Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The best in 2008

Everyone has been posting their lists of 2008, so here's another one, maybe a bit eclectic and not everything on it is new or even from this century, but... you know me. In no particular order:

Reed Farrel Coleman: Soul Patch
Dave Zeltserman: Small Crimes
Peter Ackroyd: his new biography on Edgar Allan Poe (is it only called Poe?)
Megan Abbott: Queenpin
Duane Swierczynski: The Blonde
Jimmy Sangster: Foreign Exchange
Christa Faust: Money Shot
Mika Waltari as Kristian Korppi: Kuolleen silmät/The Dead Man's Eyes (the collection of Waltari's early horror stories)
Jorma Napola: Ruuvikierre (one of the first Finnish private eye novels from 1962)
Ross Macdonald: The Instant Enemy (I think I promised somewhere that I'd write more about this entry in the Lew Archer series which I recently reread, but it seems I never got around to doing it; it's great, even though not one of the best Archers)
Jonathan Littell: The Kindly Ones (out in Finnish as Hyväntahtoiset): the book that pretty much kept me from posting anything original on this blog: a 900-page novel about a Nazi officer, horrendous, but very well written and immaculately thought out; I wrote a review on it, it's here (in Finnish)

I'm sure there are others. These - except Macdonald and Littell - I have mentioned on this blog, but it seems I don't write about every novel or short story I read. (And on Ackroyd and Faust I only offered a slight piece not worth linking to.)

Broadway Laughs and Pete Wyma

Broadway Laughs (see below) was a humour magazine, with jokes, fillers and occasional short-short stories. The publisher was Crestwood, operating from New York. The editor was Samuel Bierman who also edited some pulp magazines, like Nickel Detective, back in the 1930's.

Here's the December '64 cover by Pete Wyma, who seems to be quite a well-regarded pin-up artist. I've also scanned one of Wyma's pin-up cartoons from the mag. There are also other well-known cartoonists and illustrators in Broadway Laughs, like Dan Orehek, but I'll scan them later (if I find some time).

Even though I have friends who'll hate me for this, I can't resist saying that I like the way Wyma draws his ladies. Not unlike Bill Ward... The jokes are stupid, that's for sure.
Edit: Samuel Bierman also edited the Lone Ranger pulp for Donenfeld, and he was also editor of WILD WEST STORIES AND COMPLETE MAGAZINE in the 1930s. He was also the owner-publisher-editor of Feature/Headline which I believe was also the publisher of Broadway Laughs under a different imprint. Thanks for this additional info to Will Murray and Steven Rowe of the PulpMags e-mail list!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Michael Zuroy's Holmes parody

Michael Zuroy is one of those short story writers who worked primarily in the fifties, sixties and seventies and never (at least it seems so, maybe under a pseudonym?) wrote a novel. And Zuroy, like so many others, wrote primarily for two magazines, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.

But Zuroy also wrote for Broadway Laughs. Here's his short-short story, "The Case of the Silent Witness", from that magazine. The issue is December, 1964. The story is a Sherlock Holmes parody. Click the photos to enlarge them.

I have somewhere here another humour mag, called Army Fun, but I don't really know where... It also has a Zuroy story in it.

Here's August West on Zuroy, and, well, that's about it for him in the net. But, oops, wait a minute, it seems that Michael Zuroy has a novel after all: in 1992, he published a hardcover novel called Second Death, with Walker. Seems to be a medical thriller.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dave Zeltserman's Small Crimes

My holiday reading included the latest from Dave Zeltserman (of the Fast Lane fame), Small Crimes. It was just perfect for the Christmas spirit: a story about a delusional narcist who's trying to right some wrongs in a non-violent way, getting lots of innocent folks killed in the process. Highly recommended.

Here's the Boston Globe's review with which I share views.

Eartha Kitt gone, too

In case someone didn't notice, singer Eartha Kitt died recently. Ted White has written this almost ten years ago, but it still works as a good introduction - and as an obit.

Edd Cartier dead

Just read that pulp illustrator Edd Cartier died during the holidays.

A Jim Thompson short film

A student film based on a Jim Thompson short story "Forever After" has caused some controversy over at the Rara-Avis e-mail list. I didn't really watch this, but here's the link anyway.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Yuletide!

Just wanted to say Merry Xmas to each and everyone! My daughter is finally with us and we're going to spend the Christmas together - if I don't get down with this flu that I've noticed creeping inside me.

The illustration is from the Galaxy science fiction mag from 1958, illustrated by Ed Emshwiller (aka Emsh). Courtesy of Books From the Crypt.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A review on my Western anthology

Here's a recent review from Kirjavinkit on my two-author Western anthology, Töitä arkkunikkarille.

The first Chandler in Finnish

Was Raymond Chandler available for the Finnish audience in the late 1940's when the book of my previous post was published? Yes and no. I believe the first instance when he was put out in Finnish was this rather obscure 72-page book from 1945: an abridged novelization of the film he wrote with Billy Wilder from James M. Cain's novel, The Double Indemnity (in Finnish The Woman Without Conscience, which is a fitting title). Chandler is mentioned only when the credits of the film are given, and I don't know who's responsible for the text.
Nainen ilman omaatuntoa came out in a series of similar condensed novelizations of popular films of the era. The series was published by Lehtipaino and it came out during the years 1944-1948. Some of the books in the series are quite easily found, but for some reason the Chandler-Wilder-Cain book is scarce. As you can see, my copy is not in a very good shape, but it's the only one I've been able to find.

The first real Chandler translations came out in 1950, in the pulp magazine Seikkailujen Maailma. As for the first Hammett translation, it has to be The Maltese Falcon in 1955. At least I haven't found anything earlier. (I seem to remember now that a friend of mine found an abridged version of one of Hammett's short stories, but the details escape me at the moment.) (Love Kirjat put out a good translation of Cain's novel in the early eighties, under the title Nainen ilman omatuntoa.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When were pulps first mentioned in Finland?

I just bought this book from 1949 for 50 cents. It's a small paperback originally meant for Finnish students of English language. I believe it's the first instance where the pulp magazines are mentioned in Finland, since the introduction to Woolrich mentions him writing for them. (They are not explained in any way, so a Finnish reader with no knowledge of American culture and media is a bit lost. Remember that when Chandler was first translated, a line in which Philip Marlowe mentions pulps it was translated like he meant a magazine on wood industry! The magazines like Seikkailujen Maailma were never called "pulps" here. The "lukemisto" sana that was used doesn't translate in English very well.)

The book also shows clearly that Finnish literacy folks were inclined towards the United States - and English culture in a larger sense - after the war years and the direct influence from Germany (both pre-Nazi and Nazi). Mind you, the first novel-length translations of Hemingway, Faulkner and others came just during the same years after the WWII. The book's selections also show affination for the more proletarian and Leftist writers.

Of the editors, Irma Rantavaara was one of the most important literary researchers in Finland, her career reaching well into the eighties.

I haven't had a chance to read the stories (and probably never will), but I dug out the original publication info where it was possible. Woolrich's story is not criminous.

So here's the publication info:

Seven American Short Stories. With Glossary. Edited by Helvi Hakulinen and Irma Rantavaara. Otava: Helsinki 1949.
Stephen Vincent Benét: Johnny Pye and the Fool-Killer, orig. Saturday Evening Post, May 14 1938
Erskine Caldwell: The Windfall, orig. Story, 1930's?
Clarence Day: Father Tries To Make Mother Like Figures, orig. ?
Albert Maltz: The Happiest Man On Earth, orig. Harper's, June
Dorothy Parker: Too Bad, orig. The Smart Set, July 1923
William Saroyan: A Number of the Poor, orig. ?
Cornell Woolrich: Goodbye, New York, orig. Story, October 1937

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"I want the gams"

A piece of Australian pulp fiction, a digest-sized paperback of 98 pages from 1962. Max Strong was a series character by Australian hack called Robert Dudgeon.* Strong had a magazine of his own name in Finland, but there were also stories about other characters by other writers (and some fillers, too, this one has a story "Oil Rain" by someone called Ron Miller).

