Wednesday, October 31, 2007

August Alley

Chapter 28
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 28 of Runoff with quote:

"One of the few uses I’d made of the Internet was to look up August Alley when I’d heard that such a place existed in San Francisco. So, while I’d never been there, I knew exactly what and where it was: a tiny one block alley between Union and Green Streets."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

H.M.S. Happy Day

Chapter 27
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 27 of Runoff with quote:

"A layer of white contact paper covered the name of the boat, but in the bright morning sun I could just make out the letters: H.M.S. Happy Day."

The name of the boat comes from the joke:

Q: What are the two happiest days of a boat owner's life?
A: The day he buys his boat and the day he sells it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boats at Oyster Point Marina

Chapter 26
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 26 of Runoff with quote:

"A big cabin cruiser was tied up in berth number eight."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oyster Point Marina Mini Mart and Bait Shop

Chapter 25
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo from chapter 25 of Runoff with quote:

"I turned back from the pier and trudged over to a combination bait shop/mini mart that some entrepreneurial genius had set up to meet all the needs of the frustrated marina fisherman."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Emergency Room

Chapter 24
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 24 of Runoff with quote:

"Two hours later, the handcuffs were gone but not the black feeling of despair that rebounded over me when I stepped through the sliding glass doors of the Parnassus Hospital emergency room."

For some reason, this picture seems to get a disproportionately large number views on Flickr compared to the other photos in the book. It's a pretty basic shot, but maybe there just aren't that many pictures of emergency rooms out there in the wild.

Just for the record, "Parnassus Hospital" is a made up hospital that I also used in Vulture Capital.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Chapter 23
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Heres the photo from chapter 23 of Runoff with quote:

"The elevator itself was partially open, its door sliding back and forth over and over again as it ran into something that protruded from the lower track. The something was the handle of heavy cleaver that glimmered malevolently as I yanked it out."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mike Padilla Campaign HQ

Chapter 22
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 22 of Runoff with quote:

"The guy on the reception desk at Padilla election headquarters had his nose buried in The Big Book of Science Fiction."

As you might guess, there was more photoshop work done here. The location might be familiar to some: it's the building that housed Matt Gonzalez campaign headquarters in the 2003 San Francisco mayoral election.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ford Galaxie 500

Chapter 21
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 21 of Runoff with quote:

"'Hello shithead,' was the first thing I heard after fumbling open my cell phone from the comfort of my Galaxie 500."

(Hope my mom is not reading my blog.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Foot Worship

Chapter 20
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from chapter 20 of Runoff with quote:

"The business next to the messenger service ... featured a window display with a female mannequin dressed in a red, white and blue bikini with cotton leggings in equally patriotic colors."

If you look close at that mannequin, who is standing above a grill, you'll see she is holding a vibrator painted red (to look like a hot dog) in a pair of tongs. And there are other red vibrators on the grill "cooking" amongst fake flames.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fire Hydrant and Hose on Construction Site

Chapter 19
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo that sets the scene for Chapter 19 of Runoff with quote:

"I let my glance follow the length of the trampled fence to the corner of the lot, and there I saw it: a fire hydrant."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Vulture Has Landed

I'm pleased to announce that Bleak House Books has just reprinted my second novel, Vulture Capital.

Here's a little description of the plot from the back cover:
When venture capitalist Ted Valmont is belatedly informed that the Chief Scientist of NeuroStimix--a biotech firm in which he has invested--is missing, it's not just business, it's personal. Not only is the scientist an old school chum, but his disappearance jeopardizes the development of NeuroStimix's most important product: a device intended to aid spinal cord injury victims. Since Valmont's twin brother, Tim, was paralyzed in a college diving accident, finding the Chief Scientist and getting him back into harness is of the utmost importance to both brothers.

The book has been recognized for its portrayal of Silicon Valley life and culture, appearing--for example--on the cover of Metro, a weekly Silicon Valley paper. But the thing I've always been a little disappointed in is how few people got the big inside joke about the book.

So, here, for the first time in print, I'm going to let everyone in on the secret: Vulture Capital was very much intended as a homage to one of my favorite Hammett books, The Glass Key.

