Am I the only one tired of reading "San Francisco" mystery novels in which our beloved hometown barely appears? The majority of writers who claim to use the city as their setting seem drawn to it more as a gimmick; they may mention a character's peregrination down the waterfront, conjure up some pea-soup fog, or throw in a couple of street names, but the florid, witty, oddball personality of our little burg just doesn't seep through. Even Dashiell Hammett, whom local literary lovers claim as their own, placed his Thin Man series squarely in New York. Only the practically unknown Fritz Leiber (of the unjustly underrated '70s novel Our Lady of Darkness) wrote fiction in which this town is a living, breathing backdrop, creating a setting that's just as important to the action as L.A. is to Raymond Chandler.
That is, until Peter Plate came along. Plate, a longtime San Franciscan, gets it right in his Mission District crime novels: the heat rising from the gum-speckled pavement, the sketchy Victorians whose gingerbread fronts hide bordellos and crack dens, the Latino gangs that use a doughnut shop as their local HQ while tweakers, drag queens, and $20 hookers stream by on the streets outside. Plate's "Mission Quartet" series presents the reader with a clear-eyed view of the subterranean society that lurks beneath the neighborhood's trendy restaurants and hipster bars, providing a window into a part of the city that'll never be pictured on tourist postcards. Books Inc. salutes the author, who reads from the "Quartet" series beginning at 7:30 p.m. at 2275 Market (at 16th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-6777.
-- Joyce Slaton
Rock Down There
The word "garage" used to describe a place where small bands played, not a type of huge band that plays in giant concert halls. "Basement," however, still refers to a low-rent spot in which to make noise. Maybe it's time to coin a new term -- "basement rock"? How do you describe the music of a kid with the anger of a revolutionary, the salary of a fishmonger, and the chops to make it all work -- aka Battleship's frontman, Aleksander Prechtl? His bandmates are unwashed, wear pleather pants, and ain't afraid of you. (See? Basement rockers.) Locals Gris Gris and Texas' Gina & the Twins open at 9 p.m. at the Li Po Lounge, 916 Grant (at Washington), S.F. Admission is $4; call 658-7841.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Hot wax in S.F.
When the majority of DJs first began to mix, match, and scratch in the early '80s, DJ Zeph was just a punk Santa Cruz kid. Since then, the break-dancing tyke has evolved into a premier turntable alchemist, laying down fine grooves with samples culled from vinyl sources as disparate as traditional hip hop and classic rock -- yeah, Sabbath's in the mix! Zeph's brand-new 12-inch, Floorwax, is known to kick serious ass, a claim beat-buffs can evaluate when he appears tonight. With additional sets from the Breakestra, which goes DJs one better by mixing live soul and funk grooves with hip hop breakbeats, and wunderkind producer/mixmaster This Kid Called Miles (aka Breakestra leader Miles Tackett), the crowd'll be banging long past last call.
The discs spin at 9 p.m. at Studio Z, 314 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $12-14; call 252-7666 or visit www.studioz.tv.
-- Joyce Slaton
She left her brain in San Francisco
In a world of entertainment icons reduced to the categories of Total Babe, Hot Hunk, and Everybody Else, it's easy to see how a lowly character actor can get that "swept aside" feeling.
Growing up in search of a female role model, Alex Borstein looked to tube and screen, only to find the same types of unrealistic June Cleavers and Daisy Dukes who flood the airwaves today. So she sharpened her skills in sketch comedy and improvisation and landed roles on Mad TV and Family Guy. Borstein returns to the city of her collegiate years with Drop Dead Gorgeous in a Down-to-Earth Bombshell Sort of Way, a one-woman performance involving music, stand-up, and insights derived from her circuitous route to stardom. Ted Hardwick opens at 8 p.m. both nights at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $25; call 863-7576 or visit www.victoriatheatre.org.
-- Kevin Chanel
Kicking and Singing
Um, um, it's hard to describe ... Hedwig and the Angry Inch meets Depeche Mode while Mr. Bungle crouches in the corner? The perpetrators themselves call it an "industrial shock-rock opera," and it's too scary to think of arguing with singer-lady Lucy Fur, spiky MC Mr. Ection, or even the chorus girl TV-head things, so let's go with that. As for Mr. Whitefolks, well, he wears his underwear outside his pants. Taking aim at the American family and using Archie and Edith Bunker as weapons, Scabaret! "entertains" with live music, drama, and dancing at 9 p.m. (and continues through Sept. 30) at Xenodrome, 1320 Potrero (at 25th Street), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 285-9366 or visit www.scabaret.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser