Friday, September 28, 2007

Another piece of ephemera

Another freebie find from the university library remainder shelf. This isn't actually ephemera - it's a real magazine, but it seems ephemeral at first sight. The year is 1926, and the subtitle says it all: "A periodical to the point on matters of health, wealth and life". The publisher was The C.W. Daniel Company working in London. It seems to be up and running still. Here's some background. Delsarte mentioned in the cover is one Francois Delsarte, a Frenchman who was born in 1811 and taught acting and drama.

There are some ads in the back pages. "P.R." Olnut Biscuits are advertised this way:

"It is generally admitted that most of us eat too much bread. Bread, if it is made from the whole wheat, is a good thing in itself, but eaten to the customary excess it becomes dangerous. It sets up an internal clogging that is well-known to be a principal root of most serious diseases."

Other advertisers include Nutona Rissola Powder and Eltekon Orthopaedic Institute.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Harry Etelä book out

The collection of Finnish pulp writer and lyricist Harry Etelä's horror stories is out. The Secret Chamber of Horrors/Kauhujen salakammio that I edited features seven stories from the Finnish pulp magazines Seikkailujen Maailma and Isku (The World of Adventures and Punch), from the years 1937-1940. The stories are quite rough and contain lots of erotic sadism which begs the question: how on earth did these stories get published in the thirties' Finland? They are the best (perhaps only) equivalent of the American shudder pulps written in Finland. Some of the stuff is even rougher than anything written in the wake of splatterpunk in the eighties and early nineties. The titular story is about a man who takes young boys into his chamber, roasts them over fire and eats them. Palms first. You can order the book from the publisher by sending an e-mail to
Here's the cover that's been made using one of the illustrations Harry Etelä's brother, Pentti Viherluoto, made for one of his notebooks. (Pentti was a composer and Harry wrote the lyrics.) (Earlier I forgot to mention that I'd posted my foreword here.)

Another book was also published at the same time. It's Harri Kumpulainen's aka Harri Erkki's collection of his weird and horrific science fiction stories he's been writing for fourty years now, starting in 1967 from a slick broadsheet magazine called Koti-Posti (Home-Post) and ending up in the present-day fanzines, like Portti. Pitkä jauntti/The Long Jaunt is highly recommendable if you're into this sort of thing. The both books are part of the M series that was started with Viides testamentti I edited. (The next book will be a collection Boris Hurtta's horror stories.)

Here's also a photo taken at the announcement party on Wednesday. From the left: me, Markku Soikkeli (whose book, Marsin ikävä/Mars Spleen in the M series is one of the contestants in the Helsingin Sanomat first book contest) and Tapani Maskula who wrote the afterword for the Harry Etelä book. He's a film critic, but also an aficionado of old Finnish popular music.
PS. You might notice the new layout. Pulpetti is closing in its 1000th post, so I thought I should spice up things a bit. Maybe I'll even do a link list.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Denny Lien's review of a British hardboiled novel

