My wife and I decided to celebrate our 20th anniversary in San Francisco. It had always been a city of fascination for me due to what I perceived as its similarities to Boston (fresh seafood, cities with a lot of history, rich multicultural environment). Additionally, from a pure nostalgia standpoint, it was where my mother was stationed during the Second World War. What better way to honor a women who was married for 65 years.
We knew we could not take in everything we would like to have seen. Who can? But we positioned ourselves to maximize our enjoyment by making sure we ate a lot of seafood (a rarity when you live in Kansas) and made our way to a beach to see and hear and smell the ocean (another aspect missing in Kansas).
For a solid month prior to the trip, we watched as many movies as we could that took place there: Bullitt, Vertigo, Dark Passage, Foul Play, etc. We figured we might be able to see some of those places in real life, assuming they were still there.
Naturally, as a writer of historical crime fiction, we HAD to visit Alcatraz. We got tickets to the first tour on the Sunday morning after we flew in on Saturday. I’m not much when it comes to small boats and rough seas, but I had to buck up in order to gain a memorable experience.
Well, it was a fascinating deep dive into history. Whatever I thought I knew was miniscule to what I learned. Just to see stunning gardens on the island was awe-inspiring. There is a recorded tour with the use of headphones. You can stop the recording and spend extra time in various places, take photos, and just be amazed. The fact that it was a beautiful day weather-wise was an absolute bonus.
As we boarded the ferry for the ride back, my wife utters something akin to using Alcatraz in one of my Ark City novels. For the remainder of the watery journey, my gaze was transfixed in front of me. By the time we disembarked, I had the first thoughts that would eventually turn into “From Somewhere in a Dream.” I even went so far as to use the real-life robber Neil McCauley who was the inspiration for the character that Robert De Niro played in “Heat”.
As a bonus, we ate at John’s Grill sitting one table away from Hammett’s regular spot. Overall, I can’t recall a time when a special occasion coincided with something so deeply entwined in my writing.