Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Sampo, one more

I forgot to mention the startling fact that Sampo is still the only feature film made in Finland that is based on Kalevala! I understood that a new film is on the works, but know nothing about it. There's of course The Iron Age, directed by Kalle Holmberg from a script by Paavo Haavikko, but it was a TV mini series.

Russian fantastic cinema

Todd kindly sent me this link in a comment: it's about a minifestival of Russian and Soviet fantastic films. Go see them if you get a chance.


I've promised to write something about Sampo, the Soviet-Finnish film of the late fifties, based on Kalevala, but it seems I'm running out of time and should have to get on with my life, so I decided just to direct you to these two links. There's one thing I'd like to know about the American version: do they play Hammond organs in the end, during the final battle with Louhi? I mean, they attack with their kanteles - a traditional Finnish instrument, something between a guitar and a harp - and the soundtrack goes full blazing with muzaky Hammond sounds! No wonder Louhi turns to salt!

The Finnish scriptwriters behind the film (mainly Väinö Kaukonen who was a professor of Fenno-Ugrian languages) wanted to emphasize the folklore aspect of the story, while the Soviets wanted to do a fantasy film, which explains why there's so little resemblance to the actual stories of Kalevala. (There's no one attacking Louhi with kanteles in the epic! Lemminkäinen and Annikki don't get married (which must be the most boring scene in the film). Etc.)

I haven't seen the American version, called The Day the Earth Froze, but the original is always better. It seems that the original version isn't available in DVD, which is a pity.

Finnish electronica

If you're interested at all in either electronic music or Finnish rock scene, check out these post by my friend pHinn:

Regina has fastly become one of my favourite Finnish bands: very nice, beautiful, catchy, haunting, brittle electronic pop (with some acoustic elements). Here's their new video of their single "Paras aika vuodesta/The Best Time of the Year". They should be huge, but apparently the Finnish audience wants their stuff heavy and full of angst.

Minimal dub or whatever by Vladislav Delay here. More traditional electronic dance music by Mesak here. And some other stuff by him here. (Mesak, or Tatu Metsätähti, is actually related to pulp fiction, since his granduncle was Harry Etelä about whom I've been writing about and whose old stories I'm putting together for a collection!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reading reports: Pavia, Estleman, Wignall, Cerasini, Manchette

It pays to be sick: I was able to read quite many books during the time I was mainly laying on a sofa. Some reports:

Peter Pavia: Dutch Uncle: as I said earlier, this early Hard Case Crime effort is okay, but sadly nothing more. It drags on quite too long and I'd've omitted some of the scenes with the police.

Marc Cerasini: 24 - Trojan Horse: I haven't been fond of the TV series and haven't watched it regularly (every time I see it, Kiefer Sutherland is driving around in his car and talking to his phone, what action is that?). The tie-in novel by Cerasini - who's done lots of this kind of work - was okay, though, very fast-going and eventful. The characters were stritctly cardboard and there were some deus ex machina type of things in the end which weren't necessary. But, all in all, if you're willing to look away that these guys defend torture, this is quite a good way to spend couple of hours.

Kevin Wignall: Among the Dead (2003): I've understood that Wignall is one of the most revered of the new generation of British noir writers. It's no wonder, since Among the Dead is superb. It's no bang-slam type of noir novel and there's little, if any, violent action in the book - I'm more reminded of Richard Matheson's A Stir of Echoes (1958). Among the Dead seems to be drawing its inspiration from the more quiet noir and has some unnerving horror tones. Maybe there's some Shirley Jackson or Ursula Curtiss in this?

Loren Estleman: Sweet Women Lie (1990): some seem to think of Estleman as an example of bygone days who still insists on writing traditional private eye novels, but I really liked this and Estleman's snappy prose and catchy dialogue. Estleman's hero Amos Walker is a very likable man, even though there's a mean side to him as well.

