Friday, March 26, 2010

Kauto can read

My son Kauto has just learnt to read! He read at least two quotes from a cartoon all by himself - and he'd never seen the cartoons before. We are totally amazed with Elina - we knew this was coming, but still it strikes us by surprise.

And before you ask: Kauto is five. Okay, five and a half.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tapani Bagge's The Jack finally finished!

Some of you may remember that I've been translating Tapani Bagge's first crime novel, Puhaltaja (2002), into English for the past few years. Now the first version is finally complete. I might even say "finally fucking complete", since I've been at this at least for the last five years. The book was supposed to come out as "The Jack" from JT Lindroos's Point Blank Press, but Point Blank Press is no more. I'm sure we'll come up with something.

In the meantime, here and here are two stories by Tapani for your reading pleasure.

Once I manage to get some editing done, I'll post some excerpts of Tapani's novel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another blog post on another blog

A slightly pulpish item on another blog of mine here. In Finnish, that is.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The latest issue of my fanzine, Isku

Here's the cover by Timo Ronkainen for the latest issue of my print crime fiction zine, Isku. The cover illo goes for my story, "Joe Novak and the Case of the Science Fiction Writer", and it's purported to be a Vega Books paperback with that title. I'm pretty sure that Vega never published science fiction, but it serves a sort of poetic justice in the story. (If they did, I'd be interested to hear.)

Here are the contents (in Finnish):

Harri Erkki: Kellari (alun perin Vappu-Vippu -lehdessä vuodelta 1980 [!])
Gerald Page: Murhaaja (Planetary Stories -nettilehdestä parin vuoden takaa, veteraanin perinteinen aikamatkustustarina, jossa yllätysloppu)
Eino Liekki: Professori Tähtiniemen hermoklinikka (salaperäisen salanimen tarina Seikkailujen Maailmasta vuodelta 1940)
Kieran Shea: Koko lähtee lomalle (Plots With Guns -nettilehdestä parin vuoden takaa, Shea uusi novellisti; suom. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo)
Juri Nummelin: Joe Novak ja scifi-kirjailijan tapaus (ei varsinaisesti scifi-tarina)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Killer trailer

Dave Zeltserman's Killer (out now) is simply one of the best crime novels I've read. Not in a long time, not in ages, not this year, but ever. And here's the trailer for it. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The history of French animation

I was at the Tampere Short Film Festival last weekend, the festival I've attended to for the last 20 years, with some (one or two) one-year pauses. This year I was particularly interested in the three-show series consisting of old French animated films, ranging from Émile Reynaud's cartoons from the 1870's to films made just after WWII. There were many films I hadn't previously seen, even though some of the films were familiar to me.

The earliest examples were pretty crude, as you can imagine, but there's also a sense of invention and real magic, especially in the two films by Émile Cohl, his first, Phantasmagorie, from 1908, and a later one, called Les Locataires d´à côté from 1909. The latter one is a good example of early Surrealism that still flourished in commercial cinema during that time.

The second screening of the series was the best. There were the best-known examples of French art animation, like Berthold Bartosch's Expressionistic L'Idée (1932) and Alexandre Alexeïeff's Night on a Bald Mountain (1933). The most striking example - and one I had never seen - was La Joie de vivre (1937) by two British artists, Anthony Gross and Hector Hoppin. It's timeless, could've been made in the sixties or seventies - or even now, with some alterations. It's made in a free-flowing, fluent and fast style, with only outline drawings. I can find only one link with an extract from the film, and the quality is poor, but it's here nevertheless.

The third screening consisted of films made in the fourties, during the war and just after it. The most interesting of these was Jean Painlevé's clay animation, Bluebeard. It was a wild experience, utterly unrealistic, in weird colours, with crude and grotesque humour reminiscent of Rabelais and his Gargantua and Pantagruel, with heads being chopped and all. Painlevé has seen a renaissance in later years, with a DVD collection of his short films having been released; he was a Surrealist, but also a scientist, who used his fellow Surrealists' ideas in his scientific films, the best-known of which is probably Le Vampire from 1945, a horror documentary about a blood-sucking bat.

Also Paul Grimault's two films in the screening were very good, reminding one of the best American cartoons of the era, with only more artistic ideas thrown in - for example L'épouvantail/The Scarecrow from 1943 in which the devoid landscape is an echo from Surrealist paintings.

One of the most interesting and most boring films in the screening was André-Édouard Marty's Callisto from 1943. The ancient tale of Greek antiquity was told in art deco style, with a very slow pace, in artistically high standard, but also with boring rigidity. It was said that Marty made this in order to show how the French should be making animations in the new Europe (we have to remember that the Nazis were on the winning side in 1942 and 1943 when this was made). I made a quick association to Finland and thought that this is how Finnish animators could've worked had there been any animation industry in the country in the 1940's. (I had especially sculpturer Wäinö Aaltonen in mind - he never made any cartoons, that's for sure, but I think the Founding Fathers of Finland might've called for him, if there had been a need.)

Émile Cohl's Fantasmagorie:

Grimault's L'épouvantail:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Larry Cohen's Perfect Strangers/Blind Alley

I bought an old VHS cassette of a film that seems not to have been released on DVD: Larry Cohen's Perfect Strangers AKA Blind Alley, Umpikuja in Finnish. It's from 1984 and shot on very low budget, with only a small cast. I thought this was a very interesting film, even though not very good on all accounts. I read somewhere that this was shot already in 1981, but released only three years later.

