Friday, July 31, 2009

Jason Starr's Panic Attack, part 2

Will try to say something about this. I've been working almost all day (save for dropping at a thrift store earlier today) and I'm getting a bit tired, but, hey, I promised!

Jason Starr, as you probably know, is one of my favourite authors. He is one of the few American writers, crime or mainstream, dealing with depression, codependence problems, unemployment and male anxiety. He writes about sociopaths and psychopaths and makes them very much alive and not some near-mythical creatures à la Hannibal Lecter. Starr's also a true noir author who doesn't have to retort to pastiche, bringing up old hardboiled clichés (he also doesn't have to use gory violence to make his point). His books Fake I.D. and Nothing Personal are, for me, the ultimate noir experience.

His new novel, which is just out, Panic Attack is a very strong foray into a insecure world of a psychiatrist who doesn't realize his life is a mess: his wife doesn't love him, his daughter hates him. And now his house is being broken into, in middle of the night. What does he do? A peaceful man with many problems, some he doesn't know about, shoots the perpetrator. Not once, but ten times. A public hunt begins: can we live in peace with this kind of vigilantes running loose? The psychiatrist's life is torn apart.

And that's only the beginning. Enter Johnny, handsome, skilful, young, a conman. He's the ultimate sociopath in any literature. And you don't know he's dangerous when he's near you. He was the best friend of the man who got shot and he wants revenge.

Panic Attack is a very frightening novel with many truly chilling scenes and I liked it just as much as any Jason Starr book. There's just one problem. The book is too long. I don't really know why this is, but Starr's books have gotten longer in the past few years. I was a bit worried about it when I read his earlier novel, The Follower (which also was very chilling), but now I have to say it out loud: if Starr's books get any longer, they are on the verge of become "telling, not showing". In Panic Attack, Starr goes elaborately through people's emotions, when a simple passage or a piece of dialogue might suffice. Sometimes it takes away some of the enjoyment of the irony he uses depicting his characters and revealing something new about them.

But even that being said, I remind you once again that Panic Attack is a very good novel. Do check out also Fake I.D. that was out recently from Hard Case Crime.

Comixology on The Hunter

Interim here's a link to Comixology's post about the new graphic novel adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Am trying to come up with something tomorrow

Haven't had much chance to blog this week, but I'll be posting something tomorrow, either about Jason Starr's Panic Attack or some films I've been watching: Bloodstone and 3:10 to Yuma (the remake). The latter was surprisingly interesting, but not always in the good way.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My text on I.G. Edmonds

I posted the entry for I.G. Edmonds from Pulpografia on one of my other blogs here. It's in Finnish, but if you're interested there are some links to English-speaking posts. Complicated, huh? This is a global world we live in.

Edit: I googled a bit and noticed this small thread on Edmonds on a newslist. It provides a pretty thorough bibliography for Edmonds - that has also a novel in German called Moerder sind meine Beute (published by Verlag Friedrich W. Loh in 1969), which sounds like it might be one of the Big Eye novels. There's also a mention of Djevelsk oppdrag, published by Magasinet für Alle, in 1966, which must be the war paperback that was also published in Finnish, The Devil Cheaters. It came out in Finnish in 1967, so the German publication must've been the first one. That explains at least something: you don't really expect Finland to be the first choice of an agent to sell a manuscript, as Germany is a vaster market area.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: Floyd Smith's Action Girls

I can't tell you much about this book, since I can't find any info about it or its writer on-line. It was published in the Finnish sleaze series called Cocktail in 1974 and the original title is given as Action Girls. The Finnish title means "Girls on Desert". The writer is one Floyd Smith, on whom I can't find anything. Can anyone help? It's not very important, but I'd really like to know whether this was really an American paperback originally or is it a fake. You know, the Cocktail series had at least one book masquerading as a translation, while it was written by a Finnish writer. (I've written about that case here.)

Action Girls/Tytöt aavikolla is not much of a book. The narration is disjointed (the translation is probably abridged) and the plot doesn't make much sense. The head character is a young guy bringing dynamite to a archeological site in Arizona. On the site there are only the professor and his beautiful wife and all those beautiful girls working as internees. The young guy gets into a fight with professor just about everything, but he also gets to fuck all the young girls and eventually the professor's wife, too, even though she's a lesbian at first. The young guy (sorry, forgot his name already, and I don't have the book with me as I write) brings a friend of his to the site and there's a gruesome rape scene with the friend, but the attacked girl turns from a virgin into a sexually active omnisexual after the rape and helps the male friend in his further escapades. I can't help but wonder what the readers of this book were thinking. "Hey, that sounds cool, I'll try that one of these days"?

Action Girls/Tytöt aavikolla is also a bit of a crime novel, with the professor's secret being that he killed his cheating wife (an earlier one, that is) and buried her in the desert. Why's he then doing diggings in the site? It seems he can get a kick out of sex only if he's somewhere around the corpse - and he's also looking for the wedding ring that could identify the body. There's some shooting and fistfight in the climax and dynamite is also used, but in the end everyone -except the now dead professor - can indulge in free-wheelin' sex.

This is one weird novel. If it's an original American sleaze paperback and if you can find it, I'll recommend you take a look, but don't try to get a kick out of it and don't treat it as literature.

