Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday's Forgotten Book: Give Me This Woman, by John Jakes

Give Me This Woman is a sleazy P.I. story written by John Jakes and publishes by Monarch in 1962 as by William Ard. I've said to Charles Ardai that it would fit the Hard Case Crime line perfectly. Lou Largo, the private eye "hero" of the book, is very hardboiled and he's also a heel and a scumbag, which in my books makes for perfect reading. The book also features a journalist who's going on a honeymoon - with a dead lover's body in the trunk of his car!

Here's an Abebooks seller's description:

"Lou Largo thought he had a simple assignment when ex-mobster Charlie Danton sends him after his headstrong daughter, Cora, who'd runn off with Harry Talbot. The trail leads to Niagara Falls where handsome Harry is playing house with Cora - just long enough to collent 100 000 in ransom money from her anxious father. But theings start to get complicated when Joker Gallone turns up gunning for Harry to avenge the murder of his sister Rose. And when Sonia suddenly turns treacherous, the action gets violent and Lou finds himself facing two hate-filled killers and a dame with blood in her eyes."

An entry in Patti Abbott's Forgotten Books series.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

New book out

The mailman brought us today our new book: it's called Retrovauvat/Retrobabies and as you can surmise, it's a trendy book with lots of photos of kids going around in vintage clothing, but it's also a serious non-fiction book. (Okay, the chapters are pretty short, but they are packed with interesting stuff: baby names, baby food, childbirth, kiddies' books etc. etc.) It's written with Elina and a friend of ours, Ville Hänninen.

Here's the link (in Finnish), on the left the cover with a vintage seventies' fashion photo.

Mickey Mouse in Finnish Big Little Books

I'm compiling an article on the Big Little Books for my fanzine, Pulp. The article won't be long, since I don't have much of first-hand information on the phenomenon and very few of these were published in Finnish.

However here are two Mickey Mouse books (or actually covers of them) that I suspect were originally Big Little Books published by Whitman. These two books, Mickey Mouse as a Pilot (based on Mickey Mouse Mail Pilot) and Mickey Mouse Is Looking for Treasure Island, were published in Finland by Werner Söderström in the mid-1930's. They are fantastically rare; last I looked they were about 500 euros each. (I looked these up at the university library where they stock just about everything that's been published here.) The format is right, the page count is right, the layout of the pages is right - it's just that at least the Treasure Island book has a wrong cover.

Sorry 'bout the black&white. Scanned them from photocopies taken at the university.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Steranko on pHinnWeb's blog

I link too rarely to my friend pHinn's excellent blog, as it contains lots of interesting stuff on Finnish cinema, experimental cinema and music, electronic music, psychedelia, nostalgia TV, etc. etc. Here's pHinn's take on comic artist Jim Steranko.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The best of Isku

To commemorate Isku's tenth issue (which is coming out later this Spring) I compiled a small collection of some of the best original Finnish stories that were published in the magazine, which is the only Finnish crime fanzine there is. The book will come out from Turbator for which I've edited some collections and anthologies and which has focused mainly on short story collections. The book will be of the classic paperback size.

Here's the tentative cover, by who else than Jukka Murtosaari. The picture is supposed to take place in the thirties - there are mock covers of the original Isku magazines, coupled with other Finnish crime pulps and other mags. It's a great cover and I'm really looking forward to seeing this.

(There could be a great, great book with the best of translated stories in Isku, ranging from James Reasoner to Vicki Hendricks and Ed Gorman... we'll see about that.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finnish aviation pulp

Small text on couple of Finnish pulp stories on another blog of mine here.

Covers for new issues of my fanzines

As many people reading this blog know (or maybe not that many: I'm a poor marketer), my hobby is fanzine publishing. Here are the covers for the new issues of my pulpish crime and adventure 'zines, Isku (= Punch) and Seikkailukertomuksia (= Adventure Stories). The Isku cover is by Henri Joela and the Adventure cover is by Jukka Murtosaari.
(Sorry for the poor quality of these photos: they are screen captures from PageMaker. The mags are not out as yet.)

Anthony Neil Smith: Psychosomatic

Finally got around to reading Anthony Neil Smith's Psychosomatic that came out from PointBlank some years ago. It's recommended if you think you can take it: it's about an amputated lady, with no arms and legs, who thinks she can control men. And actually that's what she does. Several guys fall under her spell and a killing spree starts. This is like Elmore Leonard on speed.

