Thursday, August 28, 2008

The paperbacks delayed

The paperback series I'm editing will be delayed. The first books will come out next Spring. The change has nothing to do with me (at least you better believe me when I say so!). Will keep you posted.

(Sorry for the ashamedly too short notice! Just finished a book and working feverishly on another one. (Yeah, right.))

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: Dumbo, The Flying Elephant

"There's a twist I didn't see coming."

You know that sentence? It's usually a sign of a good book: the book takes the reader by surprise and only tightens the suspense and leaves the reader thrilled. It works in most cases.

But not in all.

We have an old children's book which certainly has a twist I didn't see coming - and neither does anyone else in this household.

It's a Disney-themed Little Golden Book called Dumbo, The Flying Elephant from 1959 (translated in Finnish as Rakettinorsu Dumbo; our edition is from 1980, but there must've been an earlier edition). I don't know the writer or the illustrator.

The story is mostly your usual Disney-fare, pretty stupid but also quite acceptable by low standards. Mickey Mouse gives flying shows with Dumbo, but they are losing competition to new rocket planes. (Do you think a flying elephant ever would lose its novelty value?) After some kicking around, Mickey Mouse comes up with an idea: he puts some rockets in a box, ties the box up in Dumbo's back and bang! they fly faster than any rocket plane. (And he just sits on the back of Dumbo like nothing happens when they fly over 1,000 kilometers an hour. Yeah, right. But then again, Mickey Mouse is one tough customer.)

Okay so far. But then there's the final climax. It's told, just like that, in the middle of the narration, that the circus teddy bear Bongo has shipwrecked on a remote island. I mean, what the fuck? Bongo is never mentioned in the story before the climax, he's not in any of the pictures, and if you don't know just who this guy is, you have no idea why he's suddenly brought into the story. And why the hell is he on that island? Where was he going? With what was he travelling? Why's there no sign of the wrecked ship or plane - and what happened to the other passengers?

Well, I must admit that Kauto has never asked us who the guy is.

You pretty much guess what happens next. The planes can't land on the tiny island, so Mickey and Dumbo rescue Bongo. And come back as heroes.

And that's that.

(I don't exactly know whether this was a Little Golden Book or not. I can't find any trace of it being published as a Little Golden Book, but in Finland it was published in the similar series in which many books had originally been Little Golden Books. Anyone recognize the cover?)

My contribution to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books series.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Life goes on

No matter how sorrow-struck I'm at the moment, life goes on. Here are some things I'm working on or have finished.

I've been writing entries for the Mika Waltari book in a fury and still have some more books to read and couple of his unpublished plays. I should be writing about him here also, since I know he's had lots of international readers - and I will, you know, but it might take a little time.

At the moment I'm editing a collection of Finnish Western short stories, albeit this is only a collection of two writers, namely Joni Skiftesvik and Totti Karpela, both of whom are pretty well-known writers in here. Skiftesvik has been writing realistic mainstream fiction for 25 years now and Karpela has written three hardboiled crime novels and some other books in the last 30 years or so. Both dabbled in Westerns in the start of their careers, Karpela already in the early 1960s.

I've also been writing a lengthy introduction to the book, since there's no comprehensive history of the Finnish Western fiction, even though there's been plenty of it (just like there have been lots of European Westerns starting from de Chateaubriand's Atala (1802) and Mayne Reid and others and ending up in Tex Willer and spaghetti Westerns). You might want to check my earlier article on the subject in English on Pulprack.

I've forgotten to mention that I managed to get a short story in Usva, a web-based Finnish speculative fiction magazine. It's one of my more experimental stories, this time based really, really loosely on the story of Puss in boots (Saapasjalkakissa in Finnish, if the English phrase is not familiar to all). Check (and the other stories at Usva) it out here.

And today the mail man brought us our latest name book - it's an updated edition of Eemu, Ukri, Amelie which came out in 2005 (I think). We updated this and wrote a little under 200 new entries. Check it out at the publisher's website.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hectic, stressful, take your pick

Sorry, haven't really been able to post anything here - I've been busy, which is always a perfect excuse, but I'm also having other stressful things in my life. Today my daughter Ottilia is moving away from Finland with her mother - they are going to Luxemburg! Ottilia's mother got a two-year teaching gig there.

