Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Zombie book out

Readers of this blog may remember that I had a zombie anthology coming. It's now out and soon available from the bookstores, and also straight from the publisher at rakennussanomat@pelipeitto.fi. On the left is the striking cover from Mika Myyry, and here, on another blog of mine, is my foreword to the book. The book's title means "The Land of the Thousand Zombies" - Finland has traditionally been called "the land of the thousand lakes".

The book is full of hilarious and horrific zombie stuff, with a certain melancholy Finnish bent. It was interesting to notice when the stories began to arrive for the book that even when writing about zombies the Finns do stories about the Finnish Civil War of 1918, the Second World War, depression, loneliness, domestic violence, etc., the traditional themes in Finnish literature. Some of the stories have lots of delicious political satire, which is rare in Finland nowadays, so this book should be a good treat for anyone looking for serious literature.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Outfit, JT Lindroos's new publishing house

Over a week ago I said I'd noticed that JT Lindroos, the man behind PointBlank, had come up with a new publishing venture, The Outfit. I sent JT some questions and received just now some answers, which I'll duly post below.

PointBlank became known as a very original publisher of crime fiction - it had Dave Zeltserman, James Reasoner, Pearce Hansen... Why was it cancelled?

PointBlank isn't dead yet. There may be life yet in the old dog. PB was too ambitious for its own good, and as much help I rec'd from Sean Wallace, John Betancourt and Al Guthrie, too much of it was on my shoulders and I couldn't hack it while working a regular job on the side. We all are wiser from the experience, and narrowing its focus will help in getting results. PointBlank will remain under the wings of Wildside Press. Many PB books will remain in print, some are looking for a new home.

What kind of books will The Outfit be publishing?

The Outfit will focus on hardboiled entertainment. We don't have plans on doing domestic or U.S. reprints like Point Blank or Hard Case, but we will bring in English language fiction from across the world that has not yet been released for the US market. That may well include new novels by American and British authors. A little later down the line it may include translated novels from other countries.

For recommendations, all I can say is that give our first two books a shot. Leigh Redhead's PEEPSHOW is a fun, sharp and a little exotic hardboiled entertainment by an author who should be huge. Frank McAuliffe's SHOOT THE PRESIDENT, ARE YOU MAD? is a book written by an Edgar winning author right before JFK was assassinated. With a title like that, it's not difficult to understand why it wasn't published at the time.

The Outfit will share the same roof with another publisher, Prime Books. What can you tell us about that?

Prime Books is Sean Wallace's baby. He publishes high quality fantasy and horror titles. If you have any interest in said genres, Prime Books is very much worth a look. I worked with Sean on getting Leena Krohn's TAINARON published through Prime, but despite it receiving nods for the World Fantasy Award, getting spectacular reviews, and being one of the most beautiful books I've ever worked on... it pretty much died on the shelves. Which is a damned shame because it was a wonderful book by a wonderful author, and we put a lot of effort into it and I don't think anybody made a penny off it. It was still worth it.

Here's also the official press release.

September 21, 2009
For Immediate Release

Here's the score. The Outfit has the handle on tough guys and even tougher girls. Even the book business needs its own plunder squad.

Formed by Prime Books head-honcho, award-winning editor Sean Wallace, and the Point Blank Press co-founder J.T. Lindroos, The Outfit has their plans, artillery and blueprints ready for the big takeover.

Their breakout title is the award-winning Australian hardboiled debut PEEPSHOW by the criminally under-appreciated Leigh Redhead. The Weekend Australian called it the 'best new [crime] novel of the year'. The follow-up featuring our smart and sexy stripper slash private investigator Simone Kirsch, CHERRY PIE, is scheduled for 2010. Redhead -- yes, really -- has not worked as a private investigator, but she has been a cook on a prawn trawler from Cairns to Cape York, stripped at the Crazy Horse and Club X Bar in Melbourne, written five novels, and currently teaches English in Vietnam.

"I couldn't believe this series had not been picked up for US publication," says Lindroos. "It's entertaining, smart and tough, and Leigh obviously knows what she's writing about. There's a lot of outstanding downunder crime fiction that just isn't getting the exposure it deserves, and we're planning give it some."

