by James R. Smith
Playland at the Beach was a magical place, revered in the hearts of San Franciscans and all who visited. Playland wasn’t just another amusement park: it had a special identity that encompassed socialization, dining, playing, strolling and sight-seeing that was purely San Francisco. From the 1920s to the 1970s, Playland enthralled generations. Everyone who visited it recognized its uniqueness, and its pioneering rides and attractions inspired the designers of the amusement parks that followed.
San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach is a comprehensive photographic record of Playland at the Beach from its construction in 1920 through its glorious heyday in the 1930s and 40s. The book presents over 350 rare photographs of Playland and the surrounding neighborhood, including 250 unique, never-before-seen photos drawn from the private archive of ride designer Laurence ?Laurie? Hollings.
San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach leads the reader through a chapter-by-chapter tour of the setting and evolution of Playland during its formative era. Photographs trace the development of the site from steam shovels carving the bare sand dunes of Ocean Beach and the construction of the main Playland buildings. Each of Playland?s famous rides receives its own chapter, with photographs showing both how the rides were built and how they looked in their prime. Other chapters cover Playland’s attractions, arcade amusements, restaurants, and nightclubs. Incidental photographs depict the clothes, cars, people, and customs of the time.
The book also covers some of the most notable events that happened at Playland in the 1930s, including the Century of Progress exhibit of 1934 and a labor strike that paralyzed the park in the mid-30s. The book includes a complete timeline and history of Playland from its beginning to its destruction in 1972.
San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach gives readers an enchanting vision of the fun, sights, sounds, and flavors of a glamorous and care-free time. Take a turn on the Big Dipper roller coaster, the Shoot the Chutes water ride, the DodgEm bumper cars, and the six-story giant slide at the Fun House. Taste a Pie Shop blackberry pie, Topsy’s chicken, and a Bull Pupp enchilada.
Listen to the staccato of the four shooting galleries, the rumble of the wooden roller coaster and the screams of its passengers, the orchestrion playing marching tunes, and the raucous laughter of Laffing Sal. Richly illustrated and painstakingly researched, San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach is a time machine fun ride through little-known history.
Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms
by David Kulczyk
Illustrations by Olaf Jens
According to all the sexist clichés, women are nurturers, not murderers. But women do kill … and when they do, the results are devastating.
A masterpiece of pure trashy tabloid fun, California’s Deadliest Women is the definitive guide to the murderesses of the Golden State, a horrifying compendium of women driven to kill by jealousy, greed, desperation, or their own inner demons.
California’s Deadliest Women presents 28 mini-tragedies — sardonic, tightly written profiles of some of the most ghastly crimes ever committed in California. Each lethal vignette presents a murderer’s early life, thecircumstances that drove her to murder, her detection, her punishment, and the aftermath of her terrible deeds, plus quirky, disturbing caricatures of the killers by artist Olaf Jens.
The murderers in California’s Deadliest Women aren’t passive instruments of male masterminds, like the women of the Manson Family. These are women who got their hands bloody, personally killing their victims, who often were their own husbands, lovers or children.
From Brynn Hartman, who killed her husband, comedian Phil Hartman, to chemist Larissa Shuster, who dissolved her husband in acid, to dominatirix Omaima Aree Nelson, who cooked and ate her husband, the killers profiled in California’s Deadliest Women show that the fairer sex can be as evil — and as deadly — as any man.
The stories in California’s Deadliest Women are shocking and lurid, but also filled with compassion for victim and murderer alike. There are no heroes in this book and no happy endings. The crimes are so bizarre, so puzzling, so corrupt, so disgusting, so gory, so inhumane and so despicable that they are unforgettable … and perversely fascinating and entertaining.
Audience: True crime readers, California history readers, and lovers of the bizarre.
About the Author: David Kulczyk (pronounced Coal-check) is a Sacramento-based crime historian. His
previous books include California Justice (2008), Death in California (2009) and California Fruits, Flakes and Nuts (2013), all available from Craven Street Books.
$14.95 ($18.95 Canada) • Trade Paperback •
6″ x 9″ • 140 pages
The Duel in California, 1847–1861
by Christopher Burchfield
In Gold Rush California, gunfighters weren’t outlaws or desperadoes — they were often prominent journalists, state legislators, governors, even the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. For the respectable gentlemen of the 1850s, honor or dishonor — and life or death — could be decided with a single shot.