Ottilia has visited us almost weekly for the past seven years and now we'll see each other again only in the end of October! No wonder this morning looks so gloom. Ottilia came to us yesterday for a few hours in the afternoon and I feel like I should've said something important to her or at least spent more time with her. I know that whatever I would've done, I'd still feel the same, so there's nothing doing.

It's a good thing we have Kauto here, he keeps us away from too much grief and sorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday's other forgotten books

I forgot to link to Patti Abbott's list of other forgotten books. Here's the list of the books and here are the links. Patti is a wonderful writer and the mastermind behind this great Friday series, which someone should import to Finland and Finnish blogs. (Me? I don't have have the time, I'm sorry to say.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: The Hell Bent Kid

Charles O. Locke's The Hell Bent Kid (1957) is a very interesting curiosity, a Western novel that seems at times like an absurdist play, in which people don't act rationally and resemble characters in a Samuel Beckett play, yet there's enough action to keep a Western reader interested. The novel won a Spur for the best novel, yet it seems to be now totally unknown and doesn't appear to be in print at all. I even think it was one of the best 25 Western novels in the list that the Western Writers of America voted in the late seventies. It was published in Finnish as Tuhoon tuomittu (Doomed) in 1959, in hardcover by Otava.

It is interesting to note that this was published the same year Arthur Penn's Billy the Kid film with Paul Newman, The Left-Hand Kid was first shown. Both have the same type of qualities, absurd humour, absurd characters and some kind of twisted sense of the West. In Penn's film, the characters are always a bit out of focus and never in the middle of the frame, always on the outer edge of the frame, like moving away, schizophrenically. This applies also to The Hell Bent Kid. A movie was made from Locke's novel, by Henry Hathaway, under the title of From Hell to Texas (seen in Finland as Ajojahti).

I found a biblio for Charles Locke from a site that doesn't seem to be around anymore:

Charles O. Locke was born in Tiffin, Ohio in 1896. He worked for the Toledo Blade (the family newspaper) until he finished college in 1918. From 1928 until 1936 he worked as a desk and rewrite man for the New York Post and the World Telegram. From 1936 to 1944 he was the assistant publicity director for Benton and Bowles handling such companies as Bristol Myers, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet, U. S Rubber, and General Foods. He was also a ghost writer for such celebrities as Fred Allen and Charles Winninger and wrote the lyrics for So This Is Paris and Cyrano de Bergerac. During this period he also worked for the Office of War Information, while writing for the New York Post, the New York Herald Tribune, and the Sun. From 1945 to 1956 he worked for the Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborne agency but also operated on his own as a publicist for General Electric, The American Cancer Society, U.S. Steel, and Ethyl Corp.

In the 1950s Mr. Locke wrote several novels including his most popular book, The Hell Bent Kid. Other novels include A Shadow of Our Own, The Last Princess, Amelia Rankin, and The Taste of Infamy. He and his wife, the former Virginia Sherer, spent most of their life in Boonton, New Jersey. Mrs. Locke died in 1970 and Charles Locke died in 1977. Charles Locke was a grand nephew of David Ross Locke the famous Civil War humorist who wrote a column under the name "Petroleum V. Nasby".

Charles Locke is best known as the author of The Hell Bent Kid, which was very popular and one of the first "psychological" westerns. He was also known as the 1930s script writer for a musical version of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Glorican, anyone?

I'm writing a little piece on Mika Waltari's obscure poem which contains a word "Glorican". It plays an important part in the poem, but I can't find any reference to a substance called "Glorican". Does anyone know what it is? It's said in the poem that a room is filled with its scent and that the narrator of the poem can smell it for several days afterwards on his skin.

The poem was written in the mid-1920's. It's entirely possible that Waltari has typed the word wrong. (Or the typesetter.)

Can anyone help me out with this?

Veli Giovanni kansalliskirjastossa

Ville Hänninen on koonnut Helsingin yliopiston kirjaston Rotundaan Veli Giovanni -aiheisen näyttelyn. Hieno homma!

