Taste of Tenderloin - Gene O’Neill Back in the mid 70s, I went to San Francisco for a week and stayed at a hotel in the Union Square area. I did a lot of walking and wandered into a nearby seedy area while I was trying to find The Great American Music Hall where I planned to see McCoy Tyner in concert later that night. I was fascinated by the worn-down vibes of the area. Even the bums were interesting. I also managed to find a dynamite German restaurant that knew how to make a mean schnitzel. I told a friend I spent most of the day wandering in what I was told was the Tenderloin District, she screamed, "YOU WHAT!?" According to her, I was lucky to still be alive.

I've gone back there during my occasional trips to San Francisco and, while I'm a lot more cautious, I still think it is one of more interesting areas of the city. The Tenderloin has bravely resisted urban gentrification and still has incredible eating places, now mostly Vietnamese since part of the Tenderloin is now called Little Saigon. There are some good places to hear music and, for you seedy people, the notorious Mitchell Brothers strip joint is still going strong. I've never set foot in the place myself. Honestly! But the real attraction of the Tenderloin is that its dirty streets still evoke the sleazy charm of Dashiell Hammett's gritty detective stories.

Gene O'Neill seems to like the Tenderloin as much as I do. He wrote a collection of eight loosely connected short stories about the area and its residents. All fall into the supernatural/horror genre yet it is the author's detail to characterization that set the tales apart. Each story is a character study of the unfortunate personalities that make the Tenderloin their home. Hookers, Drug Addicts, small-time cons. All are given a sensitive but honest appraisal by the author. This is a very downbeat book, grim and realistic despite its supernatural plots. Gene O'Neill has written a very different set of horror tales but he is also deserving of recognition as a notable regional writer of the Bay Area. I understand he has some novels that take place in the same area. I will be checking them out.