Choose Your Weapon brings to life a now-forgotten time, when California was a raw new state with politics as violent as any banana republic. This was the Golden Age of dueling, when prominent citizens would settle their political and personal disputes with gunfire, according to the venerable law of the code duello.
In the heyday of dueling culture, men from all walks of life, from politicians to manual laborers, fought formal duels. Duels could be triggered by political battles to shape state government — or they could be fought over a woman or a personal slight. Braggarts often proved to be cowards on the field of honor, and many a quiet and peaceable man could shoot with deadly accuracy when reputation was at stake.
Choose Your Weapon documents every notable duel to have occurred in California, from the arrival of U.S. dueling culture with the first American settlers to the end of dueling’s popularity on the eve of the Civil War. Drawing from contemporary newspaper accounts, historian Christopher Burchfield ascertains all that can be known about California’s duels, and his evidence overturns many common beliefs about California’s dueling era.
Among Burchfield’s notable findings, he demonstrates that the most famous duel in California history, between Senator David C. Broderick and California Supreme Court Justice David Terry, was more about a personal slight than the future of slavery — and the duel was decided entirely by the deceptive hair trigger of a defective pistol.
An exemplary history of an exciting era, Choose Your Weapon is a must-read for fans of the Old West.
Audience: California and American history readers.
About the Author: Christopher Burchfield has been writing about Gold Rush history for more than 30 years for numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Californians, California Mining Journal, The California Territorial, California Highway Patrol, and Old West and True West magazines. Burchfield and his wife Genendal live in Chico, California.
$16.95 ($21.95 Canada) • Trade Paperback • 6″ x 9″ •
Explore the Famous Sites, Neighborhoods, and Vistas in 17 Enchanting Walks
by Kristine Poggioli and Carolyn Eidson
Every visitor to San Francisco has seen the classic roadside signs showing a seagull that beckons motorists to follow the famous 49 Mile Scenic Drive. Walking San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive shows how walking—rather than driving—San Francisco’s famous scenic route gives both tourists and natives an active, funway to enjoy and fall in love with the most beautiful city in the world.
Walking San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive invites readers to explore quirky locales face-to-face, so they can fully savor the City’s beauty and cultural riches — while also enjoying a healthy urban hike.
Written by two long-time San Franciscans who have explored every nook and cranny of the 49 Mile Drive, Walking San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive presents 17 bite-size walks, complete with turn-by-turn instructions, maps, and historical facts and information. Each chapter introduces the sights, landmarks and secret treasures of a specific San Francisco neighborhood, while leading the reader along a route that will pro vide healthy exercise for both brisk and sedate walkers.
Each chapter includes detailed maps, points of interest, info on bus routes and parking, recommendations for visiting hidden gems and must-see museums, plus plenty of tips and stats to help walkers, such as step counts and mile distances, hill steepness rating, weather tips and more.
The perfect guidebook for today’s urban enthusiast who values walkable neighborhoods, hyperlocal culture and the pleasure and health benefits of walking, Walking San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive is the most intimate way to explore one of America’s greatest cities.
Audience: San Francisco Bay Area residents, visitors to San Francisco, urban enthusiasts and hikers.
About the Authors: Kristine Poggioli is a native San Franciscan, copywriter and storyteller. Carolyn Eidson is an award-winning filmmaker and comedian. Together, they are the first people to have walked the entire length of San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive, resulting in a combined 75-pound weight loss.
$16.95 ($21.95 Canada) • Trade Paperback • 6″ x 9″ • 180 pages
Available for pre-order. Will ship upon publication.
The History of California’s Main Street
by Stephen H. Provost
Before it was a modern freeway, California’s State Highway 99 was the main street of California, a simple two-lane road that passed through the downtowns of every city between the Mexican border and the Oregon state line.
Highway 99: A History of California’s Main Street turns back the clock to those days when a narrow ribbon of asphalt tied the state’s communities together, with classic roadside attractions and plenty of fun along the way.
Illustrated throughout with historical photographs, Highway 99 documents the birth and development of the great highway, from its beginnings as a dream project by a handful of early motorcar enthusiasts to its 1920s incarnation as a narrow trail over the Grapevine to the modern superhighway of today.