The cover is.. well, eh.. grunt.. groan.. nice? I don't know the illustrator and I don't know what the Australian digests looked like, so I can't begin to guess if this is original or what. I haven't read the book (just bought it earlier today), but as I've said here (or somewhere else) before, the Australian crime fiction was usually below their Western fiction, which is weird.

* House pseudonym, says Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalogue. The primary writer was Frank S. Greenop (who has also written as Jess Beaumont, Walt Dundee and Hart E. Martin; you can guess the genre by his 'nyms). Others included such authors as Uell Stanley Anderson and William Listle Stuart. Pat Hawk also mentions American writers having written as Dudgeon: Jack Ehrlich and William Fuller. He also mentions Victor Hanson, whom I've thought to be British. What's going on? (And to make matters worse, Finnish bibliographer Simo Sjöblom states, for some reason, that the Max Strongs published in Finnish in the early sixties were actually written by Lennart Hoffren, a Finnish hack from the sixties and seventies! I don't know where this info is coming from, but it is very doubtful.)

[Digging further into Hawk's Pseudonyms, it seems the Dudgeon name was used (in pirated editions?) with reprints of Ehrlich's and Fuller's novels, presumably in German. The same with Vic Hanson. Hawk's notes are not always very clear.]

Ross Thomas's Hollywood

There's been some talk about crime writer Ross Thomas and his connections to films on the Rara-Avis e-mail list that focuses on hardboiled and noir literature. Even though Thomas has been one of the best crime novelists working in the United States for the past thirty years (even though never a bestseller), there's been surprisingly few films based on his work. Thomas wrote the original screenplay for Bad Company, a relatively minor, but stylish film with Larry Fishburne, but that's about it. He also worked as one of the writers of Wim Wenders's Hammett. (On which maybe later.)

Beside that, Joe Martino who has worked a studio executive at Fox and Morgan Creek wrote the text below in the Rara-Avis list, and I got his permission to use it.

Some history of Ross Thomas and Hollywood

The only other film based on a Ross Thomas novel was ST IVES - a 70's Charles Bronson film based on the Oliver Bleeck (and Ross Thomas pseudonym) novel THE PROCANE CHRONICLE.

Mr Thomas also wrote many screenplay (unproduced) based on his films and several original (also unproduced).

I had the opportunity to meet Mr Thomas several times and optioned TWILIGHT AT MAC'S PLACE when I worked at Warner Brothers for a possible Warren Beatty / Jack Nicholson project... Guess what? It never happened.

An original Ross Thomas screenplay JIMMY THE RUMOR is owned by Robert Evans at Paramount. It told the story of a hitman who had no identity at all and what happens when he falls in love with his latest hit. Jack was at one time attached to that as well.

Fox at one time optioned THE FOOLS IN TOWN ARE ON OUR SIDE which told the back story of Lucifer Dye and his upbringing at Shanghai Lilly's. Thomas also wrote the screenplay.

Novelist Brian Garfield also had producing clout in Hollywood in the 70's. One night over a poker game (with Donald Westlake and Ross Thomas) they talked Ross into adapting THE SEERSUCKER WHIPSHAW into a screenplay. Ross did, but instead of setting it in Africa he switched it to America and re-titled it SPOILER. It even had two endings - one only less cynical that the other.

Columbia Pictures owns THE MONEY HARVEST, but nothing was ever done with it. Ross also sold an original SIGNAL THE INSTRUCTIONS PLEASE to them but it also was never made. Columbia doesn't have a copy of the script and the only other existing copy perished (along with most of Ross's works) in a fire at his Malibu home.

That was the main problem the studios had with Ross Thomas's work. They found his characters so dark and cynical, it was hard to root for anyone. Of course that's what was so great about his work.

His works continue to be optioned today, so maybe there's still some hope.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pulp Press

Allan Guthrie warned me about a coming small press publisher, called Pulp Press that will specialize on books about 20,000 words long, published as paperback originals. The site is still in progress, but check it out anyway.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Audio pulp

I've noted two comments on listenable pulp fiction on some e-mail lists I'm on, so I thought about posting about those here. Sorry for the ugly formatting!

While rummaging around on Ebay I just discovered an interesting audio item due to be released Jan 1, 2009 that should be of interest to all pulp/private eye/hardboiled mystery fans of pulps, otr, etc. A private vendor (Kenneth Estate Sales, item 370121274210) was advertising 4 copies of BLACK MASK AUDIO MAGAZINE, VOLUME ONE for $17.99 plus p/h. It contains new full-cast studio performances by members of Hollywood Theater of the Air, released by Blackstone Audio in here-offered 2 formats(cd, and mp3 cd). The nine stories the episodes are based on were authored by D Hammett(1), Paul Cain(3), Fred Nebel(1), Hugh Cave(2), etc. The lineup appears irrestible. Play time is noted as 4.3 hours. Lovely pulp cover for product.

I then scooted over to Amazon.com and they have it listed in 3 formats, either $20 or $40.

Over at Blackstone Audio website they list, Volume 2 upcoming as a Hammett "Maltese Falcon" project, apparently only this on the cd.


This week, BBC 7 radio is running a great series of short story dramatic readings of "pulp" crime stories.

Essentially, this really aren't stories from Pulp Magazines, rather hard-boiled stories from the digests.

For instance, the first one was a Jack Ritchie story from MANHUNT. The second was a Gil Brewer story.

The broadcasts are saved and put up as files that last for a week.

Started yesterday and will continue on to the end of the week.

Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio7/

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Finally it's Yuri time!

Some of you may remember that I was having a birthday party on May. As a commemmoration, I played live some songs I recorded on a C-cassette player in the late eighties. During those years I pretended to be an artist called Yuri, but I never performed live and I never distributed any of these (except to some friends and my then-girlfriend). My kid brother Matias shot some of the performances with his digital camera in May, and now I finally got to upload them in YouTube (or is it "on YouTube"). (Too bad no one captured me and Matias playing live at the same party. We were a band called National Panasonic Boys. Maybe one of these days...)

I called my music "acoustic speed metal", but it's more akin to hardcore punk in that the songs were very short, from two seconds up to 20 seconds. There are two videos now, the shorter one being "Kill Me" and the longer one being "I Am a Dead Milkman" (which, as I write in YouTube, is a tribute to The Dead Milkmen, a band which many may not remember). I introduce the songs in Finnish. I play a plastic toy guitar, in the eighties Yuri had a real guitar - but it had gone bonkers and you couldn't really tune it (not that I would've known how to do it).

Okay, here you go...

"I Am a Dead Milkman". (I talk about the psychobilly fashion a bit. I was never a billy man, but I've been somewhat fascinated by the style. The song is in Finnish. It goes something like this:

I'm a dead milkman
I'm a dead milkman
I'm a dead milkman

I used to deliver milk to people's doors
now I don't do that anymore
'cause I'm a dead milkman


"Kill Me". (I compare this to Kurt Cobain's ("that loser", I say) "Rape Me".)

PS. There's actually a third song by me on YouTube, but you'll have to find it that yourself.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

L. Patrick Greene and James B. Hendryx

Here's another posting from pulp fan and SF/fantasy writer Gerald W. Page that he originally wrote on the PulpMags e-mail list. It's about L. Patrick Greene and James B. Hendryx, two old school pulp writers, and their series characters. (Greene on the left.)

As for Finnish translations, I believe Greene has only one novel, Timanttikuilu (published by Uusi Suomi in 1944 [must be the newspaper]), but I haven't been able to determine what the book's original title is. It's set in South Africa, that much I know without looking it up. As for Hendryx, there are some short stories translated from him, and I have an entry for him in my book Kuudestilaukeavat/Six Guns.

