Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday's (or actually Saturday's) Forgotten Book: Victor Gischler: Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse

Back in the days when I was planning and editing the short-lived paperback series of the Arktinen Banaani publishers one of the manuscripts I was sent was Victor Gischler's Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. I didn't read it at the time, because it seemed obvious from the start that the series wouldn't continue for long. I'd read Gischler's Vampire A-Go-Go and enjoyed it, but thought it wouldn't fit the paperback line easily; here's my blog post on the book. The manuscript of Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse I'd printed out came up when I was cleaning my desk before the holidays and I decided I'd finally read it, but instead of reading the book from the printed sheets, I ordered a copy from a web store.

I'm glad to tell you that Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (GGGOTA) is a very good book. It's funny, exciting and violent, but there's also some warm humanity in the depiction of the protagonists. The set-up is good: one man has lived in a cage for nine years after the apocalypse (which is explained away in a short sentence, which is a good thing) kills three mysterious men he encounters in the woods and starts to think he should try to find out what's happened to the mankind. He also misses his wife he hasn't seen in nine years. Not all about their marriage is explained in the beginning and Gischler keeps important things away from sight till the second half of the book. The collapsed society of the near future is plausibly done, even though it's a mix-up of westerns and Mad Max. Gischler takes things over the top, but does that very well. GGGOTA is a grand adventure in the style of Huckleberry Finn. I would've gladly taken the book in with the Finnish paperback series, but alas the series didn't see the light of day after five books (and four that came out in hardcover - the format change didn't change a thing, even though we added two Finnish books in the bunch).


GGGOTA may not be to everyone's taste, but I liked the heck out of it. One point, though: I didn't like the scene with the crazy man-hating transsexual.

It seems Gischler managed to fund writing the sequel, but the book doesn't seem to be out as yet.

Didn't mean to do this as a part of the Forgotten Books meme, but here's a link to Todd's blog with the other links.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christa Faust: Choke Hold

Some of you may remember that I had a hand in getting Christa Faust's admirable paperback original Money Shot in Finnish in the all-too-short-lived paperback series of the Arktinen Banaani publishers. The book is very good and got some good reviews (some bad as well), but it sold zilch. So the sequel, called Choke Hold, never came out in Finnish.

Which is a pity, since Choke Hold is a very good book as well. Truth be told, I didn't read it until now. I can't explain how this came to be, but now it's finally read - and as I said, it's a great book. It has the same virtues as Money Shot: non-stop action, solid characterizations of fallible human beings, no-nonsense narration and witty banter both in dialogue and the voice of the protagonist, ex-porn actress Angel Dare. She's in witness protection program, but her past - told in Money Shot - gets back to her and she has to flee.

Choke Hold is a short novel, read almost in a jiffy, but in this kind of book that's a virtue of its own. Faust shows respectable professionalism in that she creates memorable characters in just a few lines and scenes of action. You'll remember some of her characters for a long time. The ending tells that Angel Dare's story is not over, which is a good thing, even though I'm not sure if I like the idea of series characters. There's enough grimness in Faust's climax that the next book is bound to start from scratch.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: H. L. Lawrence: The Sparta Medallion

H. L. Lawrence wrote only two books. The other one, called both The Children of Light (1960), is the better-known of the two, since Joseph Losey based his Hammer-thriller The Damned on it - and it's a pretty good film, too, almost completely without the usual clumsiness of many Hammer thrillers. Lawrence's other book is called The Sparta Medallion and it was published one year after The Children of Light.

It's a pretty solid thriller, with a decidedly British bent on it. It stars a British geologist on his way to South America. He meets a strange German in the plane. The plane crashes however and only three people are left to survive: the geologist, the German and an air hostess. The German is killed in the jungle in mysterious circumstances, the air hostess is captured by the Indians and the geologist is left to survive in the jungle with the German's stuff, so when he's found he's thought to be the German. The man finds out soon there was something mysterious about the German and his belongings, and as he reaches Lima, several people are trying to kill him and take the suitcase that belonged to the German. The geologist however makes nothing out of the stuff therein.

It all comes down to a large, world-wide conspiracy that harks back to the Nazis, but Lawrence deals with it nicely in just 160 pages (I checked: the British first hardcover edition has 160 pages, the Finnish paperback has 139 pages). Nothing larger than life, just a nice solid thriller. It's a wonder Lawrence wrote nothing more. If someone has an explanation, I'd like to hear. Seems like he worked in advertising, maybe he ran out of time to do extra work.

More Forgotten Books here.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Charlie Williams: Graven Image

Wanted to read something short and catchy and reverted to my Kindle that I've used all too rarely for these past months. Charlie Williams's novella Graven Image had landed free on my Kindle just some time ago and I decided to read it.

And it's very good stuff, smooth but edgy, funny but smart, violent, brutish and noirish. It's the story of a fallen man who tries to make it good, but never succeeds. You want him to, even though he's not a good man, but you know from the start it doesn't end well for him.

I just kind of lost in the end. I really have no idea what went down. Maybe someone could explain it to me? I'm sure the fault is all mine, not Charlie Williams's.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Paul Denver: The Deadly Chance (1973)

Okay, I'm cheating here a bit. This is one of the books I'm including in my forth-coming book on British paperback crime fiction. I only browsed through the book while cycling at the gym. I think that's enough for this book, which isn't exactly quality stuff.

Paul Denver was one of the pseudonyms used by the British writer Douglas Enefer. He has no Wikipedia entry, but there's always Goodreads. I've read some of his books starring private eye Michael Power, they are mildly ok, mediocre but still entertaining enough. (Actually I first thought, over ten years ago when I was writing my first book, Pulpografia, that Denver was American.) Enefer also wrote some Cannon novelizations as by Paul Denver, and the titular The Deadly Chance is one of them. I believe the story went like this: when the bona fide American Cannon novelizations (written by Richard Gallagher) ran out, the British publisher World Distributors asked Denver to write more of them. And that's just what he did. I don't know whether Denver wrote on an outline or a screenplay of an episode or whether he just made it all up. I'll have to check that out.

The first problem is that Denver/Enefer can't write like an American. There's always a feeling someone's cheating. Denver/Enefer is clever enough though to keep descriptions at minimum. The dialogue also gives the Britishness of the author away, but that doesn't happen all that often in the Finnish translation (though it at times adds layers of its own). The story is a bit silly with its depiction of a small town drug scene, but there's a twist that might keep the reader interested. I say "might", because I skipped lots that went on interim. There's something tired about the book.

There are good British paperback crime novels out there, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. Included is the Finnish edition from 1976, published in a series that consisted only of TV novelizations.

Edit: I changed the publisher from Consul to World Distributors. They put out the Cannon novelizations written by Paul Denver. Consul published earlier paperbacks by Denver.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

David/Day Keene: The Queens of Death?

