S.G. Browne

Luck Poachers in Portland

So I’m sitting in a booth at the Cup & Saucer Café in Portland on Wednesday morning, having a late breakfast with my friend Shannon before leaving town to head up to Seattle, when a stocky gentleman with a shaved head and a pleasant face approaches our table on his way out, sticks out his hand, and says:

“I just wanted to say hi.”

Naturally, I reach out and shake his hand because that’s the polite thing to do in this culture. Plus, being a published author of three novels, I’m always under the delusion that people who recognize me are fans who have read one of my books. It doesn’t occur to me that I have one of those faces that looks like about 10% of the population.

So when I ask him for his name, because I have no idea who this person is who just walked up to me to shake my hand, he gets this slightly puzzled expression and says he thought I was someone else and apologizes for troubling me. He also says his name is John, or that he thought my name was John, I can’t recall. Either way, I’m not who he apparently thought I was.

I tell him no worries and say it’s nice to meet him, anyway, then he walks out with his female companion and doesn’t look back or smile, apparently embarrassed.

It’s not until he walks out of the Cup & Saucer that I realize he could have been a luck poacher who just stole my good luck.

Like Nick Monday says, most people will shake a stranger’s hand without giving it a second thought, so you don’t even have to think twice about what you’re doing and poof! Your good luck is gone. And you won’t notice a thing.

I’m just hoping this guy really did think I was someone he knew. Or else recognized me because he read one of my books and didn’t realize it. The delusion lives on.

Filed under: Lucky Bastard,Nick Monday,Travel — S.G. Browne @ 7:37 am

Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – Harry Denton’s Starlight Room

It’s always fun to see the expressions on people’s faces when I walk into a room, pull out my monkey, and start taking pictures.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to enjoy that experience when I went to Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, located on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. Before I could take any photographs of the interior of the night club to post on my blog, I needed permission from someone who wasn’t available at the time. And since I waited until Wednesday night to take pictures for the final Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour installment, the best I could do was take a picture of my monkey in the elevator.

However, if you click on the link to Harry Denton’s above, it will take you to the official website, where you can see photos reserve a VIP booth, or book your reservations for their weekly Sunday drag queen performance brunch.

While no drag queens appear in Lucky Bastard, the Starlight Room makes several appearances in the novel—the first near the end of Chapter 18, when Nick Monday is escorted up to the nightclub by one of the Beefeater doormen.

When the doors open, he gestures for me to exit, then follows me out of the elevator and into Harry Denton’s Starlight Room,the nightclub atop the Drake with a 360-degree view and 1930s throwback style.  Decorated in ruby reds and Egyptian golds, with deep-velvet booths and rich crimson silk drapes and signed celebrity photos in the bar, Harry Denton’s looks like something you’d see straight out of a noir film. Standing at the bar with a half-finished cigarette and a full set of curves is a long-haired brunette in a formfitting, long-sleeve, black shirt, a tight, leopard-skin-print skirt, black stockings, and high-heeled shoes that match her skirt. But I only notice her shoes because they’re connected to her long, sleek legs. Which are connected to the rest of her anatomy.

As for who the woman is, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. But I will say that I had no idea she was going to show up until Nick walked into the bar and saw her sitting there.

We end up visiting the Starlight Room in Chapter 37 and again in Chapter 40, both near the end of the book.  So it’s the appropriate place to end the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour, as it plays a significant location role in the climax and the dénouement.

As is often the case in fiction, I’ve taken some liberties with the reality of Harry Denton’s Starlight Room:

1) The office for the Starlight Room is downstairs on the Lower Lobby level of the hotel, which would make for a rather boring location.

2) Harry Denton doesn’t own the nightclub in my novel. It just kept his name.

3) Although the elevators are right across from the bar, there isn’t a wall of signed celebrity photos.

4) There’s no EXIT door that leads to the roof. But since I started my story out on the roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, I had to find a way to get Nick Monday back up there. So I did some interior decorating to suit my needs.

And that concludes our virtual blog tour of the San Francisco locales that appear in Lucky Bastard. I hope you enjoyed your trip. Please feel free to tip your tour guide on the way out.




Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – The Kitchen Sink

Welcome to the penultimate post of the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour. I always used to get confused by the word penultimate, thinking it sounded like it should mean something along the lines of “better than ultimate” or “super duper.” But now I’ve finally figured out what it means and how to use it in a sentence. As a writer, that’s a fairly useful skill.

So here were are, in the next to the last entry for the virtual blog tour, and rather than picking a single location, since there are so many of them remaining and I just don’t have the time to do a blog post about all of them before Lucky Bastard comes out next Tuesday (can I have a Woo Hoo!?), I decided to combine them all together in a single post.

We kick things off at  the Green Street Market on the corner of Green and Laguna at the edge of Pacific Heights, where Nick stops in to buy a pack of Mentos. It’s also where his day starts to get complicated. Not because of the Mentos but because of the Asian woman in the red coat. I don’t know if the proprietor of the grocery store/deli is named Sam and has a shaved head, but he does in my book.

Next we have Tommy Wong’s undisclosed hideout in Chinatown. Since not even I know the location, it’s represented here by the Lucky Cats in the photo up top. While the Lucky Cat is actually a traditional Japanese sculpture, it’s a ubiquitous staple in Chinatown gift stores and in Chinese restaurants and shops to help beckon in good fortune. That’s what the Lucky Cat is doing. Not waving but beckoning. Depending on which paw is raised and who’s doing the interpreting, the left paw raised brings in customers, while the right paw attracts good luck. The Lucky Cat appears several times throughout Lucky Bastard.

In another chapter, Nick is dropped off in North Beach on Broadway in the strip club district, across from The Hungry I Club, The Roaring 20’s, and Big Al’s—which used to be an adult super store selling skin magazines, edible underwear, and porn videos but which is now a deli and grocery store that peddles a more traditional kind of salami. Next to Big Al’s is The Condor Club, former hot spot featuring the famous Carol Doda that claimed to be the world’s first topless and bottomless entertainment venue when it opened in 1964.

Nick also contemplates his problems as well as a girl in a bikini in Huntington Park at the top of Nob Hill, goes into the Searchlight Market on Hyde and Union to pick up some Advil and Mentos (he’s got a thing for Mentos), has lunch and one too many Bellinis at Scala’s Bistro with the cute and vexing Scooter Girl, and meets with wanna-be gangsta rapper Bow Wow on Market Street across from the Westfield Shopping Center.

Those of you who have read Fated might catch a reference to a scene that takes place in my second novel at the Westfield Shopping Center. Nick also mentions the full name of Fate’s alter ego.

Finally, we visit Union Square, the only other iconic San Francisco landmark that appears in Lucky Bastard. Nick comes through Union Square on a couple of occasions—first while following Tuesday Knight after she leaves his office and again when he goes into Caffe Rulli and poaches luck from a douche bag on a cell phone. Not to be confused with Alex the Vegan Douche Bag, who is Nick’s personal chauffeur.

By the way, in the photo of Union Square on the right, that’s the Sir Francis Drake Hotel towering above Saks Fifth Avenue, with Harry Denton’s Starlight Club perched atop it. As The Starlight Club appears in several chapters and plays a somewhat significant role in the novel’s climax, that’s where the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour will come to an end on Friday.


Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – Lombard Street

Most of the places we’ve visited on the Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour have been of the more obscure variety and not exactly places you’d find in your Frommer’s or Lonely Planet travel guide. So don’t get your hopes up that Nick Monday will take a ferry to Alcatraz or race across the Golden Gate Bridge or hang out at Pier 39.

However, the one iconic San Francisco landmark that does appear in Lucky Bastard is Lombard Street, otherwise known as The Crookedest Street in the World. (Though there is some debate that Snake Alley in Burlington, IA holds that distinction.)

But for the sake of argument, we’ll say Lombard Street has the title. The one-way section of brick-paved street in Russian Hill runs for one block from the Hyde Street cable car tracks down a steep grade through eight terraced switchbacks and residential homes, ending at Leavenworth. The famous street has appeared in numerous films, hosted an Easter Big Wheel race (which I attended), and been turned into a giant Candyland board to celebrate the board game’s 60th anniversary.