Late additions to the best of 2008

Some books I've left unintentionally out from my best of 2008 list or books that appeared in 2008, but which I managed to read only in 2009:

Yasmina Khadra: Attentaatti (in English as The Attack), originally 2006, translated in Finnish in 2008: very gripping tale of a successful Arab doctor living and practicing in Israel: his life goes in turmoil, when his beautiful wife makes a suicide bomb attack in a Jerusalem café

Denis Johnson: Jesus' Son (originally in 1992, translated in Finnish just last year, and I think the book came out only in December): a combination between Raymond Carver and William S. Burroughs, short meaningless stories about drug addicts in the early 1970's America trying to live their lives with no much success, hardboiled style merged with hallucinatory similes, Bukowski without Bukowski's machismo

Paul Gravett (ed.): The Mammoth Book of the Best Crime Comics: huge package of mostly hardboiled and noir comics from the 1930's on to this day, from Dashiell Hammett's and Alex Raymond's X-9 to Alex Toth's and Bernie Krigstein's stylish noir and to Neil Gaiman's and Oscar Zarate's very, very chilling story about one of the wealthiest man in the world and his liking for beautiful boys, but all in all, lots and lots of great stuff, the book you don't want to be without (should probably write a longer piece on this, but I don't think I'll manage, since I've been sick and am behind my work and still don't feel like starting today) - but let me add since this stuff'll interest many people reading this blog: included are also Mickey Spillane's one and only Mike Lancer story and a long newspaper story featuring Mike Hammer (which wasn't bad, interesting that Hammer was drawn to look exactly like Mickey Spillane himself)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jerry Lewis cartoon

A friend of mine bought some British Film Fun magazines from the sixties and sent me a scan of a Jerry Lewis cartoon. I thought I'd put it up here. The magazines, he said, contained lots of cartoons with the American film heroes, mostly humorous stuff, but also Westerns and crime.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My forth-coming book

The cover for my coming book, The Short History of Cinema. The publisher is BTJ, the artist is Tarja Kettunen.

The movie of the cover wasn't mentioned in my original text, so I had to add it. Luckily I found a place where it sits quite well - after trying to come up with a sentence that ran something along these lines: "The Godfather starred Marlon Brando who'd made his breakthrough in a fifties biker film called The Wild One."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Phoebe Kisshagen Redux

Approximately one year ago I was writing about a book that had Jeeves and lord Wimsey have a fucking contest in an obscure paperback published as by Phoebe Kisshagen. I've been receiving comments on it from someone who calls himself "NSH". He's clearly an expert in old pornography, as he can locate the Kisshagen book in its earliest incarnations.

It seems, then, that the Finnish translation of the book (and probably the Swedish or Danish translation before it) has been altered so as to include the reference to Jeeves and Wimsey, two 20th century fictional heroes. The original book must've had some known characters of its own time having the said contest.

Here's the longest of NSH's responses. You can see the others ones in the original post:

Re: The famous Phoebe.

From Patrick J. Kearney’s A HISTORY OF EROTIC LITERATURE (London, Macmillan, 1982):

Talking about Edward Sellon and his works, Kearney writes:

‘...and ‘Phoebe Kissagen; or, the Remarkable Adventures, Schemes, Wiles, and Devilries of Une Maquerelle; being a sequel to the ‘New Epicurean’ (London, ‘1743' (1866); ....
Page 113.

I found no trace of the above in a French edition in Gay’s ‘Bibliographie des ouvrages... Nor in Rose’s Register of Erotic Books.

As far as English editions are concerned, see Rose, 3590:

‘Phoebe Kissagen; or, the Remarkable Adventures, Schemes, Wiles, and Devilries of Une Maquerelle; being a sequel to the ‘New Epicurean’ London 1743 (reprinted 1875) pp. 96, 8vo. Printed by Joseph Longtool, In and Out Lane, London.’


Gay, III 732, gives the title ‘Phoebe Kess’ with the same description as above but changing the size from an 8vo to a 16mo.
Note: Gay took a lot of his informatio from catalogues and often made mistakes in rewriting it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sherlock Holmes Hesarissa?