The Outfit will chase the inaugural title with a long-lost novel by Edgar Award winning author Frank McAuliffe. SHOOT THE PRESIDENT, ARE YOU MAD? is the final book to be published in McAuliffe's series featuring the rapscallion Augustus Mandrell. The reason for the long delay in getting the book published? McAuliffe submitted the manuscript to his publisher just prior to death of JFK, and the book was cancelled. The Outfit is about to correct that mistake.

"We'll handle four to six titles a year, making sure all the books are smart and entertaining. Don't expect a 500-page tome. We like short and sharp. Like an icepick. Every book we publish will be a really good read."

PEEPSHOW is available now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My first collection of poems: Bodice Ripper Apart

This book has been long time in coming. I started saving spam e-mail some four or five years ago, in order to gather enough of them to make a book, with the aim to archive some of the spambot literature, which can be seen as a form of Dadaist or concrete poetry.

And here it finally is: Bodice Ripper Apart: A Book of Spam Poems is out from ntamo, who's specialized in modernist, postmodernist, weirdish, concrete and language and non-language poetry. ntamo works via Lulu.com, so the book is available throughout the whole globe. Follow the links. The book is accompanied by an afterword from Jussi Parikka, a friend of mine, who works as a lecturer in Anglia Ruskin University and who has shared my enthusiasm for spam for some time now.

The book is totally in English, save for some parts that are more like in Spammish, whatever language that is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

James Sallis's Kylmä kyyti (aka Drive) out in Finnish!

James Sallis's Kylmä kyyti (Drive) is the latest book in the paperback series I edit for the Finnish publisher, Arktinen Banaani. The book is just fresh from the printers and I'm not sure if it's available in bookshops as yet, but it will be soon. The book tells about a Hollywood stunt driver who's engaged into criminal activity on the side. He's fallen into a trap and the book follows both his past and his future almost at the same time, in vivid non-chronological narration. The Finnish title means literally "Cold Ride".

I asked some questions from James Sallis, who's been writing from the late sixties on and has been getting more widely-known, perhaps mainly due to the fact that Drive is just an excellent novel, one that combines hard-hitting violence and ballad-like beauty. I'll translate the interview in Finnish later on.

The excellent cover is again by Ossi Hiekkala, who's done the cover art for the earlier Banaani paperbacks as well.

Drive is a very lean book - the Finnish edition is only 208 pages, with a loose layout. Why did you want to write such a short book?

My intention from the first was to write a contemporary equivalent of the old original paperback novels that came from Fawcett Gold Medal and such: short, hard-hitting, muscular, with great momentum.

Have you always been interested in the world of stunt car drivers? What interests you in them?

Actually, I knew very little about the subject. Drive began with the character, with Driver; to write him, and to know him, I had to learn about driving. Some of it is from books, and some of it is from a friend who test drives cars for a living.

Drive is also a very beautiful book. In the end, just in the last lines, it transforms into a ballad. Was this something you set out to do?

Thank you. I had no idea, and in fact was concerned all along with how I’d be able to bring the book to a suitable end. The end came to me in a rush – the character had to take on a greater presence, become mythlike. Those final lines dropped into my head as I was out for one of many walks, and I hurried home to get them down.

Drive has a very difficult narrative technique, speeding back and forth in time. Were you influenced by Quentin Tarantino or was this something you've been doing for a long time?

From the first. If you look at a Lew Griffin novels, you may find one chapter detailing what happened today, the next chapter skipping ahead three days, the chapter after that returning to “tomorrow.” The most blatant example of this would be the conclusion of the second Turner novel, Cripple Creek, where I skip ahead to the aftermath and then, in the final chapter, return to what occasioned the aftermath. Let me emphasize, though, that this is by no means trickery; these are solutions I’ve found to my desire to tell the story as fully as possible. In our minds, we do not live in straight lines.

What were some of your other influences? Walter Hill's film The Driver, perhaps? You also name some European, more artful writers, like Celan. What's behind that? It's not usual for a crime writer to drop names like that.

Incredible as it seems, I didn’t know the Walter Hill film until after Drive was written; I’ve still not seen it. As for European writers, I’ve a long, long engagement with them, beginning when I lived in London in the late Sixties – and especially with French writers. I did, for instance, the sole English-language translation of Raymond Queneau’s novel Saint Glinglin. I’ve translated poetry by Cendrars, Yves Bonnefoy, Neruda, Jacques Dupin, Pasternak, and many others. I am also profoundly influenced by science fiction, which is what I first wrote professionally; most of my oldest friends are science fiction writers.

