Hammett: Pick-Up on Post Street

Sitting in his rooms in 891 Post Street in San Francisco one of the star writers for the wood-pulp Black Mask cooked up a yarn that would make him the name to conjure with for closing in on a century — and counting.

A little love story and a murder mystery, noir before noir was cool.

Alfred A. Knopf publishers released the first edition of that novel on Valentine’s Day 1930.

The Maltese Falcon.

By Dashiell Hammett.

Ninety-one years ago today.

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Hammett: The Jeopardy! Roundup

For fun I’ve been keeping track of the times Hammett or something to do with Hammett (i.e. Sam Spade or Lillian Hellman) popped up on the game show Jeopardy!

Kind of a marker of the cultural zeitgeist.

Now that the classic Alex Trebek era is over, maybe I’ll stop (or won’t feel a twinge of remorse if I miss one), because you can access and search all their archives.

I had my Jeopardy! research team comb those archives and under Hammett were located no less than 68 mentions of Hammett in the clews or responses, plus 2 in the Final Jeopardy shoot-out for a total of 70.

For mentions of Sam Spade — on his own, no ref to Hammett — no less than 42, plus 1 in the Final.

Total Hammett or Sam Spade: 110 + 3 Final (113 total).

But also (not counted in the 113 total):

10 times Hammett was the wrong answer.

8 times (including one Final) Sam Spade was the wrong answer.

And among the flood tide of Hammett-related items of course you’ll find the one about me and the tour in San Francisco, which I’ve mentioned in various editions of the Hammett Tour book — I never saw that episode, only had people tell me roughly what was said. You’ll find that one at the bottom of the Double Jeopardy round, on the left.

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Rediscovered: Not for Resale — and Definitely for Sale

And John D. Haefele, Kid Protégé, rides again!

If you’re of the Lovecraftian ilk, his litcrit magnum opus awaits you on Amazon.

Shown here are a couple of shots of the first proof version (the one without the photos) with the snazzy Not for Resale banner.

Some slight differences from the final finished copy, for those who enjoy a peek behind the scenes.

Posted in Lit, News | Tagged |

Rediscovered: Exploring the Archives

I’ve got a feeling that people will begin swarming into the blog archives in the next few weeks, and my hunch is they’ll be doing it to find out more about the activities of my Kid Protégé John D. Haefele over the last few years.

Maybe more a premonition than a hunch.

To target a topic like Haefele, just put his name in the Search Bar (top right, below the banner). Or click on his name in the Tag Cloud (right column, scrolling down past the various book covers). Some semblance of chronological order informs the summoned-up list of posts, but it’s not perfect.

You might begin to find yourself lost in the maze. One guy new to the site surfed in looking for some Hammett reference, and reported that he plunged into a rabbit warren it took him all day to get clear of — consider that your warning.

In my opinion the easiest way to handle the maze of the blog would be to go back to the first month it became operational. That is if the stuff covered all more or less interests you. If you only want to see specific refs to Hannes Bok or other, punch that name into the Search Bar.

More detailed and long-term topics, such as Robert E. Howard, or pure texts for Hammett, or Haefele and his Heretics, are sure to bog you down in the sheer number of mentions.

If you start from the first post for the new blog in January 2011, I honestly think reading the whole thing to date is no more difficult than just sitting down and reading a book (if you don’t allow yourself to be led too far astray by all the links). Just move ahead to the next post, and the next, and the next. You’ll be here in no time.

That way, you get the development of ideas, you’re in on the discoveries, you see the exact moment when Autograph Mania swept the site. Lots of cool stuff. A home movie of Hammett. Etc.

Reading up, you’ll quickly determine which posts you can immediately skip as of no interest to you — and the fact is that most posts are pretty short. A quick glance, and they’re done.

Sounds daunting, maybe, but I am confident it is an easier process than jumping around through the endless tunnels I have set out for the unwary.

Happy Haefele Hunting.

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Rediscovered: Another Hannes Bok

Let’s conjure up another Autograph Hound Super-Sunday, since Tom Krabacher was poking around in the archives and stumbled across the post where Kevin Cook trotted out a couple of Hannes Bok letters, with distinctive doodling. One of those What the Hell moments.

What the Hell, thought Tom, I’ve got a Bok! Here’s the back story:

I never mentioned that I have a Bok signature doodle on a letter, too.

