Friday, December 21, 2007
Brad Curtis: Too Young, Too Wild, Midwood 1966: Brad Curtis was Giles A.
Lutz, a pretty prolific Western writer who penned some dozen sleaze novels on the side. Too Young, Too Wild is a soap opera gone bad: a young girl likes men, but his father, a powerful financial and political figure, destroys all the men the girl has sex with.
Paul Daniels: The Cover Girls, Monarch 1962: Paul Daniels was Paul Fairman,
a prolific hack of science fiction and sleaze, sometimes mixing the two; The Cover Girls is a pretty well-written drama of modelling girls, with some flashbacks and homosexuality thrown in.
Ben Doughty: Sex Slave, Playtime 1965: I haven't been able to find any info on Doughty, except that he wrote some other sleaze novels, beside this one which is a picaresque story about a young woman who gets trapped inside prostitution and sex industry, some interesting points: bad cops work as pimps. How hardboiled can you get?
Arnold English: School for Sex, Midwood 1961: English was really Morris
Hershman (who's probably still alive, in his late eighties), a prolific writer of short stories, crime novels for low-end paperback houses and some science fiction. He was interviewed in Paperback Parade some years back, he said he hated writing sleaze. No one in the business looked him in the eye (except Mike Avallone, he said). School for Sex, Hershman said, was the first bestseller Midwood, one of the biggest sleaze publishers in the sixties, ever had - and he got 600$ for it! The book is a P.I. mystery, about Roy Knox who gets hired by the principal to find out just what the teenagers in the school do after the school closes. Sadly, the book is not as interesting it could be and there's moralism that doesn't seem to be in the right place in the book. ("Arnold English" - compare with "William Irish". It's a homage, Hershman said.)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In the meantime, I finished Sean Chercover's debut P.I. novel Big City, Bad Blood. It's pretty classic stuff, with a loner hero, but Chercover adds some twists I didn't see coming.
Mike Ward posted this review of pulp writer Paul S. Powers's hardback Western novel on the Fictionmags e-mail list and I asked for his permission to reprint it (it's not actually a reprint, since this is not a print media...). He said "yes", so here it is. It's pretty long. Here's a site dedicated to Paul S. Powers, who hasn't been very known even in the pulp fandom. Thanks to his daughter, his biography is easily available. Some of his old Westerns seem to be in print, though.
Review of "Doc Dillahay" by Paul S. Powers
Original hardcover publication: MacMillan, 1949
John Dillahay, Arizona rancher's son, teaches school, becomes a doctor, and marries the love of his life. Along the way we find he's a crack shot, a tough brawler when he needs to be, a smart medical man, and a faithful supporter of his friends.
I won this book as a prize in the most recent PGDF text-analysis contest, and I was going to write a basic review of it. But I discovered I don't need to, as someone has already written it for us:
The Amazon reviewer has read Powers' autobiography, and his comments about the book are informed by knowledge of the background story of the writer and his work.
While I was searching the web for further background on the author and the story, I was startled to discover Powers was a rare-book collector (what kinds of books? what happened to his collection when he died?!?!), and that he ended his days working in a bookstore in Berkeley CA -- where I almost certainly bought books from him.
A small number of his short stories are currently indexed in the FMI:
All that said, I'll now do a meta-review of the book:
1. A novel, or a patchwork of short stories?
When a short-story writer does a novel, he needs to be careful that he isn't writing a bunch of shorts about a common character. This is exactly what short-story writer Powers did here.
We meet young John Dillahay, and he begins to grow wise. His odyssey from youth to medical school to adulthood is explicitly divided into "Book 1" and "Book 2," with most of medical school happening during the blank pages between the two sections. Many little things happen that shape succeeding events. Conflicts provide opportunities for growth. "Doc Dillahay" would segment easily into a TV miniseries; there may even be enough episodes for a thirteen-week season.
On the other hand, I hereby state that it's a novel. "Huckleberry Finn" and "Moby Dick," are just collections of episodes around central characters, and these are the stuff of Great American Novels. You have to be careful about this.
