Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishes for Merry Christmas...

...with this nice pulp-styled boxer shorts package I discovered while I was shopping for Christmas gifts. I thought for a minute I'd buy them for Kauto, my son, but I wasn't sure whether he likes boxer shorts, as he doesn't wear them, so instead I just took a photo. I think this is very well done.

So: Merry Christmas and all that!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cuban film The First Charge of Machete

Before my Christmas wishes I wanted to say something short about a stupendous film I recently saw: it's a Cuban agit prop/art film The First Charge of Machete from 1969, directed by Manuel Octavio Gómez. It's a retelling of the Cuban rebellion against the Spanish in the 1860's, but the point in the film is how it's made: it's as if the style of the sixties' cinéma vérité style had been invented already in the mid-19th century and the movie was made as if the rebels, the Spanish officers and several people on the street were interviewed by the film crew, and there are lots of hand-held camera shots. The main point in the film, though, is that the film has been artificially rendered almost totally black-and-white, there are scenes in which the pictures have no grey areas anywhere. You could almost say: "Sin City, eat your heart out! These guys did it already!"

Especially the battle scenes that have been shot with hand-held cameras are very, very striking. You could say: "Steven Spielberg, eat your heart out!" I mean, these guys did already 40 years ago what Spielberg tried to do with his Saving Private Ryan. There's also no sentimentality that jars the Spielberg film. The First Charge of Machete is also clearly a political film: there's no doubt it's about the Cuban revolution and also the Vietnam war, with the Spanish playing the role of the US, telling that they only want to bring peace and comfort to the Cuban people who've asked for their presence during these troubled times. The machete of the title refers to the only weapon the poor Cubans have. It's the fist of the proletariat, the film seems to be saying. (I wonder if Robert Rodriguez has seen this. I mean, doesn't his Machete have the same theme?)

The Cuban film meets of course quite a few problems, especially the question why the film has deteriorated so badly if the film as a medium existed already in the 1860s? If they have come to the same narrative conclusions as the original cinéma vérité directors of the 1950s and 1960s (Jean Roach, the Maysles brothers, D. A. Pennebaker etc.), why does the film look it's over hundred years old? It would mean that they  made the first films already in the late 18th century, not late 19th century, as the case is now.

But this doesn't really marr the film's impact. The battle scenes are very, very exciting, one of the most exciting ever put on celluloid.

Here's a longish quote from the book The Film as Subversive Art (thanks to Mies Mikkonen for the quote):

"Possibly the most "aesthetic" and "experimental" of revolutionary Cuba's films, this outstanding work utilizes high contrast photography, overexposure, and solarization to create the faded chiaroscuro and poetic authenticity of the period it depicts. The film deals with an 1870 uprising against the Spanish occupation troops in Cubam in which the machete originally used to cut sugar cane, becomes a weapon of people's warfare. The portrayals of decadent upper classes and heroic peasants are sharp and incisive, and distancing devices - such as the characters addressing the camera - are used the induce attitudes of analysis instead of involvement. The emergence of such a strongly poetic work within the Cuban film industry testifies to the divergent aesthetic tendencies permitted expression within the revolution."

eBay has a DVD on sale.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The new issue of Isku out now!

Here's a link to the latest issue of Isku, my crime fiction webzine. Check it out: stories by Harry Shannon, Morris Hershman, Rob Kantner, Tuomas Saloranta, S. J. Hintsala and the Nova winner Tomi Jänkälä! It's a treat, even though I say it myself. And here's also the cover.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dave White: When One Man Dies & The Evil That Men Do

I've said earlier that I really don't care about the recent private eye characters whose problems are worse than their clients. The major exception here is Reed Farrel Coleman, but on the whole I'd rather the private eyes would disappear if they turned sideways.

This didn't stop me enjoying Dave White's two novels, When One Man Dies (2007) and The Evil That Men Do (2009). In them, the private eye hero Jackson Donne suffers from many problems: he's only 28 and yet he's an alcoholic, his former colleagues at the police hate him, he's done nothing much to educate himself, he's alienated from his family and his girlfriend left him and died later from something Jackson Donne did.

In When One Man Dies Jackson Donne is having a drink and consoling himself for his ex's death, when an old, a bit weird but harmless man is run over by a car outsider the bar. Donne feels he has to look into the old man's death - he used to share drinks with the guy, after all -, but he runs into trouble when his old nemesis at the police force starts to investigate the same accident, only to do harm to Donne. Dave White spins an interesting story with many interlocking incidents, and even though the twists in the story sometimes feel a bit forced, it remains intriguing to the end. Jackson Donne's past mistakes in the police force are drawn into the center of the story, and it seems like he can never escape them.

The Evil That Men Do is the more powerful novel of the two and Jackson Donne is really deep in the story of his sister who asks Donne to check into what their old and ill mother has been talking about their granddad. Donne's PI license was taken out in the aforementioned book, but he decides nevertheless he can do this last favour to his family and to his dying mother. He finds out soon that there's a maniac on the loose to avenge something ancient to his family - but just what it is is clear only in the end, if even then. White tramples the ground between the plausible and the implausible, but manages to stay on the clean side with this.

There's one thing I didn't get accustomed easily: When One Man Dies is narrated both in Donne's first person narration and the third person narration in the other sections. In The Evil That Men Do Donne is being narrated through a third person narrative, which makes more sense. There are also scenes set in the late thirties, when White tells just what tragic happened in the past.

In the end feels like there can be no future for Jackson Donne. I asked Dave White if there are plans for other Jackson Donne novels, but he said he doesn't have a publication date for his next novel. I'm hoping there will be a new Donne book, if only to see what White does to make Donne rise from the ashes. (He writes in his blog, though, about a new manuscript. [Link above.])

Dave White is, by the way, a good example of how one can rise from the on-line ghetto of crime literature. The bunch of Jackson Donne short stories were first published in different venues in the web before White published his first book. And here's hoping he'll publish many more!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hard Case Western

I've said it as a comment to a blog post here and there, but let's make it official: besides their great Hard Case Crime line, Charles Ardai should've set up also a line called Hard Case Western. Many of the Western novels of the late fourties, fifties and early sixties could also be catered to the audience of the hardboiled and noir literature, and many of the books from bygone decades would very well be worth reprinting.

This idea came to me many years ago, but I was reminded of it, when Cullen Callagher started posting reviews of hardboiled westerns on his delightful blog, Pulp Serenade. You can see some of the reviews here (Harry Whittington: Desert Stake-Out), here (A.S. Fleischmann's Yellowleg, basis for an early Peckinpah film), here (Frank Castle's Dakota Boomtown) and here (Gil Brewer's rare entry into the genre, Some Must Die), but do read all of his blog, I guarantee it's worth your while.

All of those novels could well be published under the Hard Case Western by-line. I have some other recommendations:

Marvin Albert: Posse at High Pass, Fawcett 1964 (Albert wrote also excellent crime novels as Al Conroy and different other nyms; this is a great Western thriller)
Jack April: Feud at Five Rivers, Dodd Mead 1955 (Broadway script writer's only Western novel, great noirish atmosphere in a story of revenge)
Frank Castle: Brand of Hate, Tower 1966 (Cullen said nice things about Dakota Boomtown, this is a very good tale about guy who sells guns to Indians, but winds up being double- and triple-crossed)
Merle Constiner: Short-Trigger Man, Ace 1964 (if there's a blueprint of a hardboiled Western, this is it)
William R. Cox: Comanche Moon, McGraw Hill 1959 (unbearably suspenseful thriller of the people trapped by Indians, noir in its tones of despair and disappointment)
H.A. DeRosso: .44 (need I say anything more about this?)
Steve Frazee: Desert Guns, Dell 1957 (became a bad film with Roger Moore, but the book is gripping, full of action)
Philip Ketchum: Harsh Reckoning, Ballantine 1962 (is there a more noir title than that?)
James B. Chaffin (Giles Lutz): The Wolfer, Belmont 1962 (weird story about wolf-hunters, living in caves, full of action)
Richard Meade (also known as Ben Haas): Big Bend, Doubleday 1962 (man has to go to Mexico to avenge wrongs)
D.B. Newton: The Wolf Pack, Bantam 1953 (great thriller about a gang terrorizing a whole city, compares to The Violent Saturday and preceded it by two years)
Dudley Dean (also wrote as Dean Owen): Six-Gun Vengeance, Fawcett 1953 (great claustrophobic and hysterical noir)
Gordon Shirreffs: Too Tough to Die, Avon 1964 (just gotta love that title! Boetticher-like minimalism and hardboiledness)
Luke Short: Blood on the Moon, 1948 (I haven't read this one, but the film that was based on this, with Mitchum, would be just too great to pass)

Any early Western by Brian Garfield would also fit the bill, and so would anything by Donald Hamilton, whom Hard Case Crime has already reprinted. A later addition could be Jack Ehrlich's The Fastest Gun in the Pulpit from 1973: funny and violent. I'm also sure many new writers would like to try their hands at a Western, and I'm sure someone like James Reasoner has a noir Western in him, and so do Joe Lansdale, Tom Piccirilli and others.

