Rediscovered: Biography Month Once More on These Mean Streets

What ho, it is Biography Month once again on Up and Down These Mean Streets — last time I did one was July 2012. The new bio of Jim Tully was a big excuse that time, and no doubt the major moment to come out of the proceedings was Terry Zobeck’s discovery of a “lost” interview with Hammett (lost for decades, until Terry did the essential sleuthing to uncover it, anyway). But I also squeezed in coverage of bios on M.P. Shiel and other tidbits. We’ll see what this round brings. . . .

The official release of Nathan Ward’s The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett on September 15 is the motivating factor this month, building up to a talk by Nathan in the Mechanics’ Library in Post Street on September 30. No better excuse needed.

And as usually happens, suddenly bio stuff is in the air. I was catching up on the horn with my pal Leo Grin, who mentioned that Donald Sidney-Fryer had informed him that he had finished his autobiography (you’ll remember Leo and DSF from one of my adventures in Musso & Frank). Awhile back Leo was telling me that the first part of this autobio apparently covers memories from the womb and before (that’s all I know), and if I heard him correctly the title will be Hobgoblin Apollo — then some sort of sub-title, like The Life of Donald Sidney-Fryer or Exploits of the Last Courtly Poet or something. Don’t think it’ll be out this month, but be warned, it could mark the excuse for a future Bio Month.

And yesterday I went to the new Tenderloin Museum for the first time, to check it out and see about doing some talks. At the moment they have five authors covered in their interactive displays: Hammett, of course, who lived a couple of blocks away in 620 Eddy, and Miriam Allen DeFord, William Vollmann, Fritz Leiber and Saroyan (I’ll have to look next time to see how Saroyan gets squeezed in).

I can do a talk on Hammett’s life in the hood without thinking twice about it. Ditto Fritz, who I knew well in the years he was a denizen of the Geary Street corridor. And I proposed a talk about the Horror Intersection of Geary and Hyde — where you had Fritz living in 811 Geary and writing Our Lady of Darkness, and earlier Stan McNail, author of Something Breathing, just down Hyde, and in recent years Stan Sargent, author of The Taint of Lovecraft, living just up Hyde. Literary biography, and lots of it.

Heading out from the museum I decided to stop in Saigon Sandwich, Larkin just south of Eddy — a woman on the tour some months back had blurbed their sandwiches as both great and cheap, and I hadn’t had the time to look into it before now. I think a key motivating factor from my own life — remember, this is Bio Month — was the futile quest to find gyros that Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes led me on during PulpFest. No gyros. But Saigon kind of made up for it, filled the void. Delicious, pretty messy sandwiches — I think Morgan would be interested.

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