Both "The Major" and "Black John" are exceptional series, well written and entertaining, to say nothing of highly recommended.

L. Patrick Greene's stories of The Major are set in South Africa a few years later than H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain stories, which they hold a superficial and sometimes not-so-superficial resemblance to. The Major is an Illicit Diamond Buyer (IDB), active in the theft of diamonds and their smuggling out of South Africa. The adventures are varied and interesting,
with the setting and background adding a lot of flavor to stories that sometimes are rather similar to American Westerns.

The characters of both The Major and the Hottentot Jim are well-drawn and entertaining. Greene's attitude toward native Africans is worth noting. He obviously admires and respects them in many ways, but there is a racist attitude running through the stories that rises a bit above the Colonialist level. The n word occurs quite frequently in the stories -- which is probably nothing more than honest reporting of how people spoke in Rhodesia and South Afirca in the twenties, thirties and forties, but it can be jarring and offensive.

Some of the stories in Short Stories are obviously connected, with recurring villains and obvious plot connections that suggest Greene was writing with the intention of joining three or four novelettes into a book.

The Major stories, as said, began in Adventure but mainly showed up in Short Stories. (Did they appear in England first?) Later stories by Greene in Adventure, as well as in markets such as Fiction House's Jungle Stories, did not feature The Major but are set in South Africa. On the basis of what I've seen he never set a story outside South Africa.

James B. Hendryx wrote Northerns. I've seen a bare handful of westerns from him, but for all practical purposes he was a specialist in stories set in the Yukon Territory of Canada in the period of the Gold Rush of 1898.

Hendryx appeared frequently in Short Stories, Adventure, Argosy and other of the leading general fiction pulps. His Yukon stories are generally related in that he had an assortment of characters who moved from one series to another. His main characters, certainly in Short Stories, were Corporal Downey, a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, and Black John Smith, an outlaw and con man who was sort of reformed and now ran a small community close to the Canadian-Alaskan border, where outlaws were welcome so long as they obeyed the law as interpreted by Black John while there. There was also a group of Sourdoughs who appeared often in various stories and series by Hendrix. I recently read a letter by him in Short Stories' "Story Teller's Circle" where he claimed the Sourdoughs were based on actual people he met in the Yukon during the twenties.

Hendryx was a highly professional writer with a good, non-obtrusive style and a graceful way of plotting. He could handle almost any type of story. About two months ago, for example, in either Short Stories or Adventure, I read a psychological short story by him (set in the Gold Rush) that, while not supernatural, was macabre enough that it could have appeared in Weird Tales. But most of his stories seem to be adventures, mysteries, or light humor.

The Black John stories are filled with humor, much of it sly and some of it edging toward black. Black John flees the U.S. after committing a robbery and finds a small comminuty on Halfaday Creek in the Yukon where many outlaws are holed up. Since most of them have arrived under an assumed name -- and since most of them assumed the name "John Smith," descriptive nicknames are added, so that the place is populated by the likes of One-armed John Smith, Pot Bellied John Smith, Red John Smith and so on. Now Black John and Old Cush, the proprietor of Cush's Fort, the general store, have set up a coffee name with slips of paper on which they've written names cribbed from a history book, so the newcomer can draw a name that isn't John
Smith, such as Alexander Jefferson or John Washington.

While Halfaday Creek is close enough to the line between Alaska and the Yukon that a man can avoid the police simply by taking a few steps westward, Black John instigates some rules. No murder, no robbery, etc. It doesn't matter what a man does before he comes to Halfaday Creek, but once he gets there, he better be an exemplary citizen. Black John doesn't believe in going to the law with his problems, so when a man of dubious character shows up, he deals with the problem, himself. And in the event, usually finds himself acquiring the man's ill-gotten gains. These are returned if the thief stole them from some individual or family. But if they belong to a
company or corporation, the money will end up in Black John's cache. Corporal Downey by now knows it's no use trying to arrest anyone in Halfaday Creek; but it doesn't matter because the people who live there don't break the law, at least not now.

If you have access to issues of Short Stories with these stories in them, I recommend them highly.

Axel Brand is Richard Wheeler

Just in case this is going to get caught in the Bookgasm comments only, I'll notch this up: in a comment to the review of Axel Brand's The House Dick Western writer Richard S. Wheeler confesses having written the pseudonymous book in question.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Short story by minister of foreign affairs

I scanned and posted a short story from 1939 by the Finnish minister of foreign affairs, Ahti Karjalainen, to another blog here. You might also find my post about poet Kaarlo Uskela of interest - check it out here. Naturally in Finnish.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jukka's cover for Hard Case Crime found a user

Some months ago I wrote about my friend Jukka Murtosaari's attempt to break through in the US and send cover illustrations to Hard Case Crime's Charles Ardai. The illos were turned down, but now one of them has been published.

The eye-patch lady now illustrates Helena Numminen's short story collection Murhaavasti/Murderingly that had its launch party earlier today. The publisher is Turbator for whom Jukka has done lots of covers and for which I've edited some anthologies and collections. Helena's book collects 14 bitter and hard-hitting crime stories no ordinary publisher would touch. Two of the stories were originally published in my crime fiction fanzine, Isku, namely "Molotovin cocktail" (which is very urgent in its depiction of hospitalized old women) and "Vekan pedissä". Helena seems to have rewritten the ending of the latter. Highly recommended.

There were also two other books launched today: publisher Harri Kumpulainen's own collection of absurdist short-shorts and composer Matti Rag Paananen's collection of poetry that he wrote while in Africa. Both have already been reviewed here.

Jukka still has a great cover available - anyone? (Check the link to my earlier post.)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cover by Paul Rader

Does anyone recognize in what book this cover by Paul Rader was originally published? In Finland it illustrated a rather forgotten hardboiled mystery by Aylwin Lee Martin. Mustat helmet started the famous Ilves (= Tomcat) series in 1960. Martin's novel was originally called The Crimson Frame (Fawcett Gold Medal 1952) and I seem to remember it was okay, mildly reminiscent of The Maltese Falcon. The hero is P.I. Matt Hughes. (And he's not mentioned in the Thrilling Detective listings!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gun Work, by David J. Schow

I finished Hard Case Crime's latest title, David J. Schow's Gun Work, last night. I was really prepared to like this, since the cover is great and I knew of Schow's reputation as a good horror writer (I think I've read only some of his short stories in that genre). I did like the book, but not as much as I would've loved to.

There's plenty of violence in Gun Work, but maybe I was expecting too much of it, since I kept thinking: why don't they blast up more things? (I realize this isn't a very good argument against a book.) The action slows down at times, too. The plot is good and there are lots of twists, which I liked, and the opening sentence hooked me pretty well. But in the middle I lost some of my interest, when the hero of the book is being rescued and nurtured by an old Mexican. That part of the book could've been shortened - even though it would've been unrealistic, given how much the hero was being beat up and tortured in a Mexican kidnapping hotel. There are also some Mexican wrestlers in the book, but I didn't think Schow got much out of them.

After the middle, when the hero is getting his revenge, the book somewhat resembles the eighties' men's adventures series, like those by David Robbins and Rich Rainey: a group of heavily-armed men are after some baddies. In the end, the hero is left alone, so there can't be a sequel - at least with the same guys. There was some implausibility on how the group gets together - or at least one coincidence too many.

Gun Work is well-written, though, and you shouldn't listen to me too much, since others have liked this a great deal. Here's Ed Gorman and here's Somebody Dies.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: A Maggot, by John Fowles

(Been busy all this week, hence no blogging. And this will be short.)

I don't know whether any book by John Fowles could be called forgotten, since he must be one of the highest regarded British authors of the last thirty decades. But I don't see a lot of discussion on him lately, so when I read this, I thought I'd do a Forgotten Book post about it.