Jean-Patrick Manchette: 3 to Kill (1975): one of the weirdest crime novels I've read in a long, long time. Very literary, it seems to be drawing its inspirations from the Roman nouveau of the fifties (very precise and detached style with emphasis on descriptions of people's clothes etc.), but also from the American hardboiled and noir crime novels. The story is about a man who finds a body on a highway and takes him to a hospital, only to find out that two killers are at him. He runs away after a violent burst of action at a gas station to find himself somewhere deep in the woods living with an old Stalinist. After the killers find him there, he decides to fight back and get back to his normal life. Manchette doesn't really give much weight to logical behaviour, but that would be beside the point; there are several clues about post-Marxist movements of 1968 and beyond to realize that this is a political novel - but about what, to that I found no answer. The English translation seemed too literary, too British to me.

My friend's doctorate thesis

My friend's doctorate thesis is about the cultural history of computer and media viruses.

Jussi Parikan kulttuurihistorian väitöskirja Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Worms and Viruses tarkastetaan Turun yliopiston Tauno Nurmela -salissa lauantaina 5.5. kello 12. Vastaväittäjänä toimii Reader, PhD Charlie Gere (Lancasterin yliopisto) ja kustoksena professori Hannu Salmi.

Väitöskirja tulee julkiseen jakeluun (Turun yliopiston opiskelijapalvelut) keskiviikkona 25.4. klo 12.00.

Parikan väitöskirja käsittelee tietokonevirusten historiaa. Tietokonevirukset ja muut ”haittaohjelmiksi” leimatut ohjelmatyypit eivät asetu väitöskirjassa ainoastaan osaksi turvallisuushuolien historiaa, vaan paljastavat oleellisia puolia verkostokulttuurin muutoksesta. Nojaten erityisesti yhdysvaltalaiseen aineistoon, Digital Contagions analysoi tietokoneviruksia myös osana 1980-luvulta alkanutta keinoelämätutkimusta, post-fordistisen kapitalismin muutosta sekä muun muassa verkostokulttuurin biopolitiikkaa. Parikan työ sijoittuu teoreettisesti osaksi Gilles Deleuzen ja Félix Guattarin pohjalta hahmoteltua uusmaterialistista kulttuurianalyysia sekä media-arkeologista tutkimusta.

Teos ilmestyy kaupalliseen jakeluun kesäkuussa (Jussi Parikka: Digital Contagions. A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses. New York: Peter Lang, Digital Formations-series).

The Shooting, Valdez Is Coming

Some of the films I've seen lately, short minireviews:

Monte Hellman: The Shooting (1965, in Finnish Hän ampui ensin). Great minimalistic Western film that manages to be nothing like Hollywood Westerns without resorting to any of the New Wavish fooling around with pastiches and narration. Hellman's film seems to hark back to Absurdist drama of Ionesco and Beckett, giving absolutely no explanations to what is going on the screen. And yet this captivates the viewer like only few films can. Sometimes a bit clumsy, but the photography is great.

Edwin Sherin: Valdez Is Coming (1970). Based on an Elmore Leonard novel, this is a punchy Western that is also quite intellectual but in a way that doesn't resemble the New Wave films at all. The ending is intentionally abrupt, which may leave some viewers puzzled about what happened. You can watch this as an action flick, though. I had some hard time to buy into Burt Lancaster being a Mexican, but maybe he was half-blood.

Robert Altman: Nashville (1975). Saw this actually last night. It's been almost 20 years when I walked out of Nashville - I was 15 at the time and didn't have enough patience for this kind of thing. And I still don't like country music. It doesn't much bother me now, but I can imagine being bored out of my wits while 15 and trying to listen to "Haven Hamilton" and "Connie White". Now I was actually entertained by the film and the 160 minutes didn't feel like almost three hours. There are many things I don't like about Altman - for example his mistreat of female characters -, but I'm willing to admit his skills at this kind of thing (which, to be true, wore out pretty soon; I don't much care for Health! or other later Altmans).

