At 6 p.m., a gaggle of brawny coppers plans to attend a private party at John’s Grill, the century-old Ellis Street restaurant, on the rumor that the “blonde satan” himself — Detective Sam Spade — has returned to The City.
But you won’t get the whole yarn.
Spade, the fictional private dick made famous by legendary San Francisco writer Dashiell Hammett, is reappearing in American literature in an unfinished story that appears in a new collection of Hammett works, some previously unpublished.
Tonight’s event at John’s Grill, a restaurant Hammett frequented in the 1920s, is a book launch for “The Hunter and Other Stories.” Attendees are expected to include current and former San Francisco cops and also “a whole paddy wagon full of reporters looking for the free cocktails and lamb chops,” said publicist Lee Housekeeper.
“This would not be a place to pinch a purse,” Housekeeper said.
Hammett’s granddaughter, Julie Rivett, co-edited the new collection that offers 21 stories, including a dozen never-before-published works. Only four of the stories are about crime. Others examine “conflicts and tension among men and between men and women,” Rivett said.
The collection also includes three stories Hammett wrote specifically for film. The majority of the stories have been housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas since the 1970s.
Hammett is best known for the Sam Spade adventure “The Maltese Falcon” and dozens of pulp-fiction magazine stories. But his mark on The City extends beyond his fiction.
During his writing days, Hammett used to order lamb chops with a baked potato and sliced tomatoes at John’s Grill, which was reportedly a setting in “The Maltese Falcon.” The restaurant clientele of that time was not so different from today, Housekeeper said.
“You go to John’s Grill today, you’ll see reporters, politicians, an occasional detective, a judge. … It’s not dissimilar [from the 1920s],” he said.
In 2007, a “faker than fake” copy of the “Maltese Falcon” statuette that had been on display for decades at John’s Grill made headlines after it was stolen, Housekeeper said. The statuette had sentimental value, Housekeeper said, as it was signed by Hammett family members and an actor from the 1941 film adaptation of the novel.
The statuette was never found, but that same year it was replaced by a 150-pound bronze falcon made by sculptor Peter Schifrin.