Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A sudden relief

Just got a letter announcing that I received 1,500 euro grant for my book projects. Whoa! This is actually a big relief, since I really didn't know how I was going to finance my summer. (And I haven't received any grants for almost two years! You motherfu... okay, let's leave it at that, shall we?)

I'll get back to normal soon as I get the current projects out of my hands.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The great Sulake Fuse meme of 2008

Actually couldn't resist blogging, when I saw that I'd been memed by Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders. The meme goes like this:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The nearest book, erm, I even hesitate to mention what it is, but you know my fascination with... ah well, let's leave it at that, shall we? The second nearest is:

Korjausopassanasto: englanti-suomi-englanti, ed. by anonymous, Tieto-Nikkari 1981.

It's a small technical dictionary, mainly for words about cars. There are no sentences, but here goes nevertheless:

sulake fuse
sulattaa melt
sulkuhana shut-off (cock)

I like the last one, don't you, too? (As for tagging someone, I'll resort to what Duane Swierczynski did with the same thing.)

Still sick

My absence and the lack of posts is mainly due to the fact that I've been sick for over a week now, with the goddamnest flu I've ever seen. And what's funny - yeah, real funny - is that Kauto and Elina got it, too.

Will try to get back on my feet next week. In the meantime: do read Christa Faust's Money Shot, it's funny and sharp and very violent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sweden's private eye novels

Anders Engwall, from Sundsvall, Sweden, commented a bit about the lack of private eyes in Finland, and it occurred me to ask him about fictional private eyes in Sweden. Here's his comment:

There have been at least two hardboiled PI series in Sweden, if you include investigative journalists among PIs. I can't recall any novels about professional private detectives at all.

Anders Jonason wrote three novels about journalist Dick Mattsson between 1953 and 1959. There was also a fourth crime novel in 1963 about a different journalist.

Jonason also translated many novels, perhaps most notably among them Charles Willeford's Hoke Mosely series. That makes Jonason the only one who has ever translated Willeford into Swedish.

Christer Nygren wrote a series of I believe eight novels about journalist Tommy Westfelt from 1986 until 1998. These are all set in my home town Sundsvall, except that's never stated openly in the books. For us who know the local geography it's obvious, though, and a fun bonus.

These two series are the only I can think of at the moment, unless you also count the well known but rather semi-boiled Harry Friberg series written Stieg Trenter between ca 1943 and 1966. Friberg was not a journalist, but close - a news photographer.

Come to think of it, there are preciously few Swedish hardboiled books at all outside of police procedurals. I have heard good things about the recent Snabba cash by Jens Lapidus, though. Then again, I have read excerpts from it and my initial thought was that short sentences alone certainly does not make you the Scandinavian James Ellroy. I.e. I was not impressed.

Here are a few links to brush up your Swedish.


We got to talk more about the matter over Facebook and here's his additional comment:

Of the Stieg Trenter titles I have only read Roparen. It was years ago, but as I recall it was a solid, competent medium-boiled whodunnit (wow, how is that for non-committal?). I remember I really enjoyed the 1980s TV series based on some of his books, though.

One promising thing I forgot is that we recently have had two translations of Jim Thompson published by two different publishers. This lot has THE GRIFTERS and Anthony Neil Smith:


These guys published THE KILLER INSIDE ME and are also about release THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley:


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More power to University of Chicago

Just saw this on the Rara-Avis mailing list, from David Thompson of Busted Flush Press:

University of Chicago Press has plans to reprint ALL of Richard Stark's Parker novels, publishing 3 per season... the first three this fall, the next in the spring. I contacted several people at UC (and they could not have been nicer!) and stressed the importance of sticking with their publication plans up to #7 and beyond, since these are the toughest to find, and they assured me they're in it for the long haul.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tapani Bagge's new story in Thrilling Detective

I mentioned Tapani Bagge's not-quite-private-eye-hero Onni Syrjänen in my previous post. As it happens, Thrilling Detective's Kevin Burton Smith put up a new Onni story late last night. Here it is.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jorma Napola's one-off private eye novel from 1962

Private eye novels have never been big in Finland. I don't really know why, but I have some thoughts: private eye is a product of a culture that relies much on individuals and their right to do something, to correct things, to have a vengeance. Finland is pretty much a culture that relies on authorities, on the fact that someone else takes care of things. (Of course there are regions which resemble more Wild West, but more on them later. Perhaps.)

Private eyes in Finnish literature can be counted with one man's fingers. Reijo Mäki has Vares, Markku Ropponen has Otto Kuhala, Ari Paulow has Jesse Hackman.. and there you go. Tapani Bagge's Onni Syrjänen is not really a private eye. In the seventies there were some writers who dabbled in the genre, like Matti Kokkonen and Totti Karpela, but their legacy has not endured. (One distinctive point in Finnish P.I. novels is that they pretty much go for the parody of the genre, especially Reijo Mäki's Vares, or at least are very jokey.)