SF expert and librarian Denny Lien posted this review on the FictionMags e-mail list and I asked his permission to publish it for a wider audience.
Acting on a random whim, I recently read my copy of ASSIGNMENT: NEW YORK, a hardboiled detective novel written by E.C. Tubb as by "Mike Lantry" (which is also the name of the protagonist of the novel).
Philip Harbottle provides the introduction to the Gryphon reprint (the original edition was a 1956 UK Badger pb). As usual, he talks up the work as a wondrous lost classic, though he doesn't quite get to the level of fulsome praise typical ofhis commentaries on John Russell Fearn reprints.
Tubb apparently applied his usual method of the time of making it up as he went along without much clue of how anything would end, and found near the end that he'd written himself into a corner and lacked a solution to the murders, so he had to go back and heavily rewrite and reclue, an experience which soured him on doing more mystery novels (this apparently being his only one).
I had a bad moment when I found a typo in the second line on the first page, but really I should have begun worrying at the title itself. The private eye does in fact solve a case in New York city, but since he lives there and has his office there, that's not too surprising. Harbottle muses approvingly on how Tubb used all of the standard conventions of the genre to stunning effect -- the cynical, tough but fair, down-on-his-luck private eye in a crummy office with a bottle of Scotch in his desk, the stern patriach who hires him, the drunken son and sexy daughter and conservative lawyer and ex-showgirl wife and punch drunk pub and perky female newspaper reporter and the one honest cop the P.I. can trust to help him and so on. I'd say he uses all of the conventions to very conventional effect, to the point where I was mentally checking off each character and each bit of repartee as encountered -- "yup, he didn't miss that cliche either" sort of thing.
There was one brief scene that seemed to me to have a bit of life in it, though it had nothing to do with the mystery plot (which is probably why). After a narrow escape from thugs, Lantry has lost his wallet in the melee; when he gets word that someone has found it and wants to return it to his office, he assumes it's a trap and manages to insult the poor-but-honest citizen who really had no ulterior motive. A moment of almost-reality.
On the other side of reality, Lantry is attacked outside a NYC nightclub by a tommy-gunner in a speeding car. He fires back, kills the tommy-gunner and wounds the driver, who crashes into a lamp post, sending the car up in flames. Nobody else seems to be around, as Lantry saunters off to continue his investigations at his leisure.
I don't know if Tubb has visited the U.S. by the time he'd written this book, but he gets a number of things slightly wrong (and yes, I realize American authors setting books inthe UK or elsewhere are notorious for doing the same thing). He has his tough P.I. speaking of making "his morning toilet", which I can't imagine any 1950s Yank doing with a straight face (he'd more likely just say that "I washed up and shaved"or the like). Both Lantry and others buy their cigarettes in "packets" rather than in "packs." Etc. But my favorite was the jeer of the psychopathic tommy-gunner Lefty, who, when prodded by Lantry as to where he'd gotten his gun, replied that he found it in a Christmas cracker (the custom of pulling which is unknown in the US -- and most Americans seeing that line would probably have a puzzled mental image of a really big red and green Saltine).
I like a lot of Tubb's science fiction, but I don't think the mystery field lost anything when he decided to stop his career here at one book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Robert Martin

A good and lengthy article on Robert Martin, a nearly forgotten PI writer from the fifties. I've read only two stories by Martin and both were good.

Books read: Charlie Huston, Arthur Maling, Emerson Dodge (almost)

Some capsule reviews of some books I've read recently, after completing the book on forgotten writers:

Charlie Huston: Already Dead. One of Huston's Vampyre novels, with Joe Pitt as the vampire private eye. I'm not sure whether I'll read more of these, but this was entertaining enough, with Huston's ultrahardboiled style that moves in present tense. A bit too long, perhaps, and not enough plot for my taste. Huston's received lots of praise from the hardboiled aficionado, but the Vampyre mythology pretty much wore me out. Couple of real Ross Macdonaldish moments in the bunch, however, which makes me want to read more of his non-Vampyre work.

Arthur Maling: From Thunder Bay (1981, translated in Finnish as Veljensä vartija, WSOY/SAPO 1988 or so). Seems pretty obscure these days, but Maling has published quite many books. This one is a Dortmunderish story, without Westlake's humour, about a two-bit loser who accidentally kills a cop after a raid on a plane he's been flying without knowing he's smuggling guns into the US. I had mixed feelings about this - it's touching and warm in its depiction of its anti-hero, but also pretty long, and as I said, there's not much humour in it. But I did finish the book and should say that read it if you can find it cheap. There are elements you don't easily find in an American crime novel - one of the heroes (or anti-heroes, actually) is an Ojibwa Indian who belongs to the Canadian Marxist-Stalinist Party.

