Saturday, September 29, 2012

Al Nussbaum collection!

Al Nussbaum was a famous bankrobber and a friend and colleague of the hardboiled classic Dan J. Marlowe who churned out short stories in the early seventies. His son is now raising money to publish a collection of Al's stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My newest book

Here's the cover for my newest book. It's a collection of short stories with private eye Joe Novak, earlier published in my self-published magazines (Isku and Ässä) or in some one-off booklets. There are also two previously unpublished stories, my foreword and Tapani Bagge's short preface. The great pulpy cover is by Timo Ronkainen.

Here's the entry for Joe Novak that I haven't updated for Kevin Burton Smith in years, it seems!

The title of the book translates as "The Case of the Frozen Detective". All the stories are titled in this manner, there's "The Case of the Former Partner", there's "The Case of the Old Case", there's "The Case of the Stuttering Neighbour" (whom Joe Novak almost shoots). My favourite is "The Case of the Windowless Monad", but we just couldn't use it in a title. The caption on top translates as "Murders, gals and transvestite cops!" (There's only one, though.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Goodbye, Uncle Tom

The mondo documentaries were a fad in the sixties carrying on till the seventies and even the early eighties. The genre was born in the hands of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi in their dubious early film Africa Addio (1966) that was blamed for racism in its depiction of what happens to Africa after the white Europeans leave the continent.

I haven't seen Africa Addio, but I just recently saw another film by the same duo, called Addio Zio Tom AKA Goodbye, Uncle Tom (1971). It's another exploitation documentary, using lots of footage of sex, rape, killing, maiming and torture. It's also a political film, since it's about the rise of Black Power in America in the late sixties and about the slavery of the earlier centuries. All the scenes are acted out, as there are understandably no archive films about the time of slavery. This is by no means as clever as the Cuban The First Charge of Machete.

Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very shocking film with all its violence and gratuitous sex, including even minors. It's clear that the directors want very much to condemn the exploitation of slave business and the bad treatment of the Africans, but still they use it to depict sex and violence to attract audience. Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very confusing film: I really didn't know what to think about it. It's also a bit too long, but the main problem is that it never really gives the word to the Africans or the Black Power activists of the sixties (it even at times ridicules the African-Americans of the late sixties, either for the lack of political consciousness or at their funny seriousness), and with this gesture it becomes clear that Jacopetti and Prosperi want to shout at white Americans: "Watch out, the niggers are coming and it's all your fault!"

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Edit: Earlier I had used Mondo Case as an example, but I was pointed out that I was actually talking about Africa Addio.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More old animations

I watched the whole VHS cassette I mentioned earlier having the fifties' Disney animated short Susie, the Blue Little Coupe. Found out there were many interesting cartoons I had no prior knowledge of and some that were not very easily available in other formats when the cassette was published (which, by the way, took place in 1999, though I'd thought it would've been an older publication - perhaps it was a republication of an older one).

Billy Mouse's Akwakade, seemingly redistributed in the late sixties on television under another title (which I already forgot), a parody of an Esther Williams swimming film:

Parrotville Post Office, a 1935 cartoon by Burt Gillett made for Van Beuren Studios:

Dave Fleischer's Little Lambkin from 1940:

A Waif's Welcome, another Van Beuren animation directed by Burt Gillett:

Strolling Through the Park from 1949 made for Famous Studios. Sorry, no YouTube link for this. Quite stylishy animated, and there's also a sort of karaoke part for everyone to join the singing.

And finally Spirit of '43, a war-time Disney propaganda film, which I thought were not very well available in the nineties. Now they are of course available on DVD.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: The Mark of Zorro

I've been compiling the new issue of Ruudinsavu (= Gunsmoke), the official magazine of the Finnish Western Society. I've been dreaming about the issue dedicated to the Zorro phenomenon, to the movies and comics and other stuff that's been made about him. It seems like it's now coming true, with me writing the article on Johnston McCulley who originally invented the character and wrote the first stories about him.

