Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco

Curious Chapbooks & Hysterical Histories

IT'S STILL THERE -- the city of Sam Spade, of the elusive Maltese Falcon. Join us on our quest to find what remains of Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco and record by photographing the addresses that appear in his immortal crime stories. Edited by Ed Sams; photos edited by Ric Botelho . $6.95.

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    I dropped off as the streetcar turned into Market Street. The taxi, close behind, slowed down, and its door swung open.

    'Sixth and Mission,' I said as I hopped in. McCloor could have gone in any direction from Taylor Street. I had to guess. The best guess seemed to be that he would make for the other side of Market Street. It was fairly dark by now. We had to go down to Fifth Street to get off Market, then over to Mission and back up to Sixth. We got to Sixth Street without seeing McCloor. I couldn't see him on Sixth Street either way from the crossing.

    'On up to Ninth,' I ordered and while we rode told the driver what kind of man I was looking for. We arrived at Ninth Street. No McCloor. I cursed and pushed my brains around.

--"Fly Paper"

Trying to find Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco is a lot like trying to track the infamous yegg, Babe McCloor. Both can give you the runaround. Nevertheless, for intrepid sleuths, Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco still exists -- not only in street names, but in buildings, alleyways, and the timeless atmosphere of this city by the Bay. We set out to find what remains of Dashiell Hammett's San Francisco and to record it by photographing the very addresses that appear in his crime stories. What we discovered began as a literary treasure hunt, but became a grail quest, much like the search for the Maltese falcon itself.

Dashiell Hammett (1894 - 1961) was the founder of the "hard-boiled" school of detective fiction during the '20s and '30s, with crime stories featuring the Continental Op and Sam Spade. Locating the Continental Detective Agency on Market Street ("The Big Knockover") and Spade and Archer's offices on Sutter Street, Dashiell Hammett's crime fighters covered all of San Francisco in search of clues, and Hammett recorded their routes with surprising accuracy. San Francisco itself became a main character in the Continental Op stories as well as an inspiration for Hammett's best fiction, The Maltese Falcon.

With the photographs that follow are the quotations that led us to the street scenes. Our intent is not to present a tour of the city. Instead, we hope this pictorial will inspire a renewed appreciation of Dashiell Hammett, as well as San Francisco, by demonstrating the symbiotic relationship that still exists between the man and the city.

    "Grant Avenue, the main street and spine of this strip, is for most of its length a street of gaudy shops and flashy chop-suey houses, catering to the tourist trade, where the racket of American jazz orchestras drowns the occasional squeak of a Chinese flute."

    --"Dead Yellow Women"

"He went up to John's Grill, asked the waiter to hurry his order of chops, baked potato, and sliced tomatoes, ate hurriedly, and was smoking a cigarette with his coffee when a thickset youngish man with a plaid cap set askew above pale eyes and a tough cheery face came into the Grill and to his table."

--The Maltese Falcon









"'You'll have to hock them,' he said and held out his hand. 'The Remedial's the best place -- Mission and Fifth."

--The Maltese Falcon










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