John Dillahay grows up; he chooses a career. He finds a mentor in Doc Ledinger, and their relationship is central to the rest of the book. Here I mention that the mentor is a crusty old geezer, a medical practitioner with a mysterious past, who is fully competent except when he is on one of his six-day drinking binges. By John's example, as a man who can survive bad luck without escaping into the bottle, his mentor is redeemed and becomes a grown-up again. Ledinger becomes an alternate
father-figure, who teaches him all he knows and then makes it possible for him to continue learning at a distant academy (where he will soon know more than his guru).
John goes off to medical school, and returns to take his place as an adult. He survives conflicts, both small and large. By the end of the book he has resolved the power struggles that he is party to: some by acceptance, some by negotiation, some by triumph, and even a couple by losing.
He loses the love of his life (so far) to his own brother.
John's birth father becomes sick, while John is far away at medical school. John is unaware of this, and therefore unable to help him' he is thus implicitly guilty for whatever happens to his father. Back in Arizona, a degreed doctor, still he is unable to keep his father from dying, of a disease far beyond the powers of currently modern medicine to cure; he curses his and medicine's ignorance for their failures.
He comes to a better understanding and acceptance of his place in the universe. He, along with most of the other surviving characters, achieves a happy ending. His adopted father-figure marries John's mother, thus becoming his father in fact. Calling Dr. Freud.
Our boy John discovers the true love of his life has always been near him since the earliest chapters. We all just need to look around us.
2. What's the book about?
Medicine, specifically medical practice in the American western frontier, its strengths and its limitations. There's enough of this to make it kind of a novel about science. Powers used his childhood memories, of his father's medical practice, to make it all seem real in 1885 Arizona.
Family: support for the members of; betrayal and forgiveness; extension of familial group by adopting or marrying (as when his brother marries the niece of his father's business enemy); tradition; foreswearing of tradition.
The American West: It's not all (or even mostly) about gunfights at the corral. Mostly, the West was about families.
Alcoholism and the effects of alcohol on the western frontier. Alcohol as an internal escape, mirroring the external escape from the civilized parts of America. Alcohol as the destroyer of lives: John's dependence on his mentor provides the justification for his mentor's successful battle against binging and benders. The author is said, in the autobiography, to have had personal experience with alcohol.
Surpassing your father's estate (another call for Dr. Freud): John becomes a successful doctor, while his father fails as a rancher, just as he had failed before moving to Arizona. Was Powers working out personal family issues here?
Although his father is successful in organizing the small ranchers against the rich man's combine, he's forced to abandon ranching and take up storekeeping-a lower status occupation. There's an echo here of his parent's move to Arizona after earlier problems in another state; and this in turn echoes the long-ago move of the de la Haye family to Ireland -which led to an earlier reduction of the family's status. Family, again: maybe his father isn't anything much, but by heaven the
de la Haye family was pretty hot stuff back in Norman England.
3. Why did the author write the book?
Money, career, personal growth.
To work out personal family and career issues. Why am I here? Why is my market for short pulp fiction going away? What am I going to do about it? Why wasn't my Dad like Ludwig Ledinger? Or maybe he was, in the wrong ways.
4. Yucca City == Tombstone? Not exactly.
5. Doc Dillahay == Doc Holliday?
Nope. Dillihay may be Holliday spelled sideways, but I think Powers chose the name simply for its evocation of Arizona history. Holliday was a dentist, and more or less contemporaneous with Doc Ledinger, our protagonist's guide, role model, and mentor. Our boy John was just learning the ropes.
6. Mainstream work from a pulp writer?
Apparently so. Well, mainstream, if you consider a western a mainstream book.
Our author included a couple of jokes at the reader's expense, or maybe they were simply old WILD WEST WEEKLY tropes he couldn't shake. Hero John can beat up one of his larger and more noxious students, throwing him, deservedly, into the cesspit. He can shoot three cans tossed into the air with his pistol, Bam Bam Bam, just like that. He is, in fact, the best shot around; and him just a young feller; he outshot the cartridge salesman, we're told. In fact, his friends suggest a career as
a trick-shot marksman would pay better than doctoring.
During the big gunfight at the end of the book, John takes a brand-new rifle from the store (with the price tag still on it, so he knows it's in good condition!) and carefully wings all the bad guys attacking the Marshall and company holed up in the newspaper office. Dillahay reluctantly kills the syphilis-maddened Cullen La Mar, and his mentor Doc Ledinger reappears on the scene: not dashed to bits at the bottom of the mining pit, as everyone had feared, but safe and sound, having hidden in the outhouse during the battle.