To quote from the description of Key linked above, the protagonist of the book is Ned Beaumont "a new kind of hard-boiled hero: morally ambiguous, of limited effectiveness, neither crack-shot nor pugilist nor deductive whiz."

The protagonist of Vulture is Ted Valmont. As a "vulture capitalist," he can't claim the high moral ground either, and he, too, is ill-equipped to deal with the situation into which he is thrust. And, like Beaumont, he ends up enlisting the services of a private detective (August Riordan) to help him resolve the mystery.

The plots of the two books are very different in the large--Key involves political corruption and Vulture the world of venture capital and high tech start-ups--but both books are written in an "objective" third person point of view, one feature of which is that the protagonists are always referred by their full names. To quote Richard Layman from his biography of Hammett Shadow Man:

Objectivity had long been the principal factor in Hammett's artistic plan, but with The Glass Key he accomplished a new level of third-person narrative distance ... Hammett was betraying no sympathies for his character by treating him familiarly. The narrative comment is restricted to straight description. Characters are developed fully, but entirely by means of dialogue and action.

I found Vulture particularly tough to write because of these constraints--and probably did more rewriting on it than any other book I've worked on before or since. I was only able to achieve a draft I was happy with after going to the Screen Writing Workshop at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, where Judith Roscoe helped me beat the story into shape in screenplay format. I then translated it back into novel form.

In addition to the ones I've discussed, there are a variety of other little "hat tips" to Key in the text, but I will leave those for fans of Hammett who decide to give Vulture a whirl.

Castro Street Car

Chapter 18
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 18 of Runoff with quote:

"We were sitting at the breakfast hutch of his Castro Street apartment."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Office in Flood Building

Chapter 17
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo that sets up chapter 17 of Runoff with quote:

"I jogged back to the Galaxie 500 and barrelled north on Folsom through the Mission district, turning up 5th Street to plunge across Market a block down from my office, which was in the Flood Building near the cable car turnaround."

You can see it took a little more of my Photoshop handiwork in this shot to get Riordan's name on the pebble glass door.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mission District Taqueria

Chapter 16
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Continuing with the countdown of photos used to illustrate my forthcoming novel
Runoff, which will be released on November 1st, here is the pic for Chapter 16 with accompanying quote:

"We ducked into the door of a taqueria."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mission Housing Sign

Chapter 15
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 14 of Runoff with quote:

"Protestors holding signs that read 'Stop gentrification!' and 'La raza por la causa!' crowded the sidewalk in front."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Falcon Tapes, Part III

As part of the Pleasanton Library's celebration of the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read program, I had the opportunity to interview Hammett expert--and personal hero--Joe Gores about The Maltese Falcon.

Click here to listen to the third and final MP3 file (~10 MB) from the interview. In it Joe answers all of my remaining questions and then fields some from the live audience. Here are the topics he covers:
  • Lillian Hellman and her reaction to Joe's book Hammett and the movie that was made from it
  • Exciting details about the prequel that Joe is writing to The Maltese Falcon
  • The curious question of Spade having coffee in Bridget O’Shaughnessy's hotel room
  • Miles Archer's character and why Spade hates him
  • More on why the Falcon is such a seminal book
  • Why The Thin Man is flawed
  • What private eyes and writers have in common
  • Joe's correspondence with James M. Cain

Don't miss it!

Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground

Chapter 14
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 14 of Runoff with quote:

"There wasn’t any place in front of the building to hang out without being painfully obvious, so I went across Sacramento to one of San Francisco’s so-called urban playgrounds: a slab of concrete, some monkey bars, a few benches, all surrounded by a high chain link fence."

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Falcon Tapes, Part II

As part of the Pleasanton Library's celebration of the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read program, I had the opportunity to interview Hammett expert--and personal hero--Joe Gores about The Maltese Falcon.

Click here to listen to the second MP3 file (~10 MB) from the interview. I apologize again for the poor quality of the recording, but I think the topics Joe covers make it all worthwhile:

  • Definition of "gunsel"
  • Definition of "gooseberry lay"
  • The Flitcraft story and it's purpose in the novel
  • Where the name Flitcraft comes from
  • Why Bridget O'Shaughnessy talks fast
  • How Gores came to write the novel Hammett
  • The research Gores did on Maltese Falcon locations

Next up, what Lillian Hellman thought of the novel Hammett and Francis Ford Coppola's plan to make a movie out of it.

