Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Russel D. McLean's The Good Son

Private eye has seen a renaissance in the last few years. But the hero doesn't wear a trench coat anymore and he's not a wisecracking smartass, like Philip Marlowe or even Spenser. Instead, in most of the newer private eye books he's just as hurt as any of us. He's haunted by his actions and his thoughts. He can't be a hero anymore. I'm talking about writers like Sean Chercover, Dave Zeltserman, Reed Farrel Coleman, Dave White and Ken Bruen. There's lots of them around - private eye is all but dead.

Sometimes it feels, though, that the private eye's sadness and vulnerability becomes a bit too much. There's too much grief, too much sadness, too many broken lives. I mean, just how much can one man have in his own life? This is the case with Scottish writer Russel D. McLean's debut novel, The Good Son (Five Leaves 2008). It stars PI J. McNee whose life is a mess, mainly due to the fact that his girlfriend was killed some years ago and he hasn't gotten over it. He's a recluse and it seems no one really cares for him. His friends disappeared when he was thrown out from the police force. The Good Son puts him against some London gangsters, who show no mercy wanting something from McNee and his client, a man who found his long-lost brother hanging dead in a tree.

It's an interesting novel and the premise is intriguing, but the book is also flawed in many respects. First, there are several people in the book that I don't really buy. For example, McNee's client never feels like a Scottish farmer he is, even though McNee mentions many times that the man really looks the part. There are also some old school tough guys who I didn't find very convincing.

Second, I was a bit disappointed at how McLean tells important plot points, by narrating them through people who tell the stories to McNee. Some of them don't feel authentic and have some narrative conventions that don't fit in with the backflash structure. And this narrative device also makes McNee look like he's actually doing nothing to solve the mystery of the dead man hanging from the tree. (Which of course goes on to show how much of a loser McNee is.)

And I think McLean stresses McNee's personal grieves just a bit too much. Get on with it, for Chrissake! The ending especially has too much of this stuff.

But having said all this, I can say I enjoyed the book and am pleased to notice that it's been bought for an American release and that the same US publisher has bought also McLean's second novel, The Lost Sister (out in October).

And I'd really like to press a point here. Russel McLean has published lots of stories in the net, in publications like Spinetingler and Thrilling Detective. The Good Son was published in the UK by a small publisher, and now McLean is being published in the US by St. Martin's, which is a big (or biggish) publisher.

Similar things have happened with Dave Zeltserman, whose first novel was self-published and it became later Fast Lane, published in PoD by PointBlank, and who ran his own website, Hardluck Stories for short stories and to promote his own work, and Allan Guthrie who also published first through PointBlank. I'm sure I could come up with more examples (and I did, earlier today, but I already forgot who it was). Websites and PoD publishers and self-publications, not to mention e-publishing, which I think will be developing into something worthwhile in ten years, are the pulp magazines and paperbacks of today, a forum in which a writer can hone his skills and gather following and learn his trade. They are nothing to laugh about.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tommi Aitio's review of Keikkakuski

Here's a quote from Tommi Aitio's very positive and knowledgeable review of Duane Swierczynski's Keikkakuski. It appeared in Kauppalehti on June, 23rd.

Älä ota kesäkissaa, hanki kesäkirja!

Kauppalehti luki puolestasi suven kiinnostavimmat kirjauutuudet - Duane Swierczynski operoi Jim Thompsonin, Charles Williamsin, Charles Willefordin ja Elmore Leonardin rajaamassa vaikutuskentässä, ja millä ketteryydellä!

Keikkakuski ei kenties luo kovan dekkarin perinteeseen mitään uutta, mutta tyylipastissina se on niin täydellinen, että sen soisi herättävän vaikkapa Tarantinon huomion. Virheetön suoritus, kerrassaan.

Hurmehommat Keikkakuski kuvaa kohtuullisen suorasukaisesti niin kuin valitun tyylilajin ilmaisulliseen perinteeseen kuuluu. Perinnetietoista on myös Swierczynskin tapa pyöräyttää luku luvulta tarinaan lisää henkilöhahmoja ja narratiivisia käänteitä. Lopulta porukkaa on paikalla lähes hallitsemattomasti, mutta tällaiset dramaturgiset haasteet Swierczynski voittaa tapattamalla muutaman tyypin pois juonenkulkua häiritsemästä. Autenttinen pulp-kirjailija, siis.

More on Jarkko Sipilä's Helsinki Homicide

I got around to ask Jarkko Sipilä some questions on his newly-published book Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall. It seems getting the book out in English has taken some activism.