McCulley wrote four novel-lenght stories about Zorro, but weirdly enough only the first seems to have been published in book from. Can this be true? And the first one, originally "The Curse of Capistrano", later published as The Mark of Zorro, the title of the Douglas Fairbanks film of 1920, is now available only in the POD edition from Wildside Press. (It's okay, but it has an ugly cover, with McCulley's name written wrong ("McCully") and the book has some formatting and scanning errors.) How can this be? McCulley died in 1958, so his work is technically still under copyright - except seemingly for The Mark of Zorro, since I don't think Wildside Press is paying anyone anything for the rights of book. Is there a problem with McCulley's heirs? I notice Googling around that there's been talk about the collected Zorro short stories coming from Black Dog Books, but so far nothing.

Back to the actual book. "The Curse of Capistrano" was published in All-Story Weekly in 1919, making Zorro one of those long-living heroes originated in the pages of a pulp or other fiction magazine, just like Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. The story was fast made into a movie and hence the book was getting to be known as The Mark of Zorro.

The book is entertaining, and though it's dated in many ways (Zorro never kills anyone, except one guy in a duel and that's perfectly alright for everyone concerned), it's still a quick read. McCulley uses a highly sophisticated style, one he probably thought suits the early 19th century Spaniards, and at times it's a bit too funny - unintentionally. The book's also staged like a play, with far too few scenes for action and too many of them take place indoors. There are some good battle scenes to make up for the staginess. The basic gimmick - that Zorro and Diego Vega are one and the same guy - is basic knowledge to everyone now, so the book loses one of its advantages at first sight.

I'd really like to read the other McCulley Zorros, but it seems it's almost impossible, unless I pay some real money for the old pulps they were published in. (Make sure to note these Zorro tie-ins from Sandra Curtis that to my knowledge have never been published in English.)

The weird things don't end here, by the way: McCulley's Zorro was never published in Finnish. We've had only the movies and the Disney TV show and Steve Frazee's novelization of it.

Other Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jason Starr's Tough Luck Redux

Jason Starr's Facebook status from earlier today: "Handed in screenplay MICKEY PRADA (based on my novel Tough Luck) for Michael Rapaport to direct."

This is great news. Here's my old post on Tough Luck.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ben Haas

Lynn Munroe has just posted an excellent essay and a thorough bibliography on Ben Haas in his website. Ben Haas was of course better known - at least here in Europe - as John Benteen, the writer of the delightful Fargo series. Lynn Munroe writes in length also about Haas's sex and sleaze paperbacks, many of which were previously unearthed.

I haven't read much Haas, but along with the Fargos I'll heartily recommend Big Bend as Richard Meade and some of his Lassiters and Cutlers. (Why not all of them? Because I have read only few. All have been consistently good.)

Oops! There's no Wikipedia entry for Haas! Work up one!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Susie, the Little Blue Coupe

Finland also had its share of cheap VHS cassettes loaded with old animated cartoons that had fallen out of copyright, mainly from the small studios, like Van Beuren, and stuff from the thirties and early fourties. I've been buying them cheap from thrift stores and other places for some time now - not all of them are available on DVD, and as you are well aware, I'm interested in the history of animation (I even have an unsold manuscript on the subject).

But this I'd never seen - I didn't even actually know it existed. And I sure didn't know there were Disney films that have fallen out of copyright. The video cassette looked awful with a very bad recreation of the Little Blue Coupe on the cover, but since I pack a cell phone with a net access all the time, I was able to Google the film to know it was worth the 20 cents. Well, I might've bought it nevertheless.

This small film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, who later on directed lots of Disney feature-length classics, like Cinderella and Peter Pan (to be exact on this, he was one of the directors on those movies).

The cassette holds some half dozen other animated cartoons from the thirties and early fourties, but this was clearly the gem of the bunch. I'll probably write something more about the other movies later.

Move overlooked movies at Todd Mason's blog. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

New sleaze novel just coming up

As some of you are aware, I've self-published two sleaze crime paperbacks in 2010 and 2011. This year will see yet another sleaze novel, but it will be a double, just like the old Ace Doubles - or actually the Midwood Doubles might be a more appropriate reference point here!