Perfect Strangers is a mob thriller of a hit man who commits murder on a back alley and is witnessed by a seemingly mute three-year old kid, Matthew. The hit man is forced to make contact with the kid's mother and eventually kill the kid. The hit man, a charming sociopath, makes the woman fall in love with him in order to get to Matthew. Seems like the guy falls in love, too. We never actually find out.

There's much of interest here. There are some pretty good suspense scenes, especially the one with the kid playing around in the hit man's apartment with the mob bosses threatening the hit man. The local scenery is good. The three-year old kid seems totally plausible - I thought it was a small wonder Cohen gets so good a performance out of him! There are some interesting connections to the cult classic Liquid Sky: the female lead, Anne Carlisle, had a double role in that, and there's also a weird private eye played by Otto Von Wernherr who also featured in Liquid Sky.

What's more interesting is the film's connection to the women's lib movement: Anne Carlisle's character is a single mother who takes part in the feminist demonstrations. We also see some pretty convincing scenes of the feminists' meetings and the support they provide for Carlisle's character. This is connected with Carlisle's ex-husband who's violent and aggressive, even at one point snatching the three-year old Matthew. Cohen doesn't take sides, but this is a far cry from any Hollywood movie depicting feminists and their cause. An easy way out in the film would've been the ex-husband turning good and fighting the hit man. Cohen doesn't take the easy way, which is always for good.

However, there are some negative things to be said about Perfect Strangers. The actors are not very good, and some of the characters are not very well written - especially the lieutenant assigned to the case of the back alley murder. The hit man's and Anne Carlisle's relationship seems a bit implausible or at least far-fetched. You'd think a woman like Carlisle wouldn't fall in love with a guy like the hit man. He's played by Brad Rijn who's actually pretty good-looking, but is also totally in a different league than Carlisle.

But all in all, a very interesting little movie, which should be available on DVD. (A small note: the Finnish VHS publication has the same image on the cover as the one I found on the web, displayed above.)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Christa Faust's Money Shot out in Finnish

Christa Faust's Money Shot is out in Finnish, as Koston enkeli. Here's the cover by Jukka Murtosaari; more details in the next posting - which is in Finnish.
The Finnish title means "the avenging angel". Koston enkeli was also the Finnish title of Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45. I hope someone likes the connection.
PS. It was also the designated Finnish title of Meir Zarchi's Day of the Woman AKA I Spit On Your Grave, but that one was banned in Finland. Craig R. Baxley also has a movie called The Avenging Angel, and oh, the third Die Hard film was called Koston enkeli in Finnish.

Christa Faustin Koston enkeli ulkona!

Amerikkalaisen hardboiledin kovin naisnimi, Christa Faust, on saanut ensimmäisen suomennoksensa, kun hänen sensaatiomainen romaaninsa Koston enkeli (Money Shot, 2007) on juuri ilmestynyt Arktisen Banaanin julkaisemana.

Koston enkeli kertoo Angel Daresta, keski-ikää lähestyvästä pornoalan ammattilaisesta, joka joutuu keskelle väkivaltaista huijauksien peliä. Kirja alkaa, kun Angel havahtuu lähes kuoliaaksi hakattuna paskaisen auton takaluukusta Los Angelesin syrjäisellä parkkipaikalla. Kirja yhdistää B-filmimäistä toimintaa pornoelokuvan suoruuteen, mutta ei ole mikään Bitch Slap -tyyppinen itsetietoinen pastissi, vaan rehellinen kertomus haavoittuvan naisen matkasta kostoon. Faust kulkee pornoteollisuuden maailmassa kuin kotonaan - hän onkin entinen domina.

Tässä amerikkalaisen kirjailijan ja bloggaajan James Reasonerin arvio Koston enkelistä.

Koston enkelin kannen on tehnyt veteraani ja pitkän linjan pulp-harrastaja Jukka Murtosaari.
Kirjaa myytävänä kaikkialla missä kirjoja myydään, mutta valitettavasti on mahdollista, että joihinkin kauppoihin sitä joutuu tilaamaan. Paras paikka tilata lienee jokin verkkokauppa, kuten Booky. Hinta vain 8,90!

Italian disco at its very best

I dare you to watch this. Just how can that.. that.. that thing stay on her, even when she's shaking that.. that.. that thing of hers?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A bit more about the Harlequin vintage collection

I noticed that someone had posted this link to my earlier post on Harlequin's collection of vintage crime. This follows closely, with quotes, what Harlequin had done to the books they reprinted.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Three reasons I love noir

1. Noir tells about ordinary people you can sympathize with.
2. Noir is uncompromising about why people do the things they do.
3. Noir offers a surprise in the end.

Dave Zeltserman's Killer is about all of these. It's about an old man who gets out of prison after ratting out about his boss, a mob boss who hired him to do 28 killings during some 30 years. We follow him trying to get his life together. He's not going to do another gig, he's not going to do a reform, he just tries to stay alive for some time and possibly meet his children. We see him almost fall in love. We feel for the guy.

We also see glimpses of his past life. He's a ruthless bastard, but he's also reasoning that killing was just his work and that he really loved his family. I love the way how Zeltserman lets the killer's paranoia sink in. It's also worthy to point out how the scenes in the past are told in the present tense and the scenes in the recent are told in the past tense - it's not just a gimmick, it's very important thematically.

And the surprise ending... I was trembling after reading the final pages. It's a surprise not only plot-wise, but Zeltserman also turns the theme of his novel totally upside down.

I'm ready to rank Dave Zeltserman alongside Jason Starr as my favourite new noir author.

Here's Ed Gorman on the book, and here's another blog on the book.