One shiny example of a good Finnish private eye novel is Ruuvikierre by Jorma Napola. The Finnish title might translate as "The Big Screw". I read the novel for the first time just recently, when I was suffering a bad case of stomach complaint.

The private eye hero in the novel is one Jaakko Piira, who mentions couple of times having been in the war and having fought first against the Soviets, then against the Germans. Piira is your typical private eye, tired, lonely, suffering from melancholy, could be an alcoholic. The book starts with Piira complaining that he's got no job. All he has is him and a spider weaving its web in a corner of his office. He gets a job, though - a nice and coy young lady asks him to check upon a man who was living in her and her aunt's house as a tenant and is now disappeared. Piira promises to look into the matter and finds himself getting woven up in a web of deceits and lies and blackmail. There are couple of murders and some cops who don't really like Piira.

The book was first published in 1962 and the author, who worked as an art critic and journalist, had won the first prize in a crime novel contest a big publisher called WSOY had put up. Napola won also the second prize, but more on that later.

Ruuvikierre has its share of clichés, but if you happen to enjoy these particular clichés, you'll enjoy Ruuvikierre too. There's a strong noirish tone in the book and the style is fittingly hardboiled. Napola also does a nice job getting those American clichés smuggled in Finnish settings, even though at times I found Piira's wisecracking a bit too un-Finnish. You know, we're not really accustomed to people yapping all the time. There are some implausibilities in the plot and I didn't really believe in the scene that took place in a rehab center, but all in all I really much liked this book. As for the foreign readers, suffice it to say that this could've been published in English and no one would've noticed any difference.

Timo Kukkola, who's written the history of Finnish crime literature, doesn't give much weight to Napola's novel and says only that it's a weak attempt to bring the American influence in Finland. He seems to think that hardboiled literature is only what Chandler and maybe Hammett had to offer and says - at some other point - that the fourties should be left alone. Yet he writes page after page about some locked room mysteries and mansion murders.

Kukkola seems to have some joy when he gets to mention that Napola didn't write another novel. He didn't know it all. A small paperback publisher called Viihdeviikarit (and the man behind it, Kari Lindgren, also the man behind Book Studio and now Book Man) put out in 1981 a novel called Ministeri on murhattu/A Minister Has Been Murdered - by Jorma Napola. The back cover told that Napola had won the second prize in the crime novel contest mentioned above, but WSOY didn't want to publish two novels by the same writer (I don't know why they didn't use a pseudonym), so it had remained unpublished for almost 20 years and Viihdeviikarit had dug it up. I remember reading the cheap paperback for at least two times in my teens.

I didn't remember much of it, though, when I decided to reread it after having finished Ruuvikierre. The books don't really resemble each other, except that both have men of principle in the lead. Neither will back down. The murder in the latter book seems impossible at first, but Napola doesn't give much thought to that and focuses more on bitter human intercourse. The book ends in noirish tones of despair and bitterness, even though it's really nowhere as bleak as Ruuvikierre. It's not as humorous either and the plot is not as intriguing as in Ruuvikierre. Ministeri on murhattu seems also to have some tones of the Maigret novels by Simenon.

Jorma Napola's both books deserve rereading and perhaps Ruuvikierre should be reprinted again as an affordable paperback.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lehtien julkkis- ja viihdeuutisoinnista

(Sorry, just something I just had to say.)

Hesarin älykköraadilta kysyttiin tänään, onko järkeä siinä, että laadukkaina itseään pitävät lehdetkin kirjoittavat julkkisasioita - viitattiin esimerkiksi Hesarin Paris Hilton -uutisointiin. Monet älyköt olivat kriittisiä.

Omasta puolestani Paris Hiltonista saa uutisoida, kunhan vastapainoksi lehdessä on muutakin. Mitä se sitten on? Samoilla kulttuurisivuilla Hesarissa oli iso, mutta aika vaatimaton arvio Kirsi Pihan Italia-aiheisesta kirjasta, jonka anti vaikutti olevan vielä vaatimattomampi kuin arvion: kliseistä jaaritusta ihanasta matkailumaasta. Jos Hesarin kokee asiakseen kirjoittaa Paris Hiltonista, niin kulttuurisivuilla ei kyllä saisi antautua tällaiseen, varsinkin kun juttu toimi samalla Kirsi Pihan suoraan sanoen vaatimattoman lukupiiriblogin mainoksena, ja on vaikea uskoa, että jos joku muu olisi tehnyt vastaavan tasoisen "ihanan" matkakirjan, niin siitä ei olisi julkaistu kuin tonnin pituinen pätkä, jos sitäkään.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Larry Block killing Castro

Hard Case Crime's latest newsletter tells us that in January 2009 they will be publishing a book by Lawrence Block that has never been reprinted and - if I understood correctly - never been acknowledged as a work of Block. Check it out here. The cover is, as usual, great and the theme interesting, to say the least.