I've been also reading Emerson Dodge's Australian paperback novel that was published in Finnish as Lyijypuuroa aamiaiseksi (translates back as Lead Porridge for Breakfast), without mentioning the original title. I've carried this along with me to buses and banks and such, so I'm pretty much in the middle. It's pretty okay so far, traditional Western with raggedly handsome Buck Fallon as the hero. Dodge is Paul Wheelahan, one of the most prolific Australian paperbackers.

Now I'm reading Laura Lippman's Charm City from 1998, but really have to get on again with my work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another one ready to go

Just finished the book on forgotten writers. There are one or two minor things I'll have to check still, but I consider the book now ready. Celebration will have to wait till tomorrow and Friday night! Friday, Friday, come on Friday...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Commonwealth

I have a friend whose hobby is collecting narrow gauge railways. I don't know the current number - he had to sell one of his most precious German locomotives -, but at one time he had at least four locomotives. Besides that he has an old GMC truck and he at least used to have an old tractor - forgot the brand of that, sorry!

I had him in mind, when I picked up a copy of New Commonwealth from the early sixties from the remainder shelf at the university library. Nice rollers in the cover! There's also a full-page, four-colour commercial for an industrial locomotive in the mag. (If anyone wants to see that, just holler.)

Review of Matheson's I Am Legend

My friend pHinn reviews I Am Legend, the legendary horror/SF novel by Richard Matheson.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kevin Wignall's masterpiece on European crisis

An epic title, isn't it? But I think it's true: Kevin Wignall's Who Is Conrad Hirst? is a masterpiece of new crime writing and it's about European crisis.

I got the advanced reader's copy from Kevin who wanted to know whether there are any Finnish publishers who might be interested in this sort of thing. I said sure and gave him some names. It would be criminal to leave this unpublished in Finnish. The publisher - Simon & Schuster - advertises the book as new Jason Bourne or something to that effect. Kevin himself wrote in his e-mail that he thinks the book is more like Graham Greene. He's right: Who is Conrad Hirst? is This Gun for Hire for the 21st century. Wignall's book has also the same international feel that is so prevalent in the thrillers of the thirties.
Conrad Hirst is both a sociopath and a killer for hire, just like Greene's Raven. He has no feelings, but his last job made him want to get out of the business. So he decides to hunt down and kill all the four people who know him and his doings. It turns out pretty rapidly he's got it all wrong and several dead people, including his former boss, are found killed or missing.

The book deals on many things and does it satisfactorily despite the fact it's only about 200 pages. Conrad started his killing business in Yugoslavia where he thought he could be the new Robert Capa, but he saw pretty soon there was no way one could be a hero in Yugoslavia. It's obvious that the whole new generation went to Yugoslavia only to get kicks, not for any cause or ideas about better world. (This was seen also in Finland in the figure of Marco Casagrande, who fought in Yugoslavia and wrote a book called Mostarin tien liftarit/The Hitchers at the Mostar Road in 1997 about his experiecens in the war.)

I had some minor quibbles in the end, when Conrad finally meets someone in charge, but there was also a very nice twist that gave the book a whole new purpose. It was pretty hard to notice, but it's there.
Check the book out. It's out in November. There will also be a film based on the book - at least I sincerely hope so.

Urdu pulp

Someone's selling a vintage Urdu crime mag in eBay.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fascinating ephemera

I've been using the label "ephemera" when I've written about my own life or about family matters or stuff like that. The word is also used when one talks about little publications that don't fall into category of books or magazines. I have some fascination for this kind of publications and you can only wonder what I felt when I noticed that at the university library here in Turku there was a remainder shelf with very obscure ephemera (and to be sure, some books and periodicals also). And everything was free: take away! For four days, I spent my leisure time, away from reading my forgotten Finnish writers in the reading-room, digging the shelves and taking up everything that seemed even remotely interesting. ("Even remotely interesting": that sums up my life pretty much.)