Along the way, Highway 99 chronicles an amazing amount of history: the invention of basic highway equipment such as the center stripe and the road sign; the great Dust Bowl migrations of the Okies; the origins of California landmarks like Griffith Park and Magic Mountain; and the network of beacon towers for airplanes that briefly paralleled the highway in the 1920s; and numerous other stories.
Above all, the story of Highway 99 is the story of classic American roadside culture. Highway 99 witnessed the birth of the motor court motel, the drive-thru window, the theme park, and the truck stop, and Highway 99 unearths detailed histories of the innumerable gas stations, hotel, restaurants, amusements, and whole communities that developed to cater to the motorist.
From the foundations of America’s fast-food culture to the birth of the Bakersfield Sound, the history of California has happened around Highway 99, and Highway 99 brilliantly depicts that history.
About the Author: Stephen H. Provost is a journalist, author, and editor of The Cambrian newspaper. His previous books include Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age 1945—1985, a history of his hometown. Provost lives with his wife on California’s Central Coast, where he blogs at his website, stephenhprovost.com.
$20.95 US • Trade Paperback • 8.5″ x 10″ • 350 pages
HISTORY / California • BISAC HIS036140
Over 300 black and white plus 33 color photographs• Index
A Cultural Topography of a Land of Wonder and Weirdness
by Sam McManis
Sacramento Bee journalist Sam McManis spent five years on the road trying to find the real California. He discovered that there is more than one California, but every different California is equally weird and wonderful. Worlds collide and commingle: the neo-hippies with the rednecked farmers; the urban sophisticates with the quirky desert dwellers; the Hollywood power brokers with the Outsider Artists.
Brought together in a bouillabaisse of voices, Crossing California will make you see the state in an entirely new light.
From the briny scent of Fisherman’s Wharf to the fragrant sage scrub of Imperial County; from the otherworldly starkness of Death Valley to the crashing waves and flexing muscles at Venice Beach, Crossing California gives readers a first-hand experience.
McManis has stalked the tony aisles of the newly minted Broad Museum in gentrified downtown Los Angeles, and quick-footed it through the International Banana Museum along the desiccated shores of the moonscaped Salton Sea. He has inadvertently gotten his car stuck in a tree at a cheesy drive-thru giant Sequoia roadside attraction along the hemp highway between Mendocino and Humboldt, and witnessed, with both fascination and can’t-look-away horror, grown men and women, sans children and sans inhibitions, belt out full-throated versions of “Let It Go” at a Disneyland sing-along. All told, Crossing California is a trip.
Audience: Readers interested in California culture, history, oddities, and humor.
About the Author: Sam McManis is a former columnist and feature writer for the Sacramento Bee. He is a four-time winner of the Society of Features Journalism awards and three-time Best of the West honoree. He also has been a staff writer and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. His profiles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and elsewhere. He lives and writes in Washington state.
$14.95 US • Trade Paperback • 6″ x 9″ • 280 pages
A Pup’s True Adventure and Triumph
by Kim Steinhardt
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
$17.95 US • Hardback • 9″ x 9″ • 32 pages
JUVENILE NONFICTION / Animals / Mammals
40 full-color photographs
Young readers will thrill to the exciting true wildlife survival story of Sabby the Sea Otter.
This wildlife adventure, illustrated with full-color photographs of real sea otters, gives children a fun introduction to marine life and the importance of wildlife habitats.
Sabby the Sea Otter is just a young pup, but his mom is teaching him everything about how to be a sea otter — how to dive underwater, how to find food in the ocean, and how to stay safe in a world full of danger. Sabby is insatiably curious — he wants to know everything about the bay he and his mom live in.
But one day, despite all his mom’s warnings, Sabby’s curiosity gets him in trouble when a rushing tide traps him in a human-made hazard, a great big pipe filled with water.
Now Sabby needs to learn how to survive on his own, while his mom fights every obstacle to find him and make sure he’s safe.
Based on a true story of how a real-life sea otter pup and his mom were reunited, Sabby the Sea Otter is a heartwarming story of the love between a parent and child and a fun introduction for kids to the ocean and the animals who live there — plus an important lesson about how human activity affects wildlife.
Audience: Young readers, educators, and libraries.