7. Did you like the book? If so, tell why. Should I read it?
Yeah, it was worth the time spent. The sections about medical practice in 1885 are almost science-fictional; certainly they're fiction about science and technology. The American West background is interesting and well-drawn. The main characters generate some empathy in the reader; they are self-consistent and show human traits. Few of the things they do make the reader cringe for their stupidity. (Sometimes we cringe for John's obliviousness to things going on around him, but in these cases
it's an author's device to foreshadow later events.) You could read it and enjoy it.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Okay, I digress. Some books and movies I've read and seen lately:
Allan Guthrie: Hard Man. Finally got around to reading this. Pretty much blew me away. I exchanged some e-mails with Allan (or should I say "Sunshine"?) about this and we discussed why a critic like Eddie Muller described the book as "torture porn". I can see that - I think it's mainly because Allan's book lacks (quite deliberately, I should think) social content. There's no whys and hows, there's only what (and how to get out). Allan wrote to me that the book is his most complex. Indeed, there are several discourses in the book, several points of view, and several narratives. It occurred me to compare Allan to - can you take this? - Vladimir Nabokov! His books are also complex and multi-layered, with the focus on the narration and the language, and I should say this applies also to Guthrie. (And I'm not kidding with this!)
Richard Matheson: I Am Legend. This one blew me away big time. Vow! From the start it's so suspenseful you want to die. This was quite recently translated for the first time in Finnish by a new publisher, Vaskikirjat. More power to them! Here's my friend pHinn talking about the book and digging up the old trailers from YouTube...
(I blogged about these on Crimespace. It's getting pretty difficult to keep all these Web 2.0 things together... Who remembers anymore that I have a MySpace account?)
Carl Th. Dreyer: Vampyr (1932). This one also blew me away. Almost like silent David Lynch of Lost Highway and Fire Walk With Me (even though the film is not silent, there's only very little of dialogue). Very inventive and very mysterious, based loosely on a story by Joseph le Fanu. The Redemption DVD I watched (thanks, Markku!) wasn't of a very good quality, but it may be the case that the negative of the film has been destroyed and all the copies are just as murky and dark. I don't mind: I've been waiting for 20 years to see this one. (Here is an essay about restoring the known prints of the films. Here's an essay comparing Vampyr to a film by Lucio Fulci. And here's the film...)
David Lynch: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1994). Now, this one didn't blow me away. You may remember my fascination with the Twin Peaks series. I didn't like this film when I saw it originally, but I was ready to take a challenge. It's still flawed, but more interesting than the first time around. It's pretty difficult to fathom what one would think of this if he/she wouldn't have seen any episode of Twin Peaks. In this respect, the film is a precursor to Lynch's more mysterious latter-day films, such as Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr.
Okay, is there still something more? Oh, I've been reading Boccaccio's Decamerone and The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, maybe later... And I started Sean Chercover's Big City, Bad Blood. Seems pretty strong so far.
Some late additions (I wrote the above yesterday): Antonioni's La Notte: nice photography and very nice ladies in the lead (Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti, in very nice early sixties party costumes and high heels!), but something in Antonioni leaves me cold. The films are detached, yes, and it seems quite deliberate, but still there's something... Pirates of the Caribbean: okay fun, but too long.
EDIT: I had some e-mail exchange with Sunshine Guthrie and decided to change my "blow me out" phrases into "blow me away". Sorry all. My English isn't flawless. And thanks, Al!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Here's the cover for the seventh issue of Isku, my crime fiction fanzine. It's the only of its kind in Finland! The cover illo is drawn by Henri Joela, who captures the violence in Timo Surkka's story quite well. He also did a breath-taking pin up illo for the story... Here's some more details.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I'll post here some "interesting" ads and cartoons from the mag. These are not for kids! I don't really know whether they are suitable viewing for adults either, but here goes nevertheless. Some more Uusi Aatami covers (and other Finnish sleaze) here.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The man: "I get the feeling that at least in one matter women are equal to men..."
"What are you laughing at.. you'll get yours shrink too when you go to swim...!!"
I can only say: Huh?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
First, some scans. The first one is from March, 1952, and the second one is from the same year's May. There's a previous owner's stamp on the covers. T. H. Järvi was presumably a professor of some kind and donated these mags to the library (and then they discarded them - what unthankful bastards!).