"Only very few Finnish books are getting translated in English", says Sipilä. "That's a problem that doesn't seem to worry Finnish publishers very much, and we don't have many agents working here."

So Sipilä and his brother, who's living in the US and has been working in Wall Street, decided to put up their own publishing house getting Finnish crime novels out in English for the American audience. "If no one else does it, we'll do it by ourselves", says Sipilä. The new publisher is called Ice Cold Crime, which brings to mind images of Scandinavian winter and snow.

Ice Cold Crime is publishing next another book by Sipilä, whose work is strictly rooted in the police procedural and its hardboiled subgenre. Then they'll probably publish something by Harri Nykänen. Nykänen is slightly better known in the US, since the Raid TV series made from his novels was shown in some cable channels there.

The big problem promoting Finnish literature in English-speaking countries is that almost no one speaks Finnish. There's also the problem of getting good translations. Says Sipilä: "We asked for four translation samples and chose the best of them. We also had a proper copy editor who worked with the text and a professional graphic artist to design the books."

"This is of course taking the first steps, making connections, but we'll see how this works out", says Sipilä.

I might be making more posts on this topic to help Sipilä out. And I'd really like to see people spreading the word. If someone's interested in obtaining a review copy, I'm sure you can contact Sipilä through me, in a comment or an e-mail.
Edit: seems like your best bet to get the book is via Amazon, at least for now. For the Finnish readers, the book will be available in bookstores in Finland.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Short post on two crime writers I gave up on

The Italian Andrea Camilleri. Tried to read his first novel, La forma dell'acqua from 1994 (The Shape of Water in English), but couldn't warm to his style, narration or characters! Sorry, Peter!
The American Linda Barnes. Tried Snake Tattoo, one of her Carlotta Carlyle novels, but it was pretty boring and nothing hooked me. Second-rate Paretsky or Grafton, both of whom I haven't cared much for, so...

But I just started Stephen Greenleaf's Beyond Blame from 1985, which I found earlier today at a library remainder sale, and I'm really enjoying it.

Edit: here's a link to an earlier post about Greenleaf.

Stieg Larsson, the British crime writer?

The Rap Sheet posted the finalists for the Barry crime fiction award some days back. Great list, and congrats to Duane Swierczynski and Christa Faust (whose Money Shot, her novel on the paperback list, we are publishing next Spring with Arktinen Banaani). But what's Stieg Larsson doing in a list for British writers? Does Britain = the whole Europe, containing Sweden?

And what's with Åsa Larsson, in a list for best paperback originals? It's not an original novel in any sense, since it's a translation.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The cover for Reino Helismaa's western short stories

This book has been a long time coming - and it's not out for some time now. Perhaps in August. I'll let you know.

The book collects some ten of Finnish singer-songwriter Reino Helismaa's early western short stories, from the late 1930's and early 40's, and it will be published as a small paperback in a limited edition by the Finnish Western Society. The cover artist is Timo Ronkainen who delivered a great job! (I don't think I'll have to tell you who the editor of the book is.)
The book's title: The Village of the Outlaws and Other Western Short Stories.

Jarkko Sipilä's crime novel out in the US

Just noticed that Jarkko Sipilä, one of the foremost Finnish crime writers (and one of the most hardboiled), has a crime novel out in the US. The book is called Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall and its original title was Vasten seinää (the English translation is literal). It was published in 2008. The book received the Finnish Whodunnit Society's annual award, Johtolanka (Clue), which must've been the trigger for the American deal.

I'll try to get some more details from Sipilä himself.
In the meantime, have a happy Midsummer's Eve!
Edit: Here's some more info!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anthony Neil Smith and Jonathan Maberry on terrorism

As I promised, I'll say some things about Anthony Neil Smith's and Jonathan Maberry's new books, Yellow Medicine and Patient Zero. Well, they are not new anymore, since these guys seem to be very active. Smith has been fiercely promoting his real new book, Hogdoggin', and based on his Facebook status updates, Maberry has a new book or a comic script coming out every month. (He just announced he's doing the novelization of The Wolfman, the coming film by Guillermo del Toro.)

Why am I putting the two books together? They both deal with international terrorism, the threat from Islamic infiltrators and warmongers. The results couldn't be much different from each other, but both books have cynical loners coming up with new courage to deal with terrorism. Anthony Neil Smith is a bit more ambiguous about the battle and its gains than Maberry, but there's always a bit of doubt in Maberry's hero, too.