About the Author: Kim Steinhardt is a writer and award-winning marine wildlife photographer whose stories and photos interpret the natural world for all ages and audiences. He has been an adviser and photo contributor to National Geographic Kids Explore My World series, and his work appears in other publications and on TV. In 2017, Steinhardt co-authored The Edge: The Pressured Past and Precarious Future of California’s Coast, and he frequently writes and presents regarding sea otters, coastal advocacy, and the often-troubled relationship between humans and nature. He also serves as president of the board of directors of the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
The History of El Camino Real
by Stephen H. Provost
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
A fun-filled look at the history and attractions of California’s legendary Highway 101.
Now the road has the utilitarian designation of U.S. Route 101, but originally it had a name of romance and mystery—El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway, built on the trail pioneered by the Spanish friars and marked by mission bells on the roadside. Illustrated throughout with historic photographs, Highway 101: The History of El Camino Real tells the picturesque story of this great highway and the restaurants, motels, gas stations, and roadside attractions that made it memorable to generations of travelers.
From Disneyland to the historic Madonna Inn to the Avenue of the Giants, Highway 101 catalogs the great landmarks along the road, plus the fascinating personalities, from Dorothea Lange to Jelly Roll Morton to Cecil B. DeMille, whose lives intersected with the history of the route.
A colorful history of Americana, commerce, travel, and fun, Highway 101 captures the magic of the open road.
About the Author: Stephen H. Provost is an author and journalist who has worked as an editor, columnist, and reporter at newspapers throughout California. His previous books include Highway 99: The History of California’s Main Street; Fresno Growing Up: A City Comes of Age 1945-1985; and the fantasy novels Memortality and Paralucidity.
$20.95 US • Trade Paperback • 8½” x 10″ • 270 pages
Item currently available for pre-order. Will ship on publication.
A Photographic Memoir of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906
by Douglas L. Gist
Early one spring morning, disaster struck San Francisco, and a young man grabbed his camera and started documenting the destruction and death surrounding him. Fearlessly going to the center of the devastation, the man captured scenes of fires, collapsing buildings, and people fleeing for their lives—scenes that no one else had a chance to record. His photographs were preserved in a family photo album, unseen by the public for over a hundred years.
When San Francisco Burned presents for the first time the photographs that young man, L ouis P. Selby, took of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. These amazingly detailed and dramatic photographs show the earthquake and its aftermath from a street-level perspective, giving readers an unprecedented look at what it was really like to be in San Francisco during those terrible days.
Selby’s photographs document the immediate damage of the earthquake; horrific action shots of fire consuming San Francisco; the heroic efforts of police, soldiers, and ordinary citizens to maintain order and protect the people; the somber ruins of San Francisco after the blaze; the misery and pluck of the refugee camps; and the city’s earliest days of rebirth and rebuilding.
These unique, never-before-published photographs show the horrors of the earthquake and fire—and the stubborn resistance of the people of San Francisco—like you’ve never seen them before.
An invaluable addition to the historical record, When San Francisco Burned is a must-have book for anyone who loves San Francisco and its history.
$21.95 ($23.95 Canada)
Trade Paperback • 11″ x 8½” • 140 pages
California History / Historical Photography
BISAC HIS036140 / PHO023100
140 Rare Historic Photographs
It was the greatest year in American movie history. In 1939, Hollywood produced the most brilliant, most loved, and most influential films of all time and marked the summit of the careers of such legendary stars as Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and John Wayne.
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of this amazing year in Hollywood history, 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year profiles six of the most significant films of the year: Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Wizard of Oz.
Each of these films was based on a great story, and 1939 reveals in detail how those stories came into being, how long they waited to find fame in film, and how the movies inspired by them eventually made motion picture history. 1939 also describes the behind-the-scenes story of how each film was made: how the story was adapted to a film script; the writers, producers, directors, actors, and technicians who made the film; ho w the film was received by critics and the public; and the later careers of the people who made the film. Authentic period photos of each production give amazing behind-the-scenes glimpses of old Hollywood at work.
1939 exposes the blunt social and business realities that built the Hollywood dream factory. Besides giving a full account of the artistic creation of each film, 1939 also describes the business deals that made each film possible and the Hays Office censorship that mandated careful handling of social and se xual themes — plus the colorful personalities in front and behind the camera and their sometimes disordered personal lives. Hollywood in the 1930s was crass, commercial, restrictive, low-brow, and frequently dysfunctional — but it produced immensely enjoyable films that are still watched with pleasure today.