Having said all of the above, I do know that the market for Western paperbacks is limited and that the market for paperbacks is diminishing, but who says one can't have a dream?

Monday, December 06, 2010

My essential noir

The Psycho Noir blog has posted fascinating lists of essential noir novels by some writers and other noir aficionados. You can see the lists here. I posted my list on Facebook and thought I'd post it here as well. It's merely a scratch and I did it in a hurry and I'm sure it's missing many important titles. Hardboiled is not included, hence no Chandler, Hammett or Ross Macdonald. One late addition, not mentioned in Facebook, would be Reed Farrel Coleman's The James Deans - in it the ordinary PI stuff forms into a great and depressing noir read.

James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice/Postimies soittaa aina kahdesti
Jason Starr: Fake ID (ilmestyy ensi vuonna suomeksi nimellä Väärä rooli)
Kevin Wignall: Who Is Conrad Hirst?/Kuka on Conrad Hirst?
Charles Willeford: The Director/The Woman Chaser
Dan J. Marlowe: One Endless Hour
Jim Thompson: possibly Killer Inside Me, but I've always liked The Getaway more (Tappaja sisälläni, Pakotie)
James Ellroy: The Big Nowhere/Suuri tyhjyys
Scott Phillips: The Ice Harvest/Jäätävää satoa
James Sallis: Drive/Kylmä kyyti
Vicki Hendricks: Miami Purity
Dave Zeltserman: Killer
Peter Raben The Anatomy of a Killer/Tappajan anatomia
Camus: The Outsider/Sivullinen
Jean-Pierre Jonquet: The Gold-Diggers/Kullankaivajat
Jean-Patrick Manchette
Jacques Tardi and Leo Malet: 120, Rue de la Gare (and I mean the graphic novel, since the original novel doesn't actually rise much above mediocrity)
Gil Brewer: Little Tramp/Tyttö hurjana
Harry Whittington: The Murder Web/Murhaverkko
James McKimmey: The Squeeze Play
Tedd Thomey: Killer in White/Valkotakkinen tappaja
Day Keene: Murder on the Side/Ansa
H.A. DeRosso: .44.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The new issue of my fanzine, Pulp

I just finished editing and publishing the newest issue of my fanzine, Pulp, that's been an on-line publication only for the past few months. Here's the link to the issue's editorial - it has links to all the articles. Following them is the best way to read the articles in order. For some reason or another, I messed up the order that I'd carefully planned ahead.

The articles are about the "Gordon Davis" war paperbacks by Leonard Levinson and the war-themed science fiction written in Finland plus there are three book reviews, one of them being about the book I compiled, Kari Suomalainen's crime stories.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Narrow Margin and some other film noirs

I've watched all the film noirs the Finnish Broadcasting Association has been showing in the theme series for the past few months, but for some reason I've neglected to write about them. I'll try to remedy that, but a short post will have to suffice for two films.

Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin, although excellent at times, is not really a film noir. It's more of a thriller, with a hardboiled hero. But noir? No way. Charles McGraw is one of the most hardboiled guys ever (he would've made a great Mike Hammer) and his action throughout the film carries some noir overtones, but all in all the film's just a thriller. 

At that it's great at times. Fleischer knows how to edit a fight scene and build up suspense. There's just one thing I don't get: there's this well-known gangster and his wife, and no one knows what the wife looks like! Was the guy ashamed of his wife and never went anywhere with her? (I remember liking Peter Hyams's new version of this in the early nineties, but I notice it's received quite a lot of negative reviews.)

Nicholas Ray's On Dangerous Ground on the other hand is truly noir, even though the ending is upbeat and optimistic. Well, it should be, since everything before it is gloomy and dark and pessimistic. Robert Ryan is great as the hard-hitting cop who's lost all his hope and just keeps on beating the baddies and snitches. Bernard Herrmann's music and the opening scenes reminded me strongly of Taxi Driver - and the both films share lots of issues about alienation and loneliness. Travis Bickle was in Vietnam, Ryan's character must've been in the WWII. (I liked Herrmann's music during the other parts as well.) 

Yet the film is of great beauty. Some of the scenes carry the solemn grace of a silent film, of a Dreyer or a Sjostrom. I got into a debate with a friend of mine whether the ending was believable, but I said it doesn't matter when you're doing something this beautiful and touching. I found myself crying in the end. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gordon Davis's AKA Leonard Levinson's Death Train

It's not Friday, but I think this could be linked to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books series of blog posts.

I wrote earlier about a war paperback by Gordon Davis that was for some reason published in Finnish as by "Steve Jenkins". The real name behind the pseudonym was Leonard Levinson, a prolific paperback writer from the seventies and eighties. Late last night I finished the other Gordon Davis novel published in Finnish, called Kuoleman juna. It's the literal translation of Death Train, and it's the first book in Davis's Sergeant series.

Just like the earlier "Steve Jenkins" novel, this was also fluently written and quite fastly and crisply paced, without much padding. Some of the scenes with historical figures, like Eisenhower, could've been left out, but then again they are not very long. The battle scenes are short enough and there's enough action to keep the reader's interest going. The main character, Mahoney, is delightfully cynical - I think it's him on the cover. There are some sex scenes, but Davis/Levinson has just enough style to make them plot points, not just loose scenes with sex. I'm not sure, though, whether the scene with a young nun, Mahoney bursting with lust to break her virginity, was done with good taste. Well, then again Mahoney decides to pull out.

I'd like to read more of Levinson's work, as he seems a writer who knows how to spin a yarn and keep it tight, but there are no more translations (I think) and ordering these from abroad seems a bit silly. I was thinking I'd try to compile a Levinson bibliography with the help of Hubin's biblio, Abebooks and Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalogue, but I won't do it now. Later on I'll write a more thorough article in Finnish about these two books and post it on the Pulp magazine blog here. Here's Bill Crider on one book by Levinson, the non-genre The Last Buffoon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde and Ken Bruen's London Boulevard out in Finnish in 2011

Commercial follows, in Finnish:

Arktisen Banaanin kevät 2011 pitää sisällään kaksi kovaa dekkariuutuutta: Keikkakuskin kirjoittajan Duane Swierczynskin hengästyneesti ryntäävä scifi-trilleri Vaaleaverikkö sekä irlantilaisen kovaksikeitetyn rikoskirjallisuuden supernimen Ken Bruenin ensimmäinen suomennos, kohta elokuvaksikin tuleva London Boulevard.

Vaaleaverikkö on raju kaahaus läpi öisen Philadelphian, 24 tunnin jännäri, jossa ei ole tyhjiä hetkiä. Naisella on veressään tappava virus ja uudeksi uhriksi joutuu viaton, avioero-oikeudenkäyntiä odottava toimittaja. Kirjasta sanottua: "OK, so we have hot girls, self-replicating killer-spy nanomachines, journo-suckers, affable hit-men, double-secret government cadres; are we forgetting anything? OH YEAH, a severed head in a duffle bag!"

Bruenin London Boulevard on ovela pastissi Billy Wilderin klassikkoelokuvasta Sunset Boulevard, mutta omillaankin toimiva kovanlyyrinen, haikean väkivaltainen rikosromaani. Elokuvan pääosissa ovat Keira Knightley ja Colin Farrell ja sen ohjaa Scorseselle käsikirjoituksia tehnyt William Monahan.

