Tuesday, September 23, 2014

King Vidor, the pulp writer?

Checking something else from the Fictionmags Index, I noticed this entry:

VIDOR, KING (chron.)
Southern Storm, (ss) Esquire May 1935
The Texas Rangers, (ms) Texas Rangers Dec 1936

Now, can this be the famous film director of Fountainhead, Ruby Gentry, War and Peace and other films?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Charles Beckman's short story "The Dancing Death"?

As many of you probably know, pulp writer Charles Beckman who specialized in hardboiled and noir crime stories and wrote also for the western market has been seeing a revival of his work getting into print. (Here and here Amazon links for the new collections of his old stories.) Beckman is still alive and I was able to ask him via James Reasoner if I could a small collection of his work that's been translated in Finnish.

The collection would be with two stories. There's an old story in an old Finnish pulp magazine called Seikkailujen Maailma (The World of Adventures), and then there's a called story "Class Reunion" that was translated by my friend, Tapani Bagge, that appeared in a late crime fiction magazine called RikosPalat (Crime Bits or some such in English). Beckman gave me his permission. (There are also some three or four stories in the old issues of the Finnish edition of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, but I don't have an easy access as to who translated them and where I could find them for a permission.)

After I'd typed "Class Reunion" I started typing the other story from the 1955 pulp mag. The Finnish title is "Tanssiva kuolema", which translates back as "The Dancing Death". The anti-hero of the story is one "Kippy Nikkeli" (I believe the name's been changed), who's on the run from some organized crime thugs, one of whom is called Pope (probably so, since his name is translated as "Paavi", which is the literal translation of "Pope"). In the beginning of the story Kippy finds himself in a junky joint trying to have a hamburger. It seems he hears voices in his head, and he also reminiscences another joint where he used to dance. He's also involving with Pope's mistress falling in love with another man. It's a moody noir-type piece where there no winners, only losers.

Now, there are several problems. Beckman himself didn't remember the story, nor did he find it in the pulp magazines he still has from his writing days. The story is not "Run, Cat, Run" that was reprinted in Beckman's Suspense, Suspicion & Shockers, nor is it "Should a Tear be Shed" in the same book, even though they share some similarities.

Googling the story's name with "Charles Beckman" doesn't give any clues. I don't have access to the crime fiction short story indices and I could check only the Fictionmags Index. There are some stories with the title "The Dancing Death", but none that match. Some of the stories listed therein did appear in a pulp magazine, but they seem to be a bit old or too long, i.e. serials. The story that I have at hand is more like a filler, even though it's a good story.

But there's a story called "Die Dancing, Kid" from Detective Tales, January 1947, and by Charles Beckman. Now, the publisher of Seikkailujen Maailma used lots of stories from the Popular Publications' magazines, such as Dime Detective and Detective Tales (and also Dime Mystery). I asked Beckman again if this could be our story. He said he doesn't remember writing that story and doesn't have a copy.

Now, does anyone have the issue of Detective Tales, January 1947, and can check the story out for me?

The photo accompanying this post is the illustration for the Finnish publication. For all I know, it could be the original illustration for Beckman's story.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Nic Pizzolatto: Galveston

This is a very good book: original, well-written and unpredictable, even though at times there are some elements that might be a bit too familiar.

That happens in almost any noir novel, though. I can't see how you could get away without adding any tough gangsters or any other clichéd material. At least Pizzolatto does a pretty good job with them.

The antihero of the book, Roy Cady is a man without a future. He's doubly that: he's got cancer in his lungs, and he works as a hired hand for a local crime boss who loves Cady's ladyfriend. Cady is a man without qualities, he's empty inside, were it not for the cancer.

Yet he speaks in a beautiful voice. Galveston is full of poetic touches, marvellous lines, quotable stuff on the seedy side of life. And still I don't feel Pizzolatto is over-doing this. Galveston remains believable and plausible almost throughout. (There's one thing plot-wise that didn't wholly convince me, but I won't go into that.)

By the way, I haven't seen any episode of True Detective. I'm pretty eager to see it, yet I'm too lazy to try look it up. (I know there's a chance of seeing it on HBO Nordic, but I'm still waiting for it come on proper TV channels.)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Quick update after the holidays

I've been trying get back to work on a regular basis after the long summer holiday. We did quite a bit of travelling, mainly in Finland, but we also paid a visit to Denmark (Copenhagen and Legoland), where we'd never been. We also bought a summer cottage, so we spent lots of time there. (It's not actually a cottage, but the long explanation might be too difficult.)

Even though July and August were supposed to be a vacation, I had to read work-related stuff: I've started doing a book on the history of Finnish western literature. I also reread lots of Tolkien, since I did a non-fiction book on Tolkien with a friend of mine. I finished it up late last week and sent it off. Now I'm finishing some other lesser books, such as a small anthology of western-themed horror stories by Finnish writers. Then I'm rushing off to finish a book on Finnish war-time photography. Then I'll be able to concentrate on my book on Finnish westerns.