The other book was written by a friend of mine who wanted to use the pseudonym Carlos Caramba. I'm still using my old moniker Mikael X. Messi. Both books have the same title: Runkkuloma Rivieralla. It means something along the lines of "Jacking Off at Riviera" and it refers to the idiotic Finnish title of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday (I know, I know, they aren't at Riviera in the film!). It also refers to a once popular vacation spot at Masku, near the town of Turku, that's known as Riviera.

The cover photos are found material, the other one is from an old LP, the other one from an old C-cassette. I guess no one will come asking about copyrights.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just a work-related update

I've been working my ass off lately, writing articles and reviews for the magazine of the Finnish Western Society, Ruudinsavu (= Gunsmoke), getting some of my future books together (been working on several projects on Finnish history and the history of misanthropic thought - not much pulpish content here), translating Lovecraft's essay Supernatural Horror in Literature... He's an awful writer, you know? I think there must be more, but I keep forgetting. None of these bring much money, I'm sad to say. I keep reviewing some books from time to time, but for some reason or another they always end up on the boring side - the most recent example being a new thriller by Finnish writer Max Manner, which I barely managed through.

I'll try to work up some decent blog posts in the near future.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Patrick DeWitt: The Sisters Brothers

Catchy title, ain't it? I'm in a minority here, but the title is probably the best thing in the book that's been celebrated everywhere it's been published, including Finland. (Patrick DeWitt also came here to promote the translation. I was away travelling, otherwise I would've made an interview with him.)

Okay, I'll take some of that back. The Sisters Brothers is a book filled with lots of funny stuff, some of it absurd, some of it downright scary or nasty, some of it so disjointed it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the book. There's something demanding respect in the way DeWitt writes a western novel without any of the usual western themes. There's no juxtaposition of Wilderness and Civilization, there's no Shane character trying to decide into which world he belongs, there are no cattle drives, there are no lone cowboys, etc., etc.

The book is filled with intentional anachronisms, such as a hired killer demanding a low-carb dish, since he wants to lose weight. Almost none of these felt funny to me, only clever and not very clever at that. The forced cleverness was the most annoying thing in the book to me. The irony felt too obvious and too overworked. I thought this might be called "The Hipsters Brothers", since this is clearly directed to urban 25-30-year-olds who dwell in irony. Which is of course okay with me, if there are new western readers this way. But this wasn't for me, though I somewhat respect the gesture.

And I totally understand this is an old fart speaking here, but there are better ironic western novels out there, such as Charles Portis's True Grit. I'd also call forth Charles Locke's The Hell-Bent Kid. I admit I'm not particularly well-read in the revisionist anti-western western here, but some of the most-mentioned include Roy Chanslor's The Ballad of Cat Ballou, Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Thomas Berger's Little Big Man and E. L. Doctorow's Welcome to Hard Times (made into a movie).

I don't see a line leading from them to DeWitt's novel. I don't honestly know what that means.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Peter Rozovsky on hardboiled

In his blog I too rarely read Peter Rozovsky has started a new series of posts: he looks into the classic American hardboiled crime fiction. Here are his posts on Lionel White, Edward Anderson (Thieves Like Us), James M. Cain, Dan J. Marlowe and Robert Silverberg (admittedly a small one) and finally Dan J. Marlowe (again!), Paul Cain and Jim Thompson. He has also some other fascinating posts on different subjects, go read them all!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sidney Lumet: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

There have been lots of raves about this movie, but I managed to see it only last night on Finnish TV. And indeed it turned out to be worth of the raves: a noir thriller worthy of the best Gil Brewers, Harry Whittingtons and every other working-class noir novel of the fifties and early sixties. It's great to see veteran director Lumet working at the top of his form.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are very good as Lumet's laymen who desperately need money for various reasons. They plan to rob the jewellery store of their parents. Of course everything goes terribly wrong. The family relations rise to front and the father, played by the great Albert Finney, gets suspicious. The ending is ironic and cruel and also plausible in every way.

If you like your noir believable and about ordinary people and not about sick, traumatized psychos, check this film out. If you like your noir without empty pastiche or knowing winks to the classics of the genre, check this film out.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Discussion on female noir

Some interesting comments on writers such as Ursula Curtiss, Charlotte Armstrong and others. Didn't know Shelley Smith could fit the bill.