(A plea in Finnish. Sorry 'bout that.)

Tuttu väittää, että Helsingin Sanomissa olisi julkaistu, sanotaan 20-25 vuoden säteellä, joulu- tai uuden vuoden numerossa kotimaisen kirjoittajan Sherlock Holmes -juttu. Tarkempia koordinaatteja ei ole, mutta kysyn silti: muistaako joku muu?

Edit: Kiitos Risto Raition, tiedämme nyt, että kyseessä oli Erkki Arnin kirjoittama jouluspesiaali joskus 1980-luvun loppupuolella. Tietääkö joku Erkki Arnin perikunnasta mitään?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jason Starr's The Follower

I've been a long-time fan of Jason Starr's work and consider Fake I.D. and Nothing Personal masterpieces. They are simply one of the best books of the 1990's. They are clearly hardboiled and noir, but there are no knowing hints to older genre work. There's also none of macho posturing that at times seems prevalent to the hardboiled literature. Or if there is, you can pretty much guess that with Starr the macho guy is on road to Hell.

Starr is very good at depicting sociopaths and narcists. His are heroes who think everybody likes them and everything succeeds for them. Same goes for the main male in his newest book, The Follower. Peter Wells is a nice-looking guy in his early-to-mid-twenties, working at a gym, having a load of money, buying a cozy apartment. He's empathetic and can converse with a girl for hours. Who wouldn't like the guy? You'll soon know there's no reason to like him. Starr's actual protagonist in the novel, Katie Porter, finds that out too late. And even before that her life is a mess, consisting of a bad job, having no money to live in New York and getting mixed up with largely emotionless young kids who learn their human skills watching porn. No Sex and the City here.

The Follower is, I think, Starr's longest novel to date, but that didn't trouble me at all, even though I was more at home with the brevity of Fake I.D. and Nothing Personal. I had to stay up till two in the morning to finish this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My favourite capers

Peter Rozovsky asked his readers their favourite caper novels and films. My list:

In books: Duane Swierczynski's The Wheelman, something by Lionel White, something by that Stark guy (sorry, can't pick up a specific title). By White, probably Clean Break, but mainly because it was made into The Killing by Stanley Kubrick. But anything by Lionel White is great, especially The Big Caper.

Still books: Al Conroy's Devil in Dungarees. Brian Garfield's Relentless. Zekial Marko's Scratch a Thief. The first two Earl Drakes by Dan Marlowe and also Four For the Money by the said writer.

In films: Jean-Pierre Melville The Red Circle (Le cercle rouge or some such in French). Melville must have some other films I'm overlooking, but that has had the best-staying effect. Reservoir Dogs. Still Tarantino's best and still one of the best crime films ever made. The Killing, if it only were not for the voice-over narration! The Asphalt Jungle. The caper scenes in Gun Crazy, which are just superb, superb, superb.

A Fish Called Wanda has a good caper scene in the beginning, too, so we shouldn't forget the Ealing film I Stole a Million. Nor The Ladykillers!

Mustang Gray

The Finnish pulp mag, Seikkailujen Maailma, also published some comics. They had one or two Finnish-origin comics, but all the others were imported. Here's the last one to appear in the magazine, Mustang Gray.
Mustang Gray was done by Italian artists, but it was published in the UK mag, Western Picture Library. One of the artists was Camillo Zuffi (1912-2002). The main artist, however, was Armando Bonato who later on turned into fumetti, via Diabolik. From a quick glance, Mustang Gray seems similar to Tex Willer, the best known of the Italian Western comics.

This is the opening page of the comic series, from the Seikkailujen Maailma issue November, 1960.

Another Western comic

Here's another one from the Seikkailujen Maailma mag. I don't know the original source, but it's called "In the Trails of Incomparable Arrow". This one is earlier - it was published in 1955.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Finnish cover for The Etruscan

Here's the original Finnish cover for Mika Waltari's The Etruscan/Turms, kuolematon from 1958. The artist is Björn Landström, one of the best illustrators working in Finland in the last fifty years. (I know there are differing opinions on this.) This cover is nicely drawn and the face is psychologically complex, but I'd like to see more action in this!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Some updates on the Made In USA post

Anna Karina's character is called Paula Nelson. Jean-Pierre Léaud doesn't play David Goodis (that's Yves Afonso), but Donald Siegel. László Szábo plays Richard Widmark. Someone is called Richard Nixon and another one inspector Aldrich.