A Maggot is a historical novel, but it's not for a historical novel purist. The events of the book take place in the early 18th century, but the narrator makes clear that "he" narrates the text from the late 20th century, i.e. from now (the book is from 1983, if I remember correctly [it's not at hand and I don't feel like opening a new browser and checking]). In this regard, the book resembles Fowles's best-known novel, The French Lieutenant's Lady. Both are essays on the historical novel, not historical novels per se. Fowles also uses many different narrative techniques - some pieces of the book are told in present tense, some are transcripts of interviews or interrogations and some are the narrator's own ponderings and mini-essays. This can be annoying if you're accustomed to more straight-forward narratives.

What's it about, then? A Maggot tells about mysterious events regarding a disappeared duke (or whatever, I already forgot, a man of nobility in any case) and his servant who's found dead hanging from a tree. The events involve a known prostitute. There's also a sort of private eye, a lawyer who interrogates some of the people that had to do with the said events. There are fantasy or even science fiction elements in the book, but we never know if they are only imagination.

The reader is left unconscious of what actually happened, which works very well, in my view. I had some trouble getting into the book, but halfway through I was actually quite excited about it. The ending is powerful and links the book in actual events that have taken place. (If you want to know what they are about, read the book.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jerry Murray on writing sleaze

The new issue of Earl Kemp's fanzine has some nice articles. Jerry Murray discusses writing sleaze for Kemp's legendary publishing house, Greenleaf. The article is a bit long, but interesting. I would've loved to see a bibliography of his works, though. Richard Lupoff reminiscences his way to become a publisher of his own.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gerald Page on W.C. Tuttle

Pulp fan and science fiction and fantasy author Gerald W. Page wrote a lengthy piece on one of the forgotten pulp Western writers, W. C. Tuttle, on the PulpMags list some time ago. It was intriguing enough, so I asked Gerald (or Jerry, as he signs his posts) for a permission to post his essay here in Pulpetti. (I'll be publishing one of Page's older stories, "The City in the Syrtis", in my fanzine, Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories.)

In Finnish, there's one novel translated starring Hashknife and Sleepy. The novel in question is Diamond Knife (Timanttiloukku in Finnish, Kirjayhtymä 1968), which seems to have been published in a book form only in the UK (Collins, 1962). I don't know the original pulp appearance. Hashknife's name has been translated as Hakkelus.

There are also three stories in the Finnish pulp, Seikkailujen Maailma, one of them being a serial, "Katoavaa karjaa" in SM 11-12/1960-1/1961 (originally "Vanishing Brands" (originally Adventure, Jan. 1926). The serial stars Red Storm whose name has been translated as Palokärki Storm. The other two stories are "Lapsen ryöstö" (SM 12/1950; with marshall Jim Lane) and "Menneisyys herää elämään" (SM 9/1952) for which I haven't been able to find the original publishing info.

And here's Gerald Page:

W.C. Tuttle wrote westerns almost exclusively, and had at least five or six series going. During most of his career, you couldn't find him in a western pulp. He appeared in the general fiction magazines like Argosy and Short Stories.

His main series featured a couple of wandering cowboys named Hashknife Hartley and Sleepy Stevens. As I understand it, the series started in Adventure in 1917 as humor stories. But they transformed into a sort of easy-going action western typical of Tuttle. Our wandering heroes rode from place to place, always finding a town being overrun by rustlers or swindlers or bank robbers. They were prodded along by Bob Marsh, secretary of the Cattleman's Association, who would make use of them as range detectives - which they insisted they were not.

But Marsh knew that there were two great urges in Hartley's psyche. One, shared with Sleepy Stevens, was a desire to see what was on the other side of the next hill. But the other was an obsession to straighten out (he claimed he wasn't smart enough to solve them) any mystery he came across. The towns would all bear quite a resemblance to one another, as would the people they encountered. There would be an older sheriff, usually honest and with good intentions, though often in over his head. There would be a young man who was in love with a young woman, except that they were from families that their parents were feuding with one another. The sheriff would have a deputy with a sardonic, often somewhat dry sense of humor, who usually helped Hasknife and Sleepy get to the bottom of the mystery. Those deputies were so much alike that they seemed at times to transform the the series into stories about three men - one of whom changed his name but not his description or character, from story to story.

Because of all that, if you read a couple of Hasknife and Sleepy stories, you get the impression that there's not much there. But if you read several of them, it seems to me, you begin to detect small pleasures in the way Tuttle handles the formula. He has a fair, if unadventurous, knack for characterization, and his female characters can be quite original on occasion. At least they have the ability to occasionally surprise the reader by not being the same sort of cyphers female characters usually are in this sort of story. And though he doesn't write detective stories - his heroes usually guess the plot and a dying outlaw confirms it for them - he writes damned good little mysteries. These stories can be addictive and you quickly understand why they ran in the better pulps.

The Henry stories are even better.

Henry is Henry Conroy, a vaudeville comedian who comes across as being a lot like W.C. Fields. When vaudeville collapses, Henry finds himself stranded in a small town in Arizona. As a joke the townfolk elect him sheriff and as a joke he does a pretty good job. To go along with the spirit under which he was elected, he hires the town drunk as his deputy. The stories feature a lot of humor and for that reason, as well as the character of Henry himself, the formula sheriff vs. badguy stories take on a freshness that makes them seem more original than they are. I think a lot of people who hate westerns would enjoy the Henry stories. Those who like westerns would like them, too.

The Henry stories were set in the twentieth century, though much about his Arizona town seemed to have changed little from the nineteenth. Hashknife and Sleepy seemed occasionally to be working in a contemporary world, and occasionally to be definitely in the old west. You sometimes wondered if Tuttle actually knew what period he was writing about.

During the twenties and possibly into the thirties, Tuttle's main hero was a man with the unlikely name of Cultus Collins, a range detective and lawman who appeared in a number of short novels in Adventure, Short Stories and the like. Collins faded out. He reappeared in the 40s in a Hashknife and Sleepy story where he and Hashknife take down a gang of smugglers running drugs into the States from Mexico. I think that was Collins' swan song, though certainly not Hashknife's.

There was a series by Tuttle in the late forties and early fifties in Exciting Western about a couple of cowboys who seemed to be Hashknife and Sleepy played for laughs. I can't find a copy of Exciting Western to check their names right now. They were notably dumber than their horses and you wonder how the heck they could ever actually solve a mystery. There was also a series of short stories (Tuttle mainly wrote at around 20- or 25,000 words, a pretty good length for the kind of thing he wrote) in Argosy about a western town called Dogieville where the inhabitants would try out something such as a sport (baseball, foortball, etc.) or otherwise get involved in some comedy of errors in each story. At 5,000 words or so these stories are entertaining. But while Tuttle was often pretty good at lacing a "serious" story with humor, his attempts at outright humor often seemed strained. He didn't always write westerns, by the way. I've read two baseball stories by him, both about a pair of really stupid umpires working the minor leagues. They try much too hard to be funny and I don't recall them often succeeding. Ring Lardner and Robert E. Howard did it better.

I suspect a lot of modern pulp collectors, when they sit down to read a good story, pass up Tuttle. I suggest you give Henry a try - and if you can read two or three of them, Hashknife and Sleepy. Tuttle never takes himself too seriously and at least in the short novel length, never takes himself too lightly, either. He can be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My porn book Asentoja

Googling I came upon a blog review of Asentoja, the porn/erotica anthology I edited. In Finnish, of course.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The fiftieth Hard Case

Hard Case Crime is one of the most exciting publishers working now in the crime fiction. They have inspired a lot of people (including me) and the illustrated covers for their books started the vogue that's visible in the covers for such authors as Megan Abbott and Linda L. Richards and such series as the new Penguin reprints of Ian Fleming's James Bond. And some of the books... I remember the best Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips and Money Shot by Christa Faust, but their reprint line is also thrilling (and it will see Jason Starr's long-lost masterpiece Fake I.D.!), covering well- and little-known authors.

