Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy 1st of May

Haven't been posting lately and won't do it now, but let me just say: Have a happy 1st of May everyone!

And do check out Patti Abbott's blog for the Friday's Forgotten Book entry. (I hope there's one this week.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Q&A with Christa Faust

I finally got around to ask some questions from Christa Faust, the writer of the admirable Money Shot, out now in Finnish as Koston enkeli ("Avenging Angel") from Arktinen Banaani, with the cover illustration by Jukka Murtosaari.

Money Shot/Koston enkeli is about a former porn actress Angel Dare, who's now running an agency. She finds herself mixed up in an attempt to get back a bag of money belonging to the East European Mafia - she's beaten up, choked and thrown in the trunk of a car. She decides she'll get her revenge. It's a magnificently written piece of hardboiled pulp.

Christa Faust is a versatile writer whose career has ranged from hardcore horror written with Poppy Z. Brite to movie novelizations, like Snakes on a Plane. She blogs here and occasionally posts gorgeous examples of her collection of vintage shoes. She's been posting very interesting and enthusiastic comments on the Los Angeles Film Noir Festival screenings, so be sure to check out her blog!

You are one of the few female practitioners of the new hardboiled or neo-noir writers. Why do you think this genre doesn't gather more female writers - there were more in the past, like Leigh Brackett and Margaret Millar.

Maybe there aren't a lot, but there are strong, talented women writing hardboiled and noir fiction today. Women like Megan Abbott and Cathi Unsworth. What I really like about today's female noir authors is that they don't hide their gender with masculine cliche and try to write just like the boys. They bring a new, distinctly female perspective to the genre.

You've created an amazing character in Angel Dare. Someone might think that this kind of book - violent thriller about porn industry - would be about an ultracool vixen whacking men, like in the film Bitch Slap. Was this something you deliberately set out to do?

I never had any interest in telling a story like Bitch Slap, because that's already been done a thousand times. I wanted to create something a little more complicated. More grown-up. And more realistically female. I'm also very tired of superhero chicks that weigh 12 pounds, but can still magically kick a 200 pound man's ass. In high heels, no less. That's a porn scenario, not a real story.

You don't really criticize the porn industry in your book, and I've already received some negative comments on that. What would you say to that?

I portray both the positive and negative sides of the industry in a very realistic and even handed way, just like I would for any other setting. People are free to form their own opinions. As a pulp author, it's not my job to "criticize" anything, just to tell a good story.

The other characters in Money Shot also seem very real. How much did you use people you know personally?

I always use bits and pieces of people I know personally in my fiction, though never an exact copy.

You've already written a sequel to Money Shot. What is Choke Hold about?

Choke Hold, which may or may not be the final title of the new book, involves Angel getting mixed up with unsanctioned cage fighting and drug smuggling. It will be coming out from Hard Case Crime in February of 2011.

Who or what are your influences? You've dedicated your book to Richard S. Prather - can you tell us more about that?

I always had a thing for Prather's Shell Scott novels. They're addictive, like potato chips, and I love his outrageous sense of humor. When Hard Case Crime announced they were planning to reprint Prather's more serious novel The Peddler, I was very excited and posted about it on my blog. Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai read my post and asked me to submit a novel of my own. The rest, as they say, is history. I'd been a Prather fan for years, but it wasn't until I got accepted by Hard Case Crime that I got up the nerve to write to him and tell him how much I loved his books. He wrote me back, a single warm and encouraging letter that I have framed on my office wall. Sadly, we never had a chance to develop an ongoing correspondence. He died before Money Shot hit the stands.

Koston enkeli available in bookstores and through net shops, for example here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Joe Gores's Spade & Archer

I finished reading Gores's prequel to The Maltese Falcon yesterday. I was at it for quite a while, mainly because there was too much commotion around here with my daughter being with us and what not, but also because the book proved out to be a bit of a disappointment.

Gores emulates Hammett's style pretty well, with the emphasis being on the surface of people and things, but the story just won't get started. It's only halfway in the middle when I really got interested in what was going on, and even then I couldnt' follow the plot all the way through. There were probably one or two too many subplots. And the main baddie came almost out of nowhere and seemed just a bit too improbable. The ethos of capitalism's rotting greediness that is so prevalent in The Maltese Falcon is largely missing, even though Gores throws in a subplot about the Leftist movement in the San Fransisco yards in the 1920's.