Russell Mulcahy: The Lost Battalion (2001). I caught most of this rather recent TV film on the Finnish tube. It was quite effective - the action and killing scenes were very crude and violent and the actual battles in the World War I must've seemed something like this. Mulcahy, a rock video and ad director, used some of his overdone editing techniques and other gimmicks (such as bullet coming at someone's face having a point of view), but not too many times. There was just one problem I have with many anti-war films: the anti-war sentiments seem to be directed only towards bad leaders and bad generals, not the machinery of war itself (mainly the politicians and the manufacturers). It would be interesting to see a film about industrialists who backed up Hitler before the WWII.
About Sampo/The Day the Earth Froze: next time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Space growing

I've already posted three films at my My Space account. One of the films was accidentally shot by Ottilia who thought she was just taking a photo and didn't notice that the camera was on video shoot option.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Raporttia suomalaisen elokuvan festivaalilta

A week ago I was at the festival of Finnish cinema. It focuses mainly on older films. Here are some capsule reviews - in Finnish. I'll have to write about Soviet-Finnish Sampo (1959) later on and in English, since there's an American connection: Roger Corman made his The Day The Earth Froze (or something to that effect) on that.

Mikko Niskasen Sissit: sotakohtaukset olivat hyviä, mutta psykologisoivat kohtaukset olivat aika kankeita eikä kuvaus lottien kanssa vehtaamisesta tuntunut jostain syystä kovin uskottavalta. Hopeaa rajan takaa taas oli hiukan liian lepsu - jos se olisi ollut amerikkalainen elokuva, Speden roolihahmo olisi joutunut venäläisten vangiksi ja muut olisivat pelastaneet tämän. Nyt ei missään vaiheessa ollut tunne, että pojat olisivat olleet todellisessa vaarassa. Uusiaaltomaiset kohtaukset vanhensivat muuten ihan sympaattista elokuvaa. Pankkiaiheinen Syksyllä kaikki on toisin taas oli pirun kankea ja liian pitkä, eikä Niskanen ollut löytänyt siihen oikeata tyylilajia.

Asfalttilampaat oli parempi, mutta siinäkin oli omat ongelmansa: missään vaiheessa ei kerrottu kunnolla, mikä Eero Melasniemen näyttelemää päähenkilöä oikein vaivasi. Katsoja ei päässyt kiinni vainoon, joka häneen Naantalin pikkukaupunkimiljöössä kohdistui. Lisäksi elokuva oli homovihamielinen, ja ehkä monien muidenkin Niskasen tavoin myös naisvihamielinen (mistä juhlittu Pojat on yksi räikeimpiä esimerkkejä ollessaan jopa äitivihamielinen). Tuottajana hääränneen Donnerin näyttäytyminen raiskauksia harrastavana gynekologina oli täysin käsittämätön kohtaus. Mutta paljon oli valmis antamaan anteeksi, kun lopussa soi Oksasen ja Chydeniuksen Sinua, sinua rakastan - biisi on tehty elokuvaa varten.

Valentin Vaalan Loviisa - Niskavuoren nuori emäntä sen sijaan oli rikkeetön mestariteos näihin verrattuna, upeasti kuvattu, hienosti näytelty ja mahtavalla draivilla eteenpäin kulkeva tragedia. Sen oli hetkittäin pilata se, että yksi henkilöistä oli nimeltään Roope-setä.

Teuvo Puron Vaihdokas (1927) oli sekavahko mykkäelokuva, mutta kyllähän näin vanhoja elokuvia aina katsoo, kuriositeettinakin. Sen kanssa nähtiin pätkiä kadonneista elokuvista, kuten Puron Sylvistä (1913) ja turkulaisesta äänielokuvasta Sano se suomeksi - jälkimmäisissä pätkissä Rafu Ramstedt teki vaikutuksen hiukan gay-henkisellä esityksellään.

En nähnyt Olavi Kallaksen muutama vuosi sitten löydettyä Miehen vankina -elokuvaa 40-luvulta, mutta juttelin paikalla olleen Tapani Maskulan kanssa ja hän oli sitä mieltä, että turkulaisten Kivimäen veljesten (Huijarien huvittavat huiputtajat) tuottaman elokuvan käsikirjoitti ja ilmeisesti myös ohjasi Harry Etelä eli Aimo Viherluoto, suosikkini kaikkien kotimaisten pulp-senttarien joukossa. Pentti Viherluoto on kuulemma muistellut, että Aimo-veli olisi kirjoittanut elokuvan käsikirjoituksen. On toivoa, että käsikirjoitus löytyisi Viherluotojen kotiarkistoista.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The first film at MySpace

I just posted my first film at MySpace. It's called Shoot Out, but it's no Western. It takes nine seconds.

Kids' book shelves

See below. This is also turned sideways, but you can see what's in there.

More kids' shelves

Sorry, this is upside down and I don't have a program in our laptop to be able to turn it.

The kids' book shelves

Lurker challenged people to a meme about their kids' book shelves. Couldn't resist.

At first, here's the first two floors. As our desktop is at the other side, there are some reference books on the same shelf, with their backs turned away.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Back in business

As you can see from three posts below, I'm on top of my form and will be posting again with some regularity. And I even created a MySpace account!

My Space dot com slash jurinen

I've created a My Space account here. In due time, you'll find very short documentaries of sort of our everyday life. I don't know why I'll be doing this and I'm quite sure the result won't be interesting, but nevertheless.

Ralph Bakshi's Wizards

I saw Ralph Bakshi's animated feature Wizards from 1977 couple of weeks ago, but haven't had time to write about it. It was more interesting than good, and most of the time it was pretty boring.
It wasn't bad - the animation was good throughout and there were some striking scenes in which the animators brought together wholly different styles. My main concern was that there was too much of that interplay with different styles - it seemed that Bakshi never really knew what he was doing. He never quite manages to bring his characters alive and they are too different from each other. You never believe they are characters in a fantasy story, reminiscent of Lord of the Rings or some such. And they are too much in the vein of Terrytoons of Bakshi's early career. The same thing with the gags in the film - they are never good enough, only getting somewhere close. The idea of wizards of the future using Nazi propaganda films may have been a good idea to begin with, but it gets pretty abrasive in the end.

It's been said that this is closer Lord of the Rings than Bakshi's dreadful attempt to animate it in 1979. Well, maybe - nevertheless, Bakshi used some of the footage of Wizards in his LoTR. The latter film suffered from financial troubles and Bakshi's visions never come truly alive, but even in here, his better-liked film, he has to resort to voice-over and stills. (Some of the stills must've gained the attention of the Winis and influenced the outlook of their Elfquest graphic novels.)
One thing I really liked in the film were some of the drawings by one Ian Miller who did similar drawings for A Tolkien Bestiary which David Day edited in 1979. He must've gotten the job via Wizards.

A Mammoth Book of Legal Thrillers

One of the books I've been reading is The Mammoth Book of Legal Thrillers (2001). Now, I'm not big on legal thrillers and I've never read a John Grisham or a Scott Turow. I was quite bored with two or three Perry Masons I've tried. The court-room scenery holds no appeal to me, for whatever reasons. I picked this up at the library mainly because of some interesting authors in the table of contents and because the book was compiled with both new and old stories, an approach that does hold an appeal for me, for whatever reasons. I haven't had - and won't have - a time to read the whole book and I'll have to take this back to the library and get on to other things in life (and book shelves), but I managed to read some dozen of the stories. Here are some brief reviews:

