Saturday, March 5, 2016

Guest Blogger BARRY LANCET: In San Francisco in the Footsteps of Hunter S. Thompson


I know first hand from my recent Left Coast Crime experience that Tokyo-based Barry Lancet is the best navigator a driver can hope for on Phoenix streets.  In this piece, Barry takes that skill to the City by the Bay.  For those of you who don’t know Barry’s work, you’re in for a treat.  He’s the Barry Award Winning and Shamus Award nominated author of the Jim Brodie international mystery-thriller series. California born, Barry’s more than two decades in Tokyo, much as an editor at one of the country’s largest publishing houses, gave him insider access to places most Japanese never see, allowing him to bring true authenticity to his novels, Japantown, Tokyo Kill, and the latest, Pacific Burn. http://barrylancet.com 

Jeff—Saturday


These days it seems my vacations are often dictated by what locations might appear in my next book.  That means I hit the Japan trail, sometimes San Francisco, and then the additional new places that might be scene-worthy. 
But there are times when it works the other way around.  I go someplace and the location sticks in my mind and later shows up in a book quite by accident.  This happened when I finally made it out to Miami to fulfill an age-old promise to visit friend and author/translator William Scott Wilson (The Lone Samurai, Hagekure, Tao Te Ching). It was my first visit to Florida and by the end of the trip I thought, I could use this place in a book.  And I did.  Miami and some of its locales found their way into Tokyo Kill, alongside Tokyo, Yokohama, China, and Barbados. 
This summer I found a third way—when an old friend I was traveling with suggested a place he always wanted to visit: the Seal Rock Inn because “that’s where Hunter S. Thompson hung out.”  More accurately, it’s the place Thompson holed up in to write “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.”  With guns, drugs, and who knows what else. 


The inn is a rustic lodge on the edge of San Francisco, only a few hundred yards from where the city meets the Pacific Ocean.  It is still owned by the same family.  The Cliff House is a half a block away.  Here’s Thompson:
"Dawn is coming up in San Francisco now: 6:09 a.m. at the Seal Rock Inn. ... Out here at the far end of Geary Street: this is the end of the line, for buses and everything else, the western edge of America." 
From the window, even today guests can catch a sliver of the ocean.  The trees lining 48th Avenue across the way have grown tall and spread since Thompson’s residence forty-plus years ago, cutting off much of the view.  The buses are still there, lined up right outside “his” window, ready to take morning commuters into the city center.  When the large diesel engines were fired up and left idling too long, as was the habit in those days, it’s not too hard to imagine Thompson sticking a shotgun out the window and telling them to cut the noise and the fumes or else.  Bus engines have been improved, and environmental concerns have changed the way public vehicles are operated, but some things remain the same.  The fog still rolls in thick as a blanket and the winds can be relentless, even when the sun shines. 
That’s where we stayed during my latest scouting trip through SF for book locations, two doors down from the room.  Reports have it that Thompson didn’t come out for days but had everything brought in—food, drink, drugs, and any friends wanting to party. 


During the trip I confirmed details for my new book (Pacific Burn) and scouted locations for the as-yet untitled book 4 in the Jim Brodie series.  Will the Seal Rock Inn find its way into a future story?  Not in number 4, but maybe one day.  Who knows?  Either way, the visit was memorable. 


Barry for Jeff

10 comments:

  1. Welcome, Barry! I have to ask what kind of room service you made use of when you stayed at the Seal Rock Inn? Presumably nothing quite as exotic as Thompson's?

    Amazing, isn't it, how some places you look for and others just present themselves and almost demand to be included in a book.

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    1. Thanks Zoë! And thanks all for having me. I wish we got anything like the room service Thompson had. I suspect he was hard to refuse. These days, inn runs a coffee shop on the first floor with supposedly v good coffee and food. We optioned for the Cliff House, on the next—and final—block before the Pacific Ocean. Hard to beat that view with breakfast.

      Yes, it’s the unexpected locations that fall into your lap that are the most intriguing sometimes. The Seal Rock hasn’t pushed its way into a story just yet, but its day may come, and if it does I suspect it’ll get it’s way just like Thompson usually got his!

      Barry

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  2. Love this-both of the descriptions in the book, and the pictures of the hotel. It's wonderful to imagine Mr. Thompson enjoying the benefits if the hotel. look forward to reading your books.

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    1. Hi Bill. It as like stepping back in time. Not much has changed at the inn, so you really get a sense of how it was when Thompson was there.

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  3. Great to see you here at MIE, Barry! (And it was fantastic seeing you at LCC also). Here's hoping the Seal Rock Inn does make it into a future novel...it sounds like an excellent setting!

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    1. Hi Susan. Yes, good seeing you at Left Coast. Our panel, and the convention in general, was a lot of fun. So much so, I decided to go next year as well.

      If the Seal Rock Inn works for any writers here, feel free to use it. No exclusive here. Susan, if you can work it into one of your Japan historicals, the drinks are on me. ;)

      Barry

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  4. I sat next to Jim Brodie in Higher Chemistry! Is he now a international man of mystery? What's in a name right enough!

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    1. Hi Caro. Clearly, Brodie’s a very versatile guy. :)

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  5. Barry, I enjoyed our panel at LCC. We "exotic location" folks will surely meet up again. I look forward to it. Come back to MIE again one day soon.

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  6. Hi Annamaria. Good to meet you here so soon after LCC. I have no doubt we'll run into each other again. Just saw your post about jacket covers. Good piece. Will stop in there for a bit...

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