I've read somewhere what the French title of Westlake/Parker's novel is in the film's credits, but I can't find it online. I seem to remember it was something about graves. It's not a literal translation of The Jugger, that's for sure.

Made in USA isn't the only film Godard made from a paperback original. One of his most famous films, Pierrot le Fou (1963), was based on Obsession by Lionel White. Which probably means that Godard had a good taste in books. (There's also a Finnish trash flick from the mid-seventies, Karvat/Hairs by one Seppo Huunonen, which is based on the same novel, but I don't really think they knew the Godard connection. White's name is written "Lionell" in the credits. I think this is the only film ever made in Finland based on a paperback original.)

Francois Truffaut, on the other hand, directed many films based on American paperbacks, but I'll be writing about them some other time, since I'm just leaving with Kauto to a birthday party. In ten minutes, that is.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: Mika Waltari's The Etruscan (Turms, kuolematon)

This is basically a rerun of my earlier post about the book, but I've edited it a bit and added a photo of the American edition.

Finnish writer Mika Waltari (1908-1979) wrote many historical novels in grand scale. The best-known of his historical novels is The Egyptian (1945; Sinuhe egyptiläinen in Finnish) that was made into a mediocre spectacle film in the mid-fifties, but I think a later novel, called The Etruscan from 1958 is better. (The Egyptian handles more interesting political themes, though, while The Etruscan is more on the mystic side.)

The Etruscan's original title, Turms, kuolematon, means "Turms, the Immortal". Turms is a young man who's found mysteriously lying outside a temple somewhere near Efesos, in Turkey, with no memories about his past life. He sets the temple on fire, flees and gets out on an adventure through all the Mediterranean Sea, getting strange feelings about this nature as one who can't die. He gets involved in piracy in the Mediterranean Sea and fights off some bad-ass Carthageans. Finally he ends up with the Etruscans, the strange and happy tribe of which little is now known. The book takes place in 400 B.C.

If you have patience enough for a 700-page novel and a taste for grand adventure, grab this: there are some really good battle scenes and even some sword and sorceryish moments. The prose is better than in The Egyptian which I found overwritten. A word of warning: there are also some long, philosophical moments, but then again you can't have everything.

The amnesia plot brings mind one of my favourite topics: the themes and tropes of film noir of the fourties and fifties were actually prevalent throughout the whole Western culture after the World War II. This is clear also in Waltari's other works, especially The Egyptian, in which Sinuhe's own innocence brings doom upon his head.

There seems to have been a Pocket Book edition of The Etruscan, which is abridged (I think the hardcover is also abridged). For all I know, shortening the book may've done good to The Etruscan, 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 by Putnam seem to be pricey.

[My entry to Patti Abbott's great Friday's Forgotten Books series. Hey, it's still Friday in Finland!]

Made in USA in USA

Silly subject line, isn't it?

Jean-Luc Godard's movie Made in USA (or, rather, U.S.A.) is finally available and screening in USA. What's interesting about this is that this was made, without permission, from one of Donald Westlake's Richard Stark books. Anna Karina, Godard's beautiful wife, plays Parker (I forget what her name is in the film, she's not Parker). I think Jean-Pierre Leaud plays a character called "David Goodis" and there's a scene in the film in which someone reads a novel by Horace McCoy.

I'm not a huge fan of Godard's films (I think he was a bit of a fraud), and this is no exception. It's one of Godard's most deconstructionist films, which means it makes no sense. You can recognize Westlake's story in all this, if you know what you're looking for, otherwise you're utterly lost. However, as the first film made from the Parkers it's worth a look.

(Hat tip to Fred Blosser who mentioned this in a comment on Bill Crider's blog.)