I'll be posting some of my finds in coming days. At first we have a Hungarian cultural magazine from the thirties with a very nice Modernist Functionalist cover. I don't really know what the magazine is about, but who cares? (I'll be writing about Kevin Wignall's Who Is Conrad Hirst? as I promised, but that will have to wait, maybe till tomorrow. It was just as excellent as I first said.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The true origins of noir?

There's been a lot of heated discussions on what's noir fiction on the Rara-Avis mailing list. I really don't know why the topic raises so much hot blood - you'd think everyone could live with each others' definitions, wrong though they might seem to be. (Well, it is true that the word is getting out of hand, given, for example, Akashic's city noir anthologies - the stories really don't seem to me to be noir which should at least imply some sort of grimness.)

Now, a guy called William Ahearn, has dipped into this and written a pretty fascinating account of how noir came to be. It's been said that French critic Nino Frank coined the term in the years after WWII when he saw some American films for the first time. Ahearn has found out that this wasn't so - he used the term "noir" in reference to some other films. Ahearn has also taken a look into A Panorama of American Film Noir, a French reference work that was first published in 1955 and that has been regarded a key work in the noir discussion. Ahearn says it's one of the worst books he's ever seen, with totally incoherent argumentation and illogical deductions on what's noir and what's not. (Someone might say: "It's French. What do you expect?")

I have some quibbles with Ahearn's essay. He quotes James M. Cain and Billy Wilder who have been reported saying sarcastic things about the origins and definition of noir. I wouldn't put much weight on those guys, since they were known bull-shitters, and Cain seems to have spoken whatever came to his mind. (And I don't really see the point in asking artists about genres and other classifications.)

Ahearn's point is however right: noir has been used to detect films (and books and comics and TV shows) that aren't really noir. Laura is not noir, The Big Sleep is not noir, etc. - at least that's what he says. Ahearn refutes the incoherent definition of noir that's offered in A Panorama of American Film Noir and seems to be saying that we should really look really hard when we use the term. But I don't see why he then chooses to imply that the original French definition of noir is the right one. The first one is always the right one, is that what he's saying? I don't see why that should be. Theories are always corrected and commented on and so forth. Should we only look at, say, Marx and not what's written about him?

And we might also say that there really are lots of different definitions of noir: there's the one emphasizing the nihilist side of noir, then there's the political definition of films noirs being a Leftist genre, rising from the thirties' political movements, then there's the aesthetic definition (which furthermore includes two subdefinitions: the one emphasizing the distorted view to look at the world and the one emphasizing fedoras and raincoats and rainy streets and saxophones), then there's the psychological definition (in which case Laura is noir: it's about a man who falls in love with a dead woman). Etc., etc.

Ahearn (and every other noir fan) should really look into James Naremore's More Than Night which is the best book on the subject, at least of those I've read. In his book - which is a pretty thorough collection of linked essays - Naremore takes a look at all the definitions of noir and concludes that they are all discursive, i.e. the term, whenever it's used, defines what critics and viewers want it to define. (One should always tackle Rick Altman's useful book on film genres.) Hence there's no point in trying to define the "real" noir, since there have been so many theories of what it is. The original French one is no more adequate than the ones that have followed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kevin Wignall

During the weekend I took some time off my current book and started to read Kevin Wignall's Who Is Conrad Hirst? I'll write later about this, but let me tell you now that it is a truly magnificent book and you should grab it a minute it's out. (Which should be in November.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Holy cow, sis!

I heard yesterday that my kid sister found work. And what work! She's going to work with this guy! (And in England and will live with the man and his wife for free and will still get paid!) I can't believe this... I asked Essi how far up she's going to go in movie business, will she one day walk up to the Oscar stand and receive the statue for the best make-up? She said that she doesn't really know, she just can't believe her luck. Nothing in the job announcement gave out what the job really was about and that must've cut some of the wanna-bes out, which is great, since Essi can really show now to the world what's she's capable of! Way to go, sis! Hope you'll get us invited to the Oscar gala!

We are soon leaving for the cabin for the weekend. I've been pretty much swamped with work and also will be for the next week.