I bought this old Finnish paperback (published in 1947) with three short stories in it several months ago, mainly because it has a Zorro story in it. If I'm right, this is the only real Zorro story by Johnston McCulley published in Finnish. It's probably one of the later Zorro stories that were published in pulp magazines, such as West. I believe these stories have never been reprinted.

I didn't read the Zorro story in the book, but I read the two preceding stories. The first one that also gives the book its title is written by "David Keene". The title reads as "The Queens of Death". Now, there's no David Keene who has written any kind of crime novels or stories that I can find. I can't find any trace of a story called "The Queens of Death". Of course it's possible that this story was published in a pulp magazine no one has ever indexed, but somehow I don't think that's right. I got to thinking it might be possible this is really by Day Keene. The Finnish publisher may have thought that "Day" is not a right name for an author and changed him to "David". These things happen. And Day Keene happens to have a pulp story called "Three Queens of the Mayhem", published in Detective Tales in February 1946, so it's entirely possible that this story found its way to Finland and got published as part of a three-story anthology.

There are three old women in David Keene's story. They are old ladies living together. They were once famous singers called The Beverly Sisters, but getting caught in a murder case ruined their career. Now one of the sisters asks private eye called Tom Doyle to try to find a girl one of the sisters was forced to give away to an orphanage. The story is fun, mildly parodist in tone and plot. It's written strictly in the zany school of hardboiled writing, reminiscent of Robert Bellem, Richard S. Prather and others. So, is it "Three Queens of Mayhem"? Anyone? Or is it some other story by Day Keene? Or is there a David Keene?

There's also another short story to stir up interest. It's called "Kadonnut sävel", which means "The Lost Tune" or some such. The hero of the story is troubleshooter of some sort called Hannibal Smith. He's a former sports coach, but now makes his living selling used stuff, giving loans and doing services to people. Hannibal Smith is a fat man, but he's also resourceful and intelligent and quick with his mouth. Now, there's a Hannibal Smith story called "Down Among the Dead Men" published in Dime Detective in 1945, written by C. William Harrison, who's best known for his paperback westerns. (I've read one, it was pretty good.) I'm pretty sure this story is by the same C. William Harrison. Can anyone confirm? The story is funny as Hannibal Smith is asked to take a photo of a cow somewhere in the fields. He does exactly that, but fast he realizes he maybe shouldn't have, since he's being suspected of a murder...

The great Finnish cover is by Poika Vesanto. Probably - I can't find his signature in the cover.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Moscow – Cassiopea (1974)

This is a Soviet science fiction film in which six teenagers - three boys, three girls - are sent in a spaceship to Cassiopea to investigate who's sending out radio code. The film is a first of the two, the sequel is called Teens in the Universe! In Finland, the sequel's been called "The Robots of Cassiopea".

This is a fun movie. It's goofy for sure, but it's also very sincere and not badly made at all. There are actually some very nice scenes in space, and the futuristic design of the spaceship itself is pretty good. There are also some surrealistic or hallucinogenic scenes in which the teens use the virtual reality provided by the spaceship to entertain themselves during the long trip. The film is also played as a comedy and a love movie between some of the kids.

I'm not sure if this is available in the English-speaking countries, but you can watch it in YouTube with Russian titles:


There's also this, using footage from the sequel (which I have yet to see):


More Overlooked Films here. At least pretty soon, I hope.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: Frank Struan: Murder's So Unpleasant (1954)

In my on-going, but sporadic study of British paperback crime fiction, I read, almost in a jiffy, a short booklet by Frank Struan, called Murder's So Unpleasant. The Finnish title translates literally as Murhat ovat epämiellyttäviä. It was published here in a cheapo paperback series called Max Strong.

Frank Struan's real name was Graham Fisher, and all I know about him is that he was born in 1920. I don't know if he's still alive; probably not. He used the Frank Struan pseudonym in a series of stories that were published in the legendary British magazine called Tid-Bits in the early fifties. I've never seen these, but I believe one story filled out an entire magazine. If I'm mistaken, do correct me. Fisher wrote some thrillers still in the seventies, but that's all on him.

Murder's So Unpleasant is a mock-American hardboiled crime novel with a private eye hero called Johnny July. If he's a series character, he should be included in the Thrilling Detective listing. I don't know that yet, but I'll check it out. In this outing, Johnny July is hired to guard a wealthy business man, but he dies - in a closed room! - before July gets a chance to make out just from whom the man's supposed to be guarded from. There are two beautiful women involved in the case, the young bride of the deceased and her sister who seems to be after the man's inheritance. Or some such. I wasn't actually paying much attention and it's been already days since I read the booklet.

And this is what this book was really about. It's an one-hour entertainment, nothing more. There are notable gaps in the plot and Johnny July isn't a very interesting character, but I didn't really mind as the stuff went on with some speed. There are many references to Chandler. The city of the story is Bay City, Chandler's fictional city, and Johnny July is mugged and taken to a mental institute to be held there just like Marlowe in Farewell My Lovely.

I'm not sure how easily one could obtain stuff like this. The Finnish translation is easily found and cheap, though. The Finnish edition's cover art is by Spanish Portada Noiquet.

More Forgotten Books here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962)

I saw earlier today a 35 mm print of Czech animation wizard Karel Zeman's Baron Prásil, also known with the title of the subject line. In Finnish, it's been called Parooni Münchhausenin uskomattomat seikkailut. I don't know what's with the Baron Prásil thing, but that's not very important here.

I wrote earlier (three years ago!) about Zeman's other film (see here) and said that his films resemble the silent cinema. It's like we're seeing everything for the first time. It's a cinema of marvels and rare beauty. It's also the cinema of laughter and joy. And it fits Zeman made his film about Münchhausen whose adventures have brought us laughter and joy for many decades.

Zeman's technique - the mixing of live actors with animated backgrounds - works very well here. Everything is very exotic and strange and beautiful. This is also cinema of optimism, even though there's a healthy strand of satire as well.

Zeman's film is also an important precursor to steampunk, mixing modern heroes and inventions with steamboats, air balloons, flying horses and such. It's no wonder Terry Gilliam was impressed by the film.

This is a trailer someone made to commemmorate Zeman's film. More Overlooked Films here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ridley Scott & Cormac McCarthy: The Counselor

Damn, I wanted to like this film so much! I'm not a fan of Ridley Scott's work, but I know he can do some good stuff, but given that this was scripted by Cormac McCarthy and the genre is trashy hardboiled crime I was more than thrilled when I walked in the movie theater.

Damn, it sucked.

The Counselor has lots of good moments and some nice action scenes, but there are also lots of problems. First, the plot. Mind you, I'm a fan of ellipsis. I can love the way how not everything is explained or is explained a lot later after the incident has already taken place. McCarthy as the sole writer of the film - what, no script doctors here? should've been! - uses the ellipsis clumsily and makes the film seem more awkward than it really is.

