Hammett: Jeopardy! Again

After sneaking in a Hammett ref toward the end of the year, Jeopardy! threw another one out a few months ago.

I made a note at the time, and today seems like a good day to record it:

S39 E139 for March 23, 1923

The category 5-letter literary characters

$200 clew — meaning it ought to be an easy pickup.


“In ‘The Maltese Falcon’ his name is this. Sam this.”

A player buzzed in with “Who is Spade?”

Spade. Sam Spade. (They’d done a James Bond ref to set the tone but that detail might have gone by unnoticed.)

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Sinister Cinema: Wim Wenders’ Hammett

Heard from a guy over in France who plans to do a documentary on the 1982 Wim Wender’s film based on the Joe Gores novel Hammett.

Cool aspect — I guess if it all works out — is that the eventual montage of film clips and images and Talking Heads will mostly cover the initial try at filming the story.

You may or may not know but Wenders shot most of the movie on location in San Francisco, but then producer Francis Coppola had a reshoot done in Zoetrope Studios in Lalaland. The reshoot would be the finished movie you’ve seen.

The way I heard it at the time, with this report based strictly on memory of the moment, is that Wenders filmed approximately 80% of what he wanted — including towing the old ferry boat Eureka around the Bay for some scenes. But Coppola insisted they reshoot at least 60% of those reels, plus whatever else they needed to tie it up.

The documentarian told me that he understood I followed that original shoot and press coverage when it was happening in 1978, before Coppola hauled it into the studio backlots.

“I’m trying to gather as much info as possible on that San Francisco part,” he said, “and any direction toward first hand witnesses, documents, magazines and other press coverage (newspapers, local TV, etc.), audio and behind the scenes photos — and of course contemporary memories — would be more than helpful.”

I wasn’t following the progress as much as you might think (I did hike out to some of the major locations to see the billboards painted to recreate the 1920s era), and can imagine someone with much more on scene knowledge.

If you’re still alive and interested in diving into a noir Ken Burns thing, let me know and I’ll forward the contact info over to France.

As I was thinking about it, I did get excited over what would have been a great lead: star Marilu Henner. In recent years I heard she is one of less than a hundred people worldwide documented with the condition hyperthymestic syndrome — essentially, she remembers every detail from every waking hour of every day.

That would make for a hell of a source.

Our filmmaker says, “To the best of my knowledge, Henner was not part of the original location shoot, as she took over the part extended by Wenders for Roney Blakley, a fact which didn’t make Coppola happy.”

Maybe he’ll get lucky. Some of the major players are still around, but perhaps as many more have passed away.

That original shoot, however — that’s almost like a whole new film. Alternate reality stuff. What coulda been — and was — shot on the streets of San Francisco.

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Hammett: Birthday 129. . .

May 27th rolls around again, and Hammett begins another year as a shadow ever gumshoeing the mean streets. . . .

I believe I have a few tidbits stuck aside to mark the occasion. . . .

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Hammett: Frisco Apartment on the Block

Yeah, people have been bombarding me with queries about the recent article which reports a Hammett San Francisco residence — 237 Leavenworth — up for sale if you’ve got a few million.

Four million — sounds cheap:

An early 1920s Tenderloin apartment building that “Maltese Falcon” author Dashiell Hammett once called home is on the market for $4.35 million. 

The 23-unit-building at 237 Leavenworth Street was listed this week in conjunction with a neighboring 35-unit apartment building around the corner at 620 Eddy Street, for a total of 58 units at a combined asking price of $10.5 million. 

Hammett’s former home is in the smaller of the two buildings, with 23 studios that are “fully occupied” with “solid in-place rents,” according to the listing notes. The Eddy building has 30 studios and five one-bedrooms, most of which were “lightly renovated with new flooring, granite countertops and new paint upon turnover.”

But here’s the trick with the info as laid out: I never heard of Hammett living in 237 Leavenworth.

I admit it is perhaps possible, since some of Hammett’s residencies in town were quite short, a month, two months. And there are a few months hanging loose amidst the known addresses where he might have lived someplace we don’t know about, otherwise.

Maybe they have a log with Hammett’s signature or a rent receipt or the like.

I think, however, someone somewhere in the process just messed up the info — because Hammett did indeed live in 620 Eddy Street.

Lots of evidence, return address on Continental Op stories, photos of Hammett with his kids standing on the roof, letters, Veterans medical records. Without question 620 Eddy is the place during his eight years in San Francisco where Hammett lived longest.


Now that I’ve cleared that point up, I will say in general the piece is bursting with confusion — the idea seems to be that 620 Eddy Street is next to or around a corner from 237 Leavenworth.

I’m guessing the guy selling the properties just bought a couple of buildings in the Tenderloin that were available at the time, but they sure weren’t next to each other.

620 Eddy is located on Eddy Street between Larkin and Polk. Leavenworth Street is a couple blocks over from Larkin. Going east, Larkin, Hyde, Leavenworth. . . .

620 is very cool. The place where Hammett created the Op and knocked out a good run in the series. When he moved again, he was a real writer.

Posted in Dash, Frisco, News | Tagged , , , |

Mort: John Jakes

It’s time to mention his name in Atlantis.