Friday, November 16, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
In our on-going series about kiddie affairs: here's a cartoon I made to entertain Kauto and Ottilia a while back. It's called Ottilia and Kauto Are Waiting for Christmas. The thing takes a sudden absurd turn.
Ottilia = O, Kauto = K, me = I (since dad is "isä" in Finnish). Bunnies because they are Ottilia's love of life. 'We are supposed to be outside playing. I'll translate:
Ottilia: No snow. Boring!
Kauto: Where's snow?
Me: You'll get it soon!
Ottilia: You promise, dad?
Me: I promise. It comes soon.
Kauto: Here it comes!
The snowflake: I'll bring you Winter and snow!
Ottilia: It talks!
The snowflake: I won't even melt in the ground!
Ottilia: A wondrous flake!
The snowflake: I'll bring you Winter and snow!
Ottilia (looking angry): We heard that already!
The snowflake: But first I want a beer! Take me inside and give me a beer!
Ottilia (squashing the flake with her foot): Boring snowflake!
Kauto: Splat splat!
Me: Oh oh...
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I have several old typewriters. They are all post-WWII - I think one is from the fifties, the rest (three or four, I'm not actually sure) are from the sixties and seventies. All are manual, I've never cared for the electronic ones.
I haven't really intended to start collecting old typewriters - I've just managed to grab some cheaply (for one euro, for example). I learned to write with these things and I even worked in newspapers at the time when these things were common and in actual use, so there's a nostalgia factor. I have a dream that some day we will have a summer cabin and I'm writing pulpy crime stories for my own amusement in the yard, with a whiskey sour in my hand.
Now these things function as toys from time to time. Kauto especially seems very interested in them. Here's a fairytale of sorts that Ottilia dictated to me and I punched. (Didn't really remember what hard work you had to endure writing with these things!)
You want a translation? Okay, we'll try:
Dad built a house. Dad went to change his shirt. A rabbit was laughing at dad, when he saw his bare stomach muscles. He laughed and went ho ho ho. The rabbit was disappointed when he saw the typewriter, since he didn't have one of his own. So he backed away his back moped. [Don't ask.] So he jumped on his moped and drove away.
The bunny was so sad that he hit himself with a toy hammer, which was made of plastic. Because he burst out crying and he'd developed a bulge. And then he went to sleep with his hundred-meter bulge and dad was laughing at his bulge. And went ho ho ho.
The bunny was so saddened that he went in his nightgown over to the neighbour's house and took his toy hammer with him. He hit him [presumably it's dad] with the hammer and a tiny, one centimeter bulge appeared on his head.
So they both apologized to each other and hugged each other. And that was the end of the story, but did I forget to tell you their names? Their names were Topsy and Turvy. THE END.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I was going to mention it earlier today, but forgot: it was pretty eerie to read Justine by Marquis de Sade at the same time when this guy was shooting people. He'd been boasting about his right to eliminate people since he was superior to them - exactly the same thing as de Sade's horrible heroes.
Thanks to Peter Rozovsky for the link.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I've been wrong in two big issues during this century. When the WTC attacks came, I said at first it's the work of the American ultra-right-wing patriots. Now when we first heard about the shootings in Jokela (and still thought that there's only one dead), I said to Elina that it's probably not some narcissistic egomaniac.
"Don't you want somebody to love?" is singing in my earphones as I type this. "Tears are running down your dress / and your friends are treating you like a guest." Yeah, right.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The book has nine articles on five countries and their film noir traditions: France, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Italy. The films depicted in the book seem all quite interesting, but it seems also that some of them are deemed to be pretty obscure and not easily to be seen, even on DVD. Some of these are for example the French rendition of Leo Malet's 120, rue de la Gare from 1946, with P.I. Nestor Burma, and Carlos Saura's debut film, Los golfos (1960), which was made with a very limited budget.
I wrote a review of the book for Ruumiin kulttuuri, the Finnish Whodunnit Society's magazine, but it turned out to be too long, so I posted the original version here and will edit the print version. It's in Finnish.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I finished yesterday on a train a Dutch novel, Turks fruit (1969) by Jan Wolkers. I don't think the book has ever been published in English, but the film based on the novel was seen in English-speaking countries under the name Turkish Delight. It's one of those erotic classics I'm reading for a forth-coming book.