The perfect combination of film history, artistic appreciation, historical insight, and gossip, 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year is a book that no movie fan should miss.
It’s perhaps the most famous highway in the world — California State Highway 1, a narrow strip of roadway between the cliffs and the ocean on the very edge of the continent. Blessed with spectacular natural landscapes, inspiring ocean views and the echoes of California history, Highway 1 is a scenic drive like no other.
The sequel to the authors’ acclaimed book An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 North, An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 Central takes the reader on a unique literary and artistic journey through the natural and man-made beauty of California’s central coast.
Lavishly illustrated with over 120 original full-color Pat Hunter watercolors depicting gorgeous landscapes and architectural treasures, An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 Central is a thinking person’s travel guide that reveals hidden treasures and unexpected delights.
Written as a memoir of the authors’ tour along the highway, the book takes an appealingly idiosyncratic perspective, as the authors record their explorations off the beaten path, their serendipitous discoveries, and their personal reactions to the places and people they encounter.
Going far beyond the usual travel guide, An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 Central is a literary and artistic collaboration that captures a very personal experience of a journey, illuminated by a deep historical awareness of the places, people and events of Highway 1 and the California coast.
Perfect for keeping in the car or planning ahead at home, An Artist and a Writer Travel Highway 1 Central directs the reader to points of interest, sights to see and places to stay and the best seafood restaurants on the coast, giving readers everything they need to organize their own personal Highway 1 journeys.
Hardcover • 11″ x 8½” • 130 pages
Art • BISAC ART016010
Over 120 Original Full Color Illustrations
They call California the Granola State — a place where everyone is a fruit, a flake or a nut. They don’t get any fruitier, flakier or nuttier than the deviants, crackpots and losers profiled in California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts. A freewheeling catalog of misfits, eccentrics, creeps, criminals and failed dreamers, California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts profiles 48 bizarre personalities who exemplify the Golden State’s well-deserved reputation for nonconformity.
Unlike the sanitized heroics taught in school, California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts tells history from the view-point of the losers: murderers, lunatics, eccentrics and disgraced, washed-up celebrities. Presenting a wealth of historical information that had long been swept away and forgotten, California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts is a uniquely entertaining look at the dark and disreputable corners of California history.
In these pages, Gold Rush pioneers are revealed as murderous madmen; Hollywood celebrities are shown to be drug-addled sex maniacs; early hippies are just 1950s weirdos; and even seemingly ordinary Californians have a talent for freakish, crazy and criminal behavior.
California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts profiles such stellar Californians as frontier lunatic Grizzly Adams (whose head was one massive wound after multiple bear attacks); I Love Lucy star William Frawley (a racist, misogynist, foul-mouthed drunk); skirt-wearing, skirt-chasing legendarily awful film director Ed Wood; proto-hippie and “Nature Boy” singer eden ahbez; rocket scientist, black magician and L. Ron Hubbard mentor Marvel Parsons; and many more nutjobs, oddballs and dangerously violent freaks.
The perfect book for anyone who likes feeling superior to losers, California Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts is a side-splitting, salacious and shocking salute to the people who made California the strangest place on earth.
The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men
By April Moore.
Ninety-three men were hanged at California’s Folsom State Prison from 1895 to 1937, when executions were transferred to the gas chamber at San Quentin. Folsom’s 93 is the first book to tell all of their stories, recounting long-forgotten tales of murder and swift justice, or, sometimes, swift injustice that hanged an innocent man.
Based on a treasury of historical information that has been hidden from the public for nearly 70 years, Folsom’s 93 presents the full stories of these 93 executed men — their origins, their crimes, the investigations that brought them to justice, their trials, and their deaths at the gallows. This wealth of previously unpublished historical detail gives a vivid view of the sociology of early 20th century crime and prison life.
A trip back in time to the hard-boiled early 20th-century California that inspired the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Folsom’s 93 gives a fascinating glimpse into the real-life world of yeggs, confidence swindlers, holdup men, quiet domestic tragedies, and senseless murder sprees that earned these men a date with the hangman. Illustrated throughout with authentic and haunting prison photographs of each of the 93 condemned men, Folsom’s 93 brings the crimes and punishments of a vanished era into sharp and realistic life.