PS. Here's also a clip from the movie. It's Marianne Faithfull singing "As Tears Go By". You can spot Anna "Parker" Karina sipping her drink in a totally hardboiled manner.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Change of pace: early TV Moomins

I don't think I've much talked about my fascination towards the Moomin books and graphic novels (or actually comic strips) by Tove and Lars Jansson. (Sister and brother, in case you didn't know.) I've been reading them for over 30 years now (I think I read the first already before going to school in 1978 (which was, by the way, 30 years ago - last Fall, that is) and still enjoy them very much. I hope you all have some time to take off from pulps and paperbacks and find the Puffin paperback translations there are plenty of. (A graphic novel publisher did all the comic strips a while back - now, I can't bring my mind to it now. Anyone..?)

That's a whole lot of brackets. Okay, to the actual point. There are also plenty of television shows and movies made from the Moomin books. The best-known hails from Japan starting with a feature film in 1992, but there was also a very good puppet-animated series from Poland, made in the seventies. However, the first one came, also from Japan, already in the early seventies. The short series never caught on and the Janssons famously hated it for being too cruel and violent. The Masaaki Osumi-directed series seems also vanished in the air and it's not on YouTube nor are there comments on it in the IMDB.

Today, however, skimming through books and scanning photos for a coming book of mine, I found a picture from the series, and since it's the only one I've ever seen I thought I'd scan and upload it. It looks perfectly like the Jansson Moomins (even though Moominmama's ears seem a bit too long). This is a familiar scene: sneaking into a witch's hat, Moomintroll is transformed into a strange thing and no one recognizes him. Until Moominmama looks him straight in the eye and says: "Yes, I know you - you're my Moomintroll." It's a scene that waters your eyes.

Sorry, in black & white only.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Westlake in Sweden

My friend and Pulpetti's Swedish correspondent, Anders Engwall, took up the task of scanning some Swedish Westlake covers and mailing them up to me. So here they are, in separate posts and arranged chronologically. The comments are Anders's, but I've added some in brackets.

Take it away, Anders!

Westlake in Sweden: The Man with the Getaway Face (1963)

The first item is what I believe the very first Westlake ever published in Sweden. This was published as #159 in the X-böckerna (The X Books) series in 1963. I suppose that is quite early for a Parker translation. Too bad the publishers chose to begin with the second one in the series, and in 1964 follow it up with the first one.

The cover is pretty good looking, except that I don't think Parker would ever brood like that - as if he was auditioning for the lead in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE or something. Artist unknown.

The Swedish title translates into THE MAN WHO WAS SOMEONE ELSE. No complaints there - for once they got it right.

Westlake in Sweden: The Hunter (1964)

Installment #2 in the Swedish Westlake saga.

As I said earlier, X-böckerna followed up the 2nd Parker with the 1st. This pb is #162 in the series.

Pretty cool cover. Would have been even cooler if Parker had actually been a woman.

The text on the cover translates as "Suddenly the tables were turned - and Parker was no longer the one fleeing..."

(Btw, the text on the cover of #159 translates as "When the bandages came off, Parker looked into the mirror and met the eyes of a stranger...")

A few words about X-böckerna. They existed from 1952 to 1966 (AFAIK) and operated out of Gothenburg. They may be best remembered for publishing no less than 26 Harry Whittington titles between 1953 and 1962, thus making them the major source of Whittington books in Swedish. And of course, there were those two Parker novels... They also changed the design of their books seemingly once a month. For instance, #159 measures 105 by 182 millimetres. Three books later, #162 measures 108 by 165. Not much later they would switch to covers with photography.

Westlake in Sweden: Point Blank (1968)

It's 1968, and here's the same novel again except the original title is now Point Blank. Great, great movie, so no objections from me. Yes, Parker looks like Lee Marvin, that's just how it is. Published by Kometförlaget as #183 in the Komet series.

The text on the cover translates as "He's a lone wolf in the nether world. He is hated, feared, cold as ice. His name is Parker." Pretty much on the money.

The Komet series ran between (AFAIK) 1955 and 1981. Notable for trying to launch the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald. Six titles were published in 1965-66, and then a of sudden - nothing. The McGee series somehow never caught on here, although MacDonald's non-series works kept on coming here and there.

The Komet series were also known - or maybe notorious, or then again legendary - for adding a porn appendix on pink paper to their books, starting in 1966 with raunchy cartoons by the likes of Pete Wyma, but eventually printing quite hardcore material occasionally.