What's most exciting about them is that they've been up and running for quite a while now. The next month will see their fiftieth book, which is Charles Ardai's Fifty-to-One. Ardai is the founder and the head honcho of Hard Case Crime and he's written two books for the line under the Richard Aleas byline. I read Songs of Innocence and liked it a great deal - a private eye novel at its bleakest.

I finished Fifty-to-One late last night and I must say two things: the book entertained me very much and I was disappointed. There were some things that left me unsatisfied: the book is too long and the essential mystery is too easy to solve. It's also so obvious that it's a wonder the characters in the book don't come up with it.

I can understand where the length comes from, and it's partly due to the book's general idea: the book has fifty chapters, all named after Hard Case Crime books. It's a nice joke, but I thought there were some chapters that really didn't move things along. (I'm pretty sure Ardai knows this himself.) But Ardai writes smoothly, he has the genre settings down pat, and he has an energetic young woman as the hero, so I won't complain more. Also the setting is nice - Fifty-to-One is set in 1958 and Hard Case Crime is an actual publishing house working in the years of the paperback boom, doing books like Eye the Jury and Hot-House Honey. (Someone should write these and the current, real-life Hard Case Crime should publish them.)

Ardai says in his afterword that one of the chapters is written by Max Phillips, the co-founder of Hard Case Crime and the writer of Fade to Blonde. I'm pretty sure it's the chapter 27, called "The Peddler" (after Richard S. Prather's reprint novel), with the memorable character of Royal Barrone in it. The dialogue feels exactly the same as in Fade to Blonde. (Or then it's the chapter 28.) Is there a reward for this?

The book will have a gallery of all the 50 Hard Case Crime covers. Too bad my ARC didn't have that... Out in December, like I said.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Colin Slater could be our new hero

Some of you may remember that some months ago I posted about a British guy who's been charged with plagiarizing one of Mika Waltari's novels in his vanity press novel the title of which I forget already. Nevertheless, here's the original piece. What's interesting is that someone had posted a comment with a link to a YouTube clip of one of Colin Slater's TV works. He really is someone to follow.

And check out also these dudes

Anders posted elsewhere another link to the horror that's also known as the Swedish dance bands. Check it out. This takes some time, but it's absolutely worth every minute.

A Mickey Mouse oddity

Here's Mickey Mouse dressed up in a woollen shirt. The picture is from a DDR broschure for making up clothes for dolls and other toys - I found it in a thrift store earlier this week (the broschure is actually in Russian). I can't find a year in the whole thing, but it must be from the sixties.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What can I say? These guys look really cool..

..not. Check this out. Someone has been collecting images of Swedish dance bands from the seventies and eighties. Some of these dudes would look, well, not so cool even if they were dressed in Hugo Boss suits.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The cover illustration for Kaarlo Uskela's anarcho-communistic poetry collection from the twenties

I don't really remember whether I've mentioned it here or not, but I wrote a foreword to a reprint a small publisher working in Turku, Savukeidas, did a month back. It's Kaarlo Uskela's Pillastunut runohepo (The Crazed-Up Pegasos, if you will) from 1921. The book was deemed revolutionary (which it is, very much indeed) and the remaining copies of the print run were destroyed. I believe also some of the copies already sold to customers were taken away and burned - the book is really scarce. I don't believe it for a minute, but let it be said that a book antiquarian I know told me that the book, if it can be found, would cost 1,000 euros.

Well, here it is anyway. The book is not mine, I'm sorry to say, but it is almost mine, since it belongs to a dear friend of mine with whom I've been swapping books for two decades now. He borrowed the book for me when I was writing the foreword (which actually became an afterword in the process). Savukeidas made a pictureless cover for the book, because they didn't know I had the book with the illustrated cover - more's the pity! The cover is done by the famous Ola Fogelberg, who's best known for his Pekka Puupää comics here in Finland. The colours show anarchistic ideology: black and red.
Should you want to know more about Uskela's poems (which are pretty old-fashioned and metric, but show some flair for bad taste and black humour), ask. I'll be writing more about this stuff at my Finnish-speaking blog, Julkaisemattomia, here. But not now. Suffice it to say that Kaarlo Uskela died in 1922, after having refused to have a rotten tooth taken care of. And that after the Civil War he was put in a concentration camp for some months in 1919. There are some really touching poems about this in the book.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Still on Norman Mailer and pulps

Some days ago I posted a brief item about Norman Mailer writing a story for the horror pulp magazine, Weird Tales. The discussion over Mailer on the PulpMags e-mail list continued and I got the permission to post some stuff from there to here. (This discussion is probably pretty meaningless to someone who has no knowledge about the old pulp mags.)

Someone said that if Mailer's story was rejected, it must've been pretty bad, since Weird Tales published so much terrible stories. Pulp and adventure fan Morgan Holmes wrote (and I asked his permission to post his response here):

I wouldn't assume that Mailer's story submitted to WEIRD TALES was terrible. [The Weird Tales editor] Farnsworth Wright was a mediocre editor who was lucky. Take the Lovecraft circle out of the equation and what do you have left? Wright ran lots bad stories while rejecting Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" which Lovecraft worked on to make into a two-part serial. Wright rejected it saying "not convincing."

Lovecraft didn't submit anything directly to Wright for about six years. We probably lost at least six stories from Lovecraft because of Wright. Wright also rejected Clark Ashton Smith's "Abominations of Yondo" in 1925. Smith's fiction writing career could have started five years earlier.

Wright rejected two stories by Henry Kuttner about King Alfred saying they were "delectibly weird" but gave no reason for rejection. Kuttner pounded out the first Elak story, "Thunder in the Dawn" as a satire in response. He wrote a letter to Clark Ashton Smith wondering if any of the readers would catch the satirical elements in it.

Cap Shaw turned BLACK MASK around, F. Orlin Tremaine took ASTOUNDING STORIES to the next level. WEIRD TALES could have been more successful if there had been an editor willing to take risks and not second guess some of the readers. Mailer might have sent something in that might have needed some polish. Wright probably just rejected it instead of making suggested improvements. I have noted some interesting writers in the late 1920s that had one or two stories and then disappeared. A good editor would have been working with those neophytes. If you take Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and C. L. Moore out of the 1930s "Golden Age," you don't have much left.

There was also some discussion over when Mailer wrote the said story. The original contributor said Mailer had said to him that he wrote it in "his middle teens, or maybe younger". So it could've been before 1940 - Mailer was born in 1923. (And then, said someone, he would've sent the story to another editor that Farnsworth Wright, namely Dorothy McIlwraith.)
The image above is from 1942, when Mailer could've been writing his story for the magazine. I don't know the cover illustrator, maybe Boris Dolgov? (I'm not really good in pulp illustrators, I'm sorry to say. Maybe someone can tell.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barry Malzberg's champion novel

American science fiction author Barry Malzberg has said that he once wrote a novel in 16 hours - and sold it to a publisher. I've often wondered what the book was and how Malzberg pulled the thing off. It must be the fastest-written novel ever that has been published by a commercial publisher.

Then at the Fictionmags e-mail list there was a discussion of stychomythia (in which someone says something and someone else grabs the sentence and ends it, just like Huey, Louie and Dewey do in Donald Duck). This has been also used in many paperback novels when a writer wanted to fill pages quickly and wrote short sentences that made up a whole paragraph (which may not actually be an example of stychomythia). However, Malzberg wrote on the said list:

I made my own contribution to stychomythia in DIARY OF A PARISIAN CHAMBERMAID, Midwood Books 1969 (my 16-hour novel).
The protagonist wrote a poem.
Quite a long poem.
A long poem of short lines.
It absorbed five pages.
I remember the first line:
"Paris is a nipple."