Someone has said that in Patient Zero Maberry puts "terror" back in "terrorism". Well, that's about right, since the Islamic terrorists have invented a new virus - no: a prion (remember the mad cow's disease?) - that transforms people into empty-eyed, flesh-eating corpses. The US government sets up a secret group of some bad-ass motherfuckers to deal with these new kind of zombies, and the leader of the group is one Joe Ledger, a loner cop whose attitude towards life can be summed as: "I don't really give a fuck, unless someone I care about is in danger."

Maberry has no qualms in depicting all the terrorists as pure evil, scary one-track minded persons who cheat and lie. Given the book's genre, that could be just an advantage, but having something else, too, might bring some more life into the book. I also thought the book could've used some trimming - I was thinking if it might've been better if Maberry had concentrated only on the Americans trying to come up with an explanation, especially since the book is told both in Joe Ledger's first-person narration and the third-person narration (which is omniscient at times). If Maberry had sticked with Ledger, the result might've been a lot better.

That said, I found the book very exciting, especially battle scenes in which zombies are slaughtered by the dozen. Maberry handles that stuff very well and I found myself thinking: "Why isn't there more of this?"

Now, Anthony Neil Smith has something else in his mind in Yellow Medicine, his first book from Bleak House Books. Deputy Billy Lafitte, working somewhere in the back fields of Minnesota, has some trouble with his own life and with some other people's lives as well. In fact he's a shrewd manipulator and a liar in the best Jim Thompson sense. But take this pathetic anti-hero and put him in the middle of the terrorist plan to gather up money through drug trafficking in Minnesota (obviously as good place to start as any) and you'll find there's lots of courage in him.

In Yellow Medicine Smith spins a mean tale in which no one is taken prisoner and there's always some doubt in the back of the reader's mind: should we really believe in this guy's heroics and should we take a stand with him?

However, Yellow Medicine could've been trimmed a bit. Smith uses a technique that works fine in, say, the Coen brothers' Blood Simple: tell first what happens and tell only afterwards why it happened the way it happened. In Yellow Medicine the technique feels forced at times. The opening is great, though, in just this respect.

Both books would make great movies, by the way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weird Uncle Scrooge

See anything strange in this picture? (It's one of the Donald Duck paperbacks that features mostly European-made Disney comics. Donald Duck is huge here in Finland, which is a topic for another time. I'm loading this here only because Facebook's Add Photo function never works properly.)

Kaarlo Uskelan Vainovuosilta

(The original cover of a Finnish book that's being reprinted with my foreword.)

Tunnistaako kukaan tämän kannen kuvittajaa? Kirja on ilmeisesti jonkin sortin omakustanne (kustantajaksi on merkitty Ville Harinen, joka ei julkaissut mitään muuta); ainakin se on postuumisti julkaistu, koska kirjoittaja Uskela oli kuollut vuotta aiemmin eli 1922. Kuvassa on signeeraus, joka on ilmeisesti "Vo". Tuleva uusintapainoksen kustantaja Turbator aikoo käyttää alkuperäistä kantta.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tedd Thomey's And Dream of Evil

Without having read the book, I can only post the covers for the two editions of Tedd Thomey's And Dream of Evil.

The hardback is from Abelard-Schuman, 1954, and the paperback is from

Avon, 1956. "Blondes and Bullets in the Spillane manner." There seems also to be a pirated Priory paperback, supposedly from Israel, but I can't find a cover for it.

Tedd Thomey dead

Did anyone notice? Steve Lewis sent me, along with some other folks with a bibliographic bent, the addenda to Allen Hubin's crime fiction bibliography and there I noticed that Tedd Thomey had died in 2008. Quick Googling reveals that he died in December - and that he worked also as a restaurant critic!

So, who he? you ask. Tedd Thomey wrote some crime paperbacks in the fifties and the sixties, one of them being the excellent Killer in White (1956), a very Jim Thompson -like foray into a psychotic mind, this time working as a fake doctor. Pulp, paperback and film historian Lee Server has said good things about Thomey's hardback crime novel, And Dream of Evil (1954). His other crime novels, according to an early edition of Hubin's bibliography, are Flight to Takla-Ma (Monarch 1962) and I Want Out (Ace 1959; I think this was an Ace Double). There's also The Sadist (Berkley 1961), about which the Abebooks seller says thusly: "Mystery about the kidnapping of a guy's three-day bride by a man with a twisted criminal mind."

This seems to be the only complete bibliography of him in the web, and it leaves out the publishers and the years - but it's interesting to read about Thomey's early career!
Edit: Here's Steve Lewis's quick obit, with more bibliographic info!

I'm available

And just when will we be seeing the Helsinki Noir anthology?