I'm not entirely sure whether this could be called erotic - there's lots of sex and explicit language and the overall feel of the book is lewd, but it's not very rousing. However, the book has other qualities - it's funny as hell and there are lots of comments about post-WWII Dutch life. The book has also some interesting stuff related to the concentration camps - a theme that Wolkers, who was also known as a painter and sculptor, worked on in his art. Written in modernist, almost stream-of-consciousness style, this is an intriguing novel.
I haven't seen the film, but some say it's one of the best Dutch movies ever made (which probably isn't saying much). It was directed by Paul Verhoeven when he was still living in the Low Countries and it stars Rutger Hauer as an artist (yes, the book is autobiographical) whose wife has left him.
Monday, October 29, 2007
In the on-going escapade of reading erotic novels for a forth-coming book, I recently finished Naked Came the Stranger by "Penelope Ashe". Now, everyone knows for sure that "Penelope Ashe" was a journalist called Mike McGrady and a bunch of his colleagues and that the book was written as a prank to prove that anything will be published if there's enough sex. The result: the book was on the best seller list for quite a while and became one of the best-selling books of 1969 when it first appeared. You can read a lot about the whole case here.
Now, the book is at best uneven and not very erotic by today's standards, but it's also not as bad as some make it sound. Sure, it's dated and even today's YA novels have more straightforward sex, but at times it's almost funny. But were it not for the scam McGrady and his friends pulled off, no one would remember the book and it wouldn't most certainly being in our book as one of the classics of erotica.
The most interesting thing here, cultural-historically wise, is that it's been said that the book broke boundaries between pulpy sex paperback and hardback mainstream novels. From 1969 on, the sex paperbacks concentrated more on sex (and later on, on hardcore porn) and mainstream novels could have more sex in them without anyone being embarrassed (or jailed, as had happened to many sex publishers and writers in the fifties and sixties). There was also The Sensuous Woman, by "J", that was published almost at the same time. It's intriguing to note, though, that Naked Came the Stranger isn't very liberal in its depiction of sex: all the men who are willing to cheat on their wives either get killed, shoot themselves or go crazy. It's like the eighties' teen slasher movies: have sex and die.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
The author wrote me back today on Monday saying that I'd understood the whole thing completely wrong. The book was a parody and it was based on reality, so it was nowhere near racist or sexist.
Okay. I've read some 2,000 books in my life (the number came strictly off top of my head) and should recognize parody when I see one. Nowhere in sight here. Okay, yeah, there were some overdone characters and overwritten prose, but still I couldn't see the book as parody. And, um, yeah, there were some awkward moments when there were actual characters with supposedly funny names such as "Don Heremy" (the book is about porn business), but I didn't laugh.
I'd made one mistake for which I asked the editor to publish a correction. The book was published by a publisher that has mainly been doing vanity books, i.e. books that the author paid for. It wasn't the case here. Which actually makes me feel more sorry - did someone pay someone to write this? However I sincerely think that the publisher should've notified about this somewhere in the book - maybe with changing the name of the imprint or with notifying the reviewer in a slip with the book.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
First we have a couple of nice red Adidas Superstars. A classic model, but perhaps a bit too hiphoppish to my tastes (and actually not very comfortable on foot). These are retro, perhaps from the early 2000's.
Then we have a couple of Finnish Karhu running shoes from the early eighties. Striking yellow, with the easily recognizable logo. Karhus are very fashionable now and I'm thinking of buying some retro models.
And last, but not least: a couple of Finnish football shoes from the sixties, called Jokke. They are great, but not very good to walk with (and I don't play football).
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Castle's book wouldn't be the first one. There are several examples of American paperbacks having been published only in Europe or even only in Scandinavia. When I was doing my Pulpografia, these books puzzled me as they'd puzzled Simo Sjöblom who'd done a massive bibliography of crime fiction in Finnish.
