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.