Sun., Oct. 2, 2005
The first true noir fiction collection from a city that put film noir on the map.
Sun., Oct. 2, 2005
Meet the Author
Peter Maravelis is a native San Franciscan with a life-long involvement in the art and literary scenes. He programs the events calendar at City Lights Bookstore and is editor of the first volume of San Francisco Noir. He's been known to occasionally moonlight with PIs. He was the editor of the first volume of San Francisco Noir.
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Read an Excerpt
San Francisco Noir
Akashic BooksISBN: 1-888451-91-2
Chapter OneAFTER HOURS AT LA CHINITA by Barry Gifford
Spooky backside of town, Third Street, San Francisco, late at night, in a motel office. The furnishings were shabby. La Chinita, once an elegant, Spanish-style motel built in the 1930s, was now, in 1963, run down; paint was peeling off the walls and the wooden registration desk was chipped and gouged. A decrepit, moth-eaten easy chair and a few other rickety wickers with ripped seats and backs were placed against the walls. Hanging blinds, with several slats missing or broken, covered the glass-paned door. The office was clean, however, and presided over by a bespectacled woman who looked to be in her mid-sixties. She was seated in a lounge chair in front of the desk, knitting and humming softly to herself. Her name was Vermillion Chaney. The tune she was humming was "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." It was two weeks before Christmas. The telephone behind the motel desk rang. Vermillion did not move. The telephone continued to ring. It was as if Vermillion did not hear it. The telephone rang eight times before it finally stopped. After the ringing stopped, Vermillion put down her knitting, stood up and walked behind the registration desk, picked up the telephone receiver, and dialed a number.
"Was that you just called?" Vermillion asked into the phone. "Um, okay. Don't matter. What you doin', anyway? Sure I know it's 3 o'clock in the mornin', I'm at work!"
Vermillion hung up thephone. She came back around the desk, sat back down in her chair, and resumed knitting. She started singing again, only this time was "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." The office door began to shake. Somebody was trying to open it but the door was locked. This was followed by a loud knocking. The knocking was hard, insistent.
From behind the door came a woman's scream. "Open up! Open the door!"
Vermillion stopped singing and stared at the door. The knocking continued. The woman's voice became hysterical.
"You got to help me! Open up!"
Vermillion put down her knitting, got up, and went to the door. She looked out through one of the missing slats as the woman outside continued to yell.
"Miz Chaney, it's me! Revancha!"
Vermillion unlocked the door and a woman in her early twenties burst into the office, forcing the older woman back as she brushed past her.
"Shut it!" said Revancha. "Lock the door before he gets here!"
Vermillion stared at the young woman who was half-dressed, wearing only a bra and panties. Clutched to her chest were other garments. Vermillion closed the door. Revancha ran back to it and fastened the chain lock.
"What's goin' on, Revancha? You look like a chicken in a bag full of snakes."
Revancha retreated from the door and stopped with her back against the desk.
"He beatin' on me, Miz Chaney! Chokin' me! Usin' a strap!"
"Man get what he pay for."
"He gone too far, cat flip his wig. Call for security!"
Vermillion walked back behind the desk, reached down, and came up with a revolver in her right hand.
"This is the onliest security I got tonight, baby."
"Where's Myron?" asked Revancha.
Vermillion shook her head. "He out the loop. Fool got hisself arrested yestiday for receivin' stolen property. Fake beaver coats. Can you beat that? I'm alone here this evenin'."
The office door started to shake.
A man shouted, "Vermillion! Let me in!" He rattled the door.
"Don't do it, Miz Chaney!" said Revancha.
"Bitch stole my pants!"
"You'd best go on, Ray," said Vermillion.
"Not without my pants!"
Vermillion looked at Revancha.
"You got Ray's pants?"
"I scooped it all up, what was piled on the floor. Thought maybe he wouldn't follow me."
"Man ain't gonna go away without you give up his trousers."
Ray forced himself against the door, breaking the lock on the handle. Only the chain now prevented him from opening it. He stuck his hand through and attempted to undo the chain.
"Don't do it, Ray," said Vermillion, "I got a piece."
Ray pushed against the door, breaking the chain. The door flew open and Ray entered. He was a handsome man in his mid-thirties, wearing only a white dress shirt, half unbuttoned, under-shorts, socks, and shoes. He moved toward Revancha.
Excerpted from San Francisco Noir Excerpted by permission.
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