You are better known for your longer and more complex novels, for example those featuring PI Lew Griffin. Will you be writing more in the vein of Drive?

Drive was meant (like Death Will Have Your Eyes before it) primarily as homage, and as a gift to myself. None of us had any suspicion that it would prove so popular. The novel I’m finishing up now began as – I thought – another muscular, fast-moving novel, but it promptly changed course. And at this point I’m just kind of following it along, seeing where it wants to go.

There are rumours of a movie based on Drive, with Hugh Jackman in the lead. Do you know anything about what state is that in?

The option has just been renewed. They have what I’m told is quite an outstanding script. We’ll see. The six Lew Griffin novels, by the way, are also in development.

Thank you for your time, Jim!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reino Helismaan länkkäreistä

(This is about the small collection of the western stories of a Finnish writer I recently compiled and which is now out.)

Kuten lupasin, kirjoitan muutamia sanoja Reino Helismaan länkkäreistä, joita on ilmestynyt äskettäin nimellä Henkipattojen kylä. Kyse on siis Helismaan vuosina 1938-1940 kirjoittamista novelleista, jotka ilmestyivät pääsääntöisesti hänen serkkunsa Olavi Kanervan isän August Kanervan julkaisemassa Isku-lehdessä - Helismaahan oli lehden päätoimittaja yhdessä Olavin kanssa. Tunnetuin Iskuun sisältyneistä jutuistahan on ollut Ami Hauhion kuvittama sarjakuva Maan mies Marsissa, jonka uusintajulkaisu, alkuperäisistä lehdistä kuvattuna, on ollut puuhan alla jo vuosia eri tahoilla.

Helismaan novellit ovat yksinkertaisia - niistä suurin osa on varmaan kirjoitettu niin että Helismaa on istunut alas, ehkä katsonut kuvitusta, joka Kanervan kirjapainolla on ollut käytettävissään, ja alkanut kirjoittaa. Juttu on muotoutunut tarinan edetessä. Varsinkin kirjan nimitarina, "Henkipattojen kylä", on selvästi tällainen. Novellit ovat myös todellista peruslänkkäriä: pyssyt paukkuvat, urhoolliset kaverit pelastavat neitosia, viski virtaa. Intiaaneja jutuissa ei ole, ilmeisesti sen takia että 1930-luvun lännenelokuvissakaan ei pahemmin inkkareita ollut. Veikkaisin, että juuri elokuvat ovat olleet Helismaan suurin innoittaja - mutta varmasti myös Zane Grey, Mayne Reid ja vastaavat. Monimuotoisimmillaan Helismaa on parissa kullankaivuujutussa, joissa on Jack London -maista kyynisyyttä. Jutuissa on myös dekkarivirityksiä, ja vieläpä ihan kohtuullisia.

Yhdessä vuonna 2001 ilmestyneen ...ja Reikärauta-Brown -kirjan kanssa Henkipattojen kylä todistaa, että Helismaa oli hyvä kirjoittaja ja hänellä olisi hyvinkin voinut olla pitkä ura viihdekirjoittajana. Sodan jälkeen hän kuitenkin suuntautui musiikkiin ja elokuviin, vaikka hän kirjoitti muutaman novellin vielä Seikkailujen Maailmaan sekä kaksi romaanina julkaistua tekstiä, Tyttö kuin atomipommi ja Lentomatka seikkailuun, joista lukemista kestää vain ensin mainittu. Sekin on selkeästi kevyempi kuin rajut ja väkivaltaiset toimintapalat, joita Helismaa ennen sotaa teki. Lisäksi Henkipattojen kylä kertoo omalta osaltaan suomalaisen lännenkirjallisuuden sekä viihdekirjallisuuden historiasta, joita ei ole missään vaiheessa kunnolla tutkittu.

