Monday, March 30, 2009

Remedial's the Best

"You'll have to hock them," he said and held out his hand. "The Remedial's the best place -- Mission and Fifth."
Thus Sam Spade enjoins Brigid O'Shaughnessy to pawn her jewelry to raise spending money after he takes all her cash in The Maltese Falcon.

In Joe Gore's prequel to the Falcon, Spade and Archer, Remedial is mentioned again:
At 8:30 Monday morning Sam Spade bounded up the stairs to his office above Remedial Loans on Mission Street whistling "Gut Bucket Blues" slightly off-key.
Later, Spade moved into a better building downtown, but Remedial--renamed the Provident Loan Association in 1951--is still there on Mission, and as the San Francisco Chronicle explains, unfortunately still has a role to play in today's troubled economy.

Check out the full history of the pawnshop on their website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sleeping the Big Sleep?


John Malkovich's The Big Sleep Hotel
Originally uploaded by Joe Skwance
Given that PI protagonist Philip Marlowe explains that "the big sleep" is a synonym for death in Raymond Chandler's famous novel of the same name, you've got to wonder about the decision to give a British hotel the same moniker.

The fact that John Malkovich is an investor in the chain, and "is an ardent supporter of the death penalty," does nothing to add to my desire to check in for a night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

We Got Yer Popular Culture Here...


Valerie Bertinelli
Originally uploaded by Mark Coggins
I've had over 300 hits for this picture of Valerie Bertinelli on my Flickr account in the two days since People magazine came out with a cover photo of her in a bikini on the cover.

I took the picture last year at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and didn't even know who she was when I snapped it. I had simply followed the longest line of people waiting to get a signature from an author to see who was at the other end of it.

Ray Bradbury, on the other hand, only had about three people vying to get a signature...

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Dashiell Hammett Tour

My review of Don Herron's The Dashiell Hammett Tour: Thirtieth Anniversary Guidebook is up on The Rap Sheet. Check out the post here.

And to whet your appetite for the review and the tour, here from a scan of the 1922 San Francisco City Directory is the listing for Dashiell Hammett and his wife Josephine in their first San Francisco residence at 620 Eddy Street.


And here is an ad for the Pinkerton Detective Agency from the 1920 directory.

Pinkerton is, of course, the famous detective agency where Hammett worked when he first moved to the city.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Big Wake-Up: Cover Six

Nothing like some severed baby doll heads to keep you up at night.

Here's the next competitor in the mock cover contest for my forthcoming novel, The Big Wake-Up from Bleak House Books.

Opinions in the post comments are welcome, as well as in the Flickr photo set I've put together for all the designs.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Subdued Magic

I'd like to introduce you to the man who is writing the latest (and hopefully greatest) Raymond Chandler biography: Tom Williams. As you'll see, Tom is from the UK, which is entirely appropriate since Chandler's parents were of Irish/English stock, and although Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, he grew up and was educated in the UK.

Tom's book is due to be published in the UK by Aurum Press in 2010 and the working title is Subdued Magic: A Life of Raymond Chandler. Hopefully a US publisher will also be picking up the title.

He's has been blogging about the process of researching and writing the book here, and he is currently ensconced at the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections at UCLA, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

He happened across my blog as result of Google searches for Black Mask magazine cover images and was kind enough to write and introduce himself.

You can check out one of Tom's reviews of crime fiction for the London Observer here. Even from that small sample, you can already tell he knows his Chandler!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Return to the House of Shields


House of Shields Pub, San Francisco
Originally uploaded by Badgurl
Way back when I was blogging about my novel Candy from Strangers, I wrote about the House of Shields bar where the first and last scenes of the book take place.

Now, in a case of life imitating fiction, the bar has posted some of the research I did on its history in the about section of the bar website, along with a link to the KQED podcast of Bill Arney reading the opening chapter of Candy.

Curious what happens in the scene? Well, it's not giving too much away to say that Chris Duckworth, the sidekick of my private eye protagonist August Riordan, starts a bar fight with sailors who are in town for Fleet Week. You'll have to listen to find out exactly how he sets them off.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Enter the Mongoose

I'm participating in an anthology that will be published in 2009, brought to you by Mongoose Press, who describe themselves as:
a new American publisher of chess books. Our aim is to produce great books that might not be seen elsewhere, drawing on the masters and authors of Eastern Europe.
Huh? How do I fit into that picture?

Well, it turns out that the anthology is a chess fiction anthology and features such heavyweights as Ronan Bennett, Stephen Carter and Katherine Neville, all authors who have produced well-regarded novels featuring chess themes.

My entree? My first novel, The Immortal Game, is about the theft of chess software (as well as bondage & discipline, dominatrices and a few other oddments).

The story I contributed is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche which marks the first time Holmes competes at the chess board. (There are other things Holmes does for the first time in the story, but I won't delve into those now.)