And what was the original book? It was called Fidel Castro Assassinated, published under the pseudonym Lee Duncan, by Monarch in 1961. Sorry, can't find no cover scan. Maybe Bill Crider has this on his shelves?

I just hope Fidel gets to live to see the day the reprint comes out. Maybe Hard Case Crime could send him a copy - if the embargo has ended by then.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lee Raintree: Dallas, the Finnish version

I was very fascinated by what Steve Lewis wrote at the Mystery*File blog about Con Sellers, a paperback hack who wrote lots of pornography, some crime and adventure, some soapish saga, some science fiction. I noted in Steve's posting that Sellers has been credited with writing, under the pseudonym Lee Raintree, the official novelization of the Dallas TV series which I'm sure you remember so well that I don't have to find a link for it. I've been wondering about the book for some years now and been fiddling it in thrift stores and such. Now I found out who really wrote it - and as it happens, we were today on a flea market trip to Salo with Elina and I found a nice copy of the book with a dustjacket!

What? A dustjacket? You'd think the book would've been published as a paperback, but no. We take things seriously here in Finland. Con Sellers/Lee Raintree's Dallas came out here as a hardback and with a very artful cover by Pekka Loiri (who's one of the most important illustrators that has been working in Finland for some 30 years now). The book looks more like a piece of Polish poster art than a TV tie-in paperback!

Nevertheless, I've been interested in Con Sellers's career for reasons other than Dallas. The book that Steve Lewis was reading - one of the three paperbacks taking place in the Korean war - has been translated and I will be including them in the sequel of Pulpografia I'm slowly (that should read: "slooooooooooowly") putting together. Pieces like this are always very encouraging and I'd really much like to see more reviews of forgotten paperbacks of yesteryear. Maybe I could do a list of what I need and people around the world could participate in this? Right?

Here's a link discussing Sellers's a must-be-rare paperback Red Rape and here's a link seemingly containing a men's mag story by Sellers!
PS. The Finnish private eye writer I promised earlier is coming next. Unless I decide to write about Lucio Fulci first.

Monday, April 07, 2008

YYA-sopimus ja minä

(This is about Finnish history and politics. Would be too difficult to write about it in English. Next: a Finnish P.I. writer from the sixties. That I'll write in English.)

Viime sunnuntaina tuli kuluneeksi 60 vuotta YYA-sopimuksen allekirjoittamisesta. Se tarkoittaa sitä, että vuonna 1978 samasta sopimuksesta tuli kuluneeksi 30 vuotta. Olin tuolloin kuusivuotias - tai tietysti viisi-, koska sopimuksen allekirjoituspäivä kerran oli 6.4., reilu kuukausi ennen syntymäpäivääni.

YYA-sopimus ei ollut mitään peruskauraa. Sitä juhlittiin perusteellisesti ja ympäri maan. Porissakin järjestettiin oma, ilmeisesti Suomi-Neuvostoliitto-seuran masinoima juhla, joka pidettiin Pohjois-Porin yläasteen juhlasalissa Pormestarinluodossa. Paikalla oli paljon tärkeitä ja hienoja ihmisiä. On mahdollista, että isäni - joka oli tuolloin Porin asukasyhdistysten neuvottelukunnan (tai vastaavan) puheenjohtaja - piti paikalla puheen. Varmasti kaikki porilaiset poliitikot ja paikkakunnan media olivat paikalla. Epäilen, että myös Satakunnan Kansan toimittaja oli lähetetty tekemään juttua, vaikka lehti oli tuolloin hyvinkin pappishenkisen kokoomuslainen.

Muistan, että olimme siellä isoveljeni kanssa myymässä arpoja - tunsin itseni tärkeäksi pitäessäni kädessäni sellaista alumiinista rengasta, johon arvat on kiinnitetty. Edustimme ehkä pioneereja - Pohjois-Porin pioneerien kokoontumispaikka oli Aaltosen Jaskan äidin luona Toejoella (Jaska soittaa nykyään rumpuja Nuorissa Vihaisissa Miehissä; tai soitti ainakin kun näin bändin viimeksi noin neljä vuotta sitten Pormestarinluodon Asukasyhdistyksen markkinoilla*). Toinen vaihtoehto on, että olimme paikalla asukasyhdistyksen kautta.

Mitään muuta en muistakaan. Arvat.

Vuonna 1988 ei vastaavaa tilaisuutta ehkä järjestetty tai jos järjestettiinkin, en ollut mukana.