The books were a puzzle until I managed to make contact with Bruce Cassiday. He'd been writing pulps and paperbacks since the fourties and my letter found him near his 80th birthday. I contacted him because there's a Finnish paperback called Vain viisi tuntia (= Only Five Hours), with the original title given as The Heister. Yet, The Heister is not known to have been published in English. I wrote Cassiday asking about this and he wrote back saying that he and his agent couldn't sell the book that he'd written already in the early sixties in the US. They shopped it around in Europe. It ended up being published in Finland in 1968 and in Norway in 1971 as Blindgaten. Cassiday remembered it was first published in Sweden, but that appears not to have been the case. I sent him the Finnish copy of the book and he thanked me kindly sending me a chapbook collection of his old pulp crime stories (published by Gryphon Books).
After this I took a closer look into some books. Dean Owen's Hot Line, several WWII paperbacks by Robert Sidney Bowen, a spy novel by Joseph Chadwick, four P.I. novels by Grover Brinkman, another P.I. series by I.G. Edmonds... all turned out to be published only in Finland (some in Sweden, some in Norway). There are some that are certain (such as Brinkman and Edmonds), some that are not so certain (Dean Owen, Chadwick, Bowen).
For some reason or another, I didn't look into Frank Castle. Don't know why. I wrote about him later in my Kuudestilaukeavat/Six Guns that's about Western paperbacks published in Finnish and noticed he was hell of a writer. I highly recommend his Guns to Sonora (Berkley 1962), it's hardboiled and it's noir and also lots of violent action fun in which everyone tries to deceive each other. Also very good is Brand of Hate (Tower 1966). I have notes of Blood Moon (Fawcett 1960), but I don't remember reading it.
Not much is known about Castle. He started out in the late fourties writing for the pulps, mainly mags like Fighting Western and Leading Western. He also wrote for Ranch Romances. I don't know for sure, but I don't think these were grade A western pulps. He moved into paperbacks alongside tons of other authors when pulps died in the early fifties and penned also lots of crime novels, mainly for Fawcett Gold Medal. His Move Along, Stranger came out in 1954 and was his first Gold Medal offering. He also wrote westerns for the Ace Double line. Castle's known to have used Steve Thurman as his byline. Castle faded out in the late sixties. My notes say his latest novel is Lobo that came out in 1969 (from Belmont). I don't know what happened to him.
Sowers of the Doom must by from the same era or maybe from the mid-sixties. It came out in Finnish in 1971 and the copyright says "1970". Wouldn't bet on that. The book starts out pretty crisply (I'll try to translate back into English):
Cleve Haig sensed the death moving in the desert. He could smell it in his nostrils, he tasted it his mouth - and for the first time in his nice life he felt completely helpless: the woman behind him was pressing the gun barrel hard against on his back.Cleve Haig is a millionaire's carefree son, who gets hijacked into the world of international intrigue and spying. There seem to be some terrorists on the loose in the American soil - and they have atom bombs. Cleve Haig joins the extra unit that fights the terrorists and falls in love with a woman who's also in the unit. Her husband has been reported killed in action, but there are also some doubts about her being a traitor.
Maybe it's the Finnish translation (they weren't always very good and many were abridged), but the book is a bit boring. It moves pretty fast, but the plot seems overtly complicated and the persons never come out alive and distinctive from each other. There are some nice action scenes throughout the book, but it's not very engaging in the whole. Maybe Castle wrote it in 16 hours - it certainly reads that way.
But nevertheless, I'd really like to know more about this and Frank Castle's fate. What came of him and what urged him to write his great noir westerns? And as I haven't read any of his crime novels, I'd like to hear about those. (And no, he didn't become The Punisher.)
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Here's another weirdo from the university remainder shelf: the Estonian little magazine called Murrang. I have no idea what it means, but it's strictly culture and literature. Some of the contributors are well-known Estonian writers, such as Marie Under and A.H. Tammsaare. The year is 1921 of which I now seem to possess the whole yearly volume.
On the cover is a word that may be familiar even to foreigners: "sisu". Now, in Finnish that means (roughly) "guts", but it seems in Estonian mean "the contents". That's of course where the guts come from - inside you.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
This is the thousandth post on Pulpetti. At first I thought I should do a long post and ruminate on what I've accomplished ("Oh my God, what have I done?") and dug up some worthier posts, but then again I thought: what's the point? (And it would've taken up a considerable amount of time and I feel narcissistic enough as it is, without pointing out with my fingers: look how marvellous I am, did you think of that, etc. Even though I know some people who would expect that from me. I'll write my memoir later.)