For more information on the anthology and the full line up of authors, check out this posting by anthology editor Howard Goldowsky.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Chandler Manuscript Page

Along with the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections at UCLA has the largest collection of Raymond Chandler papers.

Now UCLA is hosting an exhibit featuring a sample of artifacts from their collection. Included in the exhibit are manuscript pages from Chandler's Playback, the last novel he completed before he died.

Although I haven't had the opportunity to visit the exhibit, I'm particularly pleased to see the scan UCLA posted of page 6 of the manuscript.

As I described in my article, "Writing The Long Goodbye," Chandler typed his manuscripts on half sheets, oriented 5.5 inches in width and 8.5 inches in length like a small portrait page. The rationale for this was to limit the amount of retyping required if Chandler elected to rewrite something on a page.

Due to restrictions placed on the Oxford collection by the Chandler estate, I wasn't able to duplicate any of the draft manuscript pages from The Long Goodbye for my article, but the UCLA page provides a great example--although it appears Chandler switched from his usual yellow paper to blue for his last novel.

Friday, March 06, 2009

16 Random Things About Me

After being tagged by several fellow writers and failing to respond, here--finally--is my entry for the "16 Random Things" meme that's been making the rounds on Facebook and crime fiction blogs. (Yes, I know, it's old news at this point.)

First, the obligatory recitation of the rules:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
Then, the "things:"

1. I was accepted for admission to West Point after being nominated by Senator Barry Goldwater, but elected not to attend. I nearly failed the physical exam because I'd never had blood drawn before and almost fainted: not exactly the "right stuff" for a career in the military.

2. My mother's grandfather fought in the Civil War--for the South.

3. I'm part Choctaw Indian and would be eligible for membership in the tribe if I applied. My sister is a card-carrying member.

4. Like Madonna, I eat a bowl of blueberries every morning. I don't have mine specially flown in from Canada, though.

5. As a gag for an old girl friend, I once created a character dubbed, "Thaddaeus, King of the Sea Sponges." I made him out of an old sponge and the non-potato pieces of a Mr. Potato Head. I am convinced that the creators of Sponge Bob Square Pants stole my idea.

6. As another gag for the same old girl friend, I dressed as Thaddeus and handed out flyers about her to people who were leaving a subway (BART) station.

7. As an undergrad at Stanford, I took a graduate seminar on the Soviet Union co-taught by Alexander Dallin and Condoleezza Rice. I believe Rice was doing post-doctorate work at the time and I had no idea who she was.

8. My mother's uncle was shot and killed by the Sheriff of Silver City, New Mexico. I have his (my great uncle's) gold watch on my mantle.

9. The closest I ever came to being killed was when I was changing the (large) back tire of a tractor on my grandfather's ranch. The axle of the tractor slipped off the jack while I was working underneath it. Fortunately, I had also chained the axle to the branch of a tree and it didn't drop all the way to the ground--just a few inches from my nose.

10. Another near death experience occurred in grade school when my friend and I decided to test out some homemade diving equipment in his family pool. Said equipment consisted of tire chains wrapped around my feet to insure descent to the bottom and a plastic bucket held over my head to supply (a limited quantity of) air. The dropping to the bottom part worked fine, but I lost my grip on the bucket almost immediately after jumping into the pool.

11. For my first and only date with her, I took the head cheerleader and home coming queen of my class to my senior prom in high school. When I called to ask her out, she said, "Mark who?"after I identfied myself. At the end of the evening, I was too flustered to even try to kiss her goodnight.

12. Later in life, a friend fixed me up with a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and I did just as well.

13. I do an excellent imitation of Tom Shane, your friend in the diamond business, particularly when uttering the phrase, "ladies' tennis bracelets."

14. I bought my wife's wedding ring from Tom ... although I'm worried about the lifetime guarantee since he just declared Chapter 11.

15. My first car was a 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang that my dad bought from a used car dealer for $800. It was supposed to have three forward gears, but sometimes they all went backwards.

16. I have been known to make and wear very elaborate Halloween costumes, including a Mr. Spock getup and a Saturday Night Live Killer Bee. The only time someone who worked for me stole something was when a housekeeper appropriated one of my Ghostbusters suits (complete with Proton Pack).

Although I'm supposed to tag 16 more people to continue the chain, as a special favor to the few friends that read this blog, I won't.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Hammett and Spillane in LIFE

Google recently digitized the LIFE Magazine photo archive and cataloged the results in the their Image Search facility.

For hard boiled mystery fans, there are more than a few gems to discover. Follow this link, and see photos of an aged, but defiant, Dashiell Hammett in front of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Senate Investigating Committee on Communism.


Or try your luck with this one, and find pictures of a surprisingly young-looking Mickey Spillane being equally defiant in the face of unfavorable reviews.


Photo credits: Hank Walker, 1953, and Peter Stackpole, 1952.