Second, the dialogue. McCarthy's dialogue works very well on paper. It works well on big screen, if it's been rewritten by real screenwriters. Take a look at No Country for Old Men or The Road. The Counselor tries to tread the same ground, but gets stuck in long monologues that have no meaning plot-wise or stupid repeating of small phrases like "What?" or "Huh?" Some of the scenes are better in this sense, however, for example the first meeting of Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.

Third, McCarthy writes women like shit. The character of Penélope Cruz is totally meaningless. She's an empty pawn with nothing to do. Cameron Diaz is somewhat better, but she's also over-written to the extent she becomes, like Cruz, a pawn. She has no life of her own, even though that purports to be the film's focus. The men of the film are more convincing.

Fourth, how can someone like McCarthy be so demure? He writes convincingly about killing, slaying, maiming, torturing and exploiting other people, but talking about sex and giving us good sex scenes between two people - or even people talking about sex - seems to be overwhelming for him. Probably he shouldn't try it anymore and stick with killing.

If you want to have some crime fiction about Mexican drug trafficking, try Don Winslow's Savages and The Power of the Dog. Or Sam Hawken's quiet and hypnotic Juaréz Dance.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don Winslow: The Power of the Dog

I just finished this huge novel by Don Winslow, who's one of the foremost new hardboiled crime writers in the USA. I've liked what he's done, especially Savages (and I even liked the film, which most people seemed to hate), but there's something about him I can't quite grasp. He leaves me a bit cold. 

Winslow belongs firmly to the James Ellroy school of crime writing - at least when it comes to The Power of the Dog -, but he's different from Ellroy in two aspects: first, he writes about true stuff, things that have happened and are happening; second, he's not maniacal about his writing. His characters are not wacky psychos, like with Ellroy, and his language and narration are not clipped nightmares of White Jazz or The Cold Six Thousand. Winslow writes very curtly, with very short sentences, but his sentences are not feverish. They seem more like he's writing a story treatment for a film or a TV series. The same immediacy - we see only action, not the motives behind them, we are never offered glimpses of inside people's minds - is prevalent also in Winslow's other books, especially Savages, in which the narration at times transforms into fragments of a screenplay. 

So, when Winslow writes about the tragedy of war against drugs and the drug cartels of Mexico and Columbia that are in control in those countries, mostly with back-up from CIA and DEA, we know it's real stuff. He's that convincing. He shows in The Power of the Dog that the war against drugs should be stopped immediately, but he doesn't say that out loud. It's up to us to realize that ourselves. It helps Winslow's characters are not loonies. 

But maybe it's the reason the book left me colder than I really expected. Still, it's a great read, with many explosive action scenes and some very suspenseful chase scenes. It would work great as a TV series by HBO. 

The book came just out in Finnish from Like under the title Kuolleiden päivät/The Day of the Dead

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Attack of the Robots (1966)

Jess Franco was a Spanish director who has probably made more feature-length films than any other director. His filmography has about 200 films. Many of them are erotic horror, some of them are more mundane action and sex flicks. His reputation has never been too high and I've gathered many of his films indeed are of poor quality, but some of them have redeeming qualities about them, such as hallucinatory sequences and imaginative camera work.

I just managed to see two of his films, which I believe were the first for me. I saw both on 35 mm on big screen. The first one of the two was much better than the latter one, and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the screenwriter. Cartes sur table AKA Attack of the Robots (1966) was written by Jean-Claude Carrière, one of the best-known and most revered French screenwriters of the last 40 years. He's written lots of stuff for directors like Buñuel, Godard, Peter Brook, Philip Kaufman... and Jess Franco.

Cartes sur table is an enjoyable spy romp with many parodical touches. The film is full of silliness and it's almost always in the right tone, so it's not overdone or unintentional. There are some light touches of sadomasochism and fetishism, which both show in Carrière's and Franco's later films. Cartes sur table is also a reminiscent of Godard's Alphaville which was done a year earlier, so it's possible Carrière and Franco wanted to parody the better-known film. Both star Eddie Constantine as a hardboiled hero (though he seems silly and clumsy in Franco's film), both have Paul Misraki's music, and both have a huge central computer that speaks incoherently in the end.

Cartes sur table is one of those cheap spy flicks the French made in abundance in the sixties (remember the Lemmy Cautions and Nick Carters Constantine starred in?), but it's also a lightweight New Wave film in its self-reflectiveness which is never too loud. Comes recommended by me - if you can catch it, as it seems like there's no decent DVD publication.

And then I saw Franco's later Count Dracula with a stellar cast of Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski, but this was only boring. Nothing else. Sorry. Nothing to see here.

Franco died earlier this year, having directed his last film in 2012. Its main character is called Al Pereira, just like Constantine in Cartes sur table.

More Overlooked Films here at Todd Mason's blog (after a hiatus).

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

More info on the Brian McDermott mystery

I was in contact with the archive of the Otava publishing house, who put out the book that left me astounded some days back: Brian McDermott's The Battles, called Tuntematon tilaa näytännön in Finnish. Here's the original post on the subject.

So, the Otava publishing house still has the contract made with Brian McDermott. Unfortunately the contract didn't tell if McDermott's book was already published in book form in English, but the contract retained the possibility that the Finnish publisher could also use it as a serial in a film magazine. And a friend of mine happened to have the said magazines at hand, and - ta-taa! - Brian McDermott's story was indeed published as a serial in a magazine called Elokuva-aitta (Film Storehouse or some such in translation) in 1966-1967. This leaves the question: was McDermott's story published as a serial also in English? I don't seem to be able to find any trace on this possibility, though, but it's still a viable explanation.

However, there's also a possibility that McDermott wrote the story exclusively for the Finnish audience. It was said in the magazine that McDermott was a popular figure in Finnish television due to the BBC language program called Walter and Connie in which he performed. It was also said that the characters in the novel resemble the Walter and Connie of the show, so it's possible McDermott based his characters on them. (I still haven't had the chance to read the book, so can't comment on that.)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Q&A with Sarah Weinman on domestic suspense

I've been reading Sarah Weinman's anthology Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives that focuses on domestic suspense short stories and novellettes written by female authors from the 1940s to the 1970s. It's a very good book, not a bad story in sight, and the subject of the book is very interesting. It's also something I've written about earlier myself, both in Finnish and in English here at Pulpetti. I've called the genre "female noir", but I'm not sure if it's really fitting. These writers are almost always not hardboiled or cynical, nor do the stories take place in alienated big cities, yet there's hard-edged grittiness to the stories that might merit the use of word "noir".

I interviewed Sarah Weinman via e-mail for the Finnish Whodunit Society's magazine, and I got also her permission to use her answers in the blog as well. See also her website (the link above), it has great additional info.