Vaaleaverikön kansikuvan on piirtänyt Ossi Hiekkala. Lisätietoa löytyy kustantajan sivuilta.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The cover for my vampire anthology

Here's the cover for my forth-coming vampire anthology. The book's title translates as "The Lust for Blood: Finnish Vampire Stories". This is not the final version, but gives you some taste. The illustrator is Timo Ketola.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sarah Waters's The Night Watch and Fingersmith

I guess this could qualify as a Forgotten Books post, even though the books in question are not forgotten in the least. I've seen Forgotten Book posts about Edgar Rice Burroughs and Christa Faust's Money Shot, so I guess the rules are not very strict.

I've finally completed my share of the reference book on historical novelists. I read two of Sarah Waters's novels, the only two translated in Finnish, and liked them quite a bit. Doing this book has been quite a task. As you may remember, I didn't like Arturo Perez-Reverte's books and I almost ended up hating Robert Harris's novels on Cicero. I must confess skipping pages a lot. There were also other writers that left me utterly cold. The one exception - before Waters - was Tracy Chevalier, who writes in a terse prose I happen to like, and she handles difficult themes (women's oppression and stuff like that) pretty deftly.

One could compare Sarah Waters to Chevalier. Both write about women's oppression and their silence in the by-gone centuries. Sarah Waters adds a theme of being lesbian in the Victorian age. Both write books that are not easily categorized - they have elements of a crime novel, they have some experimental bits in their books (Waters has less of them), both are eminently readable. Waters harks back to Charles Dickens and his time, while Chevalier is a strictly 20th century writer, with a style maybe reminiscent of Jean Rhys.

Fingersmith is more strictly a historical novel, set in the 1860s. Some low-lifes, portrayed grotesquely à la Dickens, are trying to get money out of a peculiar old guy living in a mansion outside London, collecting pornography. They force a young girl to be a maid in the house and one of the low-lifes starts to flirt with the daughter of the old man in order to get married and inherit the old man. Everything seems to succeed well, but then Waters throws a very nice twist in the tale and manages to bring new themes into her book: the violent treatment of women in the mental institutions. There's yet another twist in the book, which makes it a relenting read. The last hundred pages are very exciting and tense. The love story between the two girls is touching, and Waters's view of Victorian pornography is interesting.

The Night Watch is set in London during the bombings of WWII. The book is episodic and starts from the end, moving towards the events taking place first. It works marvellously, even though the book didn't hold my interest as well as Fingersmith. The scene in the middle, with the abortion going wrong, is very, very strong.

I recommend these two books quite highly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New posts on other blogs

I've been busy on the blog front, but I'll just have to post links to my recent posts instead of producing original material here on Pulpetti. Both links are in Finnish.

My essay on the greatness of Carl Barks. My main point: Barks is one of the few (or only even) comic artists that you can read and appreciate and with whose characters you can empathize with, both when you're young and when you're old. (And during the time between, of course.)

The entry for pulp writer Paul Ernst from my 2000 book, Pulpografia. I also snitched Ernst's listing from the Fictionmags Index and posted it here. (I'd link to the Fictionmags Index, but the links don't stay put, which is a pity.) And oh, here's a good review for the recent collection of Ernst's pulp writing. In English.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My article on the Knight Rider

I posted my article (in Finnish) on the latest incarnation of the Knight Rider TV series here on one of my other blogs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Danger Lives

In the on-going film noir series of the Finnish Broadcastig Association (or Corporation?) John Farrow's Where Danger Lives was shown last week. Tonight they'll be showing Angel Face by Otto Preminger, and I'll be glued to our sofa opposite to the television set.

I've been a bit disappointed in some of the films, most in Anthony Mann's Desperate and Ulmer's Ruthless, but Where Danger Lives was top-notch. Robert Mitchum as the fall guy with a head injure, Faith Domergue as the psychotic woman, with only 24 hours to escape their fate... I couldn't but love the film, except for the ending, which was way too happy. They should've let... well, let's not spoil it. (Googling for the film I found this crime film blog: Where Danger Lives.)

Sorry for not having written more often (and in more depth about Farrow's film), but I've been very busy. This week I've written one book review, two articles (one on the newest incarnation of the Knight Rider TV series, one on Carl Barks and how he's really the greatest comics artist there ever was) and one friggin' long lecture on the history of Finnish fantasy literature. I'll be delivering it tomorrow in the city library of Pori, the town I spent the first 18 years of my life.

And oh, I also wrote a short story, for another anthology of absurd stories, this time set mainly in Turku. And oh, the earlier anthology of absurd short stories came out today.

And all this time I keep thinking: get back to work. Sounds like the so-called stress they talk about, huh?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil

Republicans seem to have won in the election. Oh my...

One good example that there have been good Americans is Abraham Polonsky's noir masterpiece Force of Evil (1948). Okay, I know there are lots of people willing to give bad credit to Polonsky, because he was a known Communist. I don't think however that anyone can say that Force of Evil is anti-American. It's a well-thought and well-constructed story of what capitalism does to people. Polonsky's genius is in noticing that it destroys people even when taken to the underground culture of organized crime, i.e. numbers racket. The most concerned he is about those little people who can't fight back: the unemployed, elderly, widowers, young lonely women...

Force of Evil is a story of two brothers, one rising up fastly in the gangster world, one giving people a little piece of hope by organizing a small-time numbers business and employing a steady group of people who seem to have nothing much left in their own lives. John Garfield, who plays the successful brother, has to decide whether to force his brother out of the business. The organized crime works like the banks or the other big monetary institutions in capitalism - and everytime violence and destruction ensue. It's like a force of nature, force of evil.

Polonsky directs and writes with verve. The film hasn't dated a bit. It's even a bit difficult to follow, since Polonsky keeps the story moving with such a fast pace and the dialogue reveals only the most necessary bits. Force of Evil resembles and predates Sopranos or The Wire with several decades. I'm pretty sure some of the characters in Sopranos have been modelled out of some of the characters in Force of Evil.

But is Force of Evil noir? The ending is upbeat, no matter what happens to John Garfield's brother. Garfield decides he'll fight the evil of organized crime that is capitalism. If we think that noir is something utterly grim and hopeless, then Force of Evil isn't noir.

This is another film noir that's based on an earlier novel, Ira Wolfert's Tucker's People from 1938. Anyone read that? Comments?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two Ken Bruen films coming - and the first Finnish translation

Ken Bruen's excellent noir novel London Boulevard (2001) will be published in Finnish by Arktinen Banaani next Spring. The film based on the book will hit the big screen in the UK on November 26th and in the US February 2011. Which will probably be the European release date as well - and also the release date of the Finnish edition.

Here's the trailer and some more info for the film, written and directed by William Monahan, starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. The book is a clever pastiche on Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, but also a hard-hitting crime novel in its own right.

Ken Bruen's other novel, Blitz (2002), will also be released as a film pretty soon. The film will star Jason Statham, which might turn some people away, but the trailer here seems as gritty as they come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Roberto Faenza's Copkiller AKA Order of Death AKA Corrupt

Any movie that has Harvey Keitel beating Johnny Rotten and shouting "You want me to kill you? You want me to kill you?" is good.

Huh? Harvey Keitel and John Lydon of the Sex Pistols fame in the same film? Yes, it's happened once - and it's the only feature film Lydon appears in. "What film?" you ask. Ever heard of Roberto Faenza's Copkiller? It might be better known as Order of Death, the original European releasing title, or Corrupt (or even Corrupt Lieutenant). I hadn't heard of it, when I bought it for ten cents at a thrift store some months back. It had Harvey Keitel, and I thought, sure I'll buy this, even though the ugly VHS cassette looked cheap and ugly.

The film isn't very cheap, but it is ugly. Someone's killing drug cops with a kitchen knife. Keitel is a neurotic lieutenant in the drug department. He leads a double life, living in a luxurious (but empty) apartment with another cop. John Lydon is a creep, who gets obsessed about Keitel and starts following him. He comes to Keitel and claims he's the cop killer. Keitel beats Lydon and locks him up in the bathroom of his luxury apartment. Complications ensue. The ending is very, very baffling.