In this case one to Bea Mahaffey. A life-long Cincinnati-an, she got involved in SF fandom as a teenager in the 1940s and was a long-standing member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group. I met her when I hooked up with the CFG around 1970, at which point she was in her mid-40s. She became a long-time friend.

But to get to the point. . . . When she was in her mid-20s she was hired by Ray Palmer to work as a  co-editor of his SF magazines (Other Worlds, Imagination). One of the few women SF fans, she got to know the various writers and artists of the day. 

Hence, the letter from Bok. The letter came to me via her sister, upon Bea’s death in 1987. While there is no date on it, the references to Philcon and Bea’s editorial work on the Palmer zines clearly place it in summer, 1953. 

Plus a photo of Bea, fandom’s darling, circa age 22, taken at that year’s Midwestcon (Cincinnati).

And for additional context, the Other Worlds “Poochie” cover, by Bok, which he references.

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Two-Gun Bob: Year 115

Birthday 115 today for Robert E. Howard, the Texan who wrought his influences into the genre of headlong adventure known as Sword-and-Sorcery. A pulp writer in his lifetime, his works now tread the world stage under sandaled feet.

Leading up to this moment I punched up a couple of online S&S tales from the most recent practitioners of the form. Mostly to nudge me one way or the other into accepting — or rejecting — a request to write a survey of S&S by this summer. Over the years I’ve written and edited fat books on the topic — written as much as I’ve edited. I’ve done encyclopedia entries.

I’m still mulling the idea over, but if it means complete coverage up to the moment, naw, not worth the time it would take. I managed to skim the two recent S&S “stories” while wondering, Do these guys perceive the same words and ideas as I do when they read REH?

Maybe they just don’t know how to write. . . .

But I guess in a survey one could just dismiss all the junk with a quick aside.

The disappointment was washed away by a celebratory reread of REH’s “The Tower of the Elephant” and “Rogues in the House” — I’m halfway through “Beyond the Black River.” Howard and his genre at their best.

And if you want to check out a somewhat more formal essay marking this day, Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes offers some thoughts on the DMR blog. In his files and in his brain Morgan has the makings of the most complete history of S&S that will ever be done, if he can wrestle it into print. He’s read it all, Howard and Leiber, Jakes and Moorcock, de Camp and Carter, even the terrible PBOs that came out during the boom of the 1970s.

I think he’s even reading the newest attempts by the writers I wouldn’t call writers. That’s dedication — dedication to the ghost of Robert E. Howard.

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Hammett: Further Farewells

Following up on his track down of a newspaper reprint for “The Farewell Murder” the other day, Evan Lewis rounds up a few more! Surf over and give it a look.

Obviously Hammett saw more action in newspapers than he did in the pulps, and any future bibliographies will have a lot of stuff to add in.

I’m not saying that means the pulps diminish in importance — they were the first appearances, and any book collector can tell you the first trumps any reprint.

But the papers — my pal the late John D. Squires was talking this angle up years ago, and if you remember Terry Zobeck did some newsprint hunting on this blog before John’s early tips. I know JDS spotted “The Tenth Clew” and “Dead Yellow Women” — so I guess the main question now is whether or not all the Op shorts went into the rotation.

Or maybe only the stories Hammett possibly considered the best, worthy of reprint. And if so, those scholars who enjoy setting up rankings of the top material, seeking clews to establish a bulletproof quality canon, have another major factor to consider.

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Frisco Beat: A Slice of Life 1979-90

Our man on the street, Nathan Ward — keeping his eye on the New York scene — sends along his latest find:

“I liked this evocation of San Francisco from 79-90 by the novelist Rachel Kushner in the current New Yorker (‘The Hard Crowd,’ Jan 18.). I didn’t see a lot of these old bars, but I imagine they might strike a chord with you. A nice appreciation of the old Greyhound station and proper dislike of hippies.”

Covers some of the same Tenderloin turf gumshoed by the Hammett Tour during those years, if you want to take Nathan’s word for it and browse through. Kushner is kind of interesting, since she had a Willeford cameo in her novel The Mars Room.

(And Nathan, if you don’t know, authored The Lost Detective, a biography of Hammett.)

Posted in Frisco, Tour, Willeford | Tagged , , , |

Rediscovered: 100 Years Ago

Recently noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook mentioned one of the features he does for his zine in the amateur press association devoted to pulps:

I probably told you about it before, but every PEAPS mailing I do a little bit with a pulp quote included that I title simply “100 Years Ago.”

Right now in early 1921 I find myself in a bit of a lull for material.