Henkipattojen kylä sisältää seuraavat tekstit:

Juri Nummelin: Lukijalle
Tulivirta (Isku 11/1941)
Buck ei pelkää! (Isku 13/1940)
Mikä unohtui? (Yllätyslukemisto 9/1938)
Kuka nauroi viimeksi? (Isku 1/1940)
Kaksi vanhaa taikinanjuurta (Isku 15-16/1940)
Ristiässä (Isku 7/1940)
Lumen ja jään poliisi (Isku 14-15/1940)
Henkipattojen kylä (Isku 12-18/1941)

Tässä kirjan varsinainen esipuhe toisessa blogissa. Kirja maksaa viisi euroa + postit (todennäköisesti 1,10 e) ja parhaiten sen tilaa laittamalla sähköpostia (juri.nummelin@pp.inet.fi). Voi myös käyttää kommenttilootaa. Koetamme saada kirjaa myyntiin myös kirjamessuille jollekin osastolle, lisäksi se tullee ainakin Akateemisen myyntiin.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Great western illo for the weekend

I emptied my cell phone and found this, a photo of a mid-to-late sixties Finnish western digest mag, called Lännensarja (The Western Series). The text is German in origin (forgot the writer and the title), but the illustration is clearly American. I don't recognize the artist - anyone? The picture is full of intense waiting and impending doom, even though it's "only" a picture of a man smoking his cigarette.

The - pretty inept - Finnish title means "The Left-Handed Man Disappears".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: Leonard Gribble's Striptease Macabre

Leonard Gribble was a British writer of police procedurals and detective novels, with some westerns on the side. He's pretty much forgotten now, but I believe he enjoyed some success during his lifetime as his output was pretty big. This seems to be as much as there is out there in the web about him. There is an entry for him in the second edition of Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, but I'm not sure if it's in the later editions.

I tried to read the Finnish translation of Gribble's Striptease Murder, from 1967 (published originally by Jenkins), but with not much success. The book seemed at first interesting and it did give a nice picture of a British criminal life in the late fifties, adopting lots of slang expressions ("wide boy" especially), also with a good description of police work, but I couldn't get into the plot that involved smuggling and deceiving the police with the help of a slightly perverted nobleman. It may have been due to the Finnish translation, of course, but for some reason I believe this is wooden also in English.

Pictured is the cover of the Finnish paperback translation from 1968.

As for westerns, by the way, Gribble did them in three spans: first, under Landon Grant, in the thirties, then again in the early fifties, and then, as Lee Denver, in the late seventies and early eighties. His westerns as by Landon Grant were published in Finnish in a digest paperback series the name of which escapes me. I probably remember it the minute I shut the computer.

Victor Gischler's Vampire A-Go-Go

Victor Gischler's new novel, Vampire A-Go-Go, has been available for some days now. I had a chance to read it just last weekend - even when I was on my sick bed, I enjoyed the heck out of it. With some reservations, but let me get back to them in a sec.

Many of you know by now that Vampire A-Go-Go is genre hybrid, mixing vampires, werewolves, zombies, ancient alchemy, a group of Jesuits guarding ancient secrets with handgranades and shotguns... There's not much missing here - maybe a dinosaur or two, but I can live without. On top of everything the book seems to be a parody of Dan Brown and his ilk, but also an example of how one can assemble a book that has the same elements with the lesser amount of pages. Gischler is indeed an economic storyteller, giving hints of what kind of people his characters are through how they speak and how they act. At times Vampire A-Go-Go reminded me of early Lawrence Block.

So, this is a very fast and enjoyable read, but I had a slight problem reading the book, actually almost all the time. Apart from the violence - which is pretty tough from time to time - I had a feeling that this could be a juvenile or a YA novel. Some of the characters are university students and there's a love angle, which may have attributed to my feeling, but there's also something else. I can't really put my finger on it. I can say that I didn't have that feeling when Gischler was narrating the life story of John Dee's fellow alchemist, Edward Kelley. Even though Gischler's dialogue in these parts is delightfully anachronistic (I really can't picture an early 17th century gentleman saying: "You okay, Dee?"), there's really a feeling of an old, bitter man talking. And during these times I enjoyed Vampire A-Go-Go most.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New Kid On The Block: The Outfit

JT Lindroos's publisher, the home of Dave Zeltserman's Fast Lane and many Willeford reprints, PointBlank is officially no more. He has now put up a new crime fiction publisher called The Outfit - fitting name, that. Find them here - seems like there's not much content as yet.

