Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The French Connection (1971)

I don't think anyone with sane mind would be able to say that William Friedkin's The French Connection is an overlooked movie. It's a classic crime film, and it's a classic in its own right. Everyone knows the hectic chase scenes, everyone knows Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle, the narc cop prone to violence.

But you should see the film on big screen. I'd seen the film I think twice before yesterday, but now I had the chance to see it projected on silver screen from 35 mm print. The print was faded and scratchy, but boy, did the movie deliver! All the cinematic stuff in The French Connection was designed to work on the big screen, not on television. I remember that I had really not liked the film when I saw it earlier, but now I realized it was because of the wrong media. Friedkin uses lots of pans and zooms that don't work well in television. There are few close-ups, so we don't really get inside the characters. It's more like a documentary we are watching, even though it's a very entertaining and exciting documentary.

The soundtrack by jazz trumpetist Don Ellis is also great. I like the way Friedkin uses music and other sounds in the film, mixing them rather freely with each other.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Andy Straka: A Witness Above

I'd never heard about Andy Straka before, but I snatched his PI novel A Witness Above from the Brash Books newsletter, when it was free for a limited time. I read the book on my cell phone, which worked just fine.

A Witness Above stars Straka's private eye protagonist Frank Pavlicek, who's a former cop, fired from duty after shooting down a black kid, thinking the kid was armed. Pavlicek has retired from New York to his old haunts in Virginia. As he's training his hawk (something Straka seems himself to do), he stumbles upon a dead man, who seems to have a connection with Pavlicek's daughter. Soon Pavlicek gets a call of help from his daughter.

A Witness Above is a fluent, if not spectacularly original read. If you like hardboiled private eye novels, this should work for you. Straka's style is straight-forward and not overtly wordy, which at times suits me just fine. A Witness Above worked very well on the small screen of my phone. This is something one could read on a plane or in a train.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New collection of one-word poems out

As some of may remember, I have some interest in experimental poetry. I've done a collection of e-mail spam poetry that is still available (check it out here), and I've also done some very small booklets of other spam-related or found stuff.

Now there's a new book of experimental poetry out. It's called velernic syoke mulnec, and it's a collection of word verification words that were once used in blogs and other sites that required some sort of notification you're not a bot. So, a machine wanted to know whether we are humans. There's irony in that, to be sure.

velernic syoke mulnec is a part of the "pwoermd" movement (if there indeed is a movement), poems that include only one word. The words in velernic syoke mulnec are fictitious (unless by accident there are some bona fide words included), which also is ironic in itself. There's also a preface (two, actually), and it's in English.

These word verification words seem no longer to be in use, so the collection has already become a historical text, an archive, one might say. The bulk of it was collected by me and some other folks in the end of the first decade of the 2000's, and there was also a publisher, but for some reason or another it never came out. Now I decided to put it out as an e-book, and it will be free for some time now. So go grab it, if you're interested in this type of thing. The book is available also through Kobo. Amazon's preview option might also satisfy your interest.

The book looks like this:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teuvo Tulio, Finland's mad genius

Here's a new article on Finnish film-maker Teuvo Tulio on the AV Club's site. Short quote: "In the pantheon of unclassifiable filmmakers, there is a special place for Teuvo Tulio, Finland’s king of shameless melodrama. A fetishist, an outsider artist of 1940s and ’50s film, he was outrageous, incapable of subtlety, rising to a higher plane of camp—beyond Ken Russell, beyond Nicolas Cage doing an accent, beyond Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls."

I've mentioned Tulio at least twice on this blog, here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dan Simmons: Summer of Night

I was going to do this as a part of the Friday's Forgotten Book series, but then I realized it's not Friday, it's Tuesday, and I should be writing about an Overlooked Film! Well, here goes nevertheless.