How did this book come to be? 
Troubled Daughters emerged from an essay I wrote for the literary magazine Tin House. I’d been approached by an editor there to write something for their themed “The Mysterious” issue, and I’d long contemplated why it seemed that a fair number of female crime writers working around or after World War II through the mid-1970s weren’t really part of the larger critical conversation. They weren’t hard boiled per se, but they weren’t out-and-out cozy, either. Hammett and Chandler and Cain, yes; but why not Marie Belloc Lowndes and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding and Vera Caspary? Why Ross Macdonald but not his wife, Margaret Millar, who published books before he did and garnered critical and commercial acclaim first? I knew after writing the essay that I wasn't done with the subject, and when I had lunch with an editor at Penguin on an unrelated matter and started going on, rather enthusiastically, about this widespread neglect, he said, “sounds like there’s an anthology in this. Why don’t you send me a proposal?” It took a while to organize, but eventually I did, and Penguin bought the anthology. Publishing being what it is, it took a less than two years from acquisition to release date.

How would you describe "domestic suspense"? 
Here's what I say on my website: "To my mind, it’s a genre of books published between World War II and the height of the Cold War, written by women primarily about the concerns and fears of women of the day. These novels and stories operate on the ground level, peer into marriages whose hairline fractures will crack wide open, turn ordinary household chores into potential for terror, and transform fears about motherhood into horrifying reality. They deal with class and race, sexism and economic disparity, but they have little need to show off that breadth. Instead, they turn our most deep-seated worries into narrative gold, delving into the dark side of human behavior that threatens to come out with the dinner dishes, the laundry, or taking care of a child. They are about ordinary, everyday life, and that’s what makes these novels of domestic suspense so frightening. The nerves they hit are really fault lines."

Is it a women's genre or are there any male writers who would fit the description? 
Two of the most successful practitioners of contemporary domestic suspense are Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay. Their books absolutely fit the description. I'm harder pressed to think of male writers from the 1940-1970s whose work falls into domestic suspense territory aside from Ira Levin, though going back earlier than that, Francis Iles' MALICE AFORETHOUGHT (1931) or C.S. Forester's THE PURSUED could be categorized as domestic suspense.

What writers and which books are the forerunners of domestic suspense?
Everyone included in my anthology! (And many not included.) If you mean earlier -- Marie Belloc Lowndes, especially her 1914 novel THE LODGER.

Don't Bother to Knock
Can you name some examples also in cinema?
I'm not a cinema-phile, so my expertise is really limited to books. But I think it's safe to say that if it was adapted from a domestic suspense novel, then the film, too, would be categorized that way (i.e. Charlotte Armstrong's 1951 novel MISCHIEF adapted into DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK, Marilyn Monroe's first big role.)

Who are the most memorable practitioners of this genre now?
Contemporary domestic suspense is thriving, to my mind. Gillian Flynn for sure; also Laura Lippman (standalones), Megan Abbott, Alafair Burke (standalone), A.S.A Harrison's THE SILENT WIFE, Hallie Ephron, Koethi Zan's THE NEVER LIST, Kimberly McCreight's RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA...and many more I'm forgetting at the moment. 

What are the fears and wishes of women the stories in the book reveal? What historical changes in the women's life does this book represent? 
Untold changes! The first stories were from the end of World War II, when women were conscripted to work while their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers were fighting overseas. Then the men came back -- those who survived -- and women were expected to revert to domestic roles, which caused a lot of cultural chafing. Then came second-wave feminism, Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem (and Helen Gurley Brown, too) and financial and social equality was possible, not a pipe dream. It's no wonder domestic suspense tales fell out of fashion in the 1970s; but in a way, it's equally understandable why they would be popular now, with so much anxiety, culturally and economically, at the moment.

Is domestic suspense a feminist genre? 
I think so, even if many of the writers may not have seen themselves that way! But the very idea that, in fiction, women trapped in bad marriages or crippling cultural norms had some agency to fight back and assert themselves is a distinctly feminist thing.

What are some of your favourite stories in the book?
My answer changes almost every day, but I've been pleased to see readers respond well to Joyce Harrington's "The Purple Shroud" and Barbara Callahan's "Lavender Lady". [And they are very good stories! - JN]

The book is dominated by American writers, but there's one British writer, Celia Fremlin. Is this kind of story something typically American?
No, that was an accident. Fremlin's THE HOURS BEFORE DAWN is a prototypical domestic suspense novel in my mind that it was critical she be included. But I can think of so many other British writers -- Celia Dale, Joan Fleming, Ruth Rendell in her early years -- who could be included in a hypothetical sequel.

Why are these writers so forgotten today?
My theory is that because they had no influential champion as did their male counterparts. These women aren't canonized in the Library of America. They aren't taught in schools at the undergraduate or graduate level. If TROUBLED DAUGHTERS redresses that balance in even a small way, I've done my job. Who would you pick up to be reprinted in a larger scale? All of them, probably...? Dorothy B. Hughes was already beginning to get new notice thanks to the recent reissue, by NYRB Classics, of her final novel, THE EXPENDABLE MAN, and much of the remainder of her backlist was just reissued in ebook format by Open Road Media (they also reissued many books by Charlotte Armstrong, and I believe one or two others from my anthology are in the works.) Shirley Jackson is in midst-revival, too, with a major biography due out in 2016. I'd love to see more attention lavished upon Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Joyce Harrington, and Nedra Tyre, as they wrote excellent novels. But really, everybody in TROUBLED DAUGHTERS should be celebrated with reprints!

Will there be a sequel?*
I'd love for there to be one, but only if a great many readers buy TROUBLED DAUGHTERS and spread the word!

* I couldn't help but include my own list in my e-mail: "I can think of at least some writers not in this book, like Doris Miles Disney, Kate Wilhelm ("Murderer’s Apprentice", Double-Action Detective and Mystery Stories, May 1959), Shelley Smith, Ursula Curtiss, Dolores Hitchens, Dorothy Dunn, Margaret St. Clair, Leigh Brackett..." Though Hitchens and Brackett come off more as hardboiled crime writers. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Intruder (1962)

Roger Corman is best known for his schlock, but there's a hidden gem in his repertoire: the 1962 film called The Intruder, also released as I Hate Your Guts and Shame. It stars young William Shatner as an All American young man who also happens to be a racist and a fascist. And you just cannot not love a film that stars young William Shatner as an All American young man who also happens to be a racist and a fascist.

The film, shot somewhere in the Deep South, is a hard-hitting drama based on Charles Beaumont's novel of the same name, but it veers away from cheap exploitation and also from the patronizing racial attitudes so prevalent in films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? There are no heroes in the film, as there are no easy explanations or solutions. In the end, it's clear everyone's still going to go on being racist, even though Shatner's All American young man is dragged to shame.

I haven't read Beaumont's novel, as it seems pretty hard to come by, but it would be interesting to compare the two, as it feels like Corman had toned down the novel. Beaumont himself scripted the film, but there are some moments that don't ring true to me, such as the seduction of a lonely woman and the violent abuse of a young black kid in the end. They would've felt more right if Shatner had raped the woman and if the mob had tried to lynch the kid.