(About a Finnish cartoonist.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mika Waltari's Leo Rainio books

Just another pointer that I posted a too long article on Mika Waltari's and Armas J. Pulla's Leo Rainio books here. (Too long for my forth-coming book, that is. I'll write something about them here in English, soonish.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Carroll John Daly

Just a pointer that I posted the entry for Carroll John Daly from Pulpografia on one of my other blogs here. It's in Finnish, alas.

Run Isaac Run

Isaac Hayes is dead. He's best remembered for Shaft, but if for nothing else, I'd remember him for this piece. (Wondering why no one has put up the scene from Kill Bill with Run Fay Run playing.)

This is also the first time me trying to embed stuff from YouTube.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Duane Swierczynski: The Blonde

One of the books I read during my holiday was Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde. As you're probably aware (and you should be, especially if you're Finnish readers of this blog), Swierczynski's previous novel, the great The Wheelman, will soon be out in a paperback series of new hardboiled I edit, and if everything turns out okay, I believe The Blonde will also be. (Hmm.. is this a thing I'm able to mention or is it a business secret?)

You know the expression "non-stop action"? Well, most of the books or films on which that epithet is tacked on are not really non-stop action. But The Blonde is. Trust me. You can't put it down and the action starts from page one (well, okay, it starts from maybe page three or four). And there's lots of sex, while The Wheelman has almost none.

The book could be labeled as science fiction, but Swierczynski isn't really interested in exploring the science, which is fine by me. The Blonde is a perfect example of how a science fictional item can be used as a plot gimmick or even a MacGuffin. It slows the plot down none.

I have only one quibble: if the titular blonde is in the trouble she's in, just how can she act so cool? But there's always suspension of disbelief, and Swierczynski proves he's the master of it. And I just love how he links the previous book into this, even though they are totally separated.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Science fiction pornography

Ken Johnson has compiled a bibliography of science fictional and/or fantasy pornography. It's available here. I'm not an expert in this area, but the biblio (or rather, index) sparked some critical comments on the Fictionmags e-mail list. Some books mentioned that are not found in the list are:

QUEEN KONG (James Moffat, Everest 1977)
WEREWOLF VS THEVAMPIRE WOMAN (Arthur N Scarm, Guild-Hartford 1972)
VIRGIN PLANET, Poul Anderson
John Norman's Gor books (it's really strange that these are missing)
ARDOR ON AROS, Andrew Offutt

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Alan G. Ampolsk on his father, true crime writer Bud Ampolsk

Some months ago I wrote about Art Crockett who wrote for the crime digests of the fifties and sixties here. I just received a comment from Alan Ampolsk, who is the son Bud Ampolsk, mentioned in my post. Bud Ampolsk wrote for the same mags and also did some editing, and I asked Alan his permission to post his comment on top of the blog. Some of the pennames he mentions may have been unknown before this.

Apologies for the late-arriving comment, but I've only just discovered your post. Bud Ampolsk was/is my father (for more on the indefinite tense, see Art Crockett worked for him on most if not all of the books you mention - my father was editorial director, and Crockett was an assistant editor. Later the roles were reversed - in the 90's my father worked for Crockett.

Gerald's information is mostly accurate but his chronology is off on one point -- Crockett didn't move in sequence from the men's adventure books to the western to the crime books. They were all produced simultaneously, and Crockett worked on all of them. The publisher was Reese Publishing, which at its height was putting out 17 monthly titles (including the men's books -- they used a different corporate name for them but it was the same organization). My understanding is that Crockett worked on all of them throughout. He wound up as editor of the crime books at a time when Reese had folded most of the other titles, so that's why it seems that he moved from one to the other.

You won't find much of my father's stuff under his own name because - apart from some of the late true-crime work - he used a variety of pen names, including Don Unatin and Bill Ryder.

I'd be glad to try to fill you in more, as best I can. Unfortunately my father isn't able to remember any of this anymore, but I can work from what he told me and what I lived through. I hope that's of some value.