Instead I'm writing about the grittiest and darkest western novel I've ever read. I've read some gritty and dark western novels before - for example The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Tilburg Van Clark - but they don't come near H. A. DeRosso's first novel from 1953, simply called .44. I don't know if that was DeRosso's own title - the American paperback publishers were in the habit of changing names of the manuscripts - but it's catchy nevertheless.
I've also read several noirish western novels - for example by Lewis B. Patten and Gordon Shirreffs -, but this is what you usually call noir: the hero is a total anti-hero, he won't do anything to stop his downfall and the ending sure ain't happy. There's also the femme fatale, and there's also a loot which never surfaces, by the way, which increases the noir feel in the book.
I don't know much about H. A. DeRosso - I don't think many do. He was born in 1917 and he died presumably in 1967. His first short story appearance seems to have been as early as the mid-thirties, when he contributed to the Western Novel and Short Stories pulp magazine. As you can see from his pulp magazine bibliography, he wrote almost mainly for the western pulps, ending up in 1970, which begs the question on when he actually died. He also had some stuff in the crime pulps and digests, such as Manhunt, and also something called "The Quest of Quaa" in the short-lived Rocket Stories in 1953, which seems like a pulp fantasy story. Doesn't feel like a genre a writer like DeRosso would've tackled. I've read three of his western short stories in Finnish and they were all very good and very noirish: one of them opens up with the "hero" waking up in middle of the desert tied up to the sand. There's a femme fatale, of course, and 100,000$, the basic ingredients of a good noir story.
.44 was the first of his five western novels and the reprint from 1998 is available through Abebooks cheaply. It's about a man who's fallen into being a hired killer. He hates every minute of his life and he fears the day he starts to like his job. In the beginning of the book he's set out to kill his latest victim. The victim doesn't defend himself, just stands there and stares at him. When Randall - that's the hero's name - pushes him far enough, the man draws and is quicker than Randall. He gets a bad shot and Randall kills him. Scared out of his wits, Randall decides to hunt down the man who sent him to this job.
This is a clever take on Hemingway's short story "The Killers", even though similar things happen in the film Robert Siodmak made based on that story in the late fourties. DeRosso has another goal in his mind, though: his focus is on the killer who wishes to put an end to his life, not on the victim. And Siodmak's killers (and later Don Siegel's) are not victims of cruel life, like Randall, they are only professionals who think maybe there's a reward somewhere in there. Randall hears pretty soon that there's a reward, but he's not interested in it, which baffles his enemies.
DeRosso's style is terse and sometimes poetic. It's also a bit clumsy sometimes, which may be a result of not enough proofreading and editing. There are some empty holes in the drama (not necessarily in the plot), but I don't mind that when the dark atmosphere and claustrophobics are as intense as they are here. All the characters in the book are doomed, some because of their laziness to do anything worthwhile, some because they are set to do something bad and try to come up with a reward. (In this DeRosso is quite different from another writer whom I consider to be another top noirist in westerns: Dean Owen. Owen's characters seem paranoid and maniacally driven, while in DeRosso's universe no one simply cares.)
This was never translated in Finnish. Thanks to the late Kent Johnson, I got a good copy of the original Lion publication and I finally got around to reading it. There's not much on DeRosso in the web, but Bill Crider just won't let us down. I think Ed Gorman has written about him, but not in his current blog. The older ones seem to be down. Peter Enfantino mentions some of DeRosso's crime stories here - in an article that's quite intriguing in its own right.
Thanks, Juri, for your inspiring blog. It's quite new to me and I enjoy seeing pulp from a Finnish point of view.
Lending libraries specializing in pulp fiction and subsequently publishers doing the same thing seems to be a phenomenon from the the 1930s to the 1960s. In Nazi-Germany they were flourishing as well with only the war putting an end to that. After the war it took on a new lease of life. 220 different publishers produced about 30 to 40 thousand individual titles from about 1950 to 1970. These titles were not available at bookshops, only at one of the 28.000 lending libraries in Western Germany. All that's left now is a small community of collectors. At Ebay there are always more than 300 titles of "Leihbuecher" available.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I've earlier griped about the editing process and how I hate and despise it. Yeah, well, okay, the outcome is usually better one than that I sent to a publisher, but still... In this case, it may have been the case of the editor remaining anonymous all through the process. It's like this huge faceless power would be dictating me how and what I should do or have done. And I just don't like that. (That's the main reason I didn't go to the army. I couldn't've handled that someone else decides for me what I'm supposed to do. I'd've gone crazy in two weeks. And this is really serious, I'm not kidding about this.)