But all in all, The Intruder comes highly recommended from me. If you're a fan of no-bullshit drama that pulls no punches, doesn't deliver phony speeches between action and still makes a relevant point about our world, check out The Intruder. (Especially when you know you get a chance to see young William F. Nolan as one of the racist hicks.)

Here's a longer post by a Finnish writer on the film. It's also in English.

More Overlooked Films, umm, somewhere, certainly not at Todd Mason's blog. I must admit I've fallen off the radar here.



Friday, October 25, 2013

Another bibliographic mystery: Brian McDermott

Now off to another mystery surrounding a book published in Finnish, supposedly translated from English, but seemingly not in English.

Brian McDermott's Tuntematon tilaa näytännön ("The Unknown Man Orders a Play" or some such, pretty awkward name, if you ask me) came out in a big publisher's paperback series called Crime Club in 1968. The original name is supposed to "The Battles". Now, there's not a book called "The Battles" written by Brian McDermott. Actually there's not a book called "The Battles" by any writer, at least prior to 1968. One Brian McDermott did publish a crime novel called Who Killed Robin Cock?, but that was in 1981. And that's his only crime novel, possibly only novel.

What gives here? There are some American paperbacks published in Finland that were never published in the US: two private eye series by Grover Brinkman and I. G. Edmonds, a crime novel by Bruce Cassiday, possibly four or five air war novels by Robert Sidney Bowen. I think Edmonds also has a war novel in Finnish that didn't come out in the US. It is entirely possible that Brian McDermott, whoever he was, didn't manage to sell this book to British (or US) publishers, but managed to land it in Finland. (The book wasn't published in Sweden. I didn't check Norway's or Denmark's national libraries' catalogues, but I'll do that at some point.)

So, who was this Brian McDermott? I haven't as yet read the book, but given the title it's possible or actually likely that he was the actor Brian McDermott who died in 2003, writing on his own experiences.

Can anyone help me with this? Who was McDermott's agent, if he had any? Did someone reading this blog know McDermott? Is someone reading this blog related to McDermott? (One thought comes to mind: could Who Killed Robin Cock? be the same novel that circulated through many publishers, landed only in Finland in 1968, but was finally published in 1981 in the UK?)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Lando series as by Tex Kirby?

One of the Finnish Landos:
"Don't Show Mercy, Lando"
There are fourteen books published in Finnish paperback series as by "Tex Kirby". The books are westerns and they feature one Brad Lando as the hero. Now, there seems to be at least two Lando books published by British cheapo publisher John Spencer (in their Badger paperback imprint), called Lone Gun Renegade (see photo below) and Arizona Manhunt (both 1971). But I can't seem to be able to find any info on the other Brad Lando books. In the Finnish editions they are clearly announced to be translated from English as they have such original titles as "Wildcat Breed" and "Trial by Gunsmoke". For some reason or another, Lone Gun Renegade isn't one of the Finnish Landos.

But there's nothing on them in any place I can think of. Pat Hawk's pseudonym catalogue credits John S. Glasby having written two Lando titles, but there simply are no other Tex Kirbys or Landos in Abebooks for sale - I even went through all the "original" titles in the Finnish Tex Kirby books and checked whether Abebooks had them.


These could of course be anything: something penned by German writers with hoax English titles; something written by English writer or writers, but left unpublished in the UK and published only in Scandinavia (or even only in Finland); something penned by someone else entirely, but published for some reason in Finnish under different name or title. Similar things have happened in the past.

Edit: I edited this, since there were some errors in my posting. Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalogue does indeed list Lone Gun Renegade and Arizona Manhunt as written by John S. Glasby, but other than that, there's nothing.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Shock Corridor (1963)

Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor must've been quite a shock for the audience of its day: the in-your-face attitude of this hardboiled anti-thriller is baffling even to viewers of 2013. I just saw this recently for the second time (both times on big screen) and was again mesmerized, even more this time than the previous.

Shock Corridor is a sordid tale of a newspaperman who wants to get Pulitzer and thinks about doing it by being planted into a loony bin. He talks his girlfriend and his editor-in-chief into the plot and rehearses going crazy with a shrink, but the second he's in he notices he might be going insane himself. Or wait, he doesn't notice it, his girlfriend does, but can't do nothing about it.

The film is somewhere between downright trashy sleaze and avantgarde (as, as it feels sometimes, only the best art is) as Fuller doesn't shy away from using the most ridiculous stuff of the day's pulpy fiction, like the nympho patients of the female ward and the zombie-like lunatics manning the corridors of the asylum. The zany acting (especially of Peter Breck in the lead), the fierce rhythm of the editing, the harsh photography of Stanley Cortez and the dream sequences in colour, leftovers from Fuller's unfinished documentary projects all make this into a dynamite of a film. Here's Jonathan Rosenbaum on the subject.

I'm not sure whether there will be a compilation post of Overlooked Films. Could it be somewhere else than Todd Mason's blog?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Oh, my new novel just came out

You think I'm productive? Not all the books that were supposed to come out this Fall didn't work out as planned, but I'm still putting out some seven books. One of these was the Lovecraft novel I mentioned earlier, another one is a sword and sorcery novel that came out roughly the same time Haamu/Ghost came out.

Sword and sorcery novel? Yeah, Viimeinen bjarmialainen/The Last Bjarmian (Bjarmia is a mythical place in the north-east region of Finland) is something I've always wanted to do and now here it is. This story came out first in five installments in the Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories mag I edited and published some years back. I wrote my serial set in ancient Finland almost from a scratch and later on I realized the story resembles westerns a lot: a lone swordsman comes into a small town, finds the town people corrupt, but still has to fight some bad guys that threaten the town from outside. But these bad guys are weird gigantic white monsters, not your basic Injuns or robbers. And they have a mysterious leader, living in a cave no one has ever seen... It's a bit like Hammett's Red Harvest coupled with Lovecraft.

The serial went through quite many edits before it hit the print, and I still think there remained lots to be done. The main problem was that the battle scenes resemble each other too much, but last week I figured out how it could've been avoided - two weeks after the book had come out. I guess this happens a lot.

There's also my foreword telling how the story got into print. (I posted the foreword here - in Finnish, of course.) The cover illo is another one by Aapo Kukko, who's really good at these things. He said he wanted to draw my hero, a guy called Pesäri, with Alain Delon in his mind. And I think he got it exactly right.

Writing these things - this and my collection of Joe Novak private eye stories and the one novel about Joe Novak - is more like a hobby to me, though it takes a considerable amount of time. Writing this kind of stuff is practicing my craft, practicing how to narrate a story, construct the dialogue, keep the story moving. In the gone days of pulp and paperback publishing you could do this for money, now you have to self-publish or rely on your friends' micropublishing outfits, like in this case. Tuomas Saloranta does a good work with his Kuoriaiskirjat, and I've already agreed on doing another book - a small anthology - for him. Here's hoping someone finds reading Viimeinen bjarmialainen as much fun as I had writing the story!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Shivers AKA They Came From Within

I'm not a huge fan of David Cronenberg, but I've liked some of his films. One of these is his early horror film - I think his first real feature film - called Shivers. It also goes by the name of They Came From Within, which is fitting for a film that depicts weird creatures that take control of a human body and transform people into sex monsters.