Copkiller is somewhere between an European art film (the director Faenza is Italian, a late-comer to the new Italian cinema, starting out only in the seventies) and a hardboiled American cop film, without any of the cop film clichés. Keitel's edgy nervousness is all over the scenery, and watching him one feels like he's ready to start punching anybody. No explanations to anyone's actions are given, not even in the end. There's a scene (with charming Sylvia Sidney as the grandmother) where Lydon's character's past is being explained, but in the end all the explanations are futile. This is a hard-hitting film that will leave you gasping for breath.

Copkiller is not an entirely successful film in the whole, but I think it has something to do with the film's troubled production history: it was made already in 1981, but released only in 1984, mainly due to the troubles Lydon had with his band, Public Image Limited. They had done the soundtrack for the film, but the studio was keeping the movie on the shelves for some reason or another. There were also some complications with some of the members of the band, and the soundtrack was never used. Instead there's a very nice and eerie score by none other than Ennio Morricone, using an electric bass, a horn section and some toy horns or some such. The versions available (I'm not sure if this is released in DVD*) are much shorter than the original length. The version I saw was somewhat over 90 minutes, while Faenza's cut was somewhere around 113 minutes. I believe the missing scenes contain dialogue between Keitel and Lydon - there's not much of that in the 90-minute version I saw, and yet someone complains at IMDb that the film has too much talk and not enough action. Those missing scenes might've explained some of the baffling stuff that takes place in the film. All this having said, I must say that some of the scenes are a bit clumsy and the action of the police in the end seems stupid.

This is based on a novel by Hugh Fleetwood. I've read the one Finnish translation from him, Melkein tavallinen tyttö (The Girl Who Passed for Normal, 1973), his first novel, but it was 20 years ago and I can't remember anything about it. Having seen this I'll try to find the book - and maybe some other novels by Fleetwood as well. I don't recall seeing any discussion on him at any crime fiction blog or other crime fiction venues. Fleetwood is also credited with the screenplay.

* Seems like it is, but under the stupid title Corrupt Lieutenant, in the series that's called The Bad Cop Chronicles. Looks like the film can be downloaded via many peer-to-peer sites, but I won't direct you to them. 

Review of my sleaze novel

Henri Waltter Rehnström in the Tampere University student paper: "Lausteen himokämppä on mielenkiintoinen poikkeus pornokirjallisuudessa, koska se on kirjoitettu erittäin hyvin. Sen ansiot ovat nasevan räävittömässä kielessä, jota on vaikea nauramatta lukea." See the link here.

English edition: "The Lust Cabin of Lauste is an interesting exception in porn literature, because it's written so well. It's so lewd it's hard to read without laughing." 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Isabel Allende's Zorro

I have a confession to make: I've never read a real Zorro novel by Johnston McCulley. From the classic Zorro movies I've seen only the seminal Tyrone Power version from 1941. (I'm not even sure if I've seen any of the Antonio Banderas versions.) But even with this minimal grasp of the matter I can say Isabel Allende's prequel to McCulley's Zorro (2005) is a bit boring attempt that never reaches the feeling of high adventure that would be required. I read the book, because Allende is included in the reference book of historical writers I've been working on. (The reference book is late and it feels like I'm never getting it out of my hands. Aaargh!)

Allende has done her work pretty carefully, but it seems she's been watching only the films and hasn't read McCulley's novels (from what I can gather). She makes the historical references quite accurately, to my mind, and she develops Diego de la Vega's character carefully. I thought the part in the Spanish War against Napoleon was the best part in the book - exciting, enthralling, adventurous. But the problem with her book is exactly that: there's not enough adventure. I'm sure many McCulley fans would like Allende's novel more if it just had more sword fights. You feel like Allende was thinking she was doing a serious historical novel, like many of her other novels are, and remembering every now and then that this is supposed to be a swashbuckling adventure. Paradoxically, her more serious, more literate historical novels are more entertaining than her Zorro. (That said, I must admit that I just dropped one of her books, Portrait of Sepia: too repetitive, too much familiar aspects, too much lecturing about the history of Chile.)

It's a small wonder none of McCulley's Zorro stories were ever translated in Finnish - I'm not really sure why this never happened. There have been some abridged versions in some obscure Disney anthologies not many friends of literature would dare to look at, and I think I've seen one version in an old Finnish pulp magazine in the fourties. Would it be about time?

We had the Disney TV series in Finland of course, and Steve Frazee's novelization of that, cut into shorter chunks and published as separate books - I loved those books as a kid and I think I loaned them out of the library at least five or six times. Given that, it's a small wonder that I never sought out any of McCulley's Zorros. (And I'm really not sure whether I ever saw the TV series as a kid.)

Did you know that this early nineties TV series of Zorro also had a series of paperback novelizations? By the series creator, Sandra Curtis, published under the byline of "S. R. Curtis"? Curtis is known to the Zorro aficionados for her non-fiction book Zorro Unmasked. Six of Curtis's novels were published in Finnish in 1992, when the series was on the Finnish television, but they are not mentioned in the Wikipedia article for Zorro. I had an opportunity to ask about these from Sandra Curtis herself and she admitted the books have never appeared in English language, albeit there have been many translations in many languages. Haven't read any of these, but I've been going to, since I'd like to run a Zorro issue in Ruudinsavu/Gunsmoke, the magazine of The Finnish Western Society. (I did a bibliography of the paperbacks and posted it on the Pulpetti's bibliographic section here.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two film noirs: Desperate and Ruthless

You just gotta love those titles: Ruthless, Desperate... Film noirs of the fourties and fifties are dark and gloomy and they are not shy about it. There's no love in the world and if there is, it's bound to lose, one way or the other.

Actually that's not the case in Anthony Mann's Desperate, which the Finnish Broadcast Assocation showed last week in its great film noir series. Maybe it's not a noir film after all - I mean, the ending is happy and love wins all obstacles. Then again the film has lots of very nice noir touches, and Mann makes great use of shiftes away from the normal and everyday life to the dark side of the underworld and its sociopathic bullies. The scene darkens, the camera moves suddenly, the phone is ringing in an empty lobby... Raymond Burr is a great menacing figure. I'm sure David Lynch has taken a lot from this film. The biggest flaw in the movie is how there's no real feel of the time passing: the pace is fast and you think it all takes place in just a matter of days, and yet the couple in the lead get pregnant and have a baby!

Is Edgar G. Ulmer's Ruthless noir? It's not a crime film per se, more like a melodrama with some criminous overtones. It's a bit reminiscent of Citizen Kane, yet never achieves the complexity of Welles's film. There's just that I didn't see the beginning of the film and thus didn't really understand all of what was going on, especially this point (taken from the link behind the title of the film): "The girl is Mallory Flagg, Vic’s rather mysterious and elegant fiance, who has an uncanny resemblance to a childhood sweetheart of  both men. It is Mallory’s presence that drives the drama at the reception though she is more a bystander at the finale." You can imagine I was in awe after the last scene: "What the...? Why do they give Diana Lynn two role names in the credits?"

The tone of Ruthless is ruthless, even though there's not much physical violence. Sydney Greenstreet is great as a Southern tycoon who loses it all when Zachary Scott's lead man gets to him. The film is also full of sometimes kinky erotics (Greenstreet yanking his wife's hair and giving her a hard kiss and she enjoying every minute of it) - and lots of beautiful women. The ending truly is noir: everything has been pointing to the great finale. Zachary Scott gets what he's been asking for, even though the last thing he asked for was love. And that's noir.

Friday's Forgotten Books Round-Up

See here for the new installation of Patti Abbot's great series of blog posts, the Friday's Forgotten Books

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This just in: news from Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime

Charles Ardai:

We've got some big news to announce today: After a year's hiatus, Hard Case Crime will be returning to bookstores with new titles in 2011, thanks to a deal we just signed with UK-based Titan Publishing.

Titan is a publisher both of fiction and of gorgeous art books focusing on pop culture such as movie poster art, pin-ups, newspaper comic strips, and Golden Age comic books, and has worked with filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, and George Lucas. Titan has been around for 30 years, has more than 200 employees, and in addition to publishing books also has a magazine division, a retail division (Titan owns the famous Forbidden Planet bookstore in London, and until recently co-owned the Murder One mystery bookstore with Maxim Jakubowski), and a merchandise division that produces items such as t-shirts, sculptures, and accessories. We look forward to exploring ways we might develop some cool Hard Case Crime products with them!