PS. It seems that linking to the Fictionmags Index doesn't work, since the index is in constant state of being updated. Putting up long bibliographies here on Pulpetti wouldn't work (even though I'm known to have done it to great success), so I created another blog: Pulpetti Bibliographic Section. Here's the biblio for Art Crockett's and Walt Hecox's (mentioned in the original posting) crime stories and here's the biblio for Bud Ampolsk's stories under the pennames his son mentions above.

I'm going to talk about these writers with Alan later on and I'll post here what comes up.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday's forgotten book: James Cross: Root of Evil

Finally I had a chance to chime in with Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Book blog thing. I've been posting - in Finnish - the entries of my first book, Pulpografia, in another blog of mine here and when I came across James Cross's Root of Evil I thought I should say something about it in English, too.

I found this novel when I was going through some magazines at the university library and noticed there was a serial in a magazine called Mies (Male or Man) in 1959. It was by a writer not known to me, James Cross. The story looked interesting, so I took a look at Allen Hubin's bibliography and noticed Cross was actually named Hugh Parry and that he had four crime novels to his name. Then I spotted a book by James Cross in a second hand book store. It was called Root of Evil and even though I don't have the book at hand (I think it's in a box in the cellar..), I do remember it was a British paperback reprint. Quick glance told me it was the same book that was serialized in the mag.

So I read the book instead of the serialization. And man, I was sure glad I read it, since Root of Evil is a fast-moving tale of intrigue, murder and extortion. Two brothers buy a house and find a huge treasure of old coins in the backyard. They dig them up and after thinking about it for a while, they decide to keep them. First the taxman comes in, but then come the local criminals and then comes the greedy ex-wife and even if that's not enough, the military also tries to get their hands on the money. From what I remember of the book, it was told in a snappy, hardboiled style in the first narration. It's a very entertaining and well-written book.
Cross seems to have written some short stories, one for Playboy in 1967, and I seem to remember someone saying that he had a story in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions. That aside, I've never heard or read anyone commenting on his work. Root of Evil should merit at least a mention.
Sorry for the lousy picture - it was the only one I found on Abebooks. It's a Crest reprint from 1958; the original edition is from Messner, 1957.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mika Waltari -bibliografiaa

Pistin toiseen blogiin Waltarin lehtirunojen luettelon - sellaisten, joita ei ole julkaistu kirjojen kansissa.

(A notice about a bibliography of Mika Waltari's poems I put up on another blog.)

Monte Hellman's Back Door to Hell

During my holiday I watched more films than has been usual for me during the past few years. (Kauto goes normally to sleep so late that I don't feel like watching television after that.) One of the more interesting films I've lately seen was Monte Hellman's Back Door To Hell, his third theatrical film, from 1964 (apparently released in the US in January, 1965). It has been released on DVD, but seemingly only in Scandinavia and in Finland, in a helplessly wrong format. The characters on screen appear deformed and prolonged, and I couldn't do anything about it. I was watching the film with a slight headache (and a bunch of noisy neighbours!) and it must've added to the overall feeling.

Nevertheless, the film is very interesting. At first, it appears to be a mediocre war film, with minimal cast (three American soldiers, a bunch of Philippine actors and some Japs) and no real sets at all. There's also shortage of weapons almost all the time and we don't see many vehicles. This is familiar for all those who've seen Hellman's later films, such as his magnificent absurdist Westerns, The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind and especially the superb Two-Lane Blacktop (which should be out on DVD; I don't know about the Westerns).

The film is dramatically pretty flat, but I think that's intentional, since the similar tone is found in Hellman's other films, too. The action scenes are effective, even though it seems they are made only by cutting between two camera drives (some of which seem to be made by hand-held cameras). They are realistic and disjointed at the same time, which adds to the peculiar feel of the film.