Francis M. Nevins jr: Night of Silken Snow: well written, but the end comes from a bit far
Joe Lansdale & Andrew Vachss: Veil's Visit: quite funny tall-talish story with Hap and Leonard
Michael A. Black: Reasonable Doubts: pretty okay story, but would've hoped for more action; James Reasoner liked Black's one-off crime novel very much, details here
Irwin Shaw: Triumph of Justice: quite good as a story, but I thought Shaw was using some racial stereotypes in here, as late as 1978
John Lutz: Dogs and Fleas: sorry, don't remember much about this, even though I know I read it
Brian Hodge: Speedball: a very good and original story about a hunt for the last days of John Belushi, from a known horror writer
Morris Hershman: Bail Hearing: about this I remember only that it was written as a letter and there was a surprise twist, expertly handed, I'm sure
Henry Slesar: Thicker Than Water: a good court-room story, with a nice twist in the end; some of the forensics was a bit dated, though
James Powell: A Murder Coming: from 1972, a pretty tough one to follow, but actually quite good
C.J. Henderson: The First Thing We Do...: clever ending, but I don't really know if it was satisfactory
Mat Coward: Tomorrow's Villain: otherwise very good, but I didn't believe in the revelation about how and why the crime was committed
Mike Wiecek: The New Lawyer: funny short-short whose end I had to read twice to get a grasp of what really happened; I've published one short-short by Wiecek in Isku, "A Brother's Gift" from Hardluck Stories

Monday, April 16, 2007

Still sick

It seems that I'm being sick all the time. The flu developed into sinutisis (poskiontelon tulehdus, that is). I went to a doctor and had a prescription of antibiotics. The first pill made me sick and I almost vomited - probably the thing you really wanted to read when you came here.

I'm editing the last pages of the drafts for the thriller book. When I get the book out of my hands, I'll lie down for a couple of days and let the antibiotics work their way. I'll maybe read some books during my sofa time. I'm fully aware that I'm way behind my reading and viewing reports, but I'll get to those eventually.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A quicker update

Much better today. Result: didn't get any reading done.

Posted a short essay on my ex libris here. It's in Finnish. And I've forgotten to mention that I've been posting entries from my first book, Pulpografia, here, with some additions and corrections. In Finnish.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A quick update

Sick again, with a flu. My head feels like it's filled with oat meal. Some work had to be done, though: been checking the drafts of the thriller book. The publisher wanted to cut the book in half and put the American authors in one book and the European ones in the other. Now, Lee Child is with the Europeans - is that correct? He lives in the US nowadays, but was born in the UK. What should I do?

Finished last night Max Allan Collins's CSI novelization the name of which escapes me. Pretty boring workman stuff, which was surprising to me, even though the merchandise behind this holds no interest for me. The plot simply wasn't intriguing enough. I haven't read much Collins, but his reputation has been pretty high. Maybe he just lacked real interest in this. I still have another tie-in to go (I'm writing a review), a 24 novel by Marc Cerasini (who I think is a Lovecraft aficionado, am I right?).

Today I started to read one of the first Hard Case novels, Peter Pavia's Dutch Uncle, which seems pretty okay so far, with Leonardish characters and snappy dialogue. Will report back. Watched Monte Hellman's slow motion Spaghetti western, China 9, Liberty 37 (1978), last night and pretty much enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly as intriguing as Hellman's earlier westerns, The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind. I'm going to watch The Shooting tonight or tomorrow.

Have to write more about books and films later on, and I'm too lazy now to make any links. Hope everyone had a good Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

I won!

I just received an e-mail saying that I was one of the winners in the short story contest of the Usva magazine. The theme of the contest was "everyday weird" and my contribution was a small story of 1,700 words about some strange shit going down on a gym. I talked about it a bit here.

Now I can quit my day job and pronounce myself a writer. Yii-haa! (As if I had a day job.)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reed Farrel Coleman and others

Realized after writing about Dibdin that I've forgotten to write about books I read during our trip to Cyprus. I ran out of time and didn't get to Matheson's The Shrinking Man, but I'll read it eventually.

Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1957). Didn't like this, even though it's been described as a noirish science fiction novel. The style was too literary and I never felt easy with it. I was also left wondering why the heroes went to the mysterious place on the Moon only in the end of the book. If this had been translated in Finnish, I know I'd've gotten more out of it.

Reed Farrel Coleman: The James Deans (2006). Winner of the paperback Edgar last year and it sure is a winner. A very thoughtful private eye novel, in which almost everything seems to be in the right place. (My only grudge is that it wasn't solved who sent those small limerick notes to Moe Prager, Coleman's private eye hero. Or if it was, it went completely past me.) Nothing pulpish here, more like something by Ross Macdonald or Laura Lippman. (But I know that if I were to recommend this to Finnish readers, they would think it's just some pulp: everything I touch turns into pulp.)

Leigh Brackett: Eric John Stark: The Outlaw of Mars (1964, containing novellas "The Secret of Sinharat" and "People of the Talisman"). I'd be really interested to hear how these compare to Brackett's other space adventures. I thought these were tightly written and fast-paced, without any empty moments. Really close to hardboiled westerns of the fifties and early sixties. It's just that I'd left some 50 pages to read on a plane and I didn't really manage to get on with it, with Kauto jumping around and all that.

Michael Dibdin dead

Just read in today's paper that crime writer Michael Dibdin has died, aged 60. Here's more about him at The Rap Sheet.

I read two or three Dibdin's crime novels about Aurelio Zen, Italian crime detective, in the mid-to-late nineties and liked all of them. Can't point a favourite, though - maybe it should be Cabal (1992, translated in Finnish as Salaseura, 1996), about Vatican's power in the Italian politics. Dibdin's novels are a good example of how one can get past the genre boundaries (meaning hardboiled vs. cozies, or even police procedural vs. psychological) and talk about the society and its effects on people. I was rather dismayed, though, that Dibdin saw it important to babble about Zen's private life and his love affairs and cooking delicious meals. (I'm not one of those who think it's essential to cook in a crime novel. I just can't figure out the connection.) That put aside, Dibdin was easily one of the best crime novelists of the nineties. Maybe I should go back and reread some of his stuff and start out some new ones. (I just know I won't have time for that in, say, 20 years from now. I'll have to check the drafts of the thriller book. Bye now. Check out these covers, though.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Again: trouble at work

After having felt pretty good about work for a couple of days, I received yesterday and earlier today several drawbacks:

1. We didn't get a grant from a publisher that was interested in a lightweight reference work on erotica classics I proposed with two writer friends of mine. Not knowing if anything will come out of this.

2. Just read a review of the latest issue of Isku from Body Culture, the magazine of Finnish Whodunnit Society. I tried to evade this as long as possible, as I'm very touchy about reviews of my own work, but simply couldn't hold myself longer. The writer was polite and said it was nice of someone to do this kind of a non-profit, small press magazine, but the stories clearly didn't appeal to him. Almost none of them. Mediocre and disposable, he seemed to say. I know that the latest issue of Isku wasn't as strong as some of the earlier ones, but these things happen.

3. A writer friend and I have been trying to scratch together a collection of essays on Outsider, the most prominent Finnish pulp writer from the thirties to the fifties, but today I received two e-mails from proposed contributors that they won't have the time do their essays. They sure have other, more important work, and I can't blame them for anything, but after other drawbacks it just adds to the depression. We already have three of the articles and I don't really know how to tell the authors that they won't be used, if we decide not to waste our time anymore with this project.