I asked Malzberg more about this and he wrote back:

[The book in question was] DIARY OF A PARISIAN CHAMBERMAID, by Claudine Dumas. Midwood Books 1969. 60,000 words. Written on St. Valentine's Day that year. I could do something like that in those years. Mozart wrote the Paris Symphony in three days. But I am no Mozart. Nor is DIARY OF A PARISIAN CHAMBERMAID the Paris Symphony.

(I understand there's a NaNoWriMo going on at the moment (National Novel Writing Month, if you don't know). Who needs thirty days to write a novel? 60,000 words! I'd always thought Malzberg's book would've been something like 30,000 words. Me, I've been writing and rewriting a novel of that length for years now!)

Sorry, no picture available! If anyone reading this blog has the said book, send me a scan!

Thank you, good Americans!

Just wanted to congratulate all the Americans for Obama. (And thank, too!)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hardboiled literature not being taken seriously

Here's something I've been trying to talk about here in Finland, but with no success or understanding of the matter. Christa Faust, whose marvellous Money Shot from Hard Case Crime was recently translated in German, talks about how she was treated in Germany: she was told that the kind of literature she writes is nothing to be taken seriously.

This is something I've come across in Finland as well. Even though the best hardboiled crime fiction is serious literature and not just slam-bang pulpy action, people still seem to think hardboiled is only about raincoats and dangerous dames. Like Christa says in her own post, German critics said Hard Case Crime is only "retro". There's nothing retro in Money Shot, it's modern, it's contemporary, it doesn't have any knowing cultural references. Not to be retro, hardboiled has to be ultra-serious to be successful in Finland, à la Dennis Lehane. (Lucky thing we have Michael Connelly. He walks the narrow line between serious and ultra-serious.)

Some writers in Finland seem also to have decided that if hardboiled crime fiction is not taken seriously, then hell with it - they write stuff that veers towards parody and pastiche, with too many jokes and in-jokes and not enough plot and character development. (At least for me. Some of these writers are very popular in Finland.)

I can see, though, why German literary critics are quick to attack hardboiled crime fiction. It's because their own pulp tradition is thin, even though it's decades old, and of not very good quality. The short Romanhäfte à la Jason Dark and Jerry Cotton (not to say anything about German Westerns!) are poor compared to their American or even British counterparts - more poorly written and executed. (This is also one of the reasons this kind of stuff is not taken more seriously in Finland. "You're interested in hardboiled? Ah, that's, what's it called now, pulp, right? And pulp is, let me think, Jerry Cotton, right?" And this is actually quite common.)

I'd very much like to see Money Shot translated in Finnish. It's a serious novel, told in a serious voice, but it's still touching and contains lots of sex and violence. That's a killing combination. With powers invested in me, we just might see the book appear also in here.

(Hat tip to Peter Rozovsky, whose delightful blog I read all too rarely!)

Some newish Finnish magazine illos

I've been editing a collection of Veikko Hannuniemi's sea stories for a book. Hannuniemi was a sea captain stationed in Turku and he wrote short stories from the late thirties to the late sixties. He also has three sea novels to his name. One wonders why he is so little-known today - the man wrote at least hundred short stories. The novels aren't bad either.

This is about something different however, but related to him. Here are two illustrations from the Koti-Posti magazine he contributed to. Both are signed "pk" and are, to my mind, very good pin-uppish illos, with a somewhat modern slant to them. I don't know who "pk" was, but I'd really like to find out. His line is very assured and easy at the same time.

Sorry about the poor scans. I took photocopies at the university library and scanned them, with some colours totally fading out of the picture. Will try to come up with better ones.
Edit: The illustrator in question is one Pentti Korpilinna. Näin kirjoitti kuvittaja ja sarjakuvantekijä Timo Kokkila:
Juri kyseli kuka pk-signeerauksella piirtänyt tyyppi oli. Eiköhän se ole Pentti Korpilinna, s 1930. Parhaat pilapiirtäjämme-kirjassa on pieni esittely, muuta en miehestä tiedäkään. Kirjan mukaan mm. piirsi ja pakinoi monet vuodet Kotipostiin.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I'm making changes in my blog policy

All the time I've been blogging at Pulpetti (or is it "on Pulpetti"?), I've felt awkward about the bilingual nature of my blog. It seems to me that some of my Finnish readers or even my friends are not very interested in the pulp/hardboiled aspect of this blog and commenting to a English-language blog post seems strange to them. I've posted some stuff in Finnish here - on politics or some other topical, well, topics and some such -, but I've felt they don't really fit in here. (And my English-speaking readers have absolutely no clue what they are about, even though almost every Finnish reader here knows what I'm talking about when I'm writing in English.)

So I'm making some changes. Nothing big and the pulp stuff keeps on coming, that's for sure, but I'm directing my Finnish-language posts to another blog. I'm not setting up a new blog, but I'll be posting my stuff about politics and shit to the Julkaisemattomia/The Unpublished blog that I've had for some years now as some sort of a sidekick blog. Now it'll become the main blog for my Finnish-speaking blog posts. So, all the stuff about my personal life, national politics or some such will be there. I won't promise I'll post there often, but I'll be peppering the blog with what was the purpose of the blog in the first place: my unpublished stuff or stuff that was published in too ephemeral places for a general reader to find. (Peppering? That's some spicy stuff, I'll tell you...)

We'll see how this keeps on working. And don't worry: if I'll be drawing any new comics about the adventures of Ottilia and Kauto, I'll be posting them here.

Okay, I run into trouble already - got to thinking where I'll post the old Finnish pulp and paperback covers (and I have a patch of vintage Finnish pin-up illos coming). Umm... Decided! I'll post them here. The Julkaisemattomia blog will remain a rather non-visual blog.

Norman Mailer and Weird Tales

Over at the PulpMags e-mail group Norman Mailer was mentioned and long-time pulp and mystery fan Walker Martin wrote this:

Mailer lived at the foot of my street (I still pass his house everyday) and I ran into him quite a lot in later years. He told me once he submitted a story to WEIRD TALES when he was a teenager, but it was rejected.

I don't know if this is mentioned in any of the Norman Mailer biographies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Inan arvio Kauhajoen runoista

Kuten tuolla aiemmin, ennen kirjamessuja kirjoitin, tein pienen runovihon nimeltä Kauhajoen runot. Ina Westman sai sen messuilla ja intoutui oikein kirjoittamaan siitä. Kiitos! Olen otettu. (Vihkoa voi tilata kommenttia pistämällä tai kirjoittamalla sähköpostia: juri.nummelin(a)pp.inet.fi.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

My book out

My book on Mika Waltari's little-known works is out. Unohdettu Waltari is available through bookstores and libraries, but since it came out at the last week's book fair in Helsinki, it may not be on the stands as yet.

Sorry, a bit busy and should be on holiday, since Ottilia is with us for this week.

[Added the cover. Art is by Tarja Kettunen. Hope I'm correct on this, it doesn't say in the book.]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vaskikirjojen uutuuksia

(Just wanted to give a little boost to a small SF/fantasy publisher working in Finland.)

Näin kirjoittaa Vaskikirjojen Erkka Leppänen:

Kustantamo Vaskikirjoilta on ilmestynyt kuukauden sisällä kaksi uutta fantasiakirjaa.

Jokin aika sitten ilmestyi Roger Zelaznyn Avalonin luodit, joka on jatko-osa Amberin yhdeksälle prinssille ja Amberin kronikoiden toinen osa. Vetävää, klassista, pulp-henkistä seikkailua.

Eilen painosta tuli Ellen Kushnerin Thomas Riiminiekka, palkittu, kaunis, jopa eroottisia sävyjä sisältävä itsenäinen fantasiaromaani. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo on jälleen loistanut käännöksessä.