Even hardened detectives were shaken by what they found at Fran’s Market in rural Fresno that night in 1980. Three young people lay in their own blood on the market’s concrete floor, executed by a merciless killer, while a fourth victim barely held on to life. Then a grim investigation became even grimmer when the evidence led to the man who ordered the killings — a convicted murderer already behind the walls of Folsom Prison.
Hands Through Stone reveals the true story behind the Fran’s Market murders and their psychopathic mastermind, Clarence Ray Allen, the last man executed in California. Written by James Ardaiz, one of the first investigators on the scene and the prosecutor who built the case against Allen, Hands Through Stone gives the reader an insider’s view of the tortuous, multi-year investigation that brought Allen to justice.
Long before Disneyland, there was San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach, a magical and glamorous amusement park that is still revered by San Franciscans more than 40 years after it closed. A beloved part of old San Francisco, Playland incorporated rides, dining, sightseeing, and socializing, and its pioneering rides and attractions inspired the designers of the amusement parks that followed.
San Francisco historian James R. Smith completes his magisterial history of Playland in San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years, the sequel to his stunning 2010 book San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Early Years.
While The Early Years told the story of the beginnings of Playland, The Golden Years covers the years 1940 to 1972, showcasing both the dazzling height of Playland’s postwar popularity and its decline, closure, and de struction during its final years. Together, the two volumes make a complete history of Playland and San Francisco recreation and leisure, as well as an amazing collection of beautiful and historic photographs — a wonderful companion set for any lover of old San Francisco.
San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years presents Playland as it is best remembered today — a playground where families experienced endless days of fun in San Francisco’s glorious postwar boom.
Illustrated by a huge collection of rare black-and-white and color photographs, San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years transports the reader back in time to experience the rides, attractions, restaurants, and behind-the-scenes operations of the great amusement park at the height of its glory.
Comprehensively documented and illustrated, San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years is the definitive and authoritative history of one of America’s landmark amusement parks.
A Colorful Portrait of Where the Funeral and Entertainment Industries Met in Hollywood
by Allan Abbott and Greg Abbott
Even celebrities die — and he was the man who picked up the bodies!
Allan Abbott ran the leading mortuary in Hollywood and got an unprecedented glimpse of how celebrities really live and die. The Forrest Gump of the funeral industry, Abbott was everywhere celebrities died, from helping to prepare Marilyn Monroe’s body to standing next to Christopher Walken at Natalie Wood’s funeral.
Now in his new memoir Pardon My Hearse, Abbott tells the rags-to-shroud story of how he went from a young man with a hearse to the funeral director to the stars — a rollicking, unexpectedly hilarious story of glamorous funerals, mishaps with corpses and true-life glimpses of celebrities at their most revealing moments.
When he wasn’t transporting celebrity corpses, Abbott used his funeral limos to transport living celebrities to Hollywood parties and rented his vast collection of cars and funeral props to movie and TV productions. Pardon My Hearse presents a dazzling A-List of celebrities, living and dead, whom Abbott encountered during his career, including Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Joe DiMaggio, Robert Redford, Frank Sinatra and others.
Pardon My Hearse takes readers behind the scenes to tell the secrets of Marilyn Monroe’s funeral (where Abbott acquired the most unlikely souvenir of Monroe’s falsies) and dishes the inside story of disgraced crematorium operator David Sconce, who ordered an attack on Abbott’s business partner Ron Hast to cover up Sconce’s criminal mishandling of bodies and remains. Abbott also shares gruesome details of removing corpses from the devastation of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, reburying corpses dislodged from the 1978 mudslide that swept through the Verdugo Hills Cemetery and more.
A treasure trove of insight and gossip you can’t get anywhere else, Pardon My Hearse is an eye-opening look at secret Hollywood from the man who literally knows where the bodies are buried.
$16.95 ($17.95 Canada) • Trade Paperback • 6″ x 9″ • 270 pages
The Bizarre, Freakish, and Just Curious Ways People Die in the Golden State.
By David Kulczyk.
This book’s aim is to encompass shocking murders and accidents that at the time shook the very soul of Californians, but eventually and gratefully faded from memory. California has always been a destination for people with dreams of fame and fortune. Anything is possible in California, and when anything is possible, death always lurks nearby. “Death in California” is an historic manuscript detailing the more arcane ways people have died in the Golden State.