Saturday Forgotten Book: Jonathan Valin's Day of Wrath

I'm one day behind in Patti Abbott's blog post series (which would make for a nice book, don't you think, with Patti picking up her favourites along the way), but Jonathan Valin's series about P.I. Harry Stoner was called "lost" already years ago, so it's only fitting to keep you waiting for one more day.

Day of Wrath came out in 1982 and Harry Stoner was already well established, since this was the fourth book in the eleven-book series. Jonathan Valin is one of those writers who followed in the footsteps of Ross Macdonald: the hero feels wounded, but is sympathetic towards losers of the life. The plots are also somewhat similar and there's not much - if any - pulp feel to these books, as there are in Raymond Chandler or the many fifties' paperback private eye books. Valin touches quite a lot of themes: the power of money, the trauma that bad childhood leaves you with, suffering in the end chain of the society, the burden of one's own history and bad choices one has made throughout the life. Valin's plots are complex and the storylines touch lots of different people in the many areas of the American society.

So, what have these Scandinavian crime writers done that Valin and other serious American hardboiled writers of his ilk (Arthur Lyons, Marcia Muller, Stephen Greenleaf, Michael Collins etc.) didn't already do in the eighties and early nineties? The Americans just did it with fewer pages.

There's just something that bugs me about Valin. He writes with great passion, he can move the story along with a great speed and grabs you and makes you keep flipping the pages, but I don't like the way he treats sexuality. In all of his books I have read (which makes three) the bad guys are sexually frustrated or perverted, and in Valin the so-called perversion always means "evil". In Day of Wrath (which has a great shocking scene early on that stays with you for a long time) the baddie is sexually active to the point of being promiscuous and bisexual, and Harry Stoner is always describing the baddie as being cold-eyed, cunning, scary. In one of the other books, Extenuating Circumstances from 1999, Stoner's customer is a man who's into homosexual sadomasochism, but only because he's suffered very bad traumas, and there seems to be no way that he could actually, based on his free will, enjoy what he's doing or what's being done to him. All in all, it feels like it's Valin who has these problems with his sexuality.

But I can understand this is a concern that many are not interested in, and it certainly doesn't get in the way of enjoyment I get out of reading Valin.

And what's Valin doing now? Here's The Rap Sheet.

Raimi's Crimewave

I just posted this in parts on my Twitter account:

Watched Sam Raimi's CRIMEWAVE last night. Friend's VHS, with Greek subtitles! Just too much stuff blowing up, too many wisecracks, too many funny sounds when something stupid happens, too long climax. Overall more like a bad Tex Avery cartoon. But the Coen brothers' handmark is visible, with quirky characters, weird neonoirism and bad taste. They did their brand of total craziness much, much better in RAISING ARIZONA. So, in my book, Raimi still very overrated.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wignall in his own words

Kevin Wignall's own entry on his visit to Finland at Contemporary Nomad, a blog which he shares with some other authors.

Forgotten Book coming up

I'll do a forgotten book post for this week, but later - possibly tonight or tomorrow. The book will be Jonathan Valin's Day of Wrath.

A review on Conrad Hirst

Jussi Katajala's review on Kuka on Conrad Hirst (in Finnish). Quite positive: gets four national states departed from Yugoslavia out of five!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Fab Four

Todd Mason tagged me with this, and since I got Kevin Wignall out of my hands, I decided I'd try.

Four Movies You Can See Over and Over
Steven Spielberg: Duel (USA 1971)
Orson Welles: Touch of Evil (USA 1958)
Andrei Tarkovsky: The Mirror (Soviet Union 1975)
Quentin Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs (USA 1992)
bubbling under: The Red Circle by Jean-Pierre Melville

Four Places You Have Lived (all in Finland)
Turku (and that's all)

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
Twin Peaks
The Wire
Monty Python

Four Places You Have Been on a Vacation
Berlin, Germany
Cyprus (forgot what the town was called)
Nordkapp, Norway (for a brief moment, it's a long story)
Säkylä, Finland

Four of Your Favorite Foods
Pasta with tomato sauce and aubergine
Pasta with garlic, rosemary and chick beans in olive oil
My special brand of oatmeal with raisins, almonds and pineapple, mixed with yoghurt
Halva with vanilla (especially mixed with ice cream)

Four Websites You Visit Daily
The Finnish National Library's database
the Finnish Elonet movie database

Four Places You Would Rather Be
Right now? Maybe reading on a sofa or watching a movie and soon I will be. And then... nah, I'll stick with this.