You can see the legend "Med 6" in the upper right corner of this cover, and if I tell you that 6 is pronounced "sex" in Swedish and "med" means "with" I suppose you can figure out the rest. Ha ha bloody ha. In this particular instance, we are also treated to something entitled A Night in a Moorish Harem: The Tale of the Italian Girl by George Herbert. Which actually is some kind of "classical" porn from way back:

To quote the introduction in this book: A Night in a Moorish Harem belongs to the classics among porn literature. The book tells the story of how the gentleman lands on the Moroccan coast and is found by nine sex mad concubines.

Wow, two classics in one volume.
[Hey, it's a classic alright, but I believe it was a faux. There never was a lord George Herbert and the book was only written for the fast shillings. As for Stöten, that lady sure is nice. As was Angie Dickinson, no question about that.]

Westlake in Sweden: The Mercenaries (1968)

Of course you can't have a Swedish Westlake retrospective without the Manhattan series getting in there somehow. They got almost everything right - a fine selection of books, eye-catching bright red spine, totally genius name, the coolest logo ever and initially great artwork (though it had begun to decline around here). Too bad the
titles of the translations were mostly crap - usually generic and totally unrelated to the novel itself or the original title.

"The Mercenaries" was translated into "The Dead Don't Talk" in 1968. Yeah. The dead don't talk. Anonymous artwork. "3 6 1" came out as #199 later the same year, but that one looks exactly like the Finnish edition.

But that logo! That lower right corner! If I only knew how to print t-shirts...

[This one was never used in Finland, even though the Manhattan series was brought in here as such. Too risqué, that bottom... The book itself had been published in Finnish earlier by another publisher. This cover isn't by Bertil Hegland, is it?]

Westlake in Sweden: Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death (1970)

As opposed to previous entries, this is actually a sort of a respectable release. No porn! A softcover published by Skoglunds in 1970. Yeah, it's 1970 alright! Some of my books in school at the time looked somewhat like this. Aww, nostalgia... And yes, you should read the Mitch Tobin series. But I guess you already know that.
Cover art for SÅDAN KÄRLEK, SÅDAN DÖD is by Göran Lindgren. The title translates roughly as LIKE LOVE, LIKE DEATH.
[I haven't actually read any of the Tobin books. None have been translated and I haven't found them anywhere near. {I have a rule of not to order books from the net. I'd be buried in them in two weeks.} It's probable, though, that I have one or two of these, since I've been picking up every Westlake I can lay my hands on for the past five or six years. Btw, shouldn't that title be SUCH LOVE, SUCH DEATH in English?]

Westlake in Sweden: Murder Among Children (1971)

This Roy Lichtenstein ripoff from 1971 is by one Ulf Castelius. Publishers Gebers for a while published these weird hardcover twofers - sort of like those old Ace Doubles, except in respectable looking hardcovers with dust covers. This title translates as YOUNG SUDDEN DEATH. It was coupled with a Kelley Roos title whose original tilte is somehow missing. Apart from three Tucker Coe titles, the most interesting titles in this peculiar series were a bunch of Helen Nielsen titles.

Ah, pop art:

Westlake in Sweden: Jimmy the Kid (1979)

Rather odd-looking artwork from 1979 by one Olle Frankzén (might be a typo - I suspect it's actually Franzén).

This was #625 in the pb series Delfinserien, which was not an exclusively crime fiction series.

Since this was printed in 1979, and this is the actual copy I first read of this, I'll have to retract my statement that title might have been my first Westlake. Might have been Cops & Robbers, then. I still believe this is the funniest and best of all the Dortmunders, however. On the back cover of this pb, kidnap victim Jimmy Harrington is described as a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Albert Einstein and Ingmar Bergman. Eh, Ingmar Bergman? Btw, here's all the Bergman you'll ever need:

Westlake in Sweden: Help I Am Being Held a Prisoner (1975)

My sister swears since many many years back that this is one of her favourite novels of all time. Can't let her down, then. Art by unknown. Swedish title is basically as the original.

Westlake in Sweden: The Fugitive Pigeon (1979)

Can't really think of anything to say about this, except it's quite stylish. Artist unknown.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Tribute to Edd Cartier

Here's Anthony Tollin's tribute to pulp illustrator Edd Cartier who died some days ago. (Sorry for not being to provide a more exact link.)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

My text on Westlake

As I promised, I posted the entry on Westlake in my book, Pulpografia, on one of my other blogs here. It's in Finnish, understandably.