A spam classic

I've been posting some spam e-mails I've received. I know that at least my friend Jussi saves them on his hard disk. Here's a very Joycean one I got today.

barryhavecarlinwongsockeyegogoflounderwainscotvineyardabrahamhoffman galtmainhimselfairfareincursionspatefreedmuzzlesacrale'ertrim coalesceaffiliategroupcytosinearchangelclothesmenlilianblewappertaingarlic goofmarseillesfastidiousresumptionpyroxenecurtainpropellermarionmansfieldheadwallcarey sisterpullmanchallengecommutatedieselleapratepayerbeginhurrayyoghurtbiceps peasanthoodofleetversatileineluctablearticulatoryirreparableaerobicreligioushodgepodgequantico claudepigeonberrybarnetspecialcadaveroussystematicappletonresistivebreakoffstuart randomhecubanosesaloonkeeperlimerickhydrothermalptolemytrouncedruggingsubsumed exudationloadcommuniquerectitudeinceptionafflictfifebaptistegraciousyiddishadmit o'dellextractumberderivaterudolfdrearybouquetnonchalantbreathsaudsyllabus gymnospermwheresoeverjuragrillworkfirminequitablepurviewcontortgoldstinedeclarator distributorimpiousfreyamicronesiahydrocarbonsimperreliantbludgeonrequisitedaphnealgenib infectmistletoecannycrescendocounterintuitivecleanupsunspotmutandisputnamstagnantcrappie loomisblackinaccuracyconsciencemerryperipheralwhosoeversophiatrickeryobtrusionate gnawuppercutpeafowlarelibelnephewretributiontennisnevinsbelladonnaprotozoa evilsprainoptionencapsulatesluggishwvbricklayerjobholderprevailoneupmanship acceptorcontentiousomannullretinalbullfinchwigotterlecheryinsurmountable johnsoncheatwivehadessurgicalextralinguisticcapoalfonsovarnishindustrioustyrant mulisheuphemismsheagraphitesenatevelarcurvetributedoorknobkeyes pinkishvalueatkinsontriplettcyrilgalstiffendemultiplexcountytaiwan vatinadmissibleweirstripgadflypropitiousdeclinationduncanrendertailgatesnider camelotsurreptitiousclaritymetcalfyeagerendodermgazejinxfiddlefleawort elmerhirelingnervecomplicitypreferringbridgetadventurouscrewelchloratediagonal rhetoricmaximawho'llhaircutmeaddreaddebriefrainsegmentationhoroscopelucid bernsteinsangaragerandypostprocesscolumbineoracularchoctawkigalitannin 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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Donald Hamilton dead

Spy writer Donald Hamilton has died - and already in last November! You would think that the death of a writer of Hamilton's caliber would've been noticed by media, but no. He hadn't published anything new for 15 years - if my memory serves me right -, but he was a best-selling author in the sixties and seventies with his Matt Helm books. Hard Case Crime reprinted recently his standalone thriller from the fifties called The Night Walker, which should at least have merited more obits.

I've never been much of a spy thriller fan, but Hamilton's Matt Helms are so fast-paced and tough that I'm willing to forget that, at least when it comes to the very first books in the series, especially the first, Death of a Citizen (1960), and the second, The Removers (1961). The books have had a lasting influence on me: Matt Helm says in one of the books (maybe he says it in all of them) that if you come into a room and catch the enemy by surprise, shoot him. Don't talk, just shoot. I remember this everytime whenever there's a scene in a movie or a book in which someone surprises an enemy and even though they have guns in their hands and they aim to kill the enemy, they start talking and telling about how they are going to kill the guy.

Aside from his spy thrillers, Hamilton wrote top-notch westerns. The best to me was The Man from Santa Clara (1960). His westerns are tough, fast-paced and intelligent.

Here's an overview of his works and here's Wikipedia. Here's a Finnish site, in English. John Fraser on Hamilton at Mystery*File. Has anyone ever seen the sole film Hamilton scripted in 1957? I seem to remember that Matt Helm talks about his short tenure in Hollywood in the beginning of Death of a Citizen. also says that the film version of Death of a Citizen is at works.
By the way, the cover above (presumably by Barye Phillips) was used in Finland to accompany a Shell Scott novel by Richard S. Prather, another paperback legend died recently.