But first things first: books.

Hard Case Crime will relaunch in September/October 2011 with four new books, including CHOKE HOLD by Christa Faust (sequel to her Edgar Award-nominated MONEY SHOT), QUARRY'S EX by Max Allan Collins (the latest in the popular series of hit man novels by the author of "Road to Perdition"), and two never-before-published novels by MWA Grand Masters (names to be announced shortly).

Additionally, Titan Publishing plans to acquire all existing stock of Hard Case Crime's backlist from Dorchester Publishing and to resume shipping these titles to booksellers immediately.

New books will be published in paperback (possibly some in hardcover as well!); ebook editions will also be released across multiple platforms. Titan is distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Random House.

We're very excited about working with Titan (indeed, we had offers from five publishers and chose Titan over several that were much larger and better-known) -- they love pulp fiction as much as we do and appreciate that in books like ours the visual dimension is just as important as the storytelling. It's hard to imagine a better home for Hard Case Crime.

If you'd like more info about any of the above, feel free to drop me a note (you can also take a look at the attached press release we'll be putting out shortly). Feel free to grab copies of any of our cover art from our Web site ( if you'd like to run something about the news; if you need high-res versions, let me know.

Many thanks in advance for helping us to get the word out that Hard Case Crime is coming back!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Finished two books yesterday

This Fall is proving to be a bit futile bookwise: two books that I've said are coming out before Christmas have been delayed until next Spring - this means the collection of article on copyrights that I edited and the reference book on historical novelists that I've been writing with two friends of mine.

I'm hoping one of the books I finished yesterday would at least come out this year - we'll see, we'll see. It's a book that I compiled from old Finnish hunting and outdoor stories, ranging from the early 20th century to 2007. (The latest and the last story in the book is a hunting-themed horror story by Juha-Pekka Koskinen, published in the Usva webzine.) I took also stories from old pulp magazines, while these kind of books are usually compiled from the stories in outdoor magazines. I'll post the table of contents later on, and possibly my foreword. The book will be published by Turbator. Doing this book was both fun and frustrating at the same time, since I didn't know much about this kind of literature going in, but I found there were many interesting aspects in the genre, especially in the old days. And some of the Finnish outdoor writers are very good, especially in the fifties and the sixties, with the (mildly modernist) literary influence creeping in. The problem is that I found out there were already many books done with the same theme and it was pretty difficult to find stories that hadn't already been reprinted. (Nota bene: I'm still waiting for the response from Erno Paasilinna's heirs, but it won't take long to type his old story and add it to the manuscript.)

The other book I finished yesterday was a book of Finnish absurdist stories - it's definitely coming out soon. I have a story in it and I did they layouts, other than that it's not my book per se. Here's the cover for the book, the title is "Tales from the dark" (with a pun that's untranslatable). The book features stories by Tiina Raevaara, Miina Supinen, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, Sari Peltoniemi, Tapani Bagge, Markus Nummi, Tuuve Aro, Alvari Lume, Juha Huhtakallio, Harri Kumpulainen, Jukka Laajarinne and myself (my story was also originally published in the Usva webzine I mentioned earlier.) The cover illustration is by Alvari Lume, one of the writers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie

I just posted a review (in Finnish) of Dennis Hopper's meta-western The Last Movie on one of my other blogs here. I may one of these days write something about the film in English as well.

Nice things said about my book

Juhani Niemi uudessa Bibliophilos-lehdessä Tankki palaa! -kirjasta: "Juri Nummelin on kolunnut vanhoja lehtiä - muun muassa Hakkapeliitan, Hurtti-Ukon ja Seikkailujen Maailman numeroita vuosilta 1940-1944 - ja koonnut sota-aiheisista kertomuksista oivallisen valikoiman. (...) Pienimuotoinen kerronta tarjoaa aitoa mentaalihistoriaa, sellaisia sävyjä, jotka jännitykseen painottuneessa sotaromaanissa saattavat jäädä piiloon. (...) Eniten kokonaisuudesta erottuvat Aila Meriluodon kouluaineeseen perustuva, sankarikuolemala tunnelmoiva "Jääkukkia", joka julkaistiin Asemiehessä vuonna 1943, ja Raoul Palmgrenin jälkiviisaasti tiedostavat "Joel Valaksen talvisota", joka muusta aineistosta poiketen on ilmestynyt vasta sodan jälkeen Kiilan albumissa vuonna 1944."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kevin Wignall's Lipun varjo / The Dark Flag

I've been thrilled by Kevin Wignall's literary, but hard-hitting crime novels for some time now, and I've been more thrilled since we've had the opportunity to publish his work in Finnish with Arktinen Banaani. Who Is Conrad Hirst? was a critical success in Finland as Kuka on Conrad Hirst? Now we've published Wignall's second Finnish translation under the title of Lipun varjo ("The Shadow of a Flag"). The book's original title is The Dark Flag and this is, I believe, the first instance when the book is published in any language. It will be eventually published in English and it's coming out in German some time next year, but this is the book's first publication.

It's an excellent novel, just like its predecessor, but it's even more quiet than the previous works by Wignall. It has only a minimal amount of violence, but it still hits readers very hard. The emotional impact of the book is great. I said to Kevin when he was in Finland two weeks back that you feel like burst out crying on every page. He said: "Good, that's what I wanted to achieve."

The book is a 9/11 thriller, but not an ordinary one by any means. It's a book about human feelings, loneliness, sadness, the meaning of hidden truths. It's very political, but at the same time it's very apolotical and Wignall doesn't take any stances.

Here's a short interview with Kevin Wignall about Lipun varjo/The Dark Flag. Kevin also talks a bit about his future projects that include a Hollywood star.

What led you to write about 9/11? 

I had already started to plan a novel which had a conspiracy at its centre, but I was talking to a friend who was explaining to me why he believed 9/11 had been the result of a government conspiracy. When I doubted him, he asked me to come up with an explanation for various inconsistencies. I looked into it and came up with what I thought was a plausible explanation and that's what found its way into the book. I wondered whether I should write about it at all, but I think it's the duty of writers to tackle subjects that are current, even if it upsets some people. I hope I've handled it quite sensitively anyway.

How does your book differ from the usual 9/11 thriller?

Firstly, 9/11 only comes into my book near the end, and it's really back-story. My book is mainly set in Copenhagen and it's about a lot of other things - the nature of the lies we tell and our governments tell,
coming to terms with what you've achieved in life and what you've failed to achieve, the slippery nature of "the truth".

Yes, your book is about searching the truth and the futility of that search. Why does this kind of theme appeal to you, as it seems it's essential to your work?

It is a theme that crops up in my work, along with that of morality. Truth and morality are two things that are often talked about in absolute terms and yet they are both more flexible than we like to believe. That creates
fault lines which are interesting to explore.

What's your view about what has been going after the 9/11 in Iraq and other countries and especially the US?

The initial intervention in Afghanistan was probably acceptable, and might have worked if it had been kept short and sharp followed by a swift exit. The Iraq War was a disaster. The ongoing war in Afghanistan is a disaster. In the UK we're told that these wars were essential for maintaining security at home, yet until we launced these wars we had never experienced Islamic terrorism in the UK, whereas now there have seen a handful of successful attacks and a constant threat. We would be better served by disengaging from the Islamic world - it's worth noting that one of the main driving forces behind the creation of Al Qaeda was the continuing presence of US troops on holy Saudi Arabian soil after the first Iraq War, so how do you
solve that problem by having Western troops occupy several other Islamic countries?

You write very short books compared to contemporary blockbuster thrillers. Would you tell us about your reaction to reading Stieg Larsson?

I have to say, I did read the whole of the first Stieg Larsson book, which is saying something for me because I'm impatient with long books. It was pleasant reading and oddly old-fashioned, but nothing much happened. My only explanation for its success is that the two central characters are well drawn and I think people simply enjoy the company of the characters, so they don't mind that it's over 500 pages or that there's very little plot. I think it's sad that Larsson never lived to see the tremendous success he had with the books.

