First to ring in said, “Who is Sam Spade?”
The champion of the moment picked it up with the correct response: “Who is Philip Marlowe?”
“At this point in time Parker is still an industry,” Kevin observed, “with other authors writing his characters. I was never sold on Ace Atkins with his own stuff, and have never sampled an Atkins Spenser novel.”
While I didn’t try to sell Kevin on the Ace Spensers, I did suggest he might want — if only for collectors purposes — to track down the ARC of Devil’s Garden, the Fatty Arbuckle/Hammett novel. In that advance edition Ace provided a brief opening essay — “Behind the Story” — about how he came to write the book, featuring mentions of me and the Hammett Tour and so on. Doesn’t appear in the trade hardcover.
“Yeah,” Kevin replied, “I can see how the ARC of Ace Atkins’ Devil’s Garden would be a must-have collector’s item for you; never saw one myself, but it’s nice to know that Atkins has good taste (Hammett) — even if he is not that great an author himself.
“Regarding Parker, though, he no longer toured or did signings in the later years. Otto kept asking him to come down from Boston and do a talk/signing at The Mysterious Bookshop, but Parker explained that every time he did a signing in Boston or New York it would sell only an extra 75 books or so — not worth it to him.
“Parker had his regular readership that religiously bought each new book and that was enough for him.”
The new one is called Angel Eyes. It’s a wandering daughter job. Spenser is hired to find a woman’s daughter who has gone missing in Los Angeles.
After a few chapters something started to ring a bell with me. The girl’s name is Gabby Leggett. Her boyfriend’s name is Eric Collinson. She’s fallen under the spell of a new age guru named Joe Haldorn, who has a female assistant named Riese.
I’m no sleuth but eventually I tumbled to the homage to The Dain Curse.
Oh, and Spenser’s contact at LAPD is a detective named Samuelson.
So far, no writer named Fitzstephen.
In another nice touch we get a cameo by Robert Crais’ Joe Pike. Spenser goes for a run and coming the other way is a large guy wearing a sweat-shirt with the sleeves cut off, two red forward-facing arrows tattooed on his deltoids, and mirrored shades. They nod to one another and pass on by.
Even the title is a nice allusion to the classics, “Angel Eyes” being a terrific saloon song from the 1950s, performed brilliantly by Frank Sinatra on Sings for Only the Lonely. The late and underappreciated Edward Wright also drew inspiration from the song with the title of his While I Disappear, a phrase taken from the last line of the song.
This discovery reminds me of San Francisco’s Mark Coggins’ Vulture Capital, a clever homage to The Glass Key, right down to the image of the key on the front board. When I presented him with my copy for signing a few years ago at a Bouchercon, I told him how much I liked the Hammett inspiration.
Coggins told me I was the first person to notice it.
Brian Leno nabbed me a couple of Brooks paperbacks during a signing and talk in Bismarck, and got him to personalize them to me (or anyone named Don, I guess — but I am Don of the Dead, in case you didn’t know).
The short inscriptions are clean enough, but the actual signature Brian characterized as chicken scratching — understandable, with a line pressing in and guys like Brian hauling up five books to be marked (but, that’s five books sold, so what the hell).
I’m not sure if the zombiemeister intends the scrawl to be a full “Max Brooks” or perhaps a pithy “Max” — if just Max, yeah, you can almost see it. . . .
Autograph Hound Super-Sunday once again, and do we have anything super to offer? I think so.
Yesterday we pinned the label of neat-nik on Kevin Cook, preferring as he does nice clean signatures you can actually read.
I think Autograph Hound Brian Leno and I go more for the rough-and-ready scrawl — John Hancocked with the wild kinetic energy you’d get at a cockfight.
Brian chips in, “As long as we’re talking chicken scratches I thought I’d give you another one.
“That’s the signature of Max Brooks on his Zombie Survival Guide.
“A few years back Mr. Brooks visited Bismarck and I was able to attend his performance and hear him talk about the upcoming zombie apocalypse, as detailed in his World War Z. There was a pretty good crowd and afterwards we stood in line and he started signing.
“I believe I had five books that I asked him to sign and he was very gracious, writing a different inscription in each volume.
“But that autograph is something else, isn’t it?
“Above his signature he wrote ‘Shoot in Head!’ Why he felt he had to add that I don’t understand — everybody knows that’s the only real way to kill a zombie.
“But the man is an expert on zombie warfare, and I hope I can remember his advice when I look out my front window and see that World War Z has, indeed, invaded the streets of Bismarck.
Autograph Hound Saturday once again, and I get the sense that the riot of horrible, illegible John Hancocks we’ve been running recently has begun to bother Kevin Cook, noted book and pulp and autograph collector. The guy likes order, not chaos. He likes neat, not scrawled.
In protest to recent policies, Kevin said, “I realized that there is an obvious sequel to the bad hand-writing authors — which of course would be the ones who sign neatly and clearly. I immediately think of James Lee Burke, Loren D. Estleman, and Nelson Bond as examples.
“I checked some titles and James Lee Burke’s signature was as clear and neat in 1965 as it is today, and I have the books to prove it.
“Over 50 years of signing his name perfectly.
“Three nicely handwritten signatures over the decades. From Half of Paradise (his first book) in 1965 through Cimarron Rose in 1997 through New Iberia Blues (his most recent book) in 2019.”
“No Black Mask cheque in my collection,” Brian sadly concedes, “but here is the lighter once owned by Lester Dent.”
Brian isn’t going down without some kind of fight!
I remember Brian mentioning he’d nabbed this item awhile back. In my mind’s eye, I saw it as a pocket cigar lighter — not as a table lighter.
Brian snapped a blurry pic — hey, good enough for rough and ready Up and Down These Mean Streets — and he’s taking charge again on the first day of the New Year. As he says, he enjoys thinking of it as “one of the lighters Dent used when he was in the thick of writing a Doc Savage story, or perhaps one of the two Oscar Sail yarns in Black Mask.”
For no good reason other than the usual New Beginning sensation you get in your bones when the calendar flips back to January, I’m thinking this decade could be kind of fun.
John Locke tells me his guest post on Hammett’s early writing career got some chatter on Facebook — his fave line dropped on the FictionMags list by a guy who said: “This link to Don Herron’s site sent me down a Hammett rabbit hole that took all day to climb out of.”
Need more be said?
We’ll try to dig out even more convoluted sidetracks in the warren for you to lose yourself in, in 2020.
How about we go out with a sharp Kachow! from the ever-ready roscoe?
The noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook decided to dive into his holdings and dig out the autograph of Cornell Woolrich — on a check for the story “If the Dead Could Talk” from the February 1943 issue of Black Mask.
“Figure we have run lots of checks,” Kevin notes, “but not one connected to the signature pulp for the mystery/detective field.”
Yep, this year we’ve spotlighted signed cheques for Munsey titles and other pulps, but this item marks the first gander at a payment from Fictioneers, Inc.
And the John Hancock from Woolrich doesn’t hurt it any. Guy was at the top of the noir heap.
Digging around in old partially mocked-up posts, I found another one which appears to be from circa late 2016 or early 2017:
Last October I got in a note from hardboiled pulp hound Terry Zobeck, in which he reported:
Today’s mail brought the June 1927 issue of Black Mask with the Op story “The Main Death.” But almost as exciting is the cover story — part 1 of Carroll John Daly’s The Snarl of the Beast, when collected later that year, the first Race Williams novel.
The blurb read, “Volume 2 contains the next batch of Race Williams stories, all from 1927–29 as Daly broke the mold of Black Mask by running serialized novels in the pages of that important magazine.”
And doing a little checking I see that they are now on Volume 5, where Daly moves his major series character over into the wood pulp pages of Dime Detective. Just released this month. Just Another Stiff. Sweet.
I had the thought of doing a major comparison of Hammett v. Daly, but then decided to save it for an essay I have in mind.
Some commentators had irked me by suggesting that the only way to survey Hammett in Black Mask was to break his run down by the editors of the moment — and that’s not a bad way to do it, if you must.
But I think another way is to watch how Hammett follows along in Daly’s wake, until finally he just smokes him. Daly instantly caught — created — the hard-boiled Private Eye template — detective, office, some drinking, one case after another — the fantasy that became Philip Marlowe and a legion of others — while Hammett mostly stuck with the more realistic casework of the Continental Op. Even when Hammett did buckle down to the form, the realism was leagues ahead of Daly — in short, Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon.
And another point that cannot be ignored is that Daly was the first to get his pulp novels reprinted as hardcover books — Snarl of the Beast in 1927. Hammett didn’t break that barrier until 1929.
Does anyone think that Hammett could have seen Daly cracking the book market and not felt he could do it, too?
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.