“Tenderloin” by Court Haslett— Skid Row, the 70’s

Haslett, Court. “Tenderloin”, Sleeper Hayes, 2017.

Skid Row, the ‘70s

Amos Lassen

It is the summer of 1978 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the place where the outcasts and the marginalized of the city live—

criminals, ex-cons, alcoholics, hookers, castoffs, the unlucky, and weirdoes. These are people who always seem to lose whatever battles they’re fighting. Yet the Tenderloin is the place where people go to have fun. There was a bar for every person regardless of class, income, sexual orientation, etc. In recent years, the Tenderloin had become a bit more violent than ever before and a sense of desperation began to exist among the regulars.

Sleeper Hayes is a man who lives and does well in the Tenderloin— he is a gambler who likes his drink a bit too much and has many friends there. However, for a reason unknown to us at the start, there is a policeman that wants to see him dead T.L., not as a criminal, but as a gambler, drunk, a caretaker, and a friend to many, well, except for maybe the cops considering one of them wants dead. When one of Hayes’ friends is murdered, Hayes begins looking into the death.

Nelson lives in Hayes’ apartment building. He Hayes’ is a best friend and a cripple who loves to smoke dope. While time and dope have caused his voice to slur, Nelson’s mind is sharp and he can talk about anything

Sleeper is thirty-five years and had dropped out of the hippie movement He is an apartment house manager with connections that allow him to call upon the right person at the right time to help during times of trouble. He helps his friends and has great compassion for them. On the other hand, he has nothing for those he does not like and they know how he feels about them. He is one of those mysterious characters and we are never sure if we like him or hate him.

.But negating his compassion is his downright rude treatment of those characters he does not care for. Sleeper’s attitude and his overindulgence combine to in just a way to make me hold back my opinion on whether or not I like the guy. Sleeper is still a little mysterious to me.

There are several story lines going on at the same time and many characters but the main plot has to do with the murder of Cindy Teague, a prostitute who had once been a member of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple. member. Writer Court Haslett brings 1978 in the Tenderloin to life and is a mystery that will keep you turning pages as quickly as possible. Haslett is obviously very familiar with the neighborhood and I understand that almost every place he mentions once actually existed. The events that we read about actually happened as well. The 70’s were quite a strange time in the history of this country and Haslett captures them wonderfully here and with excellent storytelling skills and fine prose. To say anymore about the plot could ruin an exciting read for others so I will not say anymore except that I urge you to spend a few hours with “Tenderloin”. You will not be disappointed.


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