Here's a link to all the covers of the Cocktail paperbacks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Robert Bloch's Shooting Star

Okay, this will be short and not very insightful. I read Robert Bloch's private eye novel Shooting Star (Ace 1958). It was reprinted by Hard Case Crime rather recently as a nice double book - and a good thing it was reprinted, since the original edition goes as far as $350 in Abebooks! The original also seems to be an Ace Double, so it's fitting the new book is also a double.

Okay, back to the book. This really doesn't seem to be going to be very short. As many of you probably know already from reading the book or reviews, it's a Hollywood novel, with a one-eyed private eye trying to clear a B-film actor's reputation so that a producer can put his old films into television. The cultural history here is very interesting and Bloch gives intriguing and authentic-looking glimpses of movie and TV industry - which he both knew from first-hand experience. The hero of the book, Mark Clayburn, is also an agent for pulp writers and a true-crime writer himself and Bloch gives a glimpse of that life, too, mentioning, at least, Anthony Boucher by name (I think some others, too, but I forgot who they were). I think I could've read more of the writer's life.

Bloch is a sure-handed writer, capable of making quick observations, and his dialogue is snappy at best. However, the book lags in the middle and I kind of lost interest - well, it's easy to lose interest with my kids around. But the first half of the book is very good, also with very acute social commentaries. It seems that Bloch could've written a more serious novel than the Ace Double format allowed him to. This isn't your typical private eye novel, though - the hero does get knocked out couple of times and there are nice babes around. I don't mind those clichés, but I minded more some of the sloppiness: one of the supposedly bad guys is suddenly revealed to be another supposedly bad guy's brother, which made me go: "Oh really?"

It was interesting to read this just after I'd finished a Toby Peters novel by Stuart Kaminsky. I can't remember the title now, but it also dealt with old B-films being shown on television. It was like I was given a lesson on the Hollywood history from the fourties and fifties.

I also give you the original cover for the Bloch book, and the Hard Case one, too, by Arthur Suydam. It's nice, all right, but I don't really think anyone had those kind of boobs in the early fifties, not even in Hollywood.

And no, I haven't still read the other novel of the double, Spiderweb, which seems to be more psychological suspense.

There's one problem with double books. Kauto or Ottilia took a photo of me reading the book and it looks like I'm a total moron reading a book the wrong end up!

Should I go on? This really didn't turn out to be very short.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back from vacation: short notice

Just wanted to tell you that we are alive. Got back from out trip on Sunday and have been adjusting to normalcy for two days now. Will be blogging about some books I read during the trip. These include Robert Bloch's private eye novel that was reprinted by Hard Case Crime (oops, I forget the title.. it's not Hollywood Homicide, even though it could be) and Jason Starr's Panic Attack. (I also read one of Stuart Kaminsky's Toby Peters novels, but I'm not sure if that was interesting enough to blog about.) I also read Floyd Smith's sleaze paperback Action Girls (translated in Finnish as Tytöt aavikolla, 1974). If anyone has access to WorldCat, I'd be very interested to hear if they have the publishing info for this - I can't find anything on it. I'd say it was originally published in the mid-sixties, based on internal evidence.

I also read some Finnish novels, and I'm not entirely sure as yet whether I'll be posting about them here. And if I will, in what language?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Vacation; a notice on a post elsewhere

Starting my vacation tomorrow and heading off to a trip longer than a week, so won't be posting. Ottilia's with us for three weeks.

Here's a link to a longer post on an old Finnish sex paperback I just posted on one of my other blogs. In Finnish, that is.

I don't really know why I read this..

..but I was entertained by the idea. Just a basic novelization fodder which wouldn't work if it were not for the movie. Arnold's character, Eraser, isn't really described in any sense and you'll have to picture him in your head while you're reading the book. The love angle is pretty blandly narrated.

Some of the scenes containing violence border on sadism - this makes me think whether there's a difference between a written word and a piece of action cinema: the things that on screen only make me laugh (or sigh...) make me cringe when I'm reading them. Is this because we take the written word more seriously? Or is it because we have to picture the torture in our own mind? Or are we only accustomed to action movies being more and more violent - when the same things are described on page, we wake up to the notion: "Hey, this is pretty friggin' sick sadism!"

There's not much on Robert Tine in the web. He seems to be born in 1954 (or in 1955) and he's written mainly novelizations and tie-ins. Here's a list. In his early career in the mid-eighties, he wrote the postapocalyptic Outrider series as by Robert Harding, which I believe is a house pseudonym, shared also by other writers. If I'm wrong about this, please correct me.
Here's a link to the original cover.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tuuli Rannikko's take on Conrad Hirst

During Kevin Wignall's visit to Finland the Kouvola Crime Fiction Festival we met the charming Finnish writer Tuuli Rannikko, who's been living in England for the last 20 years or so. She was very interested in Kevin's book, Kuka on Conrad Hirst? / Who Is Conrad Hirst? Earlier this week I received her short review on the book via Kevin:

Conrad Hirst was an interesting book, in a way a hardboiled thriller, on the other hand a touching description of a broken man. [The book's about] how futile are all our hopes and fears, how fate is laughing at us.