Four Things You Hope to Do Before You Die
Publish a novel
Publish a novel
Publish a novel
Make my kids grow up decent, but also a bit bohemian and weirdish

Four Novels You Wish You Were Reading for the First Time (this question makes actually not much sense, because there are at least three ways to go about this: one, I could now get more out of a book if I were to read it now, with my adult understanding of themes and style; two, it's about a feeling of awe of how a writer has built the narrative and I don't as yet know I'm about to be tricked and fooled; three, I've forgotten a book so much that it's like I'm reading it now for the first time - so which should I go for? I think my choices have to do with the second option)
Richard Matheson: I Am Legend
Paul Auster: Music of Chance (or perhaps Leviathan, or perhaps City of Glass)
Kevin Wignall: Who Is Conrad Hirst?
Scott Phillips: The Ice Harvest
bubbling under: Fredric Brown: The Far Cry
bubbling under, No. 2: Alan Moore - Eddie Campbell: From Hell (from start to finish in one sitting; and I think I've done this once)
(and by the way, there are lots of books I'll be reading for the first time, since I haven't read them yet!)

Tag Four People You Believe Will Respond
No, I won't. These things move with enough speed as it is.

Kevin Wignall in Finland

As part of the new paperback series I'm editing for the Arktinen Banaani publishing house, we invited Kevin Wignall, the author of Kuka on Conrad Hirst? (Who Is Conrad Hirst, orig. 2007), over to Finland to promote the book. He came to Finland last Thursday when the weather had suddenly turned to worse, which he got to hear a lot. He said to me that the first person he met in Finland - the taxi driver from the airport to the hotel - apologized to him for the weather. "It's not your fault", Wignall said to the driver.

I met him early on Friday morning at the lobby of his hotel. He's enormously tall, almost two meters (which you'll see in a photo). There's a feel of an indie rock singer in him, maybe due to the fact he was wearing sunglasses almost all the time. First Wignall gave two interviews, to Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Finland and practically the only that's national, and the Ruumiin kulttuuri magazine, the magazine of the Finnish Whodunit Society (meaning Body Culture). Both of the interviewers had really liked Kuka on Conrad Hirst?, especially Janne Mäkelä, who writes for the Ruumiin kulttuuri magazine. I got to talk with him a bit about Conrad Hirst and he was really taken by the economy of Wignall's narration and his melancholy, but effective style. And he's absolutely right.

After those interviews, we had a press launch for the book which went fairly well, with Wignall wondering what on earth is the Finnish Donald Duck Magazine and what its editor is doing in a crime book launch. I interviewed Wignall shortly and we discussed Conrad Hirst and its relation to the Yugoslavian Civil War and the war's effect on the European self-consciousness. We also talked about his coming novel, Dark Flag, that's about the 9/11 conspiracies and sounds very, very interesting. The book hasn't found a publisher as yet, but it's more than likely that it already has a Finnish publisher. (Arktinen Banaani's publisher Harto Pasonen was very taken by how well liked Conrad Hirst was by all who had had time to read it and that's a perfectly serious novel. As if the earlier novels in the paperback series, à la The Wheelman, aren't serious!)

We also talked about writing short books, and I asked Wignall whether he sees there's a new generation that's concentrating more on short books. "Yes." Do you see anything particular behind the phenomenon? "No." Could you elaborate? "We are going in cycles. Long books have dominated the scene for long and now it's simply time for shorter books." I had wished we'd gone for a long discussion over hardboiled and noir masters who delivered great tales in 50,000 words, but clearly Wignall isn't nostalgic over old paperbacks. Instead he said that one of his big influences, Graham Greene, wrote short books. "I also remember hating Camus's The Stranger as a teenager, and after reading that I said to myself I never want to write anything like this, but after people have read my books, they keep telling me I remind them of Camus's The Stranger!", Wignall laughed and said that maybe it did leave an impact on him.

After the lunch we headed towards Suomalainen Kirjakauppa's (the biggest chain of bookstores in Finland) store where Wignall gave a short interview with me and signed some books for readers. One of the customers was Antti Tuomainen, the Finnish noir writer, and one was the series illustrator Ossi Hiekkala, but one of them was also a nice elderly lady who had already read the book and seemed having liked it quite a bit! Wignall said to me later that this was a success. "Usually in the UK the customers don't come asking for an autograph, the writer just signs the books in stock and walks away."

After this we went for a dinner at the classic Finnish restaurant, Elite, and talked about immigration, wines, climate change and publishing. Wignall had a share of nice anecdotes about publishers' stupidities, including some absolutely ridiculous stuff about advances - he mentioned at one point a female writer in the UK who was paid I believe 60,000 pounds (or was it even 600,000?) for the first two books and when they didn't sell "enough", they dropped her out and she's just sold her new book to a small press for 1,000 pounds.

