891 Post Street #401, San Francisco, California is billed as the home of Dashiell Hammett and his PI Sam Spade. Image courtesy of Google Maps Street View.
Dashiell Hammett lived in this building during the period he wrote his first three novels and he put Sam Spade in the same building in The Maltese Falcon. With a close reading of the text, and a comparison of the other apartments in the building, scholars have determined that #401 is the most likely to be Spade’s and Hammett’s, although there are no records of the particular apartment in which Hammett lived.
During the building’s dedication as a literary landmark, I had the opportunity to tour #401 and meet Hammett’s only living daughter, Jo Hammett. Also in attendance were Julie Rivett, his granddaughter, and Richard Layman, his biographer and the editor of both the recent anthology of Hammett letters and the memoir Jo published about her father.
Don Herron, leader of the famous Dashiell Hammett San Francisco tour—and author of the accompanying guidebook—was also present. When it came our turn to go up into the apartment, he strongly recommended taking the stairs. Apparently he’d been trapped in the elevator when it dropped to the basement after being overloaded with a mere four people.
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“When in doubt, cook something and eat it.”
—Spenser, Mortal Stakes, 1975, by Robert Parker
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Bernard A. Drew