Thursday, August 25, 2005

On sick leave

It's actually quite a luxury to be on sick leave. I haven't read so much in weeks or even months. I even have time to watch movies!

What I've read: I read Kari Nenonen's other books under his own name, the SF novel Messias (1989) and the short story collection Noitarovio (1989). Both showed considerable talent that Nenonen seems to have not taken care of. Messias is a very good thriller up to the middle, then it starts to drag. In the end it almost stops. I heard from a reliable source that Nenonen wrote the first part and got his money and fled somewhere to spend the dough. When he came back, the publisher demanded Nenonen finish the novel. He did it in a hurry - and it shows. One of the characters has suddenly a new name and there are many themes that aren't dealt with at all. Someone could rewrite the whole thing, take out the stupid SF themes, and voila! you have a new Da Vinci Code in your hands! (If some late-comer wants to know what I thought of Brown's book, check it here.)

Noitarovio is much better and I hope Nenonen would've written more short stories than he apparently did. He did nothing for the Finnish SF fanzines, for example (unless you want to count an erotic story in a one-off mag). He seems to have had a knack for being able to find outrageous horror in the midst of Finnish landscape. His two SF stories in the collection are not much, though.

I also read two stories from a new collection, The Mammoth Book of Short Spy Novels, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg, who seem to pull these out of their sleeves like other people eat bread. I read Dr. Sweetkill (1965) by John Jakes and a story by Edward D. Hoch (forgot the title, sorry, but it was from the same year accidentally). Both were good spy stories. Jakes's was full of action and hardboiled sentiment, Hoch's (with one of his series characters, Captain Leopold) was pretty nice one about a retired Eastern bloc spy living in New York. Very easy-going and readable, while Jakes was so intense you had to fight hard to see what's coming.

If these stories were written now, they would've been blown up to 500-page thrillers with lots of boring nonsense about relationships between the hero and his mother and his and his wife's and ex-wife's hobbies, which include gardening, coffee-making and vintage cars. Both stories had originally appeared in magazines - Jakes's in Intrigue - and they couldn't be published today as such, unless in an anthology.

I also read Osmo Ilmari's SF novel, Siriuksen Lähettiläs/The Sirius Ambassador (from 1958 or so). It was a fast-moving story, but Ilmari's satire is heavy. In all of his SF novels (I've yet to read only one) there's a strong anti-Communist sentiment, which for some reason or another I always find a bit anti-intellectual, even though Ilmari was surely earnest and he doesn't strike as low as some other writers. Ilmari's best SF novel, with satire and adventure in balance, is Planeetta Logos that is also reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Martian and Venutian novels. Maybe I'll put some covers of his novels here in some time.

What I've watched: I started to watch Anthony Mann's The Naked Spur which I hadn't seen earlier (!). It's a very strong, very bleak and noirish Western with James Stewart acting like a homicidal maniac all the time, even though he's supposed to be a hero. For some reason, I find Mann much more interesting Western director than, say, John Ford, who might be a great lyricist, but, man, who needs great lyrics when you got Stewart shouting at Robert Ryan with a gun in his hand?

For several reasons, I haven't yet watched the whole film, but last night there was Summer of Sam by Spike Lee on the telly. Very interesting, but a bit uncoherent and too sprawling. Lee was stepping on Martin Scorsese's lot in this, which is no surprise since it was written and produced by Michael Imperioli with whom Scorsese worked in GoodFellas.

Now, is that it? I thought I'd seen more films. This hasn't been only holiday for me, though. I've read some stories that have been sent to be published in Isku (the crime fiction mag I publish and edit, for those who don't know) and sent comments on them to the writers. It's something I don't seem to find the time for otherwise - it's good to be sick!

I'll have to go rest now, since I have work to do later tonight: after 2 p.m. there will be an interviewer to talk about Western fiction and after that I'm going to Helsinki to talk about White Heat. We'll see what comes out of that. Maybe I'll collapse and die somewhere between Karjaa and Salo, but at least I did what I had to do, dammit!

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