However, it's the ending that is the most ambivalent element in the film. One of the American soldiers (who's played by the young Jack Nicholson, who played also in The Shooting and scripted Ride in the Whirlwind) is killed, as is the leader of the Philippine guerrillas in the final shoot-out with the Japanese. Just after the climax the producer (Lippert Pictures who'd also produced lots of B Westerns, for directors like Samuel Fuller and Richard Bartlett) cuts in a long piece of footage of Americans taking over the Japs - cannons blasting, aeroplanes flying over, bombs being dropped. It feels like the producer thought Hellman shoot too few scenes and thought adding the footage would make the film more worthwhile to the drive-in crowd. However, after the added footage, there's a strange scene:

A Philippino woman asks the remaining two American soldiers: "What do we do now?" The soldier, looks down warily and mumbles: "We'll think of something." And that's that. The end. (Even though there's a ridiculous scene with Nicholson's and the Philippino guerrilla's pictures imposed over the screen, with the text that says something like "Dedicated to those who fought etc. etc.")

This seems, to my mind, to be a perfect embodiment of the psychology (or ideology or world view) of Hellman's films. The apathetic attitude towards war is the same as in The Shooting or Two-Lane Blacktop - you just do what you do, you're driven to it by fate or some such, and there's no end to it. The war in Back Door to Hell seems exactly that: endless and aimless, just like driving around USA in Two-Lane Blacktop. And this is why Back Door to Hell, a mediocre war film directed at low market audience and drive-in crowds, is an interesting film.

It's interesting to note that one of the three soldiers is played someone called John Hackett. He performed in some TV shows in the fifties and sixties, but vanished from sight in the sixties. However, he's played bit parts in some more recent films that Jack Nicholson either directed or starred in or both: The Two Jakes, Hoffa and Blood and Wine. (He has also acted as a stand-in for Nicholson.) It's heart-warming to think that Nicholson has helped his old pal.

The lead character and the leader of the soldiers is the folksy rock and roll singer Jimmie Rodgers. Strange choice, but he looks handsome and delivers the fatalistic dialogue effectively, without facial expressions. The Wikipedia article on him says that he helped finance the film.

Back Door to Hell seems to be wholly available on YouTube. And the format seems to be right. Go ahead, take a look and let me know what you think. The film has Spanish subtitles. Here's the trailer. Sorry, haven't learned how to embed clips from YouTube here. And here's a very good and thorough essay on this film and another one Hellman made with Nicholson.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Just a quick note to keep things going

I've been reading Mika Waltari's Turms, kuolematon (1955) that was translated as The Etruscan in English.

If you have patience enough for a 700-page novel and a taste for grand adventure, grab it: there are some really good battle scenes and even some sword and sorceryish moments. The prose is clearly better than in Waltari's The Egyptian which I found overwritten. The book is situated in 400 B.C. and the lead character is Turms, a man believed to have supernatural powers, who sets a temple on fire and has to flee and gets involved in piracy in the Mediterranean Sea and fights off some bad-ass Carthageans. (Is that how it's written?) There are also some long, philosophical moments, but then again you can't have everything.

There seems to have been a Pocket Book edition of The Etruscan, which is abridged. For all I know, shortening the book may've done good to it, since I also find it too long and a bit formless in places (at times it's perfectly clear that Waltari didn't do much revising). The hardcover copies of the translation (by Putnam?) seem to be pricey.

I've also been reading some pretty ephemeral stuff by Waltari, such as his unpublished plays and non-fiction he wrote for hire, but I think my coming book will have to do on those.

Blogging brilliance? What the..?

As you've probably noticed, I haven't blogged about anything high profile lately, nor have I written about my projects or any reviews of interesting books, old, forgotten or contemporary or coming. I should, though, and I will.

Despite all this, my friend Urpo gave me a blogging brilliance reward. I went, "What the blazes is she thinking? And why is the thing so ugly? And just what the dickens does the text mean? Is it any known language? Brillante weblog, Premio-2005?"

But thanks anyway. Should I put it up somewhere in sight? And how does one accomplish that?

PS. I edited the text, realizing this is a family blog. I might also add that if the reward should go to someone, it would have to be pHinn here.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hal Ellson makes a comeback

One of the unsung paperback heroes from the fourties and fifties has made a comeback: a new small press publisher has put out a three-novel omnibus of Hal Ellson's juvie novels. Check out Bruce Grossman's enthusiastic review on Bookgasm.

PS. Hands up: am I only one who thought that Hal Ellson and Harlan Ellison were one and the same?