Molemmat kirjat ovat saatavilla Helsingin kirjamessuilta Suomen Pienkustantajien yhteisestä myyntipisteestä messuhintaan. Tietenkin niitä voi tilata myös Vaskikirjojen kotisivujen kautta suoraan kotiin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

David Schow's Gun Work out from Hard Case Crime

The mail brought the newest entry in the Hard Case Crime line, David J. Schow's Gun Work. It looks absolutely thrilling, but I'm truly sorry to say that I don't have the time right now to read it. Will try in the coming weeks, however. (I also received the ARC for Charles Ardai's Fifty-To-One, which is famously the fiftieth Hard Case Crime. Here's to you, guys.)

Here's the opening line from Gun Work that will hook any reader:

How Barney came to occupy a room on the wrong side of management in a hostage hotel deep inside Mexico City had to do with his friend Carl Ledbetter and one of those scary phone calls that come not always in the middle of the night, but whenever you are most asleep and foggy.

Gotta love that cover (by Joe DeVito), too, even though it's strictly anything but PC.

I ain't no slouch

I heard today that my book on Mika Waltari has come out of the printers. Will post the cover in due time.

I also dropped in by the digital printing house at the Turku university and lo and behold! they'd printed three new works for me!

One of these is the new issue of Pulp, my fanzine, for which I should finally set up a blog. This has a large article by Jukka Murtosaari on the Holland-origin paperback series for juveniles four of which were translated in Finnish in 1958-1959. Called Mikro-Sarja. Will try to remember to post covers later.

Then there is a poetry collection called Kauhajoen runot/The Poems of Kauhajoki, which refers to the Kauhajoki massacre a while back. (I realize now that I didn't get back to this theme, even though I promised so in a comment.) I posted one of the poems here in an English translation. This is a small pamphlet, of 18 pages.

The last one is also a pamphlet, a bit larger, but still only 18 pages. It's one of my mildly parodic private eye Joe Novak stories, this time called The Case of the Frozen Detective. It has Novak running away from an oil gangster whose moll he had been dancing and flirting with. Nothing memorable, I'm sure, but maybe a leisurely way to spend 30 minutes or so.

This may seem a bit weird. I'm publishing a very serious collection of poems and a intentionally stupid private eye story at the same time. But life is full of paradoxes, isn't it? But all these are for sale! Just ask!

(Sen verran piti vielä sanomani, että puhun Waltari-kirjasta BTJ:n osastolla lauantaina klo 12. Huomenna torstaina klo 12 puhun esipuheesta, jonka tein Savukeitaalle Kaarlo Uskelan runokirjan Pillastunut runohepo uusintapainokseen (tai siis kai puhumme ennen kaikkea kommunistirunoilija Uskelasta), ja perjantaina yhdessä Villen ja Vesan kanssa juttelemme Eroticasta. Se on klo 15. Kättäni saa nykiä messuilla, jos osun vastaan.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blood Simple

Last night I saw the Coen brothers' first film Blood Simple, well, maybe for the fourth time. It's an excellent film - a fitting tribute to film noir or maybe more to noir paperbacks of the fifties and sixties. The story resembles books by such writers as Harry Whittington and Gil Brewer very much. Too bad there's not a novelization of Blood Simple. It's never too late! (A British paperback publisher ordered novelizations of old Disney films and horror classics in the seventies, so why couldn't the same thing happen again?)

There's much to like in the film. I love Barry Sonnenfeld's photography, with smoke rings reflecting blue neon lights. I love the characters and actors, Dan Hedaya and Frances McDormand. We're never told much about them, but still we know who they are and where they come from. Someone should write a book about Loren, the private eye of the film, played by the great M. Emmet Walsh - he must've had some interesting cases. But especially I love how the audience is kept at the edge of their seats: the Coens never tell what's going to happen or even what's happening. Important story points come only later. And it's done with great verve.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A new cache of books...

Just when James and Bill lamented over the fact that they can't find book caches like I do, I come home with a large plastic bag full of books... mainly old paperbacks, crime and science fiction: Spencer Dean's Murder on Delivery (Pocket 1958), Fredric Brown's The Screaming Mimi (Bantam 1958), The 11th Hour by someone called Robert B. Sinclair (Pocket 1952)... A paperback edition of Dangerous Visions, books by Ed McBain, Michael Moorcock, Poul Anderson... Lots of first editions of Nick Carter paperbacks.

Here's the explanation. My dad bought a year ago the remainders of a used book store in Tampere and I've been carrying many of the English-language books home to Turku bag by bag. The last bag - before this one, I mean - contained for example Lionel White's Hostage for a Hood (the original GM edition), Cleve Adams's Private Eye and Lionel Olay's The Dark Corners of the Night.

Who says life isn't nice? Here's hoping I'll be able to do posts at least on some of these books.

Suomen Dekkariseuran blogi

Suomen Dekkariseura on perustanut blogin, jota vetää seuran puheenjohtaja Kirsi Luukkanen. Uuden blogin voit tsekata täältä.

The Finnish Whodunnit Society has started a blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: Half Breed, by Clint McCall

I took another day off (I've been having back problems and my masseur told me to rest for a few days) and read some non-work books. Well, nothing I read is absolutely non-work, but at the moment I'm not writing a reference book on Australian Western writers.

So it was like rest to me when I picked up a Finnish translation of Clint McCall's Half Breed. McCall is a pseudonym and I think this was written by Keith Hetherington, one of the best Australian paperbackers - who's still working full time. I don't know when Half Breed was first published, but I believe it's a product of the sixties. It might also be from the seventies, since the hero is a half-breed and the portrait of him is certainly sympathetic, even though the guy is a born crook, a sociopath and a killer. Furthermore, I believe that the original publisher is Cleveland, which has been the foremost publisher of Australian Westerns. All their books are, I believe, 96-page booklets. Someone really should compile a bibliography of Australian Westerns! The Finnish translation (roughly Doomed To Be a Criminal) is from 1981 (I read a 1990 reprint which I bought for 20 cents recently) and belongs to the long-lived Lännensarja series. [Lännensarja = The Western Series. Not very imaginative, huh?]

Half Breed is a tale of Billy Slaughter who's given no slack, because he's a half-breed, and he's fast living the life of crime, smuggling rifles to Indians, robbing banks and trains and finally killing someone. He takes another identity and even ends up married, but then he's recognized and he's sentenced to jail. He gets out for good behaviour, but after getting his revenge he starts all over again.

The story is episodic, but it doesn't lack dramatic impact. McCall writes solid hardboiled prose and moves things along swiftly. Even without any padding he creates a sympathetic picture of young Billy and finally, it seems, has him a happy future.

I've been wondering about one thing: how come Australian Westerns are always so solid and good, when their crime fiction with series like Larry Kent and Marc Brody is so awful? Of course they had Carter Brown, but I don't think he really is up there with even his second-rate American counterparts. (It's been years since I read anything as by K.T. McCall, so won't say anything about theose books.) Now, of course they have writers to be taken seriously, such as Peter Corris and Shane Maloney.

I also read a Finnish Western from the early eighties. It was part of the FinnWest series, also published as a booklet (shorter than 96 pages, though), and published anonymously. My bet on the writer's identity is Juhani Salomaa, who also created the character in the mid-seventies. Clint McCall was definitely better, I'm sorry to say. It had impact, while this lingers on for ages, before it speeds off and then it's over too fast.

By the way, here's a link to a bookseller's collection of Australian paperbacks.
My contribution to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Book series. (Posted already on Thursday, since I don't know if I have the time tomorrow.)

The financial crisis: nothing new

As I said earlier, I was reading Peter Ackroyd's new biography of Poe (highly recommended, solidly written and short and seems to contain everything one needs to know about Poe, if one's not a scholar) and I noticed that there were at least two grave financial crises during Poe's lifetime - which was short, only 40 years, as all the readers surely know. And the both crises seemed to fasten Poe's demise.

