I’m not penciling in any extra tours this month, where you can just show up, drop a tenspot, and walk the walk — but in September the Hammett Tour rolls each and every Sunday, so if you’ve just heard about it or have been waiting for years to lace up the old gumshoes, you’ll get an easy opportunity in a little over thirty days.
The tour yesterday was a lot of fun. Turned out that British crime writer Chris Ewan was among the crowd — typical of most writers who have taken the tour, he waited until the very end to let me know who he was — unlike the late, great Charles Willeford, who told me he was a writer as soon as he walked up. If I got the info right, Chris is beginning a round of bookstore signings over the next couple of months for his upcoming series novel The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice — wherein the hero has his prized copy of an autographed first edition of The Maltese Falcon stolen and has to track it down. Yet another Hammett marginalia wrinkle to chalk on the crime culture blackboard!
Ed King, the guy who asked for the walk (and gave me well over a month’s advance notice to set it up — I really want that long advance notice if you want me to toss an extra tour on the burner), shared many opinions with me. He asked about Jim Thompson, and I told him I’m not that big a fan, but that I think Savage Night is the masterpiece out of Thompson’s run — Ed agreed. He didn’t like Ross MacDonald that much, either, and concurred with me that Chester Himes is the third major hard-boiled writer, following Hammett and Chandler — people who pick MacDonald are just wimping out. But then I learned that Ed has yet to read Willeford. I told him, With your taste in crime novels, you’ve got to read Willeford.
And my bio of Willeford just got a little review by Don Lee on his sporadic blog devoted to noir — I’m glad he finally got around to reading it. Among other things I’m doing this month, I need to sit down and punch my way through a touch-up on that book, plus write a few all-new extras, for an upcoming second edition. Completely revised and updated. Or, the way I look at it, uhoh, a lot of work. . . .