Spade & Archer should've been shorter and tighter to really work, but there's much to like, too. The ending lines are great. On the left there's the cover for the Finnish edition that is just out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Some great films seen lately and other ephemera

I've been really busy during the last two weeks, hence no posts. I'll try to get some done in the near future.

But, em, you know, I get a feeling that everyone thinks I see only bad movies, like the recent Silent Trigger. I've seen quite a many great films lately, but for some reason or another I haven't written about them here. They include John Huston's James Joyce film The Dead, which is simply marvellous, Georges Franju's great, but slightly obscure Les yeux sans visage (AKA The Horror Chamber of Doctor Faustus), and, just late last night, Terrence Malick's war epic The Thin Red Line.

There was also the Festival of Finnish Cinema, during which I managed to see only some movies, but they included Seppo Huunonen's Karvat, about which I've written before (see here; I'll add the link later, there's some trouble with this computer), and Visa Mäkinen's exploitation flick Yön saalistajat/Hunters of the Night from 1984. Visa Mäkinen is an independent movie maker from Pori, where I used to live, and this is his only action film, from a script by Kari Levola, a writer who's now living in Raisio near Turku, where I now live. I know him, and he's a very nice guy, and I can see what he tried to do with the script for this film, but for some reason the delivery fails at all accounts: the direction, the actors, the editing. But the film is more fun for it. I'd like to see this remade. Maybe I'll have to start producing films on my own...

Have I been reading anything? Yeah, I've read two novels by Tracy Chevalier, The Girl with a Pearl Earring and Falling Angels, which I recommend heartily; I read them, because we are doing a sequel to the reference book on historical novelists with Jukka Halme and Sari Polvinen. I'll start one of Robert Harris's novels on Rome any day now.

I've also been reading Spade & Archer by Joe Gores (the Finnish translation just came out as Sam Spaden etsivätoimisto), but I'm not really getting into it. Spade seems a bit too stale. Was he this boring in Hammett's books? I don't think so. But I'll write more about the book once I finish it.

As for the family matters... Sigh. I just heard my daughter and her mother will be spending three more years in the Central Europe. These will be hard years. And I don't know what Kauto will think of this - he hasn't been told yet.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Russell Mulcahy and Dolph Lundgren: Silent Trigger

I spotted an interesting film on VHs in a thrift store for 50 cents: Silent Trigger (1996), directed by Russell Mulcahy, starring Dolph Lundgren. Sure it wasn't anything to wet your pants (I mean: Dolph Lundgren?!), but I was intrigued by the concept: an action figure like Lundgren under the hypercinematic direction of Russell Mulcahy, known for Highlander, Ricochet and Razorback. I remember liking Ricochet, though I haven't seen it since the premiere, and there are certain qualities about Razorback. For some reason or another, I'm not sure if I've ever seen any of the Highlander movies. I liked Mulcahy's made-for-television film on World War I, called The Lost Batallion. While Mulcahy tended to show off his techniques a bit too much, it didn't really diminish the film's value. But yeah, I know, Mulcahy also did The Shadow...

Some commentators on IMDB call Silent Trigger an art-house action film. I wouldn't really call it an art-house film, but there are certain interesting moments throughout the movie. The screenplay uses a flashback structure, with scenes mingling freely within each other, and some of the plot points are never wholly explained, which brings certain New Wave movies to mind. Then again, the motivation behind the characters is badly developed, the dialogue is stilted and full of clichés, and the main tension in the plot is being developed all too long. The whole notion of two professional assassins being held back by a heroin-addicted guard is stupid. Mulcahy directs with his usual tricks and often shows flair for great shots.

And then there's Dolph Lundgren. I don't really know what to say of him. To say he can't act is pretty banal, but there's not much charisma to him either. He's not even very good-looking, even though his physique is impressive. He's not very well suited to play this assassin, who's suddenly getting tired of his job and its political implications. It's a theme that someone like Kevin Wignall handles superbly, but Russell Mulcahy and Dolph Lundgren are not Kevin Wignall. (Yeah, different media, but still.)