I had bad luck selecting my readings for this past holiday season. I read three books that had nothing to do with my other work, but the first two proved to be pretty bland (won't name any names, though). Luckily the third one I picked to read proved to entertaining and exciting. I'd never read Dan Simmons earlier, but I might try another one by him, as Summer of Night was quite good.

Summer of Night is at times a nostalgic look at the small town life in Illinois in the early 1960's. The evil in the book is an old, empty school that seems to nourish a secret or a bunch of them. In the beginning we see a nosy kid getting sucked up in a tunnel in the boys' room, and everything starts to unravel as the main characters, a bunch of kids, start to search for the explanation. There are references to Aleister Crowley and other esoteric stuff, but Simmons has enough style to keep the lecturing away. The book is quite long, which I usually don't like, but this kept me turning pages.

Simmons also clearly has sympathy for the underdog: his heroes are a dyslexic boy who proves to be the cleverest of them all, a dreamy boy who fantasizes about being a writer, a misanthropic kid who hates his out-going mother (I thought the description of the mother was a bit unfair, but it remained believable throughout), and an ugly and ill-kept girl who likes to carry a shotgun around. There's warmth also in the depiction of the somewhat loserish parents. There are lots of exciting scenes, but the long climax was also very good.

Summer of Night came out in 1992 and was nominated for a British Fantasy Award the same year. There have been sequels, but I haven't read any of them. When I was still picking up books for the Arktinen Banaani's paperback line some years ago, I considered Simmons's hardboiled crime novels, Hardcase, Hard Freeze, and Hard as Nails, but I never got around to reading them. His science fiction novels have been popular in Finland, so it might've been worth the effort.

The Finnish cover depicted above is ugly as all hell, it's no wonder this didn't make much impact here. The Finnish title translates back as "The Horror of the Summer Night". I notice now that one of the sequels, namely Children of the Night, has also been translated in Finnish as well - will have to look for it.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Book: John Dinan: Sports in the Pulp Magazines

As I wrote in my earlier post, I have a new book out. It's a collection of articles and essays on different kinds of genre and pulp fiction, and there's also one on sports fiction. This essay I wrote specifically for the book, since I ordered John Dinan's book on the subject years ago, called Sports in the Pulp Magazines, thinking I could compile a small fictionmag around some pulp short stories, but to this day I haven't been able to come up with anything. I read the book and wrote the article, and now it's in the book. Since the book is in Finnish, here are some words on it in English. I'll try to keep this short, but we'll see how that comes about.

The first pulp magazines were of the general variety, but in the 1920's they started to specialize in certain genres. Sports were also beginning to get more professional at the same time, and the first sports celebrities, such as Jack Johnson, emerged. So some pulp magazine publishers started to publish magazines publishing only sports material, not only fiction, but also columns, interviews, biographies, stuff that resembles more sports journalism than what we usually associate with pulp magazines. The first sports pulp magazine was Sport Story Magazine, published by Street & Smith, one of the biggest pulp publishers. The first issue came out in 1923. The second sports pulp was Fight Stories, that started appearing in 1928. It specialized in boxing stories.

In the 1930's and especially after the Berlin Olympics there started to be more sports pulps, as the American readers were enthusiastic about the American athletes winning the games. In 1936 three more magazines were born: Ace Sports, Thrilling Sports, and Star Sports Magazine, and the next year saw eleven more. Some more came later in 1938 and 1939. The Second World War caused difficulties for the pulp mags and their publishers, but after the war there were more new magazines, but not so many as before the war. John Dinan points out interestingly that some of the pulp publishers also had a hand in organizing the sports leagues, such as Gerald Smith of Street & Smith. He was one of the founders of the All-American Football Conference that was supposed to compete with NFL.

Some of the sports pulps survived till the fifties, and the last ones were published as late as 1957. Some of the later mags include Ten Story Sports and Super Sports.

John Dinan has counted the number of different sports in Street & Smith's Sport Story Magazine. The results are not very surprising: the most popular sports were football, fighting and baseball, with basketball probably the fourth. Tennis, golf, track & field and ice hockey were also popular, but none of them had their own titles like the more popular disciplines, though the basketball titles weren't successful.