The Munsey scientific romance movement died in July 1920 when All-Story and Argosy combined.

Weird Tales and Black Mask still awaited birth, so the available market consisted of Argosy All-Story Weekly, Adventure, Blue Book and People’s.

The best magazine in 1921, and I am positive that a young Bob Howard would agree with me here, was Adventure. The end of 1920 included Harold Lamb’s finest Khlit story, “The Curved Sword” — foreshadowing Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key as an overpowering army is defeated “not by the strength of warriors. . . but by the fellowship of two men” — those two men being Khlit the Cossack and the Moslem swordsman Abdul Dost. Arthur O. Friel really hit his stride in 1921. Rafael Sabatini’s earliest Captain Blood stories were reprinted from the Premiere Magazine in the UK. Henry S. Whitehead’s first weird fiction saw print. There was a lot to recommend in Adventure in 1921.

An interesting additional bit with Lamb concerns a couple of those continuity “errors” we have been discussing that authors make.

At the end of “The Curved Sword” Khlit is “holding a broken sword clasped in his hand” — that being the sword of Genghis Khan. This immediate classic was supposed to be the last Khlit story.

Five years later when Lamb changed his mind and brought Khlit back in “White Falcon” he once again carries the sword of Genghis Khan.

Worse, in Adventure’s letter column Lamb stated that “The Curved Sword” takes place in “the early seventeenth century.” Fine as it stands. We leave Khlit unmarried and childless at the end of “The Curved Sword.” However, by 1611 in “White Falcon” he has an adult grandson.

Neat trick if you can do it! 

Again, the story was what was important, and if “The Curved Sword” is — as I believe — the best Khlit story, then “White Falcon” runs a close second, errors notwithstanding.

(Also in the dating of “White Falcon,” Lamb committed one of his rare historical errors, getting the date of death of Boris Godunov wrong. Lamb has his Cossacks meet Godunov in 1611. Unfortunately, Godunov died in 1605. Author Rule #1: Don’t let historical facts interfere with a great story!)

Posted in Dash, Lit, REH | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Rediscovered: Does Continuity Matter?

For those who enjoy chewing the fat about books and writers, in email the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook and I recently got off on another little thread that might interest some of you:

Kevin: Of course the greatest story about an author forgetting his novel is when Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner, writing the movie script, called up Raymond Chandler to ask him who murdered the chauffer in The Big Sleep.

Chandler couldn’t answer. A reread of the novel shows that he never explained in the book who committed the murder!

That has to be the all-time classic, and it happened to one of the greats.

Almost as famously, Edgar Rice Burroughs has Tarzan’s son Jack “Korak” Clayton, who was an infant in 1914, show up as a World War I veteran in Tarzan the Terrible. That error has bothered Burroughs fans for a century now.

H. Bedford-Jones stopped writing John Solomon stories for three to four years in the early 1920s. When he resumed he dumped about ten novels worth of continuity.

Did those two authors simply forget? Or more likely were they just trying to write and sell another interesting story and did not care if the new one contradicted one from a few years back?

Don: The Chandler slip-up is famous, but only proves that Chandler was right. In “The Simple Art of Murder,” The Atlantic, December 1944, he wrote about the Black Mask style. If in doubt about plot movement, have someone come into a room with gun drawn. Didn’t matter if it really made sense, just mattered if it kept the pages turning. THAT was the style.

When they shot the flick afterwards in 1945 — a revamped version became the one released theatrically in 1946 — right there was proof that Chandler had not been bullshitting about How To Do It.

Who cared who killed the chauffeur? No one, really, until the film crew tried to piece together continuity.

I think most pulpsters (and most writers in general, until recent years) didn’t worry about character continuity at all.

If they got the name spelled right, they were doing pretty good (and some, like Louis L’Amour, didn’t bother with that angle too much). Jeez, Conan Doyle couldn’t remember where Watson caught a slug or got married.

Kevin: You are correct about Chandler: who cares who killed the chauffeur? The Big Sleep is a classic anyway, and that blip in the continuity does not change it one bit.

My whole point was that authors who were great story-tellers did not let the continuity details get in the way of a great story. Watson’s wounds and wives or Korak’s age don’t really matter when you are actually reading the story; it’s only afterward with too much time on your hands that you start to worry about that sort of thing.

Creative minds putting down on paper the words that will lead to the best possible story (and who cares what I wrote last year that may contradict it!).

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