Sounds like I'll be busy, eh? I'll try to get back to regular blogging, but don't expect much, since I'll be loaded with work. Our son went to a fourth grade and comes back home at two p.m., so the working hours are a bit short. Maybe some Overlooked Movies and Forgotten Books every now then.

Oh, I started Nic "True Detective" Pizzolatto's novel Galveston and it seems really, really good. I also read Gillian Flynn's Dark Places (came out in Finnish as Paha paikka) and I liked it a great deal. It's almost like a private eye novel in which the protagonist is herself in the middle of the mystery. Every move, every inquiry she makes affects her own life. Highly recommended, even more so than her celebrated Gone Girl.

Friday, August 15, 2014

James Reasoner's collection in Finnish

I just picked up my copies of a new book I was making. I compiled a small collection of James Reasoner's stories that had previously been published in my fiction magazines Isku and Seikkailukertomuksia and such, and a micropublisher a friend of mine runs published it. Here's more info on the book - it's in Finnish, but you can still read the original titles of the stories. "Red Reef" wasn't previously published in Finnish, it came out only in this book. It's a nice little book full of good old-fashioned pulp fun!

The striking cover is by Pertti Jarla, known for his humorous Fingergpori strip, but alas his name got dropped out at the last minute.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Charlie Huston: Already Dead

I'm still alive and kickin', though you wouldn't realize it by looking at this blog. I've been on holiday which has also meant not blogging. We've travelled quite a bit and been doing some renovations at our new summer cottage (I'll probably post about that something soon).

But here's something that's more in the vein of Pulpetti. Someone might remember I wasn't thrilled about Charlie Huston's vampire private eye novel Already Dead back in 2007, but I've now read the book in Finnish translation and I'm happy to say I liked it more this time. It's a fast-moving, cynical and very violent book about Joe Pitt, a guy who went vampire when being given a blow-job in a New York punk club in the late seventies and who now works as a private eye between the world of vampires and the real human beings. Highly recommended. And this also proves that translations are sometimes a good thing, even though books are usually best read in their original language. Not this time, for some reason or another.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Some e-books I read during the trip: Allan Guthrie, Peter Brandvold, Paul Levine, Gerard Brennan, J. David Osborne

That's a long subject line, isn't it?

We were on a smallish trip earlier this week: we went to Denmark, where we've never been. We visited Legoland, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (highly, highly recommendable) and the vintage Tivoli entertainment park in the centre of Copenhagen. It was a fun trip, for most part, but I'm not going to write about it. Instead, in the spirit of this blog, I'll say something about the books I read during the trip. I had nothing with me but my Kindle. I download only free e-books, since I don't have a credit card with which I could buy e-books, so I'm dependent on what comes free. Even with this approach, I've managed to accumulate a pretty good selection of new noir and hardboiled writing, with some westerns and horror thrown in. Mentioned should also be some classic noir stuff that's coming from publishers like Prologue Books.

Okay, to the books. Peter Brandvold's better known as a western writer, but I've never read any of his books in that genre, but they seem quite good. I read his short novel Paradox Falls that I think is mislabelled as horror. It's more like a suspense thriller, with a possible serial killer hunting some hikers in the Colorado mountains. The book reads pretty fast, but the ending is a bit abrupt. There was also some interesting stuff on being a writer that seemed a bit autobiographic, as the main character, a sympathetic young man yearning for his early love affair, makes his living writing sex westerns. Paradox Falls could've been published as a cheap paperback in the early eighties, and I mean this as a good thing.

Allan Guthrie's Kill Clock was even a shorter book, a novella-length tale of Guthrie's occurring character, Pearce. Guthrie tells his brutal tale with short sentences, but also manages to make Pearce a sympathetic character in all his bruteness and tendency to sudden bursts of violence. Kill Clock also has a good plot for a novella. Recommended quite highly.

Paul Levine's Last Chance Lassiter is the first Jake Lassiter story I've ever read, as I'm not very keen on courtroom thrillers. But this one was so funny and entertaining I'd be willing to try more of Levine's work. Very fluent writing, very smooth plotting, some quite funny wisecracking.

J. David Osborne runs Broken River Books that's a very interesting crime and horror fiction outfit specializing in edgy and bizarre neo-noir. Osborne's own short story collection Our Blood In Its Own Circuit is full with, well, edgy and bizarre stuff that's not easily labelled. I read the first three stories on our flight back, and two of them were very strong: the titular story is about Mexican cops who bathe in the blood of chickens, and the western story "Amends Due, West of Glorieta" is full of shocking violence and characters straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Check out this free Broken River Books sampler!

I also started Gerard Brennan's novella The Point, a brutally realistic story about two brothers whose life goes to hell when they move to a small town on the seaside and the other one starts dealing stolen cars. The plot could be more original, but Brennan's clipped style makes it interesting. I'm only halfway in the middle, so there might be some surprises coming.