Saturday morning we headed early to Kouvola where the Crime Fiction Festival takes place. I said to Wignall that it's a smallish town, but when we arrived to the town, Wignall was very taken by the town: "This isn't small by British standards." Wignall - who turned out to be very interested in modern architecture - said he liked the Kouvola theater building where the festival is held. (I should the building is from the early sixties. We could talk about architecture a bit, since that's the subject I'm very interested in.)

We had been thinking that maybe Kouvola isn't very important to us, it being small and all, but it proved out to be a success. Wignall said later that when he'll tell his colleagues how much audience he had, everyone wants to be published by Arktinen Banaani and have a panel at Kouvola: 150 listeners in the audience! Wignall laughed that Michael Connelly, who's one of the best known crime writers around the world, had only the audience of 60 at the Bristol crime festival. And we sold almost some 40 books which was way more than was anticipated, and there was a line leading to Wignall who signed the books patiently.
The talk before that went very well and we got pretty deep into Wignall's books, starting Graham Greene and Albert Camus and ending up in a long discussion over what he is aiming at in his books. Sounds serious, doesn't it? Actually we joked around a lot and kept the audience happy. And what is he aiming at? I should say that Wignall's main point in his books is to explore the short moment during which someone turns into a killer and the possibility to go back and start anew. In that he shares themes with Greene who was also interested in the idea of redemption.

There was a strange thing during and after the panel. I introduced the paperback series and said that these books are pretty tough and violent. I noticed a lady bursting out. After the panel, I was standing and waiting for Wignall's signing duty to end. An elderly lady came up to me crying and saying: "Why did you say the books are violent? I couldnt' stand it and had to go out. My neighbour beat me up and police can't do a thing about it. I listened to his [Wignall's] philosophy in the lobby and it was beautiful. Why did you have to spoil it?" I said I was sorry, and when the lady looked almost collapsing, I asked her if she was alright. She said that she is, which she cleary wasn't. "Here's hoping things turn better", I said. "No, they won't." It was a very sad exchange, but should I have lied to the lady? And when I said about this to Wignall, he asked: "What was she doing then in a crime festival?"

We talked afterwards with some people at the festival and met Tuuli Rannikko, a Finnish crime writer, a very charming lady who lives nowadays in London. She said she'd buy Wignall's book in English. Turned out that she has lived in Turku in the same building as we are now when she was young!

Then we ate at the local pizza place and Wignall couldn't resist a Rudolf, pizza with reindeer meat. And then we drove back to Helsinki and Wignall fed me with stuff I really can't go public with: the book he was supposed to like but didn't, a crime writer who's not what he says he is, the thing between the British officials and Wignall... We had still one gig at another store of the Suomalainen chain, but this time we sold only two books. The other went to a nice, but shy young woman, and the other one to a middle-aged man with a scruffy beard. Wignall: "I'm aiming for the afore mentioned, but end up having only the latter mentioned."

The store clerk however was genuinely interested in Conrad Hirst and books in general, which is rare in this particular chain. Wignall wrapped his fingers around the lady soon without being flirty - a thing which I really admired. I hope she continues keeping Kevin Wignall's books up!

Wignall left on a ship to Stockholm on Saturday afternoon, with plans to take a train to Britain, and I hope he's back safely. I had great time with him and we have been eager about inviting other writers in the paperback series to Finland. Over a cider we talked about other business plans with the publisher and there's a possibility we'll be seeing original Finnish books in the series. I have actually been promised two manuscripts... More on them later!
The pictures from the top: Kevin Wignall in front of the Kouvola municipal athletics building (right next to the theater; photo taken by me), Kevin Wignall and me on stage at the Kouvola crime festival, Kevin Wignall signing. (Photos by Jussi Katajala to whom many thanks!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Anthony Neil Smith at Hardboiled Wonderland

Anthony Neil Smith is the writer of Psychosomatic (which I liked, like Elmore Leonard on speed) and Yellow Medicine (on which later). Here's his recent interview at the Hardboiled Wonderland blog. (Thanks for the link to Allan Guthrie's tweet!)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Now I'll have to write my Death Wish

Someone stole my bike, while we were out cycling and stopped by a small store and bought Kauto an ice cream. He must've been at it while we were just behind the corner! Oh man... it's a good thing I didn't pay anything for the bike and it would've needed some maintenance, which I wouldn't have had energy for.

Ed Gorman's interview

Ed Gorman's interview at the Western Fiction Reviews blog.