Can you tell us about the movie deal of For the Dogs?

I still can't and that's very frustrating. It's a big star and the project should be very exciting, and I'm hopeful there will be an announcement in the next few weeks, but that's all I'm allowed to say.

You, of all people, have a vampire book coming out. Can you tell us something about that?

My vampire book is the first of a trilogy being published for teenagers. The first book was written over four years ago (when several publishers liked it but thought the vampire fashion was coming to an end!) and it will
be published in the UK and US next September, with translation dates to follow. In many ways, the mood is very similar to that of my adult books but it has a rich mythology and covers a thousand years of history as well as being set in the present. I'm very excited about it. Oh, and like my adult books... it's short!

PS. Here's a link to Kevin Wignall's short story "A Death" in Finnish. "Kuolema" is a moving tragic tale about the morals of dying. And here's some additional information on Wignall in Finnish.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A new book out: the crime stories of Kari Suomalainen

I was just told that my new book is out: the collected crime stories of the famous Finnish cartoonist and illustator Kari Suomalainen. The book features three short stories about inspector Wilson that were published in the Finnish pulp magazine, called Lukemista Kaikille (Reading for Everybody; not the best title imaginable, right?), in the 1930s, and a short juvenile crime novel called Yhdeksästoista askel/The 19th Step Kari Suomalainen wrote as by Jasper in the late 1940s. I also wrote the foreword; there's a longer version available here. (In Finnish again.)

I can't say I'm pleased with how the book looks. The lettering is inept and the wordplay in the title drives me nuts. (It's untranslatable.) The illustration in the cover has nothing to do with the stories. What bugs me most is that my name is not mentioned in the book as the editor. Okay, I didn't really edit the stories (there wasn't much to edit), but I wouldn't hesitate calling me the editor in this case, since no one at the publishing house this came from knew about Kari Suomalainen's early stories, so I don't think I'm way off thinking they should've given more credit. My name is only in the end of the foreword. I'll go on making this one of my publications.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Two film noirs: Born to Kill and Out of the Past

The great film noir series of the Finnish Broadcasting Association has allowed me to see films I'd never seen before and revisit some of the old favourites. Robert Wise's Born to Kill (1947) was one of the former and Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947; both from the same year!) represents the latter group of films. I enjoyed both, but Born to Kill was somewhat of a disappointment.

Wise's film has a cult reputation as being one of the most hardboiled and hard-hitting films of the late fourties. It stars the great late Lawrence Tierney who looks as mean as it gets. And here's the problem with the film: Tierney is just too bad and mean and mean-looking and I find it very hard to believe those women would fall for him. Well, of course the leading lady, played by Claire Trevor, would fall for him, as she is a sociopath by nature, but Tierney's psychopathic stare would scare away all the other ladies, especially Trevor's kid sister with whom Tierney gets married. Very nice battle scenes in the film, though. Tierney sure knew how to throw a punch.

Born to Kill is based on James Gunn's novel Deadlier Than the Male. I have the book, but haven't read it. I'd really like to hear comments on it, if there's anyone reading this who's read the book.

Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past is one of the classics of the film noir genre, and it should be: the balance between the bitter hardboiled tone and the soft fatalistic romance is deftly handled. Robert Mitchum is great as the fall guy who doesn't much want to get out. And Jane Greer - man, I wouldn't want to get out the set-up either. The dialogue is full of clever one-liners and witty banter.

But the plot? Could someone please tell me what happened in the film? I've seen the film at least four times and I've read Geoffrey Homes's novel the film is based on (albeit in the late eighties, and only once), so I think I should know. But I'm not sure I do.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Kevin Wignall's book out just now

Published so far only in Finnish: Kevin Wignall's newest novel, The Dark Flag, as Lipun varjo ("The Shadow of a Flag"). Published by Arktinen Banaani, translated by Mika Tiirinen. The cover is by Ossi Hiekkala.

Will post more stuff about the book in the near future. Suffice to say that Kevin will appear at the Turku Book Fair on Saturday, at 13.30 (or somewhere around there, you'll have to check). I referred to the book earlier on this blog, perhaps unnecessarily not giving away the title and the author.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trailer for True Grit

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Coen brothers' rendering of True Grit, Charles Portis's hilarious, violent and touching Western novel. (For some reason I'm thinking it as a film version of the book, not just a new version of the John Wayne film.) But this trailer seems a bit too serious to me - Portis's novel is much funnier than what we see here. Maybe it's the music.

Or then it's just the trailer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: Gordon Davis: Hell Harbor: Battle for Cherbourg

I bought some old paperbacks from an old used book store in Forssa that was closing down and selling everything out with half a cover price. One of the books was a war paperback that I've never taken a closer look at. It was by "Steve Jenkins", called Operaatio natsisatama (Operation Nazi Harbour; stupid title if there ever was one). It was published by Viihdeviikarit, one of the last cheapo paperback publishers in Finland, in their Etulinja/Frontline series in the early eighties. The book was left lying on the floor with some other books, but then one night, pretty tired of the historical novels I've been reading for a reference book project I picked the book up and started to read it. It was fluent and fast reading, with lots of dialogue and pretty good action scenes and one or two sex scenes: good old-fashioned disposable trash. I got more interested in the book and started Googling.

No "Steve Jenkins". No war paperback was ever published under that by-line. Googling more I found out that this might've been published originally under some other name - and then I found out that the Etulinja series this was published in held also another book with the main character called Mahoney. That book, called Kuoleman juna/Death Train, was written by one Gordon Davis. And bingo! Gordon Davis is a pseudonym used exclusively by Leonard AKA Len Levinson, a paperback hack working mainly in the seventies and eighties, and the book called Operaatio natsisatama was also written by him and erroneously published in Finland under the "Steve Jenkins" by-line. (Why this? We can only guess.) The original title is Hell Harbor.

The books were a part in Levinson's Sergeant series, which conveniently happens to have a Wikipedia article, even though Levinson doesn't merit one. There's not a lot of information on him anywhere in the web. If anyone knows more, I'd be interested to hear. Has there been an interview with him in Gary Lovisi's Paperback Parade or some such? Levinson was born in 1935, that much Lee Server says in his encyclopedia of pulp fiction writers. Server raises Levinson's non-genre paperback, The Last Buffoon (1980) as "Leonard Jordan", from the pile and says it's an interesting account of the life of a paperback hack. Anyone read that?

Elina's blog

My wife Elina has just started her own blog. Take a look here. The blog, called Hopeapeili (Silver Mirror; an old Finnish fashion mag), will be largely about vintage fashion and it's in Finnish.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Herschell Gordon Lewis's third novel?

A friend of mine here in Finland is going to interview the notorious horror/camp director Herschell Gordon Lewis. I mentioned to him that Lewis also wrote novelizations of some of his films and that there were reprints of two of them, Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast. Both came originally from Novel Books in 1963 and 1964, retrospectively, and the reprints came from Fantaco in the late eighties (the cover of the other one on the left).

But I seem to remember there was a third one. I've seen the cover for it somwhere in the web, but can't find it again anywhere. The copies of the original editions seem to be very rare (none in Abebooks at least), but I'm sure there was a third one. Now, can anyone confirm this and tell me what the title of the third HGL novelization was? For some reason I seem to remember it was Monster A-Go-Go, but my friend tells me Lewis has discredited the film so that there wouldn't be much point in him having written a novelization of it. The Wikipedia article on Lewis doesn't mention any of the novels.

Why am I interested in this? I asked my friend to ask Lewis if he would allow doing translations of his novels in Finnish!

EDIT: another friend of mine located the book. It's Color Me Blood Red (Novel Books 1964); see the cover on the left. It's mentioned in this thread of horror movie novelizations and tie-ins. The photo of the book isn't very good, I'm sorry to say.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories zine out

As you well may remember, I've been publishing some fictionmaggish fanzines of my own. I decided to move Isku and Pulp to the web, but Seikkailukertomuksia (Adventure Stories) still keeps coming in print. The fourth issue came out of the printers today and boasts a stellar cover by Anssi Rauhala. It's for an old Orientalist story by one Kaarlo Julkunen from the early twenties, called "Dzarir and Nechedil".

