Image courtesy of Don Herron

On The Same Page’s blogger has in her hand right now, this wonderful book. (Also available on Kindle.) Yes, this is a library book, so you may certainly contact your branch and place a request. Note that title–The Dashiell Hammett Tour Thirtieth Anniversary Guidebook. Thirtieth! Yes, Don Herron organized and began guiding his three hour, hilly, trench-coated, fedora-topped tour of San Francisco back in 1977, and is still going strong today. In 1979 he published the first edition of the book based on the tour, and you’re looking at the cover of the 2009 new edition.

If you can’t get yourself to San Francisco in the next few weeks while we celebrate The Maltese Falcon, you can still take the tour of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco by talking a walk through this book. Herron’s tour covers all things Hammett in San Francisco. On The Same Page focuses on Hammett’s most well-known work, but the writer’s oeuvre was broader, and Herron’s conversational tone guides you through landmarks from Hammett’s life, from the Falcon and other novels, and from the short stories. There are plenty of maps of the city and the tour. Photos from Hammett’s family and of the buildings both present and historical that figure in the author’s life. An excellent biography of Hammett, and a very short preface written by Jo Hammett, Dashiell Hammett’s youngest daughter, about her experience of her friend Herron’s tour: “The going got tough–I couldn’t do it today. San Francisco is a tough climb…I wondered how my dad, his TB barely in remission, could have walked these steep streets and breathed in this damp air while mapping out his stories. But walk them he did….  [H]is physical settings are often remarkably precise.” And for me, one of the most fun parts of this book was the author’s afterward in which he reflects on the experience of running this tour for 30+ years–how it came about, the people he’s met and toured with, and the people who walked across the street while he wasn’t looking!

Don Herron

The tour starts out, so endearingly to the heart of On The Same Page, at 200 Larkin Street in San Francisco, which in the early 1920s was the nearly brand new main San Francisco Public Library.  SFPL opened a spectacular new library in 1996. If you’ve been in San Francisco lately, you know the original structure now as the Asian Art Museum which rehabilitated the old library and moved in in 2003. Herron points out that Dashiell Hammett was serious library patron–“by temperament a natural library user throughout his life. Check the book out, read it, return it.”

Burritt Street plaque. How many cities commemorate a murder like this? And a fictional one at that?

Herron’s web page for his tour has a lot of tempting pics, but even more fun, a substantial news archive of all things related to the tour, Hammett, crime writing, noir, etc. I seriously recommend a visit to the webpage if you become intriqued. And of course, I’m doing the real tour next time I’m out west.

More about the tour?

On Tour in San Francisco

Visit Red Room: Where the Writers Are and read Thomas Burchfield’s essay “Walking Around in Books: Don Herron’s Literary Tour and Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco.”

Images on this page appear with permission from and courtesy of Don Herron.

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