The thirty-one vignettes in “Death in California” range from a description of being one of the fourteen different tourists to be swept to their deaths over Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park, to singer Bob “Bear” Hite of the blues/boogie band Canned Heat overdosing on heroin in a seedy Hollywood nightclub. The book’s diverse set of deaths include a tale of torture and murder by a chicken farmer in the desert in 1926, as well as the tragedy of a 10- ton jet airplane crashing into a Bay Area apartment kitchen in 1973. The litany of freakish and bizarre deaths in California also include hangings, gun accidents, crashes and suicide. Social status is no barrier: both the famous and obscure are profiled.
by David Kulczyk.
Introducing the victims and perpetrators responsible for California’s most notorious shootouts, lynchings, and assassinations, this account shows how homemade justice is never black-and-white. In relating these histories, this discussion also analyzes how and why Hollywood storylines almost always follow the same skewed and unrealistic arc in which the bad guys abuse the good guys, the good guy take the high road until the bad guy has gone too far, and the good guy picks off the bad guys, one by one, in an increasingly dramatic fashion.
Behind San Quentin’s Walls: The History of California’s Legendary Prison and Its Inmates, 1851–1900
by William B. Secrest
It’s one of the most famous prisons in American history, featured in count-less movies and novels. Its inmates have included such diverse characters as Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Eldridge Cleaver, Merle Haggard, and Neal Cassidy. San Quentin State Prison is an iconic symbol of California, yet few people today know the prison’s origins or colorful early history.
Noted Old West historian William B. Secrest uncovers the forgotten beginnings of San Quentin in Behind San Quentin’s Walls: The History of the Legendary Prison and Its Inmates, 1851-1900. Going back to original source material of public records and contemporary newspaper accounts, Secrest tells of San Quentin’s unlikely beginnings as a real estate scheme and its essential role in taming the lawless California of Gold Rush days.
Behind San Quentin’s Walls presents the history of San Quentin as a microcosm of the settlement of California. Planned during the wildest days of Barbary Coast anarchy and Vigilante Committee lynch law, the state prison at San Quentin was the new state’s first attempt to impose the rule of law on a violent frontier society. Featuring numerous citations from contemporary accounts, plus period photos, illustrations, newspaper clippings, and maps, Secrest chronicles the political calculations that created San Quentin; the outsize egos of the men who built it; the mismanagement and frequent escapes that marred San Quentin’s early years; and the notorious ruffians and cutthroats who were housed there.
Filled with exciting true stories of gunfights, brawls, prison riots, daring escapes, and intrepid manhunts, Behind San Quentin’s Walls is also a rip-roaring Wild West tale of how men and women with immense talent for both good and evil tamed a new state and each other. Behind San Quentin’s Walls is a bold mix of serious history and lively writing that no fan of Western history should miss.
True Crime / California History • BISAC TRU000000 / HIS036140
Over 200 Historic Photographs and Illustrations • Bibliography • Index
The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions
A Cross of Thorns reexamines a chapter of California history that has been largely forgotten—the enslavement of California’s Indian population by Spanish missionaries from 1769 to 1821. California’s Spanish missions are one of the state’s major tourist attractions, where visitors are told that peaceful cultural exchange occurred between Franciscan friars and California Indians.
In schools across the state, as required by the California State Board of Education, fourth graders are taught that life between the friars and the Indians was based on peace and mutual respect. Both tourists and schoolchildren are being deliberately misled—in truth, the missions were places of enslavement and deliberate cruelty.
A Cross of Thorns challenges this mythologized history and presents the facts of the Spanish occupation of California, describing the dark and cruel reality of Mission life. Beginning in 1769, California Indians were enticed into the missions, where they and their descendents were imprisoned for 60 years of forced labor and daily beatings.
The chilling depictions of colonial cruelty in A Cross of Thorns are based on little known church and Spanish government archives and letters written by the founder of California’s mission, Friar Junipero Serra (who advocated the whipping of Mission Indians as a standard policy), and published first-hand accounts of 18th and 19th century travelers.
Tracing the history of Spanish colonization in California from its origins in Spain’s 18th century economic crisis to the legacy of racism and brutality that continues today, A Cross of Thorns is one of the most thought-provoking books ever written on California history.