Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The White Shack or Frank's Place

In Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op story, "The Girl with the Silver Eyes," a large part of the action takes place in a speak-easy in Half Moon Bay called the White Shack. (Half Moon Bay is about 25 miles south of San Francisco off Highway 1.)

Here's a snippet of dialog where the Continental Op describes the place and its owner:
"Well, it's a tough hole. Run by 'Tin-Star' Joplin, an ex-yegg who invested his winnings in the place when Prohibition made the roadhouse game good. He makes more money now than he ever heard of in his piking safe-ripping days. Retailing liquor is a side-line with him; his real profit comes from acting as a relay station for the booze that comes through Halfmoon Bay for points beyond; and the dope is that half the booze put ashore by the Pacific run fleet is put ashore in Halfmoon Bay.
Later, when the Op and his client drive down the coast to the shack, we get a short physical description:
The White Shack is a large building, square-built of imitation stone.
Hammett aficionados who would like to visit the White Shack don't have to confine their sojourn the pages of the short story. It turns out that Hammett based the White Shack on a real speak-easy called Frank's Place, which is still doing business in Half Moon Bay as the Moss Beach Distillery.

Here's a photo of the place back in the day:

Here's a contemporary one from the restaurant web site:

And here's a shot I took of the plaque in front on a recent visit:

If you look carefully, you'll notice a mention of Hammett--and you'll also see a discussion of the famous "Blue Lady" ghost, who supposedly haunts the place. The last picture is one I took in the bar of the lady in question (actually a lighted sculpture of same):

I've got a personal connection to the place myself. I proposed to my wife there, and I also wrote a short story set in the 1920s featuring a similar speak-easy in Half Moon Bay. You can read it in this anthology.


At 11:04 AM, Anonymous JIM DOHERTY said...


I mentioned this to you over at Rara-Avis, but perhaps those who follow your blog might be interested in knowing that Ross Macdonald use HMB as a locale for at least one of his Lew Archer novels.

Macdonald, who had a penchant for giving real places fictional names (hence Santa Barbara became "Santa Teresa" in his work), redubbed the place "Luna Bay," but anyone familiar with the town would recognize it from Macdonald's description.


At 12:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The link to your short story set in a bay area speakeasy is broken. Can you fix it so I can read your story?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Mark Coggins said...

I updated the link, but I'm afraid the only place to read the story now is an eBook anthology from Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Okay, I bought the book at the end of the link. Thank You!


Post a Comment

<< Home