Brian Leno popped the news to me that John Jakes died Saturday March 18, age 90.

Jakes was one of the most commercially successful writers to emerge from the paperback originals and digest mags of the 1950s and 60s. I imagine Mario Puzo may have made more money after he broke through, but it’s hard to imagine many others even close — Spillane maybe, but I’d think Jakes did much, much better than “king of the paperbacks” John D. MacDonald.

And that level of success explains why he gets a big obit in the New York Times.

More granular fans of Jakes don’t just know the North and South historical sagas and the rest, but understand he did a little bit of everything before getting to those. Science fiction, crime, detective. With his character Brak the Barbarian, Jakes became one of the first wave of modern writers following the trail into Sword-and-Sorcery pioneered by Robert E. Howard.

When I got my critical anthology on Howard, The Dark Barbarian, ready to go to press in 1984 I understood it would be nice to have a few advance blurbs. Within the circle of writers working in S&S, I considered Fritz Leiber the best — but Fritz had an essay in the book. Other genre stylists didn’t seem to carry enough gravitas with them to count for much, not if the book was going to go larger than just another fan effort.

Jakes, however — by then a huge bestseller and an actual fan of Howard and S&S. I asked Greenwood Press to send him an advance proof, in case he’d do a blurb for it.

The blurb:

“Tops my list of all Howard studies so far. Serious, scholarly, yet entertaining throughout.” — John Jakes

I can see getting other blurbs about as good as that one, but I can’t see getting one that is better.

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Hammett: Smelling Nice

As noted previously, Jeopardy! hasn’t been piling on the Hammett clews as in the Days of Yore — when Alex Trebek was at the stick.

But yesterday S39 E134 for March 16 in the first round they finally eased another one in.

Category: Love, In So Many Words.

$1000 slot.


You can detect this novelist, “Nora said: ‘I love you, Nicky, because you smell nice & know such fascinating people.'”

None of the contestants pressed a buzzer or uttered a word.

Host Ken Jennings sketched in the info: “That’s Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett.”

Come on, how many things in life or culture run under the banner Nick & Nora?

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Rediscovered: An Item of Modern Arkham House Ephemera

John D. Haefele and I actually have been slaving away on a book on Arkham House ephemera from the Classic Years — 1937-1972. We’ve got guys eyeballing some of the largest private collections (as I post, one stalwart has the legendary Phil Mays Collection under review), and we’re riding the whirlwind trying to juggle the info into order.

May I say, brutal. If I seem to disappear from the scene, rest assured I am drowning under ephemera.

Recently our pal and longtime consultant, bookseller Paul Dobish, sat down with his holdings and made scans of five Classic Era Items that did not appear on the list I did for Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine back in October 2002, our baseline for establishing what is known vs what is unknown.

Of the five Items, Haefele and I had tracked down all of them in recent years and are working them into the queue. That’s very good news. The less unknown, the better.

But Paul also collects the ephemera that followed the 1971 death of Arkham publisher August Derleth — the Modern Era. Only recently Haefele took on that subject himself for Firsts, with a history of the post-Derleth press in one issue, and a checklist of Items in the following number for November/December 2019.

Turns out Paul has an Order Form for August 2006 that slipped through the net. Looks as if it would go between Haefele 91 and Haefele 92.

For those of you who collect the Modern Era, take note. Literally, if you want. I have a working copy of the Classic Era Firsts that I have annotated to death, circling the listed Items I have, inserting thumbnail descriptions of previously unknown Items as we found them.

It’ll probably be years before Haefele updates his Modern Era list, so if you want to be in the know, pick the issue up. So far only two unknown Items have surfaced.

This Order Form is one of them.

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Mort: Raquel Welch

Upon news of her passing today at the age of 82, Autograph Hound Brian Leno pulled his signed Raquel Welch print from his stacks and stacks of autos.

From One Million Years B. C., of course.

I usually misquote a famous dictum cooked up by Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes — to the effect that any work of art is improved by the presence of cavemen and dinosaurs.

A spin-off dictum surely must read: Any movie with cavemen and dinosaurs was improved —and transformed into a cult classic — by the presence of Raquel Welch.

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Rediscovered: Every Other Day Birthdays

The noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook spotted a fantasy writer trend and reported in:

January 20            A. Merritt

January 22            Robert E. Howard

January 24            C.L. Moore

January 26            Philip Jose Farmer

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Rediscovered: Like Brian Leno Needed Another John Hancock from Jack Dempsey

Our maniacal Autograph Hound pal Brian Leno got a surprise for Xmas — an item of Jack Dempsey ephemera. Let Brian explain it:

“A friend of mine was at a library book sale in North Carolina and found a promotional pamphlet for Jack Dempsey’s upcoming book Dempsey by the Man Himself. With some excerpts and photos. About six pages.

“I didn’t even know that thing existed.

“Trick was it was signed — and sitting in the trash pile.

“My friend snapped it up and mailed it to me. Can’t believe a Dempsey autograph was residing in the trash pile.

“It’s pretty beat up, right side tattered but the signature is nice and clear. 

“I’ve already had it framed, so the tattered side is no longer in view.

“Looks pretty nice for a throwaway item.

“Every so often a library sale spits out some gold.”

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