Meet Harry Seaburn, Thief, Romantic & Run Out of Luck

Yeah, the seven book Harry Seaburn Thriller Series starting with The Feathered Virgin tells the wild and mordantlyHarry Seaburn 02 - Hight Resolution comic story of a thief who is tough, brash, running on empty and wants a good woman, anybody’s good woman, but he tends to shoot people and what good woman would want him?

It’s hard to know where to begin in telling the story of the stories about Harry.  Except to say Harry is a hard-nosed thief and hopeless romantic who has no money despite the Harry Seaburn 03 - Hight Resolutionmillions he manages to steal, no woman to call his own and half the criminal world wants to kill him, for good reason.

He operates around the edges of two great criminal syndicates in Miami that would happily crush him as irritating competition.  He makes money out of crazy, taking on gigsHarry Seaburn 04 - Hight Resolution no other crook would dare.  He believes there’s no real life outside of his personal thief’s paradise in a circus town between the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades.  And he couldn’t manage to stay alive or survive his mismatched loves without the help of his stripper landlady and a hippie throwback swamp woman.  And a guy named Bitter Bob  (you’ll find out) and a mega supergeek who hates all humans but Harry.

To see what Harry says about all this read, on!

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 The Joy of Crime(writing)

by Harry Seaburn

Harry Seaburn 05 - Hight ResolutionI’ve been told that in the pages of some of the better magazines I have been accused of encouraging criminality by my thrillers making it all seem like great fun. Yeah, well, it is. Great fun, I mean.

Also hard, hard work. I’m like most crooks – a happy, lazy man. I don’t like work, hard or any other kind. I prefer the quiet life with a beautiful, intelligent woman – your woman, perhaps? – than to be out grubbing around for a living. If you call rough work like rescuing maidens from burning yachts and stealing million-dollar paintings from museums floating inHarry Seaburn 06 - Hight Resolution shark-infested seas fun (that’s in The Feathered Virgin), well, you need a shrink more than I.

On the other hand, and at the risk of offending my readers’ well-known sensibilities – of course, if you had any of those you wouldn’t be reading my life story, you’d be wallowing in tea cozy mysteries or over-educated police procedurals. Whoa, back to the point: people read about me because crooks are attractive. We are fun. We let our emotions run away. We feel a compulsion and we compulse.

Harry Seaburn 07b - Hight ResolutionMost of all, we don’t care about consequences. If I want to throw a man down the stairs in a restaurant, I do. Then I sit down to lunch. If I want to make a pass at the prettiest girl within seven leagues when her husband turns away, I do, and take the slapping or the punching if I’m not fast enough to run for it.

People like me do what we want. What can be more appealing than that? We have so much fun being bad you just can’t resist us. Go ahead, read The Feathered Virgin and just try to resist me. Ha!

Finding Brigid O’Shaughnessy (and the Maltese Falcon)

I know a guy who knew Brigid O’Shaughnessy.  His name was Joe Gores.  And she was real.  It’s a great story. 

Brigid, as you know, was the seductive murderess who drove Sam Spade to hunt down The Maltese Falcon  in Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece of hard-boiled detective fiction.  Hammett had been a Pinkerton agent in San Francisco in the 1920s.  Joe Gores, who died last year, was a repo man in San Francisco.  That’s where this story begins.Way back in the last century, I met Gores, author of the great DKA Files mystery series.  I invited him to my ratty flat in Berkeley for coffee and to talk fiction.  Evening drew on.  Shadow came into the room.  The conversation turned noirish.  He began to tell me about Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

Gores knew Frisco as well as Hammett had known the town, from the street level.  Much of Hammett’s old city was still there when Gores scoured the streets as a repo man.  The Maltese Falcon is a good street guide and Gores knew Hammett had used his own apartment and other of his haunts for scenes in the book.  He went to find Sam Spade’s apartment.  It was for rent.  He moved in.  Ha!

The idea came to him, he said, in Sam Spade’s apartment that maybe he could find the people in the book.  He knew Hammett had used characters from his detective career in his stories.  Why not see if any of those in the Falcon were real and, even at this late year, still lived in the city?

He started with the places where Spade’s partner Archer and the bodyguard Thursby had been shot, the events that open the story, but those leads went nowhere.  He couldn’t find the fat man, either – Caspar Gutman.  I would’ve liked to meet Gutman.  Nor could he find Joel Cairo or the jittery gunsel, Wilmer, with his brace of .45s.  Oh, they may have existed in some form in Hammett’s old case files, but they had not themselves been living people.

That left the fabulous femme fatale, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the woman who very nearly outsmarted Sam Spade.  To his surprise, Gores came across some evidence that she was real.  One of Hammett’s lovers in the ‘20s.  But who was she really and was she anything like the character in the book?

The more Gores thought about her, the more Brigid got under his skin, as she had gotten under Sam Spade’s.  He had to find her.  He got a lead on an old woman – a very old woman – living in Mexico.

Here is where the story gets great: He went to Mexico.  Knocked on her door.  And there she was – Brigid O’Shaughnessy.  He knew the first moment he saw her.  Oh, she had another name, her real name.  And she was an antique.  But she was still beautiful.  And, Gores told me, a marvelous and relentless liar, a charmer, a schemer, a sexy manipulator.  She was the Brigid of the book in spades (pardon the pun).  All the while he sat in her living room drinking her tea she worked to seduce him, to overpower him with the charm that nearly doomed Sam Spade.  It was automatic with her.  She couldn’t help herself.  Wonderful!

But she hadn’t read the book.  Never heard of it.  Hadn’t seen the 1941 film with Humphrey Bogart as Spade and Mary Astor playing Brigid.  She wasn’t interested in those things.  She was only interested in enthralling and capturing Joe Gores.

There was a marveling wonder in his face as he told me he barely got out of that tea party with his skin.  Barely able to shake off her hypnotic charm.  Yes, there was a Brigid O’Shaughnessy and, yes, she was everything Sam Spade saw in her.

After Joe Gores left to go across the Bay Bridge to the city and home, I sat there in the shadows and thought about the real Brigid O’Shaughnessy and had to wonder, Would I have had Joe Gores’ strength – and Dashiell Hammett’s – to escape her?  Would I want to?