The San Francisco Chronicle has a story about a signed reproduction of the Maltese Falcon used for publicity stills in the John Houston/Humphrey Bogart version of the movie being stolen from John's Grill. John's Grill, of course, is mentioned in the book as a place that Sam Spade ate before he went off to chase the original thieves.
It's a definite bummer for Hammett/Maltese Falcon fans (not to mention owner John Konstin) because part of the appeal of going to the restaurant was seeing the statue. I hope it's recovered soon.
Dedicated to mysteries and thrillers, the Noir in Festival, held in Courmayeur, Italy, ran from December 5th to December 11th. The festival gives an annual Raymond Chandler award for life time achievement and in 2006 the award went to Elmore Leonard.
You can see still photos of Leonard receiving the award and participating in a panel discussion here.
But why go with still photos when you can have video--and video featuring Leonard telling an anecdote about Chandler and the Hollywood agent he and Chandler shared at that!
Unfortunately, the video ends before we hear all of Leonard's comments about Chandler, which I would be very interested to hear.
My guess is Leonard does not hold Chandler in particularly high esteem. For one thing, Chandler routinely broke Leonard's rules for writing fiction, particularly the ones about avoiding detailed descriptions of characters and places.
Furthermore, one of Chandler's best short stories, Red Wind, begins with a great description of the weather.
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
I'm having some fun times at Left Coast Crime, with the possible exception of the in-room experience at my chosen hotel (not the conference hotel). I am about four doors down from the elevator, which I assumed would be amble buffer, but I was treated to a sound similar to a dentist drill starting up for the entire night as the cars shuttled up and down the floors. (And the fact that I'm on a floor with a bunch of partying authors who decided to stay out late and had the gall to use the elevator to get back to their rooms didn't help!)
Let us put those fractious comments aside and focus on the positive. I went to the panel to commemorate writer Dennis Lynds and ran into the wonderful folks responsible for that most excellent of e-zines,January Magazine: Editor Linda Richards and Senior Editor in charge of crime fiction and The Rap Sheet blog, J. Kingston Pierce. Jeff and Linda live in Seattle and Jeff had the role of interviewing Toastmaster Gary Phillips to kick off the conference on Friday. Jeff had expressed some concerns on his blog about the assignment, but by all reports, it went exceedingly well. (Unfortunately my flight arrived too late for me to catch the session.) It's not surprising that the event was a success since Jeff is the host of a local TV show based on his book, Eccentric Seattle.
Later in the afternoon I went to the dealer's room, where I caught up with Diane Kudish from San Francisco Mystery Bookstore. I think the SF Mystery Bookstore has single-handedly sold the most copies of my book The Immortal Game, in all its various editions (including the children's coloring book). I'd like to say it's because the book is so good, but the fact that Diane does such a great job of hand-selling it, and it has a scene set in Noe Valley where Diane's store is located, doesn't hurt.
After that I went to the signing room and chatted with my fellow Northern California Sisters in Crime member, Simon Wood. Simon is the current chapter president and is doing great things with the group. He's aided in these efforts by comparisons to a former scandal-ridden administration led by yours truly, which make it particularly easy to shine.
The first chapter of my latest book, Candy from Strangers, was selected by San Francisco public radio station KQED for a podcast series they call The Writers' Block. Normally, they simply have the author come into the studio to read his or her work, but because my initial reading was--how shall I phrase it--bad, the producer decided to have an actor read the chapter.
We also got permission to mix in some music from local jazz great Kurt Ribak, who plays bass and has his own trio.
The actor tapped for the reading is named Bill Arney and he is the voice of the Noir City film festival. Bill is a big fan of Dashiell Hammett. So big a fan, in fact, that he sought out and rented the apartment where Hammett lived while he wrote The Maltese Falcon. Hammett also put Sam Spade in the apartment in Falcon.
The kicker is that I, too, have placed my PI protagonist August Riordan in the apartment, although I never describe what connection it has to Hammett. You can imagine how pleased I was to find out that the person who "plays" Riordan in the reading actually lives there himself.
Follow this link to read the introduction to the podcast and listen to the mp3 file on your computer or iPod.