The film is crude and full of inconsistencies, but it's still very effective. It's also very silly at times, but I think Cronenberg knows this and plays the film up as a black comedy. There's slapstick, there's some intentionally stupid dialogue and the scientific explanation behind all this is pure hokey, but don't let that fool you. Cronenberg's dark and disturbing vision is right behind every frame.

Trivia: the film was produced by Ivan Reitman and the special make-up effects were done by Joe Blasco!

More Overlooked Movies here. (Oh, I guess no one was compiling the links for this week!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sarah Weinman's Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

I've had this on my laptop for some time now, but I only now delved into Sarah Weinman's new anthology Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives that has been out for a month so. As you probably know, this anthology covers the ground I've mined here in this blog from time to time: noir written by women and about women, not noir written about hardboiled and cynical men, but noir written about good, ordinary women who have babies and their work and what not. Most of the stories in the book come from the period between the 1940s and the 1970s, but there are some exceptions.

I've only read Sarah Weinman's foreword and the author introductions, but the book seems like a very solid piece of research, and the short story choices feel balanced. I think I can safely say this comes highly recommended from me. Check also Sarah Weinman's great website for the book, it has lots of additional information on the authors and their work. For my other pieces on female noir - or domestic suspense, if you will -, navigate via keywords.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Peter Chester: Murder Forestalled

As many of you may remember, I've been doing a book on British paperback crime writers for years now – actually for over ten years... I now decided as I'm kind of between jobs that I'll finish the book no matter what and publish it myself before the next summer.

I don't have the time to read all the books I don't find necessary to read. I've already read six or seven books by Dennis Phillips (1924–2006) who wrote under many aliases. His Peter Chambers (sic) books are light-fare private eye novels and his Philip Daniels books are mediocre thrillers. I noticed I hadn't read Murder Forestalled (1960) that came under his Peter Chester by-line. I found a small description of the book's plot at Amazon and decided to help future historians by blogging it. These kind of descriptions are hard to come by on forgotten British crime fiction. The Thrilling Detective site has an entry for Mark Preston who was "Peter Chambers's" private eye hero, but not for Johnny Preston who featured in "Peter Chester's" books.

I don't seem to be able to find the original cover, so here's the Finnish paperback cover (which is by Robert McGinnis and from altogether different book).

So, here you go: "Barbara Porter came into private eye Johnny Preston's office because she was in trouble. She was being blackmailed and some crook was demanding a thousand dollars from her...money she just didn't have. She wanted Preston to get rid of the blackmailer...but when she told him the crook's name was Jack Mahoney, he knew someone had already attempted the job. As Mahoney lay dying in hospital another mobster came in and finshed him off. And with the blackmailer well and truly dead, Preston found himself right back on the case again."

And oh, by the way, don't mix this Peter Chester with the convicted murderer. Nice to see some traffic here, though!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Harry Hobson and the Hank Janson series

I just posted the bibliography of Harry Hobson's outings in the British Hank Janson series on my bibliography blog here. Anyone know anything about Hobson? Nothing much seems to be available.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Alphaville (1965)

Woody Haut once wrote that both poetry and pulp fiction start from scratch. One film that is right in the middle between poetry and pulp fiction is Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville. In the film the hero kills the evil central computer by reading it Paul Éluard's poetry.

The film stars Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution, the hero of cheap French crime flicks, originating from Peter Cheyney's once-popular novels. Alphaville is a mix of parody, pastiche, deconstruction and homage to the cheap genre, timed to the rhythm of the Lemmy Caution's gun, Paul Misraki's pounding but jazzy music, hysterical car drives through the suburbs of Paris. The film is at times pure poetry in motion: the image changes into negative all of sudden, people stagger strangely in the corridors of the central computer building, the lights flicker, the screen is filled with neon-light words.

Seems like Todd Mason isn't doing his usual Tuesday round-up, but I'll post this anyway and add a link to his blog here.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My forthcoming novel about Lovecraft

Monday sees my new book coming out. It's a very short novel or a novella in which horror writer H. P. Lovecraft is the main character. The book, simply called Haamu ("Ghost"), with the subtitle Kertomus Hollywoodista ("A Tale of Hollywood"), is a case of alternate history: in the book, Lovecraft didn't die from cancer in 1937. After he's been miraculously cured, he decides he's had too much of horror stories in his life, sells his house and library and moves on to Hollywood where he desperately tries to break as a screenwriter. He's living in a beat-up hotel and writes pulp stories but in different genres than before (crime, romance, even mainstream stuff) and tries to keep up his letter writing, mainly with Clark Ashton Smith.

The book is fragmentary and shows us glimpses of Lovecraft trying to write and earn his living. There are also some scenes on a desolate block where Lovecraft finds a dead mole. There are also some real-life Hollywood characters, mainly other writers from B-studios, but also director Edgar G. Ulmer whom Lovecraft meets at a party. There's also Earl Peirce Jr., who's also trying to work in Hollywood and comes up with an idea he tries to sell to Lovecraft. Some of the scenes in the book are more surreal and some of them may seem like Lovecraft is hallucinating, and he's not at all times the most reliable narrator. There's no horror in the book, though, and it has no supernatural elements. It's not a genre novel.

What's the idea behind the book? The vision of Lovecraft working in Hollywood has been with me for years. I think someone suggested it almost ten years ago at the Fictionmags e-mail group where I once was an active member (still am, but not a very active one). At the time, the writer (I can't remember who it was) suggested Lovecraft might've worked in Hollywood already in the early twenties, but I decided to make this an alternate history, set in 1941. (One book that had some influence on how the novel turned out was Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays, her novel on Hollywood that I read prior to starting work on Haamu.)

But there's still something I can't really explain in the book - in my own book! Doesn't art exist to make you wondrous? I'm sure many Lovecraft aficionados will tell me that my Lovecraft isn't the real Lovecraft, and I'm sure they're right. There are of course things that I decided should be according to how he was in real life, but then I also decided I don't have to act as if this was the real Lovecraft - after all, he's gone through a sickness that was supposed to kill him. His writing style has changed drastically, but that came also because I didn't want to emulate or parody Lovecraft's unique style - there are comments on this in the text. There are also subtle hints he's not really alive, as if this were a dream, but I won't give anything away.

The cover for Haamu is by Aapo Kukko, a young graphic artist. He's a very capable guy. Coming out from Turbator, Haamu has a very small print run, so be sure to grab it! Any foreign agents reading this? (Insert smiley here.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Erica Jong: Fanny

Been working on another book on erotica and reading said stuff. I just finished Erica Jong's Fanny, a long picaresque novel on Fanny Hackabout-Jones, better known as John Cleland's Fanny Hill. This was an entertaining book, somewhat long-winded and full with anachronistic feminism, but I didn't mind. Here's a contemporaty review from the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Age of television and reading magazines

Many years I picked up a book from the fifties called The Age of Television. I'm not sure what I was thinking I was going to do with it, but there were these somewhat fascinating diagrams of magazine reading (and reading in general) in accordance to television watching. I'm sure someone will find these of interest. The diagram that shows changes in the circulation of magazines is the most interesting one.











Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Help needed identifying cartoon characters

I just bought a miserable old VHS cassette with five short animated cartoons. All the five films in the bunch were without opening titles, and I could recognize only one of the cartoons (a Filmation Popeye), some others were probably Terrytoons. I'll have to check into them later, but here's a photo I took of the first one. Does anyone recognize the characters in the picture? There's also a third cat, who's a kid brother or a nephew of the two in the picture. The cats spoke English under the lousy Finnish dubbing. I'm thinking this might be something Gene Deitch cooked up with Yugoslavian animators in the mid-to-late sixties.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wanted: railroad detectives!

Jim Doherty over at the Rara-Avis e-mail list was asking about railroad detectives in fiction. He's been able to come up with these titles, but needs more. Any suggestions?

"The Second Challenge" by MacKinlay Kantor (REAL DETECTIVE TALES AND MYSTERIES, Feb 1929)
"You Pays Your Nickel" by Cornell Woolrich (ARGOSY, 22 Aug 1936), also known as "The Phantom of the Subway"
"Ride 'Em, Mokawk" by William Rohde (SHORT STORIES, Oct 1950)
"The Girl in Car 32" by Thomas Walsh (EVENING POST, 7 Nov 1953)
"Yard Bull" by (MANHUNT, Aug 1954)
"The Ghost Station" by Carolyn Wheat (A WOMAN'S EYE, edited by Sara Paretsky)
"The Right Track" by R.T. Lawton (WOMEN'S WORLD, 26 Oct 2009)

Friday, September 13, 2013

More Finnish fantasy

Review of the first English-language collection of Jyrki Vainonen's silently surrealistic fantasy stories, out now. Recommended: Jyrki is a good writer (and a personal friend, but don't let that fool you).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Steven Torres: The Concrete Maze

As some of you may remember, I had some trouble reading some new noirish e-books - they were lacking style, substance and coherence. As I had some holiday left, I decided to try another one, as I didn't yet want to start reading work-related books. I chose The Concrete Maze by Steven Torres, and it proved to be a good choice.

It's a very realistic, almost minimalistic piece, about a 13-year old Puerto Rican girl who goes missing, and his father goes searching for her. The first person narrator is a young guy over 20, the nephew of the girl's father. His narrator's voice is somewhat melancholic in all its no-nonsense curtness. And the melancholy sure fits the novel, since it's full of grief, misery and tragedy. I was hooked by the guy's voice. This could be a vigilante novel in the style of the seventies' Death Wish clones, but even though the young guy and his uncle show courage in the course of the book, they are no heroes and some of their conduct is suspicious as they torture some of the suspects.

All this said, I must say that the book drags somewhat in the middle, when nothing new seems to be happening, and the final revelation in the climax is a bit too much. There was something in there I didn't buy. But still, The Concrete Maze comes highly recommended by me.

Here's Allan Guthrie's interview with Torres.

I read also Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty to finish my holiday reading (and to give him his due), but from now it's only work books for me.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: True Confessions (1981)

True Confessions, by Ulu Grosbard, is a rare film, at least in Finland. It's never been shown in Finnish television and it's been released only in VHS in the mid-eighties. It was released in cinemas, but I'm not sure how widely it was shown. I remember my dad liking the film a great deal.

I just bought the VHS I mentioned from a thrift store and got around to watching the film the other day. I read the John Gregory Dunne novel this is based on some years ago (here are some of my reflections), but I noticed I didn't remember much of it. The film is based loosely on the Black Dahlia case, and both the novel and the film seem to offer an explanation to the case, but in the film it was shown in a very oblique fashion, as was typical in the more artful crime films of the seventies and early eighties. Really: I had to check the Wikipedia article for the film to realize what went down in the end of the film!

That said, True Confessions is not a bad film at all. It's all been done on purpose. The lead actors, Robert Duvall and Robert DeNiro are quite good (and DeNiro is not hamming it up as usual, he plays the Catholic priest in a very subdued note), and they are packed with a nice bunch of character actors. There's a gritty realism to the police work in the film, and it also shows the shady side of politics, construction, Catholic church and prostitution linked with the police force. This is a very nuanced view of being a police in the late 1940's America.

There's not much action in the film, nor much suspense, but it's still catchy and interesting to the end - even though I didn't fully realize just what happened. Who got busted and who walked? Should probably read Dunne's novel again.

The film was scripted by Dunne himself and his wife, Joan Didion, who's probably now the better known of the duo. (And only her works have been translated in Finnish.)

More Overlooked Movies here. And damn, I only now notice that Frederik Pohl died yesterday. He sure lived a full life.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Innocents (1961)

I just saw the new haunted house film The Conjuring. I thought it was pretty good, frightening even, save for the ridiculous ending with all the Catholic Christian cliches about the Satanic evil in the world thrown in. I even wrote a review of The Conjuring saying that the film might draw a comparison with some of the classic ghost films à la The Innocents by Jack Clayton. The director of the film, James "Saw" Wan, showed remarkable restraint compared to his earlier films, and some of the scenes in The Conjuring are quite chilling.

I shouldn't've said that, since I hadn't seen The Innocents! I just watched it for the first time last night, and I must say that The Conjuring is pretty far from away from Clayton's film in restraint. In The Innocents, we are merely being shown two figures from a distance. There are no tricks James Wan is fond of, it's all in the mind. And we are never really told whether the ghosts of the film are true or whether they are imagination of the protagonist, the tutor (played by Deborah Kerr). The film might be even more scarier of that.

Beware of a slow pace! This is not your typical fast ride through nightmares all the horror films are now bound to be.

Based on a Henry James novella "Turn of the Screw". Now that I mentioned that, I might add that I finally finished the translation of H. P. Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" and sent the final edits to the publisher yesterday. Another one goes down!

Here's what Lovecraft writes of James's story: "In The Turn of the Screw Henry James triumphs over his inevitable pomposity and prolixity sufficiently well to create a truly potent air of sinister menace; depicting the hideous influence of two dead and evil servants, Peter Quint and the governess Miss Jessel, over a small boy and girl who had been under their care. James is perhaps too diffuse, too unctuously urbane, and too much addicted to subtleties of speech to realise fully all the wild and devastating horror in his situations; but for all that there is a rare and mounting tide of fright, culminating in the death of the little boy, which gives the novelette a permanent place in its special class." (Hey, no one said Lovecraft is easy to translate!)

More Overlooked Movies here.

