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.