Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Sex writer Peter Keyes's real name solved?

Collins in the cover of a pulp mag
I'm after a long, long hiatus getting back to my book on American sleaze paperbacks translated in Finnish (received a small grant for it).  It will be called "Pulpografia Erotica", and I believe it could be out sometime next year. Will probably self-publish it through Helmivyö, my own print-on-demand publishing house.

I have an entry for Peter Keyes, who wrote erotica mainly for Brandon House, titles like  The Love Odds (1967), Soft Savage Cat (1967), Love Formula (1967) ja Between Two Women (1968). He has three translations in Finnish, all from Brandon House.

I started digging out who he might have been. I had a note of him being really one A. V. Connors (don't know where this came from, possibly from Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalog), but then I noticed the Catalog of Copyright Entries listed one of the sleaze novels by Peter Keyes for one Andrew J. Collins. I decided to check further and opened up the  Fictionmags Index. And bingo, there he was, having written a dozen crime stories for some pulp and early digest magazines in 1949-1950 and then one in 1960 for the Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. No info on Collins, though. In WorldCat I noticed that a book (possibly a Western) called The Land Grabbers (Major 1975) was also released as by Peter Keyes. I couldn't find even a cover for the book, sadly. I googled once more with the book's and the writer's name, and came upon another copyright entry saying that the writer of The Land Grabbers was indeed Andrew J. Collins.

I should say it's safe to assume that sex writer Peter Keyes was pulp writer Andrew J. Collins. Any info on him would be of interest, alongside with the cover scan of The Land Grabbers.

I put a bibliographic entry for Collins up in my bibliography blog here.

PS. Here's an interesting article about Brandon House in New York Times in 1970.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Dorothy M. Johnson: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and A Man Called Horse

I've been going through some American Western classics that have never been translated in Finnish, for some reason or another (someone might remember I read Thomas Berger's Little Big Man over a year ago; this has to do with the same project). First I tackled Michael Ondaatje's pretty cryptic The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. I can't say I understood all of it, but nevertheless managed through (and even wrote an essay on it!).

Secondly, I read two short stories by Dorothy M. Johnson, in the collection called Indian Country. Now, she seems to be a bona fide American classic, but she's never been translated in Finnish, and I can't see why not. She's a very good writer, with a somewhat hardboiled and even modernist understated style to her writing ("less is more", one might say), and her stories are actually closer to the later cycle of revisionist Westerns than the classic Westerns.

"The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", possibly her best known short story, differs greatly from John Ford's film, and to its advantage, I might say. I for one am more interested in the seedy characters of Johnson than the pleasantries of James Stewart or the macho posturing of John Wayne. Johnson's Ranse Foster (Stoddard in the film) is an unpleasant and uppity young man who almost deserves to get whipped by Liberty Valance, and Bert Barricune - the film's Tom Doniphon (I don't know why they changed the names) - isn't the brave and courageous man of Ford's film. He even ends up in jail in Johnson's story. The ending is also different, and better than in the film, in my mind, but you'll have to read the story to find out.

John Ford's film is deservedly a classic, though it has its setbacks, but "A Man Called Horse" is definitely better than the sensational film. Here Johnson produces a dignified narrative of a man captured by the Crows (in the film they are Sioux). Johnson's story doesn't have the exploitative self-torture scenes of the film, and it's more mundane, which makes it seem more realistic. The ending is touching.

I didn't have the time to read more Johnson, though I definitely intend to. Her "The Hanging Tree" was also made into a film, and here's an interesting essay on the troubled history of the short story or novellette (or novella). The writer doesn't really seem to like Johnson's writing, and I think she's mistaken when she says Johnson relies on stereotypes, but the story behind "The Hanging Tree" is intriguing. Feels like Johnson stopped writing Westerns after the frustrating experience.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Dennis Hopper: Out of the Blue

Dennis Hopper made only a few films as a director. His third directorial effort was Out of the Blue (1980) that has largely almost duplicated his earlier film's, The Last Movie's fate: the film hasn't really been available to audiences for many years. I've heard there has been a dismal DVD release, but I hadn't seen the film myself before this week's Monday when I had a chance to see it on big screen, on 35 mm film. The film was made in Canada and shot in British Columbia and Vancouver. Hopper clearly couldn't have made this in Hollywood.

Out of the Blue is a restless film about a young girl called Cebe who lives in a dysfunctional family (well, he has Dennis Hopper as her father, right?) and is interested only in Elvis and punk rock. She keeps saying things like "subvert normality" and "disco sucks" and "kill all hippies!" Her father is released from jail, and the family pretends everything's normal. There's even some criminal stuff, but the story doesn't focus on it.

The film is very non-dramatic. Nothing much happens, and seems like Hopper has allowed his actors to improvise. This could be fatal, but it works here, since the acting reflects the free-flowing narration. The film has quite an experimental soundtrack, since there are scenes with two different pieces of music playing at the same time, and the actors also speak over each other almost all the time. This all makes the film a bit jarring, but it's also quite effective and even funny at times, with Hopper pouring liquor all over his face and shouting and stuff like that.  The shots are quite long and there are elaborate camera drives and pans, which makes clear the film wasn't made sloppily and on a whim.