I'll try to blog more about Kevin Wignall's visit in Finland tomorrow, and then I'll try to say something about books I read during my short vacation: Jonathan Valin's Day of Wrath, Anthony Neil Smith's Yellow Medicine and Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The new issue of Ässä ready

The cover of soon-coming third issue of Ässä, my flash fiction magazine. This issue contains stories by James McGowan, Joe R. Lansdale (two!), Sandra Scoppettone, Patti Abbott, Patrick Shawn Bagley, Paul David Brazill and Greg Schwartz plus Finnish stories by Tapani Bagge (previously unpublished funny story "The Mustache" [sic]), Harri Erkki (five word horror story, with very black comedy and almost pornographic content - try to beat that!) and someone called Mikael Ylinen and myself, with a Joe Novak story which I thought turned out to be very good.

Will be out in a week or two. The title means "ace" and the cover is by unknown.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Jason Starr's Fake I.D.

Cullen Callagher's very thorough and thoughtful review of one of my all-time noir favourites, Jason Starr's Fake I.D. I couldn't agree more with Cullen.

I had a chance to pick up the No Exit edition from the Finnish Academic Bookstore at their sale for five euros and read it and fell in love with it and have been following Jason's career ever since. Then, some years later, I read somewhere that the original UK edition (for long there wasn't any other) is a collector's item and, sure enough, when I checked Abebooks, there was only one copy for something like 50 euros. (Or maybe even 80.) At the time I'm writing this, there are only the new Hard Case Crime copies in Abebooks. Which means: More power to Hard Case Crime! I think this is one of their most important books, reprint or original. And it's obviously been so rare that it's practically an original.

As some of the followers of this blog might remember, I've translated Fake I.D. and finally next Spring it will see its Finnish publication.

Kevin Wignall a storming success

As I write this, Kevin Wignall is on a ferry trip to Stockholm and probably can't read this, and I'm, to put it mildly, pretty tired at the moment after touring for two days with Kevin, so I'll make the long story short: Kevin Wignall is a great guy, a nice person, wonderful with ladies, prolific signer of the books, good speaker and an excellent novelist. His two-day tour stay in Finland was a success and I'm happy we brought him here.

More later, with photos.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Manchette in comics

Jacques Tardi's rendering of a Jean-Patrick Manchette novel coming out in English.

Hat tip to Duane Swierczynski!

My mustache - now long gone

As I said a week back, I started to grow a mustache. But earlier today I shaved them off. Didn't like them. I looked too much like a geek and not a day younger - even though one of my reasons to start growing them was that I'd seen lots of young guys looking cool in their mustaches. And furthermore, Elina said they are scrapy. So: goodbye, mustache!

Here's a picture though. They didn't get very long in a week, but I'm performing in public tomorrow (hey, remember that Kevin Wignall is coming to Helsinki!), so I thought I'd better get rid of them.
I have a huge wart in my neck. I've said time and time again that this is no family blog. (The garment I'm wearing is the legendary vintage blue terrycloth overall that I keep instead of a robe, which I've always found a bit clumsy.)

Joe Novak continues

A new entry in my Joe Novak story here. In Finnish.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

James Reasoner's Gabriel Hunt

I'm a bit slow in this wagon, but I've tried to keep a vacation. I had some fun reading books that don't have anything (or at least much) to do with my work, and James Reasoner's first Gabriel Hunt book was one of these.

Everyone knows by now almost everything about this series that's just started and that's the brainchild of Charles Ardai, better known for Hard Case Crime, so I won't go into there. Ardai himself and other writers, like Christa Faust, David Schow and Raymond Benson, are writing other books in the series, and I'm hoping James gets to do another gig with Gabriel Hunt.

And I'm hoping he does a better job than the first book. There's absolutely nothing fundamentally wrong about the book - it runs along smoothly and it's written fluently - but I found myself thinking that there could be - should be - more sex and violence. I know that one of the ideas in the Gabriel Hunt saga is to bring back some of the innocence of the old serials and old pulp magazine fiction set in South Seas or the deep jungles of Africa or whatever, but I don't think they were really this clean. I was hoping this would've been more dirty (and by that I don't mean lewd) and more cynical. For starters, Gabriel Hunt is just way too clean - he's not a badass I kind of hoped he was. In days of old, he would've been a scheming bastard with a scar on his face. That what I saw in my mind when I first heard about Gabriel Hunt.

But I have hope. I find it a bit hard to believe that writers like Christa Faust, the author of the admirable Money Shot, or David J. Schow, one of the original splattepunksters, would write this clean a story. So I'm hoping that James won't hold himself back in another Gabriel Hunt he'll be writing - and that he'll set some of the events in Finland!