And occasionally, if you look closely, you can spot one of San Francisco’s famous Wild Monkeys of Russian Hill.

The scene in Lucky Bastard that takes place here occurs in Chapters 12 and 13, when Nick arrives at the top of the street after a failed luck poaching. He’s surrounded by tourists, looking for a mark— someone who exhibits behavior that indicates they were born with good luck—when a sixteen-year-old kid races down the twisting road, maneuvering between cars:

I watch the kid on the skateboard glide between fenders and curbs, past bumpers and hedges, oozing teenage bravado and confidence. Halfway down the hill, the kid gets clipped by a Volvo, rolls over the hood of the car, and lands in some bushes blooming with pink flowers. Then he pops up and gets back on his skateboard unscathed and continues down the street with a smile on his face and a triumphant middle finger raised in salute for the driver of the Volvo.

And behold, I think I’ve just found my mark.

He takes off after the kid, racing down the 250 steps, only to run into trouble when he makes it to the bottom. What kind of trouble? That would be a spoiler. But I will say that I reference Cory Haim and Cory Feldman and someone ends up with a bloody nose.


Lucky Bastard San Francisco Blog Tour – More Nick Monday

When I started writing Lucky Bastard in the spring of 2009, my main character was named Jon Rolli. I wasn’t thrilled with the name but it held him in place. Once I finally made him a private detective, I decided he needed another name. Something that suited him better. Something with a little more panache.

Back in 1991, I wrote a screenplay titled A Fish Out of Water—an Airplane! and The Naked Gun inspired comedy spoof about a private detective in Chicago dealing with corrupt developers while trying to find a rare, stolen Australian myna bird purchased from a specialty hybrid pet store called The Fish Out of Water Pet Shop. That’s the screenplay over there on the left.

The script includes a lot of word play and silliness and characters with names like Nick Monday, Warren Peace, Sandy Beach, Al Chemy, and a band named Umbilical Dan and the Chords. Nothing ever came of the script, but I always liked the name Nick Monday, so I stole it from my Chicago detective and gave it to my luck stealing P.I. in San Francisco. I also took the name of the female lead in the script, Tuesday Knight, and gave it to my main femme fatale in Lucky Bastard.

Even though they share the same name, the Nick Monday in my screenplay and the Nick Monday in my novel are two completely different people. In A Fish Out of Water he’s easily confused, honest, and rarely gets laid, while in Lucky Bastard, he’s competent, steals luck, and has sex more often than Charlie Sheen. He’s also developed some repetitive consumptive behaviors that, while not destructive, are a definite by-product of his lifestyle.

Cappuccinos. Apple fritters. Lucky Charms.
Mochas. Mentos. Corporate-coffeehouse baristas.
Just to name a few.

And while you might think someone who was born with the ability to poach luck would live in a Pacific Heights mansion or own a place in Nob Hill, luck poachers live a nomadic lifestyle and often have to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice. Plus, there are definite karmic consequences to stealing someone else’s good fortune.

So even though Nick lives in The Marina neighborhood, with it’s Art Deco buildings and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and abundance of attractive Kens and Barbies decorating the cafes and bars, Nick ended up with something less than what he’s grown accustomed to:

I live in a studio on the third floor of a four-story building on Lombard Street, next to a dry cleaner’s, across from a transient motel, and just this side of dilapidated. Not my first choice for living accommodations, but sometimes you take what you can get. Or go where your mistakes take you.

Again, I’ve played with reality a bit here, as Nick’s building doesn’t exist in the location I’ve described. But I wanted him to live in The Marina, so I placed his fictional apartment building on Lombard Street across from the Bridge Motel. While The Bridge has recently been “cleaned up,” for years it was a crime-ridden motel whose residents had to deal with bed bugs, rats, and on-site drug deals.

Above on the right is Nick’s view of the Bridge Motel from the front door of his apartment building, where he often finds a homeless person and gets to enjoy the smell of fresh urine. The photo on the immediate left is from the parking lot on the side of the motel, which gives you a better idea of it’s unique neighborhood charm.

Filed under: Lucky Bastard,Nick Monday,The Writing Life — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 6:00 pm