Grifters, Pioneers, and Rowers

Grifters, Pioneers, and Rowers

A little noir in Berkeley, tunes from Oakland, and mostly water sports in SF.

Berkeley Noir edited by Jerry Thompson & Owen Hill (Akashic Books, May 5, 2020, $15.95, 249 pp.)

Another noir anthology, this one starring Berkeley in 16 short stories from Lexi Pandell, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Mara Faye Lethem, Thomas Burchfield, Barry Gifford, Shanthai Sekaran, Nick Mamatas, Kimn Nielson, Jason S. Ridler, Jim Nisbet, Susan Dunlap, J.M. Curet, Summer Brenner, Michael David Lukas, Aya De León, and Owen Hill. Titillating titles like “Barroom Butterfly,” “Boy Toy,” and “Wifebeater Tank Top” make skipping around more fun than a straight-through read. The collection is divided into three parts, From the People’s Republic, Directly Across from the Golden Gate, and Company Town. Release date isn’t until spring, so whether Gourmet Ghetto remains is a mystery. Thompson is a bookseller, poet, playwright and musician. Hill has written two crime novels.—Judith M. Gallman

Pioneer by My Little Hum. (Mystery Lawn Music,

Two years after releasing Remembering Houses, their debut album as My Little Hum, Yuri Jewett and Dan Jewett have parlayed temporary geographical separation (while Yuri pursued a master’s in urban design in New York City) into 27 1/2 minutes of rhythmically churning, jangly, now atmospheric, now punchy power pop. As Yuri wrote lyrics 3,000 miles away, Dan built the tracks in the married couple’s Oakland home studio. His electric guitar chords, arpeggios, and pithy leads, and his bouncy, melodic bass lines fuse with Bob Vickers’ assuredly tight drumming, Yuri’s keyboards (and, on one song, Jonathan Segal’s violins) to support Yuri’s vocals. The songs address Manhattan life, urban beekeeping, and pioneers of all sorts. For fans of the Byrds, the Bangles, and Matthew Sweet, this compact collection of eight buoyant tunes is mandatory listening.—Derk Richardson

South End: Sport and Community at the Dock of the Bay by Bob Barde with Pat Cunneen (Gibbons Press, 2019, $60, 574 pp.)

Looking for a be-all, end-all history of San Francisco’s famed South End Rowing Club, only the oldest rowing club west of the Mississippi? This is it, in textbook-size format, tracing the elite club’s origins from 1873 to the present with special attention on the club as a local sporting and social institution and hub. It’s eye-opening to see how the humble rowing club evolved to become a competitive powerhouse and had to learn along the way to embrace swimming, handball, women, and running to evolve. The authors are club members. Barde, now an Alamedan, is a historian who worked at UC Berkeley, and Cunneen, who lives in Santa Rosa, has been the club’s historian “since the invention of movable type.” They definitely have fun sharing the inner workings and ways of the club they so love.—JMG