Chinatown, San Francisco

Chapter 13
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 13 of Runoff with quote:

"I had done enough research on Chow to know he owned a gift shop on Grant Avenue in Chinatown called The Oriental Eye."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Falcon Tapes, Part I

As part of the Pleasanton Library's celebration of the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read program, I had the opportunity to interview Hammett expert--and personal hero--Joe Gores about The Maltese Falcon.

Click here to listen to an MP3 file (~8.5 MB) with the first portion of the interview. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the recording, but if you soldier your way through it, you will be rewarded with Joe's opinions on the following topics related to The Maltese Falcon in particular and Hammett's work in general:
  • The true nature of the relationship between Sam Spade and Bridget O’Shaughnessy
  • Whether Spade knows from the beginning that O'Shaughnessy has killed Miles Archer
  • What the Falcon is really about
  • Spade's motivations
  • Why Spade is an excellent PI
  • Why Gores is too
  • Whether Hammett intended Spade as a reflection of himself
  • What Hammett was reaching for when he wrote Falcon
  • The relationship between Effie Perine and Spade
  • Gutman as a character and a villain

I hope you'll stick around for future installments. Next up, more about Gutman and his relationships with the other characters in the book.

Coit Tower at Night

Chapter 12
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 12 of Runoff with quote:

"Floodlights at the base of Coit Tower lit it up like a kind of shining beacon, but the wreath of cypress trees encircling its base seemed dark and clutching."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Me & Robert Crais

First of all, let me state that I'm not responsible for this. You can tell by checking the history tab on the page to see that one Magnus Manske added the photo. He apparently got it from my Flickr account where I'd made it available under the Creative Commons license.

I know it's not going to last--someone will find a better picture--but in the meantime, check out me and my good buddy Robert Crais on his Wikipedia page.

Shoe on sidewalk in front of Shanghai 1930 bar

Chapter 11
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 11 of Runoff with quote:

"The problem was the person I said it to wasn’t Lisa, but a homeless guy with a shopping cart. He had parked the cart in front of the door and was looking fixedly at a single black pump on the sidewalk. Lisa’s black pump."

That's a real pump on the sidewalk in front of the real Shanghai 1930 restaurant. My wife helped me with the shot and we had to deal with the lighting (long exposure) and the fact that people actually expected to be able to use the sidewalk to get in and out of the place. Not to mention the guys parking cars who thought we were nuts ...

Friday, October 12, 2007

You’ve been rejected by the rest, now get rejected by the best

Got a poem with chilling insight into the human condition that you want to get published (or not)? May I suggest you submit to the Futility Review ... as long as your work doesn't contain the words shard, limn, or numinous.

Be sure to check out the Past Issues section and the Poet's Market entry under the News section while you're on the magazine site.

Hat tip to Ann Hillesland from my writer's group.

Bar from Shanghai 1930

Chapter 10
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo from Chapter 10 of Runoff with quote:

"Blue lights shown from behind the wall, suffusing the many bottles of liquor on the chromium shelves with a bewitching glow."

This was a tough shot to get with the very low light in the bar. I used a little table top tripod and left the shutter open for 1+ seconds. But, that said, the shot I'll post for Chapter 11 tomorrow--which was taken outside the restaurant--was even harder.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New College

Chapter 9
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo for Chapter 9 of Runoff with quote:

"The New College of California was located on Valencia in the Mission District of San Francisco, and from the looks of things, didn’t have a thousandth the endowment of Stanford University. This was perhaps understandable since their founder was a hippy priest from the 1970s and not a railroad robber baron from the 1890s."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Falcon is Back...

See the article in the San Francisco Chronicle describing the new falcon at John's Grill to replace the one that was stolen.

But, as I posted earlier, there's a rumor in the San Francisco Hammett community that it's all a publicity stunt. If so, it appears to be working!

Bar in South San Francisco

Chapter 8
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo for Chapter 8 of Runoff with quote:

"I sat on a stool in a dive bar ... in downtown South San Francisco."