Now there's another financial crisis on. As I was reading Ackroyd's book, I said to Elina that why everyone still thinks capitalism is a good way to handle economy when it seems that the tendency to break down and go into a crisis is inherently built into it. I don't think there were any financial crises during the era 1930-1980 when the economy was regulated heavily throughout the world, starting from the Roosevelt era United States. (And the financial growth was steadier and even faster than it was before the current crisis.) These post-1980 crises started when the regulation ceased - and that was a deliberate decision from the politicians, not just some freak coincidence or a sign of the market's own will. After 1989 there have been at least three global financial crises - in twenty years! And still people think that capitalism is a good system! (Of course the era 1930-1980 contained a world war, the Cold War, lots of international conflicts throughout the world etc., lots of political suppression, but in the Western world, or in the free countries, if you will, and especially in the Nordic countries, many things were better than they are now.)

PS. Hmm.. did I mention the Poe biography only in a comment on Patti Abbott's blog?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Soul Patch [with links added]

I have a soul patch, so there was a personal sympathy involved when I read Reed Farrel Coleman's award-winning novel Soul Patch. I finished it late last night. I liked it very much, as I hinted at in the previous post, but not as much as I liked Coleman's previous novel, The James Deans.

I said earlier that it seems that Coleman had a stricter editor at Plume. I'd've taken out almost all the stuff that was put in italics to show Coleman's private eye, Moe Prager, thinking to himself. I didn't find the bits necessary and they stopped the narrative flow. Some of the dialogue was a bit too cryptic for me and there were some passages that I thought were overwritten (and at times I thought that Moe Prager is a bore to be thinking all his thoughts about mankind and loneliness and angst and fear. C'mon, man, get a grip!).

But all in all, Soul Patch is a good example of the strong condition the American private eye novel is in. I'd like to bring Coleman to the Finnish audiences, but we'll see about that.

PS. Did you know that in Finnish "soul patch" is also called "pussy brush"?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Shamus awards

I notice from The Rap Sheet that the Shamus awards (given to the best private eye novels published during a year, mainly (or only?) in the US) have been given to books I've read or am reading at the moment. The Shamus for the best novel went to Reed Farrel Coleman whose The James Deans I liked a great deal (this machine is working so slow that I won't go looking for the post I made on it in Pulpetti, um, 1½ years ago). I'm just now reading Soul Patch, the book that won the first prize. It's wonderful so far, but it seems that Coleman had a stricter editor at Plume, his previous publisher. But more on that later.

The best first novel and the best paperback novel I both read, but unfortunately never managed to talk about them here in Pulpetti: I think I mentioned Sean Chercover's Big City, Bad Blood, but I know I didn't mention Charles Ard.. ehem, Richard Aleas's Songs of Innocence. Even though I thought it was great - a private eye book just won't get any bleaker than this. And Aleas writes with ease and keeps you turning the pages, even though you know the ending will be grim. I also liked Chercover's book, but it was a bit too long on the private eye's personal life even when it didn't seem to be important to the book and the plot - compare it to Coleman's Soul Patch in which Moe Prager's love life is essential to the plot.

Mind you, these are not average private eye novels in any way. There are still many readers (especially in Finland - since we don't get these books in Finnish) who think that the private eye genre is locked somewhere in the era and style of Raymond Chandler or that it's just some lone hero joking around and drinking booze à la our very own Reijo Mäki. All these three books bring fresh air to the genre that many thought was dead by the eighties.

(Which was nonsense in the first place. [Which I came to understand only later. {But more on that later.}])

The year's best book haul

We took a day off, Elina and I, last Friday and jumped on a train and travelled to Salo (which is half an hour away from Turku) and hunted its thrift stores (and the only second hand book store which didn't yield much). And I came back with over 60 books.

The story requires to be told. We were at Fida, the local store of the Christian thrift store chain (much like Oxfam in the UK), and it seemed there wasn't much of anything, certainly not in the way of books - the usual thrift store stuff, handbags from the nineties, boring T-shirts and way too large jeans. But then I noticed the door to the warehouse was open. I noticed there were some cardboard boxes with books. They didn't look interesting, but I decided to look around a bit more. I noticed there were some paperbacks in boxes, leaning against the wall, stacked over each other. The paperbacks seemed to be in English, and they seemed to be old.. and then I noticed they were science fiction paperbacks. Names: Moorcock, Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Asimov... you name it.

I checked further, from what I could see. I managed to take some out of the boxes. Edmond Hamilton, Kornbluth-Pohl, Sturgeon, Henry Kuttner... very much old stuff, Pyramids and Ballantines and Beacons, with covers by Richard Powers and others. Also newer books, DAWs and such. My heart beat fast, when I walked to the manager of the store and asked whether I could take a closer look. The guy - mustachioed, with stupid looking eyeglasses - said they are not for sale. "Why?" I cried. "They haven't been checked and put on the shelves." "What do you think if I'll take a look and buy a bunch and save you some trouble? Look, I'm not from here, I don't know when I'll be coming back", I tried. It seemed at first I wouldn't be able to turn his head - and actually I couldn't, since he let me go through only four of five boxes. There were at least eight! "How much do these cost?" I asked, my sweaty hands holding British Panther hardbacks from the fifties: H.J. Campbell, Roy Sheldon, H.K. Bulmer... "Paperbacks 40 cents, but hardbacks cost more", said the guy. Then my eyes hit on a Panther paperback, from 1952, by A.V. Clarke and H.K. Bulmer. Space Treason. I gotta have this!

Then the guy let me take a look. He didn't like it, since, as he said, this put other customers in an inequal position. Like I care. I thought about saying to the guy that no one in Salo will buy any of these, but refrained. I also refrained when he said that they'll be throwing away the trash, such as the witchcraft books. Then I delved into the books.

Came up buying over 60. For 40 cents a piece. Nice ladies at the cashier said that the old English-language hardbacks are also 40 cents a piece. And they gave me discount! I paid 25 euros for the whole bunch. And what great finds there were: J.T. McIntosh's World Out of Mind (Perma 1953), Pohl-Kornbluth's Gladiator-at-Law (Ballantine 1955; well, not in a very good shape, but still), de Camp and Pratt's The Incomplete Enchanter (Pyramid 1960), Farmer's The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (DAW 1973)... These are just some examples that I picked up from the stack. Space Treason seems to be scarce and commands 50$ at Abebooks... Vow! Some of the books were in an extremely good shape, some not - and some had been damaged while in the warehouse!
I've been thinking that I should've said to the manager of the store: "I'll buy them all" and pay, say, 150 euros for the whole bunch (and think later how I'll get them back home to Turku), but maybe I'll make another trip to Salo in the coming weeks. Now, if they'd been crime novels of the same era... I'd be in hospital from a stroke. But when I'd've managed to crawl back, I'd've said: "I'll buy them all." (At least I should've taken all the books that hinted at witchcraft or some such "trash", so they wouldn't've get discarded and thrown into garbage.)

I have no idea what these books were doing in a little town like Salo. It must've been some local science fiction aficionado who's been buying books from the fifties on and concentrated on the English language. Nevertheless, this was a thrilling experience.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sangster's Private I

I finished this last night. Well, I can't actually say I finished it, because I had to stop reading some 40 pages before the actual end. I just couldn't concentrate on it in any way. I've been quarreling with my ex about many things (you may remember that they moved to Luxembourg and I haven't seen Ottilia for almost two months now and it seems that they won't be able to travel to Finland as often as I was originally told), and last night I realized that I hadn't understood anything that had been going on in the book for the last 50 pages. I didn't know what Sangster's hero, private eye John Smith, was talking about and who some of the characters were, so I thought it would be better just to drop it and read it some other time. (If you're new to this blog, scroll down a bit - there's a longer post about Sangster.)

But then I picked up the new Poe biography by Peter Ackroyd. I was tired as hell, but the book grabbed me and I read till midnight. It's a very good biography - and it's short, so it's highly recommended. (The Finnish translation just came out. I understood the book was published in UK only this year.)