Other writers are Pietari Virtanen with a wonderful adventure story set in the 1950's Spain, Garnett Elliott with "Rendezvous on Zombie Island" from the Blazing Adventures webzine (which seems to be down), and me, with a fourth issue of my Pesäri saga. It's set entirely in a never-never-land, even though the setting resembles Finland of the bronze age of Kalevala. Well, then again it doesn't, and I'll very carefully advise you not to point out any historical errors in the stories. I thought the fourth story would end Pesäri's story, but it seems I'll have to publish yet another issue of Seikkailukertomuksia for the Pesäri saga to reach the end. (Even though I think writing this kind of pulpy trash only as rehearsing how the stories are narrated and how the pace the story, I'm kind of proud bringing the influence of Richard Stark's Parker books into the sword & sorcery stuff.)

The package is five euros. If you're interested, just post a comment.

Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour

I'm sure this confession won't rise my street cred in the world of the noir aficionados: I saw Edgar Ulmer's Detour for the first time just two nights ago. "What?" you say. "One of the most famous and notorious of all film noirs, and you haven't seen it?! How's that even possible?" I've been quiet about it and just kept on nodding, when someone has mentioned the film. "Yeah, that was interesting." Add a hesitant smile.

The Finnish Broadcast Association's Teema channel has started a series of classic film noir, and Detour was the second film in the string (with an old favourite, Murder, My Sweet being the first one). It's a great series, with some rarities in the bunch. My only gripe is that they stop in the mid-fifties. What about Murder by Contract, for example? One may argue there were great noir films in the sixties (Blast of Silence, Siegel's The Killers, Point Blank, Madigan etc.). And what about the noir films of the seventies: Klute, Chinatown, Hickey & Boggs, Night Moves..? Here's hoping they'll continue on to these - and maybe even the eighties' neo-noir films and the high-adrenaline postmodern noir of the 1990's and 2000's: Reservoir Dogs, Little Odessa, Bound, The Woman Chaser (which has never been released in Finnish), etc.

Okay, back to Detour. As everyone (well, I guess "everyone" applies here) knows, it's a very poor B-film, shot with $20,000 in a week, about a guy who's lifting his way to Hollywood from New York and ends up in trouble. If something is noir, then Detour is: there's no escaping your fate, whatever it is, and usually you fate is you'll die, probably sooner than later. Ann Savage as a hitch-hiker really makes the film: one of the scariest motherfucking sociopaths on any side of the Atlantic ocean. Period. And furthermore, she's not pretty in the least. She's actually quite ugly, if you ask me, and her style is awful. Her hair doesn't fit her at all, yet she keeps combing at it, like it would help. I don't know if this is something Ulmer set out to do or if it came only by accident. The way Tom Neal's character can't get away from Ann Savage is not out of this life: it's a nightmare that one can't escape out of. Unless by accident. That is your fate. Just accept it.

There are an awful lot of scenes in Detour that take place inside a car, with a camera shooting out of the front window. There's lots of voice-over narration. Yet none of this feels stilted. Detour is pure cinema, and I really don't know how Ulmer managed to break all of his poor film's financial restrictions. I sure am happy to finally have seen this.

I haven't Martin Goldsmith's novel that this is based on, but I know someone who has it and I'll be loaning it.

The Finnish Hobbit

Wanna see something different? GeekTyrant has found out someone has posted the entire Finnish miniseries based on The Lord of the Rings called Hobitit (The Hobbits) on YouTube. This was actually a stageplay before being turned into a TV series, and I seem to remember (this was almost 20 years ago) that many of my friends saw the stageplay and liked it. This seems a bit too cheap, however, and some of the actors are laughably miscast, like Taneli Mäkelä, the strong silent type of contemporary Finnish cinema, as Frodo. Kari Väänänen as Gollum mangles his face in an abrasive manner. And what's with the slap bass jazz in the background when he's seen changing into the green-faced monstrosity?

Some of the posts on YouTube have English subtitles, but not all of them. See the GeekTyrant link; here's one of them with subtitles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tapani Maskula's novel Houkutuslintu

The legendary film critic from Turku and a personal friend, Tapani Maskula, is now also a novelist. His first novel, Houkutuslintu ("Decoy" might be a good translation), came out earlier today from Turbator for which I've edited lots of anthologies. Houkutuslintu is an old-fashioned romp through the town of Turku in the late thirties and early fourties, with smugglers, loose women and speak-easies. I've yet to read the book, but I'm sure it's enjoyable.

The cover is great. It's by Anssi Rauhala, who also did the cover for my Sherlock Holmes anthology. (Sorry for the bad photo, just took it with my cell phone.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Toni Johnson-Woods on Carter Brown

I interviewed the Australian scholar Toni Johnson-Woods about her book project on Australian paperback crime fictioneer, Carter Brown. I posted the interview in Finnish here, here are the Q&A. Toni's blog on Aussie pulp fiction is here.

Just what are you doing regards to Carter Brown?

Carter Brown is part of a larger project of mine. In 2007 I received a grant from the Australian Research Council to document the spread of Australian “popular” (more often called pulp) fiction of the 1950s throughout the world. Carter Brown was one of the most widespread authors. Carter Brown is really Alan Geoffrey Yates who wrote nearly 300 books as Carter Brown between 1951 and 1985.
What got you attracted to Carter Brown in the first place?

Carter Brown is the person about whom I talk the most because he is probably the best known of all Australian writers. It started, as most research projects do, from a very simple question – who is Australia’s most *popular* author…my colleagues at the University of Queensland and I were having a cup of tea asking this question. Someone said “Carter Brown”. I’d never heard of him so I went to our national library and discovered that he’d written nearly 300 novels. After ten years of studying Australian literature I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard his name mentioned once. Then I dug a little deeper and found dozens of Australian writers had written thousands of books in the 1950s — romances, westerns, and crime. And yet not one academic in Australia had investigated them more fully. So I decided it was time for the academy to get a bit of a wakeup call.

What's interesting about Brown to modern readers? Does he still hold up?

He is of interest to readers because his stories are so representative of the time in which they were written. The language, fashions, technology, consumerism, representations of women, women and sex are all snapshots into the various decades. For instance, the earliest stories are very hardboiled and reflect the James Hadley Chase style of fiction – mean streets, political corruption and dangerous dames. Later the stories are much more light-hearted and poke fun at the “heroes”. The final stories are pretty much sex and sadism. I prefer the light-hearted funny ones and they still are amusing.

Why was he so popular around the world?

I think it was the funny Carter Browns who amused people all over the world. It seems that some humour does transcend national boundaries. My favourite character is Mavis Seidlitz who is a ditzy blonde – she
is like a detective Lucille Ball. I think his steady stream of fiction meant that a publisher could rely on a new title every
month to fill the bookshelves and so maybe it was just because he was there.

How could he be so prolific?

Yates never owned the name “Carter Brown” – it was owned by the publisher Horwitz. So when the owner Stanley Horwitz sold the licence for Carter Brown to Signet in the USA, he signed at 10 books a year deal. So if Yates wanted to earn money he had to supply those ten books. It was a harrowing deal—as often Yates was writing a current book, editing his last book and plotting his next one. He confessed that he took Dexedrine (which was legal then) and would write the whole book in 48 hours. The book then was edited by the Sydney offices of Horwitz, they sent the edited version to the USA where their editorial team fixed mistakes and then the manuscript was sent back to Australia for approval. Can you image the pressure? So from 1957 – 1985 he was writing between 6 and 10 books a year. Most of the earlier “books” were really short – about 34 pages -- and he wrote two of those a month.
I spoke with Yates’ widow last year and she said he didn’t even have a full collection of his books. So I’m unsure if there is a complete collection anywhere in the world. Even the Australian National Library, our legal repository, does not have all of his books.

What can you tell us about your research about Brown in Finland? Did you find any explanation why there was so much of Australian stuff published here?

