Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: Jack Williamson: Darker Than You Think

I'm writing this before I've finished the book, so I don't know the outcome and how it will play out, but here goes nevertheless.

Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think (published first in 1940 in Unknown, then in book form in 1948) is a werewolf classic and as such it seems dated now, though it must've been pretty ground-breaking at the time, for all its realism and psychological acuteness. Williamson even strives for a plausible explanation of lycanthropy, but the explanation of course seems dated now.

The title of the book is a lot like many film noirs with its emphasis on dark, and sure enough one could see this as a film noir, especially with the red-haired femme fatale of the book, April Bell. The hero of the book, Will Barbee, is an ordinary sap, hacking newspaper stories and drinking whiskey and waking up to a nightmare of his life.

More Forgotten Books here at Patti Abbott's blog. There's an Elmore Leonard week, but I wasn't able to participate in that.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Lord of the Rings by Ralph Bakshi (1978)

I watched Ralph Bakshi's early animated version of Tolkien's saga with my son, who's on a Tolkien binge, having watched Peter Jackson's film twice (or even thrice!). I could see he wasn't thrilled, but he managed through. Maybe he was interested in the differences between the versions.

I'm not sure whether I was, since I found Bakshi's film boring, clumsy and pretentious. I'd seen it before (on big screen), but the film proved to be duller than I remembered. I don't really know what one gets out of it, if one hasn't read Tolkien's book (or seen Jackson's version!), since Bakshi's film is lacking in good, solid narration. I don't know whether anyone seeing the film will care much for the faith of the Ring or the characters.

I promised my son I would try to seek the unofficial Bass-Rankin sequel to Bakshi's film, but Lord help from finding it!

More Overlooked Movies here at Todd Mason's blog.

Richard Matheson RIP

I'll probably be the last blogger to register the death of Richard Matheson, but he was so influential and so good, I can't let it to unnoticed.

I'm just dropping off to do some vacation-time, so here's only a short list of some of his work I've really liked:

Duel: both Spielberg's movie and Matheson's original short story plus his screenplay.
I Am Legend: unbelievably suspenseful, yet tight and relentless, very short (only some 150 pages), but still packs quite a punch, a model for many vampire and zombie novels and films to come.
Someone Is Bleeding: the original novella (later published in book form) reprinted in the great anthology American Pulp, goes to show Matheson was a very good noir crime writer.
short story "Gunsight" (Dime Western, 1951), published in Finnish as "Sokean sheriffin kaupunki" (meaning "The Town of the Blind Marshal"): hypnotic Western story of a blind hero.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Letter from paperback writer Len Levinson

Since I mentioned Len (Leonard) Levinson in a longish post three years ago, this merits reblogging: Len Levinson has sent a letter to the blogger at The Post Modern Pulp blog, and I thought I'd share the link.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

John Connolly: Dark Hollow

Dark Hollow was the first book I've ever read by John Connolly, even though I've known about him for quite some time now. I remember Kevin Wignall being very surprised about the fact that Connolly hasn't been translated in Finnish, he's pretty big in the UK.

Though he's an UK author, his books - at least some of them - are set in the US. Dark Hollow stars his private eye anti-hero Charlie "Bird" Parker, who encounters serial killers in the books. Maybe that's why I haven't been very interested in Connolly's work, as serial killers are pretty much a bore to me. (Especially in a series. How could that possibly happen?)

But Dark Hollow was strong enough to warrant more reading from him. The book was too long, though, especially in the beginning where it took over 50 pages to get the story even started and almost 100 pages to get the backstory out of the way. I don't really care for that kind of thing, even though Connolly clearly thinks Charlie Parker's own traumatic story needs to be told and retold. There was some padding also after the story got going (and I'm not sure whether Connolly got all his sideplots going and whether they were necessary, then again I'm not very good at analysing plots), but the story still kept my interest going. And it was epic, like with Ross Macdonald or James Ellroy, with the hidden crimes being committed decades ago and still reflecting their dark nature into the present day. Some of the scenes are very suspenseful, almost out of a horror novel. Connolly can create a monster that feels human. 

I'll intend to read more John Connolly. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Keith Rawson on Scott Phillips

Keith Rawson's fabulous post on Scott Phillips, the writer of The Ice Harvest and The Adjustment, both great novels.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Antti Tuomainen's The Healer

Not long ago I mentioned Antti Tuomainen and his success in the big world. Here's a very positive review of his dystopian noir thriller, The Healer.

Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl

Lots have already been said about Gillian Flynn's book that's proved to be a bestseller. (Here's Keith Rawson pretty good essay on the book.) It just came out in Finnish and I read it in almost a jiffy. In two days, actually. I've been sick, otherwise I might've read it in one sitting. The plotting is that clever.

Except that the book's too long. Gone Girl - in Finnish translation at least - is over 440 pages. I should say it could've been at least 100 pages shorter and we wouldn't miss a thing. There's too much information we can't use as a reader, too much lingering on details that are not very relevant. This is especially case in the beginning. If I didn't know there was something to expect, I might've dropped the book before the page 100.

Of course one can say that the ending wouldn't be strong enough if the first part weren't so fully detailed. I'm not so sure about that.

But there are enough chilling moments to account for those empty moments when nothing much seems to be happening.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is the quintessential neo-noir movie for the 2010's. Why? Because it's a perfect dissection of the society of the spectacle and the futile dreams of the said society we live in. There's no psychological motivation to drive the action, because the psychological motives don't move us anymore. There are only some meaningless ulterior motives, like money, which makes your pussy wet.

And all this is crusted with the abrasive music of Skrillex and the hyper-active editing of YouTube-era party videos.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Four books in a week

As you've may have noticed, I haven't relly been blogging lately (not even in my Finnish-speaking blog, Julkaisemattomia). It's been due to an enormous amount of work I've immersed myself in lately. I've finished four books in a week and I still have the new issue of the Ruudinsavu/Gunsmoke magazine (plus some book reviews) to finish off before I can drop off to spend the Summer holidays with my family. 

What are the four books, you ask. Well, one of them is a double book, but still a pretty mean piece of work, if you ask me. I compiled an anthology of old Finnish hate speech, from the first five decades of the 20th century, focusing on the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War. There will be two books (or one double-sided, I'm not 100 % at the moment), one focusing on the Leftist hate speech and one on the right-wing hate speech. The latter one includes some samples by the Finnish Nazis, and let me tell you it wasn't fun to work with that stuff. Ugly, nasty, paranoid, stupid, even though there seemed to be some attempt to authorize the hate with intellectual reasoning. 

The other two books: a collection of old pulp crime and adventure stories by the famous Finnish writer, later singer-songwriter Reino Helismaa (forthcoming under the title Kolme luurankoa/Three Skeletons; see the cover illustration by Timo Ronkainen above) and the last entry in my own sleaze paperback quartet, called Varissuon varvimestarit (a friend of mine already dubbed this "The Cum-Masters of Crow Moor", Crow Moor being a part of the Turku city). I haven't really finished that, though, I only wrote the first version - I typed the last five or six pages in a feverish state, fingers flying on the keyboard. (Insert smiley here.) I've still got loads of editing to do with the novel. It's some 22,000 words long (in English, it might be something like 30,000 words), so it's not long. The earlier titles: Lausteen himokämppä ("The Lust Cabin of Lauste"), Mynämäen motellin munamällit ("The Spunk Gang of the Mynämäki Highway Motel") and Runkkuloma Rivieralla ("Getting It Off at Riviera"). 

At times I find myself thinking, "how do I manage this?"

Monday, June 03, 2013

The third generation of the Nummelin family on a Tolkien binge

We watched Peter Jackson's The Hobbit when my daughter was last on vacation in Finland with us (she lives with her mother out of Finland most of the time), and my son was so excited about the film, he wanted to watch Jackson's The Lord of the Rings as well. And so we did, just the two of us. (My daughter had already left Finland at that time.)

Boy, was he excited! I'm very happy my son has an eye for grand adventure and thrilling moments of battle. Afterwards he wanted to know everything about elves, old kings, the lineage of everyone mentioned in the film. I told quite many details of the film beforehand so as not to make them too suspenseful. And then he said he wants to hear The Hobbit as a bedtime story, so we started it. Then he said that when the book is done, he wants to move over to The Lord of the Rings. So be it, we said. (And just yesterday when we stopped by a thrift store, I picked up a battered copy of the novel for him to take away when he moves out. If the book holds up to that day.)

I read the European graphic novel version of Tolkien's novel (or rather, Ralph Bakshi's animated film) already when I was 10 or so. My daughter saw Jackson's films when she was 11 or 12 - afterwards she read the book in two or three days. Now my son is on a Tolkien binge when he's soon 9.

I'm just pondering here whether we should watch Bakshi's animated film and its appalling sequels and read the afore-mentioned graphic novel... I'm also thinking whether I should revisit Silmarillion myself - it's been almost 30 years since I last read it!