Out of the Blue is a very depressing film and it ends with a very tragic climax. Hopper refuses to give an explanation to the tragedy, which makes it even more depressing. There are some scenes with punk bands of the era, mainly the Canadian Pointed Sticks playing two songs, and they are great, energetic powerpop anthems! Check them out!

Here's a pretty good essay on the film. There's a Kickstarter project to restore the film and release it in 4K Blu-ray.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog (later, it seems).

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood (spoilers!)

Lots has been said about Tarantino's newest film, and I don't pretend I have something entirely new to say about it. I enjoyed the film, but two weeks after seeing it I notice I don't really remember much about it. This is a totally different reaction from Reservoir Dogs (which, admittedly, I saw three times in a row) or Pulp Fiction or even Django, which I enjoyed a great deal, though I had given up on Tarantino after being bored watching Kill Bill (which I haven't rewatched).

But I keep thinking about the new film. There's something I can't quite put my finger on. The narrative is very loose, there really is no plot (I think this is something people who didn't like the film are complaining about) and there are scenes that don't usher the story on. The ending has also been criticized, a friend of mine said it was an adolescent fantasy. To me it was possibly the point of the whole film. As everyone probably knows already, the Sharon Tate murders don't take place in the world of Tarantino's film. This is because Brad Pitt kills Charles Manson's cronies in a frenzied battle after they've gone to a wrong house! Shortly before we've witnessed Sharon Tate watching her film (the Matt Helm vehicle The Wrecking Crew) in a state of happiness and joy. The magic of cinema is so strong that it can even give you the world where Sharon Tate was not killed! This is pure poetry to me, and a proof that Tarantino really loves cinema and is not simply a movie buff showing off.

Or then the ending scene could be fiction, imagination. Just before Manson's killers enter the house, Pitt drops some acid. I think it's entirely plausible to say that Pitt just imagined the whole thing. It might also explain the weird scene with Bruce Lee.

I was also thinking about the films that are being watched or are visible in other ways, i.e. as posters on the wall. Almost none of them seem to be very good  (for example, The Wrecking Crew), but it seems to me Tarantino has affinity towards all of them. See these links: Ten films you need to see to appreciate Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood and Tarantino's curated list of the films to go with OUATIH. This is a work of true love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tana French: The Witch Elm

As almost everyone who's ever read my blog (that sadly seems defunct most of the time nowadays) knows I love American crime fiction. But when I read this interview with Irish writer (okay, she was born in the US) Tana French, I knew immediately I'd have to read something by her. I settled on her newest novel and read it during the holidays.

The Witch Elm is a devilishly brilliant novel, with a unreliable narrator who has a reason for his unreliability: he has been knocked out and beaten by some burglars, and due to the concussion he can't remember everything he's said or done. He's not your everyday sociopath that now people almost every crime novel, and he's not a devious criminal. He's just a guy with bad luck - or is he..? 

The Witch Elm is pitch-perfect satire on art world, and furthermore it's full of true notions of the middle-aged lives and the interactions between brothers and sisters. Violence is very scarce, but this is no cozy.

It took me almost a week to read The Witch Elm, but it was very rewarding. It's not usual to read a crime novel that is so well executed, even though the book is quite long (over 600 pages). Yet there's nothing in it in vain. I wouldn't take anything out of the book. It hooks you almost like nothing else. There aren't any of your usual narrative tricks, but the book still grabs you and holds you down. It's truly a wonder Tana French hasn't been translated in Finnish, though seems like they are publishing only books that are sure to sell, namely Scandinavian serial killer thrillers. Blah, say I!

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Book: Donald E. Westlake: Brothers Keepers

I've always been more interested in Donald Westlake's darker and more hardboiled stories than his humorous crime fiction, but I was still delighted to read the rather recent reprint from Hard Case Crime, Brothers Keepers. There's originality to the plot and the characters (it's about monks trying to protect their obscure monastery from the developers), and the prose flows smoothly. Still I would've liked some more fist fights.

Hard Case Crime say on their website that the book has been out of print for 30 years. It was originally published by Lippincott in 1975, but there was a Mysterious Press reprint in 1993, so technically it hasn't been out of print for 30 years.

This was one of the few books I managed to read during my Summer holiday that wasn't work-related. I'll try to get something said about the other books as well. Sorry to keep this so short, but I think it might be fun to get back to blogging (once again!).
The first edition from 1975

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Ed Wood's sex stories coming your way!?

Ed Wood's erotic prose is getting a collection. Find out more about it here!

I never got around to reading Wood's earlier horror and crime collection Blood Spatters Quickly, though I was tempted, but this intrigues me even more.

EDIT: deleting spam comments I managed to delete also Todd Mason's comment which, for some reason or another, I hadn't noticed before.