I was half-crazy yesterday after receiving the edited manuscript of my book about forgotten Finnish writers. There were also lots of technological problems and I couldn't see first all of the gimmicks the editor had done and I wasted two or three hours of valuable working time. And then I couldn't do anything anymore, when Kauto got back from the daycare - him and computers just don't mix well. I had to start again when he went to sleep, about ten thirty. And then I woke up at six thirty to start once again. Oh man. It's over, once again, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I should even say that if there's a writer who says he enjoys the editing process he's a liar.
Friday, September 28, 2007
There are some ads in the back pages. "P.R." Olnut Biscuits are advertised this way:
"It is generally admitted that most of us eat too much bread. Bread, if it is made from the whole wheat, is a good thing in itself, but eaten to the customary excess it becomes dangerous. It sets up an internal clogging that is well-known to be a principal root of most serious diseases."
Other advertisers include Nutona Rissola Powder and Eltekon Orthopaedic Institute.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Charlie Huston: Already Dead. One of Huston's Vampyre novels, with Joe Pitt as the vampire private eye. I'm not sure whether I'll read more of these, but this was entertaining enough, with Huston's ultrahardboiled style that moves in present tense. A bit too long, perhaps, and not enough plot for my taste. Huston's received lots of praise from the hardboiled aficionado, but the Vampyre mythology pretty much wore me out. Couple of real Ross Macdonaldish moments in the bunch, however, which makes me want to read more of his non-Vampyre work.
Arthur Maling: From Thunder Bay (1981, translated in Finnish as Veljensä vartija, WSOY/SAPO 1988 or so). Seems pretty obscure these days, but Maling has published quite many books. This one is a Dortmunderish story, without Westlake's humour, about a two-bit loser who accidentally kills a cop after a raid on a plane he's been flying without knowing he's smuggling guns into the US. I had mixed feelings about this - it's touching and warm in its depiction of its anti-hero, but also pretty long, and as I said, there's not much humour in it. But I did finish the book and should say that read it if you can find it cheap. There are elements you don't easily find in an American crime novel - one of the heroes (or anti-heroes, actually) is an Ojibwa Indian who belongs to the Canadian Marxist-Stalinist Party.
I've been also reading Emerson Dodge's Australian paperback novel that was published in Finnish as Lyijypuuroa aamiaiseksi (translates back as Lead Porridge for Breakfast), without mentioning the original title. I've carried this along with me to buses and banks and such, so I'm pretty much in the middle. It's pretty okay so far, traditional Western with raggedly handsome Buck Fallon as the hero. Dodge is Paul Wheelahan, one of the most prolific Australian paperbackers.
Now I'm reading Laura Lippman's Charm City from 1998, but really have to get on again with my work.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Conrad Hirst is both a sociopath and a killer for hire, just like Greene's Raven. He has no feelings, but his last job made him want to get out of the business. So he decides to hunt down and kill all the four people who know him and his doings. It turns out pretty rapidly he's got it all wrong and several dead people, including his former boss, are found killed or missing.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
We are soon leaving for the cabin for the weekend. I've been pretty much swamped with work and also will be for the next week.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
You see, I've been planning a one-off fiction zine to go along with Isku and my other fanzines. This one would be a sport story zine. Sport stories were a major genre in the original pulps and there were still some sport novels in the paperbacks of the fifties and sixties (and even in the seventies). Lots of writers known better from some other genres wrote for the sports pulps: Lester del Rey, Evan Hunter, James Blish, George O. Smith, William R. Cox... And these were intended for adult readers, not for kids, like sports literature in Europe and Finland quite easily is. Some of the stories were hardboiled in tone, some had crime and even murder in them. And I would've liked to try do a fiction fanzine with only sports stories in it. Maybe three or four Finnish ones, with one maybe a reprint, and of course a story from the vintage pulps themselves. Not a huge seller (as if my mags were huge sellers anywhere), but perhaps fun to do.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Paavo Fossi/Paul Hamari