Finnish fantasy free for Kindle

Jeff VanderMeer supports Finnish new weird writing giving away free e-book copies of famous Finnish fantasy writer Leena Krohn's short novel Tainaron. Check it out, it's a great book, full of wisdom, beauty and marvel. epub format also available.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: Livia Reasoner: The Vampire Affair

I won this book from Livia Reasoner, James Reasoner's wife, some years ago in a blog or a Facebook contest. I got around to reading it only now, but luckily it still seems to be available as an e-book, though I believe these Silhouette books have a short shelf life.

This is the only paranormal Silhouette book Livia has written, but I don't know why this is, since The Vampire Affair is a solid book, fast-paced thriller with enough vampires, romance and erotic love. It's a clearly work of a professional. The main characters are a young and eager female journalist and a mysterious millionaire who turns out to be a vampire hunter and a bit of a vampire himself. This may sound cliched (and indeed many parts of the book are), but Reasoner writes deftly and keeps the story running. The book is quite short, so the cliches don't get in the way. In the end Livia throws some American Indian mystique in the mix, and it works, too!

The Vampire Affair could've also easily started a series, since both major characters could well play leading parts in coming books as well. Here's hoping it will happen!

More Forgotten Books here on Patti Abbott's blog.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Kevin Wignall's Dark Flag finally out

Remember Kevin Wignall's Dark Flag? I had a hand in publishing the book in Finnish translation some years back as Lipun varjo ("The Shadow of the Flag"). The book wasn't actually a success in Finland, even though it's a very good novel, and it vanished quickly. To this day, it hasn't been published in English language, but finally it's available as an e-book from Amazon. I really advise you to pick it up. This isn't one of those sloppily written and edited e-books I was talking about earlier.

(And thanks for comments on that post, I'll reconsider my stance.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Negative reviews on e-books?

I've been reading some stuff on my Kindle, mainly stuff I've picked free from Amazon, new gritty and noirish crime fiction from both side of Atlantic. I've liked a lot some of the stuff I've acquired, for instance Juaréz Dance by Sam Hawken and Tony Black's bleak novella The Storm Without (of which I didn't do a blog post). I also liked Lawrence Block's short story "Keller on the Spot" quite a bit.

But I've recently dropped two novels by new noir writers I was reading on Kindle. The other one was sloppily written and edited, and the other one had ridiculous characters and the police work depicted in the book wasn't believable. I was going to post a review of the books, but then I got to thinking I wouldn't be doing much of a service to the writers and their publishers (the other one of the two writers has just a book out from a small publisher working actively in the neo-noir business). Then I got to thinking that as a critic that's just what I should be doing: pointing out what these writers and their publishers are not doing very well and keeping readers out of the bad or mediocre stuff, but then I got to thinking again and then I decided not to post.

What do you think? I'm really an outsider in these circles, since I'm essentially a foreigner to all American, British and Scottish writers mining this area, but then again, someone might benefit from my point of view.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Counselor

Here's the trailer for Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy's film The Counselor, coming next October. I'm not really that keen on Scott, but this looks kinda promising.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Pulp writer Earl Peirce Jr.

Doing my first book, Pulpografia (2000), I encountered one or two Finnish translations of short stories by one Earl Peirce Jr. His name may have been written "Pierce" in the Finnish magazines. I didn't find any info on him, except that he wrote for Weird Tales and later on crime pulps, such as Detective Tales. I googled him earlier today (for a purpose I'll reveal later) and found out this post on a genealogy site. Someone has really done good work on Peirce, a really little known writer!

I put up Peirce's tentative bibliography here in my bibliography blog.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Godzilla (1998)

Roland Emmerich's reworking of the famous Japanese monster wasn't a critical success (I think it wasn't a success even commercially), but my kids just saw it and they liked it. I believe my son (who's soon to be 9 years old) loved it. He also loves the Jap movies of which he's seen five, including the original one. 

There are some moments I also happen to like ("love" might be too strong a word here): Godzilla's leap into Hudson River, the drive into Godzilla's mouth, when Godzilla fools the submarines, the sequence at Madison Square Garden with the Godzilla babies. I also like Jean Reno's hardboiled character. My son says: "The best moment is the ending." He always feels sympathy for the baddies in the film when they fall. 

More Overlooked Movies here

Friday, July 26, 2013

Steve Brewer: Bank Job


I just finished this hardboiled thriller reminiscent of Elmore Leonard's work the other day. It was the first book I read by Steve Brewer, but I liked it well enough to read more of his books later on.

Bank Job (2005) is one of those books that start rapidly, race along with a good speed and develop into a satisfying climax. Three low-life criminals are on a crime spree doing stupid things. One of them gets hit by a whiskey bottle during an attempt to rob a liquor store. The guys end up in a lonely house with an old couple living in it. The old guy of the house has a secret up his sleeve, and much action and mayhem ensue. There's plenty of violence that really hurts, and there are also some sudden twists and turns.

Brewer creates memorable characters with just few touches, a bit of dialogue, descriptions of how people move, act, keep a book in their hands. It's quite nice that the lead character is someone over 60. The young hoodlums are also depicted very nicely, they are fully human though they are quite worthless and almost evil. The plot moves on with a nice pace and slows down only in the last 20 or 30 pages. Comes highly recommended, even with the very stale front cover.

Edit: Oops! I meant to publish this on Saturday, but I accidentally pushed the Publish button and can't take it out anymore. So it's two book posts on the same day, but I don't really think anyone minds. 

Friday's Forgotten Book: Sébastien Japrisot: The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun

Still suffering from a bad back, I finished lying on a sofa the French writer Sébastien Japrisot's thriller La Dame dans l'auto avec des lunettes et un fusil (1966). I had a beat-up copy I'd found somewhere cheap, and upon noticing I already have a better copy I decided to throw this away - most certainly something I wouldn't normally do.

This is a very good crime novel. I once read somewhere that if you're a male writer, don't try a woman's point of view (unless you're Cornell Woolrich). Japrisot does it and does it very well. Of course some of the stuff in the book depicting a young woman's sexual and social disorientation is dated, but they didn't overrun the reading experience. The book reminded me a bit of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which I liked to a certain point, but I also got weary of its longevity. Not so with Japrisot's novel, as it clocks at about 250 pages. The book starts in the middle of the woman's noir nightmare of which the characters and the reader can't possibly fathom what's going on. Japrisot likes to toy with the reader's expectations and this is far more exciting and surprising than Gone Girl. Japrisot also writes in a very French style that's both hypnotic and diffuse at the same time. This is a very engaging book and although the prose isn't the most straight-forward one, you can't help but read the book in one sitting.

The book was made into a British movie in 1970 with Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed. Haven't seen it, though. Seems like there's no decent DVD on it. Here's a good blog post on the film.

More Forgotten Books coming up here.

Edit: I forgot to mention it, but I read the Finnish translation from 1967. The title means "The Woman in the Car". Guess this was clear to anyone. Crime Club (with the nice logo) was a quality paperback series from the large Finnish publishing house Otava back in the late sixties.