Dinan lists some of the better known sports authors, such as Robert Sidney Bowen and William Campbell Gault.  He lists also some authors known for their work in other genres who also dabbled in sports fiction, such as Max Brand, Johnston McCulley and Stephen Marlowe. He also writes quite widely about Robert E. Howard's Dennis Dorgan stories. There were also sports writers who wrote non-fiction for the pulps, such as Jack Kofoed. Dinan seems to have read some of the stories of these writers, but on some others he relies on other sources.

Dinan's book on the subject has lots of fascinating information, but it's not organized very well. I don't know why Dinan has decided to list some of the best known sports novels that have nothing to do with the pulp magazines, and he also claims Paul Gallico was a pulp writer, though most of his stuff came out in the slicks, such as Saturday Evening Post. Dinan's earlier work on the history of the pulp magazines, The Pulp Western, was riddled with errors and an assumption that the pulp mags were aimed for young readers, but Sports in the Pulp Magazines seems more solid in that regard. I didn't check all the details, but you can check some of the facts yourself here at the sports pulp magazine section of the Galactic Central/Fictionmags Index site.

I said at the beginning of this post that I've been thinking about compiling and publishing a sports fiction mag myself. I once had a permission to use one of Stephen Marlowe's sports stories (there weren't many to begin with), but I couldn't get my hand on them. (And then Marlowe died.) Now I have a permission to use a Robert Silverberg story (he wrote a handful in the late fifties, mainly on baseball), but I don't have any! If someone sees this and can send me a xerox or a scan or even a digital photo of a Silverbob sport story, I'd be a happy man! Interim, I've decided to compile an anthology of old Finnish sports stories, as I've come across quite a many while doing some other research on Finnish fictionmags.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here. Happy Holidays to each and everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2016

New books from my publishing house

As you may well remember, I founded a publishing house a couple months ago. A new batch of books just arrived, alas
somewhat too late for the Yuletide.

The three books are a mixed bunch, as befits me and my eclectic tastes. The first one was a reprint of the first tragedy ever wrote in Finnish language, namely Ruunulinna by J. F. Lagervall (1834). It's a free translation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, situated in Karelia (a region in Eastern Finland) and told in trochaic tetrameter, the same meter as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. It really doesn't work as literature and it's a curio at best, but I noticed it's never been reprinted as a book, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The play is accompanied by a 100-year old treatise on Lagervall, the author.

I also published a vintage Christmas book my wife Elina Teerijoki wrote - she couldn't find a publisher for the book, which baffled the both of us, and I said "okay, I'll publish it". It's been a small hit and could've been bigger if it had been published by a bigger publisher. The book is filled with beautiful photos our mutual friend took, and there are also lots of old ads and other vintage stuff. Elina maintains her vintage blog here.

My own book is called Kovaa kyytiä ja kaunokaisia ("Rough Ride and Beauties"), which is the original Finnish title of the Buster Keaton film, Sherlock Jr. It's a collection of my writings on pulp and other genre literature, compiled from prefaces, essays and articles on crime, western, horror, fantasy and erotic writing, with some stuff on science fiction (a genre I've never written much about), sports fiction, aviation pulps, and movie and comic/graphic novel novelizations. There's also a section on Edgar Rice Burroughs, and also some profiles of authors, i.e. Harry Whittington, Carroll John Daly and others.

I'm sure my book would be of interest to many Pulpetti followers, but it's only in Finnish. I'm open to negotiations, though...

Huge thanks to J.T. Lindroos who did the covers for my book and Ruunulinna! He also helped me out with other technical problems.

Helmivyö's books are solely print-on-demand (though we took a small print run of my wife's Christmas book to sell from hand to hand), and it seems the cheapest place to get them is via the Booky.fi bookstore.