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.)