One more thing: The book is set in the present times, as in the 2000's, and not in the 1930's, as it might've been, but actually the book feels like it takes place in the 1980's. I don't exactly know why this is (but I kept seeing Romancing the Stone in my mind), but at least the characters could use computers and the internet. These guys - Gabriel Hunt and his brother - go for a shelf of books when they want to find out about an old Confederate flag, when one thinks they'd go Googling first and only then check the reference shelf. (Or maybe James Reasoner checked first there's nothing in the web about that flag.)

Don't go by my word only: here's Bill Crider, here's Horror Drive-In, here's Not the Baseball Pitcher and here's Scott Parker. Here's Cullen Callagher talking with James about the book. And here's Charles Ardai's interview in which he talks about his parents who survived the Holocaust during WWII. I believe some of that shows in his own entry in the Hunt saga.

Ross Macdonald covers

Here's a fascinating article on new Ross Macdonald covers by the designer himself.

Thanks for Duane Swierczynski's tweet!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Kevin Wignall Suomeen perjantaina

Kriitikoiden ylistämä Kevin Wignall Suomeen
Kuka on Conrad Hirst? on merkittävä romaani Jugoslavian sisällissodasta

Kevin Wignall on nouseva brittikirjailija, joka on jo saavuttanut kulttimainetta ja kriitikoiden arvostuksen neljällä omaperäisellä rikosromaanillaan. Wignall on erikoistunut kirjoittamaan palkkatappajista, mutta hänen tappajansa ovat epävarmoja ja yksinäisiä ihmisiä, joiden uraa talouden ja politiikan horjahtelut heilauttavat.

Suomeksi nyt ilmestyvä Kuka on Conrad Hirst? kertoo palkkatappajasta, jonka ura alkoi Jugoslavian sisällissodan hämärissä. Hirst haluaa lopettaa hommansa ja päättää ottaa selville, keitä ovat hänen salaperäiset työnantajansa. Hirstillä on vain yksi vihje, mutta sen seuraaminen tuottaa tuloksia. Yksitellen palkkatappaja päästää työnantajat päiviltä vain huomatakseen, että häntä luullaan vastapuolen vakoojaksi.

Alun perin vuonna 2007 ilmestynyt Kuka on Conrad Hirst? tuo tuulahduksen 1930-luvulta ja Graham Greenen ja Eric Amblerin vakoiluromaaneista. Kevin Wignall päivittää lajityypin vastaamaan 2000-luvun monimutkaisia globaaleja kuvioita.

Wignall saapuu Suomeen julkistamaan suomennoksen ilmestymistä. Perjantaina 5.6. on julkistamis- ja signeeraustilaisuus Aleksanterinkadun Suomalaisessa Kirjakaupassa klo 16.30 ja lauantaina 6.6. Kampin Suomalaisessa Kirjakaupassa klo 15.00. Lisäksi hän esiintyy Kouvolan dekkaripäivillä lauantaina 6.6. klo 10.15. Kouvolan teatterissa.

Kuka on Conrad Hirst? on osa Arktisen Banaanin tänä keväänä aloittamaa pokkarisarjaa, jossa ilmestyy uutta amerikkalaista ja englantilaista kovaksikeitettyä dekkaria. Aiemmat kirjat sarjassa ovat Duane Swierczynskin Keikkakuski ja Allan Guthrien Viimeinen suudelma. Ensi syksynä ilmestyvät James Sallisin palkintoja kahminut Ajo (Drive) sekä Scott Phillipsin elokuvanakin tunnettu mestariteos Jäätävää satoa (The Ice Harvest). Sarjaa toimittaa dekkariasiantuntija Juri Nummelin.
Wignallista lisää täällä.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Some Swedish paperback covers: Whittington and Brewer

Here are two paperback covers for Swedish translations of books by two American paperback masters, Harry Whittington and Gil Brewer.

Gil Brewer's Drömmen om ett mord ("Dream of a Murder"; Kometdeckaren #167, 1967) was originally titled Flight to Darkness (Gold Medal 1952). It's a noir thriller about an artist who sees recurring dreams of killing his own brother. I've read this, but can't remember much about it, except that I liked it quite a bit. The Swedish cover is probably Spanish in origin.

The Harry Whittington one is En skön död ("Beautiful Death"; Kometdeckaren #169, 1967) was originally titled Drawn to Evil (Ace 1952) which I haven't read. I'd like hear comments from those who have. I'm sure Bill Crider has. There's a signature beside the lady, but I can't make it out. I'm not sure whether it's American or European in origin.
I'll post tomorrow more about Kevin Wignall's Kuka on Conrad Hirst? I just wanted to get these out of the way - was cleaning the study a bit.