David L. Wilson on Westlake

David Laurence Wilson whom I mentioned in one of the posts on Donald Westlake wrote some nice and interesting things about Westlake on the Rara-Avis e-mail list, so I thought I'd ask him for a permission to post those on this blog. David said: "Oh sure, Juri. I'm happy to honor the fellow." So, here's what he wrote:

Oh boy, this one hurts. Westlake and I had several friends in common and all of them spoke affectionately and respectfully of him, always. His personality was as large, it seems, as the shadow from his prose. Everyone else was in second place. I very much hoped to meet him and add him to my series of interviews with crime writers but we were never in the same place at the same time. A great writer who may be my all-time favorite, who convinced me again of the undying beauty of the novel and the mystery form. For many years there's been no one who I'd seek out in the bookstores like Westlake. A new Stark was an event for me. Just a great great loss. I have so few heros left.

Death seems to have greeted him as a professional, swift and sudden, without emotion or hesitation. A Westlake moment. Despite his subjects, and the controlled mayhem of his characters. Westlake was a writer of elegance and compassion. I was pleased last week because I'd found a copy of his first novel. I was going to quote from another of his books but I've pulled it out often enough that it wasn't filed with its cousins, a book he did not claim but that I returned to, on occasion, because it filled me with a great sense of love and balance, a recognition that we are all in this same game together. It consoled me and made some of life's challenges easier
to bear.

This is the life of a writer. You will touch the lives of those you have never met. You will help them through their own private hells and they will weep, someday, when you are gone.

I'll have to go and reread some of my favorite memories with the guy. He left us so much.

And then after a minute or two David came back with this:

I found the novel I was looking for though it's got another fellow's name on the cover, Alan Marshall. It reads like Westlake to me.

The last words of SINLAND are the ones I remember:

"I wonder what he was like inside.
"I'll never know, I guess, but that doesn't make much difference. Finding out what's inside yourself is enough of a victory for any man."

I think in one moment the balance shifted, and the ranks of the dead in this business have become much more acc omplished, more skillful in the dark beauty of crime writing, than those of us who remain. I have a habit of pulling books from the shelves, reading a few pages, maybe a chapter, a hello to old friends and they are always there, always ready for this one-way conversation. I get as much pleasure in rereading Westlake as I've had in confronting his plots for a first time. Now he has joined the past and that great tug-of-war between this day and the past has become a mismatch.

[NB: Sinland David is referring to is one of Westlake's pseudonymous sleaze novels, published in 1962.]

One more on Westlake

(I guess this won't be the last note on him...)

Brian Thornton linked to his article on the first Parker novel, The Hunter, that Al Guthrie published at his website some years back. Here it is.

Another Finnish Westlake

Here's also The Outfit in its Finnish reincarnation. As you can see, Parker in the cover is the same guy as in The Man with the Getaway Face. Do you think Parker looks like that? I see Lee Marvin always when it comes to being Parker.

But is that Roy Scheider on the left?

Thanks for the scan to Ossi Hiekkala, the illustrator extraordinaire (he did the covers for the Finnish editions of Swierczynski's and Guthrie's books, take again a good look here).

Additional info on Henry Klinger

Back in the day when the world... oops, this blog was young, I posted a little (and not very good) piece on Henry Klinger. Just now I received a comment on it. I'll post it here:

Henry Klinger who authored the series of novels featuring the Israeli detective was my grandfather.

In addition to being an author himself, he was also the head story editor for 20th Century Fox (when they were headquartered in New York) and selected what stories became movies... most notably, Patton, Grapes of Wrath, The Planet of the Apes, French Connection, Heidi and of course MASH among many many others.

In addition, he was an officer with the Mystery Writers Club of America for many years. His close friends included Darryl Zanuck, Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Miller, Jacqueline Susann and Betty White.

Regretfully he passed away in 1980. He remains the finest man I have known.

Here's also the cover of the book I had found and Kauto had ripped apart.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Still on Westlake: his sleaze

Earl Kemp has an article on Westlake's pornography and sleaze and offers also a bibliography.