* Tai sitten ei. Wikipedia-artikkeli ei mainitse Jaskaa. Ehkä se oli jokin muu bändi tai Jaska oli vain tuuraaja. Oli miten oli, sain aikoinaan Jaskalta rikkinäisen akustisen kitaran, johon kirjoitin "This machine kills fascists" ja tein noin sata akustista punk-biisiä kotimankalla. Niitä on vuosia myöhemmin julkaistu Lal Lal Lal -levymerkin koostekasetilla Kuolleena haudattuja.

PS. Hesarin sunnuntaisivulla väitettiin, että Neuvostoliitosta tuotiin clearing-sopimuksen takia kaikkea, mikä vähänkin liikkui. En ihan usko. Tuotiinko muka tätä autoa jossain vaiheessa Suomeen?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jukka Murtosaari and his two visions of Philip K. Dick (and other illustrations)

I thought I'd post more covers by Jukka Murtosaari, whom I mentioned earlier and posted his illustrations he'd sent to Hard Case Crime. These five are all previously published and they are all books. I don't have his magazine and fanzine illustrations handy, even though I have some warm reminescences of his pin up illos for fanzines like Spin and Tähtivaeltaja. Maybe some day... (Following the links you'll find some other covers he's done, some he's done for my own fanzines.)

First we have two Philip K. Dicks. These came out in a short-lived series FAN that strived to publish classic and new SF and fantasy, but for some reason failed to gather interest in the book-buying public. Maybe the selections in the series were too varied, including books from Robert E. Howard to Rudy Rucker and Nancy Collins. Also, some of the covers for the books were ugly, but not those by Jukka. The logo of the series was done by Martti Ruokonen, one of the foremost illustrators and graphics working in Finland.

The first one is for Martian Time-Slip (orig. 1961, in Finnish in 1993) and the second one is for one of the best of Dick's novels (and one of the best SF novels ever), The Man in the High Castle (1962, in Finnish in 1992). I think Jukka captures the latter's essence very well, with a humorous style.

Jukka's Moorcock

Here's a pretty good one by Jukka. It's a cover from 1993 for Michael Moorcock's The War Hound and the World's Pain (1981; it's a very good adventure/horror/fantasy novel in its own right). The Finnish title means "The Warrior of the World's Pain".

Jukka's Outsider

This one is from the eighties. It's one of the serials by Outsider aka Aarne Haapakoski, one of the most prolific and important Finnish pulp fiction writers (and one of the most overrated, if you ask me), that a publisher dug out from fiction magazines to be published as large paperbacks. The stories are mostly harmless humorous adventure.
(For the Finnish readers: Tämä ilmestyi alun perin Savon Sanomien viikkoliitteessä vuosina 1961-1962. Aluksi se oli radiokuunnelma, joka esitettiin vuonna 1961.)

And here's yet another one

Sorry for not having a better (or bigger) scan. I took this out from the publisher's website, thinking they'd sport a better one, and didn't scan my own copy. Nevertheless, the book is one of those that I've edited - it's a reference work to North American western writers (there are one or two Canadians, so it's not strictly about American writers). Jukka's cover illo is very beautiful and harmonious.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Jukka Murtosaari's covers for Hard Case Crime

Say what? Did you ever hear about this? A Finnish guy working for Hard Case?

My friend, Jukka Murtosaari, who's been illustrating fanzines, magazines, books and other commercial stuff for over twenty years is hard looking for work. In Finland the markets for illustrated covers are nearly non-existent, and Jukka's been looking for work at European Disney. He tried to jump the Hard Case wagon and sent their boss, Charles Ardai, these two beautiful perfectly pulpish action covers, painted with oil. He was told everything was OK, but they wanted that all the illustrators working for them are American. Too bad for everyone.

If anyone's interested in purchasing these covers for use or willing to ask Jukka for more work, feel free to drop me a line in e-mail or post a comment.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Runoja tekstiviesteistä

Unohdin äsken sanoa, että kirjoitin lähes tahtomattani tekstiviestiaiheisia runoja pari päivää sitten ja postitin ne Min Dikt -blogiin: tässä.


Suomessa olisi nyt tilausta poliittiselle salaliittoromaanille. Pääpahiksena nuori NATO-hinkuinen poliitikko, joka on vuosia toiminut ulkomailla. Hänen takanaan CIA, Pentagon, vapaamuurarit...

Toinenkin bestseller syntyisi nopeasti. Olen itse asiassa aivan varma, että joku kustantaja on jo sopinut tai sopimassa jonkun kirjoittajan kanssa Ilkka Kanervan elämäkerrasta. Se myy like a motherfucker, niin kuin sanotaan. Idea vapaasti käytettävissä. Itse en ole käytettävissä kirjaa tekemään.

(Umm.. this is about our minister of foreign affairs. The Eliot Spitzer of Finland.)