I was in Finland to present a paper on Carter Brown at the annual SHARP conference. I focused on my findings in Nordic countries; earlier this year I was in Copenhagen and Oslo (I didn’t have time to visit Sweden). I spent the first week in the Finnish National Library; and I spent some time with some enthusiastic collectors. Finland has a unique relationship with Carter Brown because it was the FIRST overseas country to translate him—between 1957 and 1985 Finland published 140 Carter Browns…second only to France (222 books). Finland also has different covers to those in Denmark, Norway and Sweden: it reused the Australian covers. This suggests that Finland had an agreement with Horwitz (the Australian publisher) and not with Signet (the US publisher). Why or how this happened is still unknown. Unfortunately the Horwitz archives are not available and the company was sold last year so we
will probably never know.

Any interesting anecdotes you can share about CB?

Australia’s popular crime writer Peter Corris tells how he used to steal Carter Browns from his local newsagency. He says Carter Brown influenced his writing style. Mickey Spillane trashed Carter Brown on American television once – apparently Spillane had been drinking and Yates found it amusing. Yates had been writing about the USA for half a dozen years before he finally visited there. He was very popular in Japan – and his Japanese covers are the most beautiful of all I think. His material was turned into two French films (both are pretty ordinary). Richard O’Brien of The Rocky Horror Picture Show fame has written a musical, The Stripper, based on the CB book of the same name. It is supposed to be playing in the UK at the moment.

You've read some other Australian writers and I've understood they are pretty bad compared to Carter Brown. Is this true?

Yes. Because CB was so successful a rival publishing company started Larry Kent. Kent lacks the humour of CB. He is just a little too violent for my taste. Marc Brody’s stories are just poorly written and an effort to read. Carl Dekker has an interesting “hook” each story is written in a different location – again, the writing is pretty poor. The best of the ‘second’ string CB is K T McCall – the author is supposed to be the girlfriend of Johnny Buchanan, but really the series was written by two women.

Could you name some other interesting Australian writers?

I believe that Australian Peter Temple is one of the leading crime fiction writers in the world today. But as to the fiction of the 1950s – I find myself more engaged by the westerns—Marshall Grover, Emerson Dodge…there are dozens of them. I think I’ve read way too many crime fiction novels and so I find

Why was there so much pulp and paperback publishing in Australia? Could you share some of that history?

In 1939 the Australian government imposed taxes on non-essential imports such as books. After the war was finished the taxes were not lifted and so Sydney publishers found a gap in the book market. Previously the majority of cheap fiction had come from America – Australia hadn’t developed its own publishing ethos. Suddenly there was a ready market for cheap fiction – these publishers desperately looked for authors who could write genre fiction (romances, westerns, crime, science fiction) quickly. They wanted to fill the stands at railways with reading material each month. As there weren’t that many experienced writers, the publishers asked all sorts of people to write. The result was that anyone who could provide enough words got published – hence the poor quality of some of the material. Still it provided extra income for railway workers, accountants, teachers and those willing to spend their weekends writing at their kitchen table. Many of the writers I interviewed admitted that they wanted the extra money to buy a house. It was the post-World War Two boom in Australia.

What's next after your CB book is completed? More Australian pulp?

After I’ve finished the CB book (which has taken me about three years) I am going to publish a complete list of all of the Australian authors and editions I have found—that should be a couple of volumes. At least that’s what I hope. My next big project is to trace all the Australian westerns published around the world. Western fiction is the least researched of all ‘pulp’ fictions.

The pictures are Finnish editions of Carter Browns, the latter two are with original Australian covers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My other new webzine out

I moved some time ago my crime fiction fanzine, Isku, to the web here. Now I moved my other fanzine, Pulp, to the web. It's in here. Everything is in Finnish, but there are some Australian paperback covers, which you might be interested in.

Pulp-lehden nettiversio luettavissa nyt täältä! Artikkeleissa australialainen kioskikirjallisuus, H. Ahtelan kauhunovellikokoelma Dégénéré (1918), Kari Suomalaisen jännärit ja Aake Jermon rikosromaanit.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday's Forgotten Film: The Big Town

Neo-noir isn't a genre only for the 2000's. They made neo-noir films already back in the 1980's, films that were knowingly full of neon lights, femme fatales, crooks with guns, heroes with raincoats, set in the fifties or the sixties, with the soundtrack blasting jazz or old rock'n'roll. Heck, someone might say that Chinatown and Dick Richards's Chandler film Farewell My Lovely with Mitchum as Philip Marlowe were neo-noir films.

One of the neo-noir films from the late eighties is now pretty forgotten The Big Town (1987). It seems forgotten even though it boasts a stellar line-up of actors: Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Skerritt, Bruce Dern... I watched this just now, since I bought it very cheap on VHS. I'd seen the film when it was new, and I'm pretty sure I wrote a review of it for a local newspaper (I was 15 at the time, so the review might not have been very good). I remember thinking that it was a mediocre film even at the time, but for some reason it has stuck with me. I liked going back to it, even though I think the film is still mediocre. Matt Dillon and Diane Lane are very attractive and the theme of a young rookie invading the dice scene of a big town - here Chicago - is always alluring. But some of the motives behind the people's actions in the film remain unclear and the film drags in the middle. TV director Ben Bolt doesn't get everything out of the events and the scenes just keep on following each other. He also doesn't get the best out of the actors and lets some rule the scene, especially Bruce Dern, who just shouts and yells. (Incidentally, I also saw Silent Running with Dern and the same thing there, too. He almost ruined the whole film.)

The Big Town is based on a novel by Clark Howard, called The Arm from 1967. I haven't read the novel, but I'm sure his style and voice bring more depth to the story that otherwise remains pretty bland, as his short stories are very, very good. I wish someone who's read the book would comment on how it differs from the film.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rare Clint Eastwood western

Over a week ago, at the annual Summer meeting of the Finnish Western Society, paradoxically called "pukkujoulut ("Lidl Christmas" or something like that), held in Oulu we watched a rare Western movie from the fifties that's reportedly never been released on VHS or DVD. Ambush at Cimarron Pass (1958) would be totally forgotten these days if it didn't star the young Clint Eastwood in his first film to get a screen credit. He's billed third in the opening credits, but there was a rerelease - probably later in the sixties, after his Italian Westerns - in which he was credited first.

The film is not a B-picture, as someone might have an urge to call it. It's more like a cheap A-western, shot in black & white Cinemascope (or actually Regalscope). The film was written by prolific pulpster and later prolific B-picture writer John K. Butler (whose Steve Midnight stories from the Dime Detective are very good), and I think this shows in the dialogue. It's very crispy at times: "What happened to him? He's much nicer now than before." "The Indians made him nice."

Otherwise the film's virtues pretty much end there. Eastwood isn't very good - he plays a young, hot-headed Southerner, who's in with a ragtag crowd of other Southerners who haven't given up the fight after the Civil War. Eastwood grins uncomfortably through the film, and one won't give him a long future on silver screen. Scott Brady, the first-billed star of the flick, plays a Yankee officer who leads a small gang of soldiers. They end up ambushed by some Indians - we never see much of them and they act pretty stupidly. (Which is of course a Western cliché, but these guys are really dumb. And there's not too many close-ups of them. Maybe their contract with the studio didn't say anything about the close-ups. Actually there are not too many close-ups of other actors either.)

My biggest problem with the film - beside that it's wooden and doesn't pack much suspense - is how the only female character is portrayed very stupidly. Her whole family is slaughtered, even to the smallest kid, and yet she tries to hit on all the men she sees, with a greedy lust in her eyes. Maybe she's gone into a severe shock after traumatic events? And yeah, okay, the film ends more abruptly than anything I've seen in a long time.

Eastwood has been reported saying that Ambush at Cimarron Pass is "the lousiest Western ever made". In this interview he says the film almost destroyed his career, because he thought he never wanted to act again. (His wife talked him out of the decision, and then came Rawhide.) Is it because of Eastwood the film has never been released on video? Has he put a ban on it? It seems the film can be seen occasionally on something called Western Channel. Our version was taped from a small Finnish cable channel in the mid-eighties and transferred to DVD. We had a great time watching the film, as we had a small cinema at our use. I bet there are not that many people alive who have seen this on silver screen.

There's a long comment on IMDb here, which contradicts a lot of things I've said here. It is true that I fell asleep in the middle and maybe all the good parts came during those 5-10 minutes. See also this blog post. Seems like there's an illegal download doable from here.