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California II: Spade & Archer

March 8, 2009
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I don't know which of us is Spade and which is Archer....

Our flight arrived smoothly in San Francisco, though with the time change, we were ravenous by mid-afternoon and exhausted by the time most people here were just starting their evenings. A couple of high-dollar drinks in the Hyatt bar (and yes, David,  it is the hotel that was featured in Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety!), then a quick dinner down the street, and we were done for the day. Still, maybe this means we’ll be rested up for whatever Sunday brings.

Many thanks to those folks who read and commented on yesterday’s post — both with requests for other CA writers I should feature this week (Steinbeck is coming!) and with suggestions for what we should do while we’re here. My favorite was from Nandini Lal who gave a two days itinerary, ending with: “Crazed mobike race down Crooked St, followed by agonizingly sedate trolley car ride to soothe Dad’s frayed nerves.” I’ll see if he’s up for it! Thanks also to Mark Athitakis for the Hammett tour options, though doesn’t seem like they’re offering those tours while we’re here, sadly. Hammett still in mind, however, and as a follow-up to the previous post, it’s hard not to excerpt a highly acclaimed new book that serves as a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, Joe Gore’s new Spade & Archer.

Here’s a sample from the chapter “The Grieving Widow” — chosen mainly because of the mention of Alcatraz, which Dad and I are planning to visit either today or tomorrow:

spade__archerlargeIt was a four-story Pacific Heights brownstone, not quite a mansion, perched above the 2400 block of Broadway. Spade mounted a steep flight of stairs between trimmed boxwood hedges to a gleaming marble landing. The brass door knocker was polished to a high gloss. He used it.

After thirty seconds the ornate hardwood door was opened by a German woman in a maid’s uniform, unsmiling, eyes watchful, mouth determined. Spade removed his hat and proffered a card stating that he represented the Bankers’ Life Insurance Company.

He said pleasantly, “I have come concerning the policy we carried on the late Mr. Eberhard.”

“God rest his soul. I will see if Madame is at home.”

The door shut. Spade turned to look over Cow Hollow to the low whaleback hump of Alcatraz Island out in the bay. Below him a brown and white gaff-rigged ketch, made a toy by distance, was just entering the harbor between the long finger of jetty and the Marina Green. A dozen sailboats were in their berths at the San Francisco Yacht Club. The sun was still warm, but tendrils of fog were ghosting their way through the Golden Gate between Fort Point and the Marin headlands. A Matson steamship was heading out toward the open Pacific.

“Madame will see you now.”

Speaking of madams, Dad wanted to head up to Sausalito tonight for dinner at Valhalla, former bordello owner Sally Stanford‘s old restaurant, where he had spent some time many years ago (as a restaurant patron, I should add, not as a client in any other respect). Sadly, I’ve just found out that it’s long since closed.

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