I have to admit that I cheated a little on this photograph. The bar pictured is actually in downtown Brisbane. I did check out a few in South San Francisco, but this one felt closer to the one I had imagined when I wrote the chapter.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbia Voting Technologies

Chapter 7
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo for Chapter 5 of Runoff with quote:

"The CVT building was six stories of steel and tinted glass that looked like the passenger decks of a cruise ship."

If you look close, or check out the larger version on Flickr, you'll see a little Photoshop work that I did to this picture of a real building to make it fit with the story just a little bit better.

William Gates Computer Science Building, Stanford University

Chapter 6
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photo for Chapter 6 of Runoff with quote:

"Professor Ballou’s office was—appropriately enough—in a building named after Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The outside of the building was a nice blend of modern design and the California Mission-inspired architecture that dominated the campus, but going down a hallway past dozens of miniscule offices with frosted glass doors, I was reminded of the documentary I saw on Japanese capsule hotels. You would have thought Gates could have sprung for an extra floor in his building to give everyone a little more elbow room."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Post and Hyde

Chapter 5
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo from Chapter 5 of Runoff with quote:

"I lived on the top floor of a four story building on the corner of Post and Hyde."

For those of you who've read my article on 891
, you'll realize that my protagoinist, August Riordan, lives in the same apartment as Sam Spade did.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

San Francisco Hall of Justice

Chapter 4
Originally uploaded by macoggins
The photo from Chapter 4 of Runoff with quote:

"In my last encounter with Lieutenant 'Smiling Jack' Kittredge in an interrogation room at the Hall of Justice, he’d arranged for me to sit under a leaking sewer pipe and then personally flushed the toilet in a stall in the men’s room above."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

San Francisco City Hall

Chapter 3
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the photograph from Chapter 3 of Runoff with the associated quote:

"San Francisco’s city hall is larger—and more opulent—than many state capital buildings."

Violin Player, Chinatown, San Francisco

Chapter 2
Originally uploaded by macoggins
Here's the picture that sets the scene for Chapter 2 of Runoff. And a quote:

"A street musician sitting on a stool in a courtyard at the side of the building played a two-stringed Chinese violin, nodding and smiling at me as I double-checked the directory for Leonora Lee’s office."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ross Alley, Chinatown, San Francisco

Chapter 1
Originally uploaded by macoggins
As part of the countdown to the release of my new novel, Runoff, I'm going to do a series of posts with the scene-setting photographs that appear in front of each chapter. I'll also throw in a short quote from the chapter pertaining to the San Francisco location where it was taken.

Here's the photo from Chapter 1, along with the quote:

"Originally home to gambling houses and brothels in the wild Barbary Coast days, Ross Alley is a very narrow throughway that has retained enough of its character to be featured in movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "

Monday, October 01, 2007

Runoff Map Back

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to describe another cool feature of the hardcover edition of my new novel Runoff, which is being published on November 1st. Check it out:

It’s a map of downtown San Francisco with crime scenes from the novel plotted out a la the famous Dell “Map Back” paperbacks of the 1940s and 50s that will be printed on the back cover. To quote from an excellent Mystery Scene article about Map Backs by Gary Lovisi:

Beginning with Dell Book #5 in 1943, a mystery novel titled Four Frightened Women by George Harmon Coxe, a thin band on the cover proclaimed to the reader “with crime map on back cover.” Back cover maps would appear on an amazing 577 volumes from 1943 until 1952. Dell issued a wide array of Map Backs in all genres, but mysteries made up 50% of their list and these are the books that are of special interest to us. They comprise a beautiful series of books and hold a special place in the hearts of mystery readers and fans, yesterday and today.
My particular favorites are the ones done for collections of Hammett’s San Francisco Continental Op stories, such as this one for a volume titled, Hammett Homicides:

When I pitched the idea to my publisher and they agreed, I assumed they would purchase the rights to a standard San Francisco map and superimpose the location “dots” on top. I was very pleased to find out that Bleak House Books decided to have a map drawn from scratch in the style of the old Dell maps. I think the result is a very faithful homage to the originals … except you won’t see “Herb Cain Way” on any of the earlier ones!