Some Finnish Westlake covers

I decided to put up some scans of the covers for Finnish Westlakes and Starks as an homage to the deceased author. Some of these covers - well, maybe none of them are - are not a very good homage to Westlake and his cunning mastery of the genre.

First we have Westlake's first, The Mercenaries, under the Finnish title, "I Am a Hired Assassin". Wonder what Westlake would've thought of that - he didn't approve of the The Mercenaries title.

Then we have the first Parker, The Hunter, under the Richard Stark byline. The Finnish title: "Coffin Up That Parker!" or something along those lines. Is the photo from some film or what? Could it be from Point Blank?

Then we follow with another Parker, called "I Am Parker". That guy? No way, jose. "He's the underworld's lone wolf. He's feared, hated, ice cold. His name is Parker." Originally The Man with the Getaway Face.

After that another early Westlake, 361. I like this cover, which is probably by a Spanish artist (there's a signature beside the lady), but the text on the cover is bland and styleless. The ending of the Finnish translation ("Towards Death") is altered in a stupid and incomprehensible way, beware of it!

And last, but not least: The Jugger, from the Parker saga. This was the basis of Jean-Luc Godard's Made in U.S.A., which is probably the least comprehensible of his pre-Maoist films. You can recognize the story if you know what you're looking for. If I understood correctly, Westlake was never paid for the filming rights and later he bought the film's rights to himself and didn't allow it to be screened in the United States. I don't really think anyone misses anything here. But as for the cover, do you recognize Parker in the bunch? They are not from Godard's film either. ("The underworld's lone wolf strikes - hard!")

Westlake has had a a lot of Finnish publishers: first it was Valpas-Mainos (Olen palkattu murhaaja), then Vaasa (the Manhattan and Parker series), then Otava (Pankaa Parker lautoihin) and then Viihdeviikarit (The Jugger). Dortmunder and other humorous novels, along with a one-off or two (like Killing Time, as Tappoaikaa, some years ago) have been published in hardcover. There was also a collection of his short stories about a New York police officer Levine, with a not very criminous sounding title Matter of the Heart/Sydämenasia. For some reason, he's never been big in Finland. The Hot Rock seems to have had four printings (and an audio version), and Bank Shot two (as Ottakaa pankki kiinni/"Catch That Bank"), but that's about it. Some of the paperbacks have come out as two separate editions from different publishers, who may have not known the books had been previously published. Based on how readable Westlake is, you'd think he would've been huge everywhere.

The cover scans courtesy of Talvipäivänseisaus.

Edit: paperback expert and Harry Whittington scholar David Laurence Wilson has this to say (just came in e-mail) about The Jugger cover:

Dear Juri --
Thanks for your words, as we all gather around the internet to say goodbye to the Great One. He left enough words behind to keep us all reading for many many years. That Finnish cover of
The Jugger is from the American edition of one of Max Collins' Nolan series, an appropriation that I think Max would consider a great honor.
David Laurence Wilson

Donald Westlake

Damn. When any good writer dies, there's always an outcry, even though the author would be, say, over 90 years old and it's no wonder he/she dies. But Donald Westlake - sigh, he was only 75. This is a damn shame.

I learned earlier today that he'd had seeing problems, to the point of being almost blind. I didn't know that earlier. But it's no wonder he died of a heart attack. No one who writes so much for almost 50 years (his first novel was published in 1960) can survive this life without a lot of stress.

But the stress and hard work didn't show in his work. It read as if he didn't put any effort in it. Smooth, elegant, but hard-hitting when necessary - especially in his Parker novels as by Richard Stark, but also in his first ones I really, really enjoyed like 361 and The Mercenaries (now in print as The Cutie from Hard Case Crime, which was Westlake's own title; nothing wrong with The Mercenaries in my mind).

The news of his death caught me when I'd just read The Hot Rock, the most famous of the Dortmunder novels, for the first time. Like anything he wrote, it was fluent and fast, yet full of fully developed characters. I'm not big on Dortmunder novels, but I can't but admire them.

I wrote about Westlake in Pulpografia. I'll be posting the entry on one of my other blogs later (not now because I've just started using a new computer and my old files are not uploaded here).

Here are some links: Peter Rozovsky, once and then twice, and Sarah Weinman (with a plethora of other links).