It seems also that Sean Wallace has broken up with Wildside Press (which was also the home for PointBlank), as he has moved his fantasy publisher, Prime Books, under The Outfit. This warrants for questions from JT Lindroos - if someone else beats me to it, I certainly won't mind, but since I've had business with JT, I might send him a few and post the results here.

Here's James Reasoner's review of The Outfit's first book.

New book out: Reino Helismaa's western short stories

This book is finally out. Will be posting more about it later.

The Spam Book

Promoting a collection of articles my friend had a hand in:

Announcing a new book on the dark side of network culture:

On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies From the Dark Side of Digital Culture
edited by Jussi Parikka and Tony D. Sampson
With Foreword by Sadie Plant
Hampton Press, 2009

For those of us increasingly reliant on email networks in our everyday social interactions, spam can be a pain; it can annoy; it can deceive; it can overload. Yet spam can also entertain and perplex us. This book is an aberration into the dark side of network culture. Instead of regurgitating stories of technological progress or over celebrating creative social media on the Internet, it filters contemporary culture through its anomalies. The book features theorists writing on spam, porn, censorship, and viruses. The evil side of media theory is exposed to theoretical interventions and innovative case studies that touch base with new media and Internet studies and the sociology of new network culture, as well as post-representational cultural analysis.

“Parikka and Sampson present the latest insights from the humanities into software
studies. This compendium is for all you digital Freudians. Electronic deviances
no longer originate in Californian cyber fringes but are hardwired into planetary normalcy.
Bugs breed inside our mobile devices. The virtual mainstream turns out to
be rotten. The Spam book is for anyone interested in new media theory.”
—Geert Lovink, Dutch/Australian media theorist

“What if all those things we most hate about the Internet—the spam, the viruses,
the phishing sites, the flame wars, the latency and lag and interruptions of service,
and the glitches that crash our computers—what if all these are not bugs, but features?
What if they constitute, in fact, the way the system functions? The Spam
Book explores this disquieting possibility.”
—Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University

Foreword, Sadie Plant.
On Anomalous Objects of Digital Culture: An Introduction, Jussi Parikka and Tony D. Sampson.
Mutant and Viral: Artificial Evolution and Software Ecology, John Johnston.
How Networks Become Viral: Three
Questions Concerning Universal Contagion, Tony D. Sampson.
Extensive Abstraction in Digital Architecture, Luciana Parisi.
Unpredictable Legacies: Viral Games in the Networked World, Roberta Buiani.
Archives of Software—Malicious Codes and the Aesthesis of Media Accidents, Jussi Parikka.
Contagious Noise: From Digital Glitches to Audio Viruses, Steve Goodman.
Toward an Evil Media Studies, Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey.
Irregular Fantasies, Anomalous Uses: Pornography Spam as Boundary Work, Susanna Paasonen.
Make Porn, Not War: How to Wear the Network’s Underpants, Katrien
Can Desire Go On Without a Body?: Pornographic Exchange as Orbital Anomaly, Dougal Phillips.
Robots.txt: The Politics of Search Engine Exclusion, Greg Elmer.
The Internet Treats Censorship as a Malfunction and Routes Around It?: A New Media
Approach to the Study of State Internet Censorship, Richard Rogers.
On Narcolepsy, Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker.

Orders from Hampton Press:

as well as bookstores and online sellers.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Gabriel Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear

Now, this is what Dan Brown's books should be like! Swift and fast, full of action and exotic locales, not too full of overtly long pseudohistorical dialogue.

Hunt Through the Cradle of Fear is written by Charles Ardai, who's also the mastermind behind the Hard Case Crime and has penned three titles for the series. I really loved Songs of Innocence (if "love" is the right word for such a bleak book) and thought that Fifty-To-One was very good, if a bit overlong, so it's no surprise his new book is a great read. This has everything one can ask for in an adventure novel, down to a sword-fight - in a dark cave! Here's hoping we get zeppelins in later Hunts...

A good example of Ardai's skills is that when a certain beast walks into view and starts talking, it's believable and not just laughable, like it easily could be. There's just one thing that bothers me: if one recites Homer's lost epics, shouldn't he do it in ancient Greek and would normal contemporary Greeks understand what he's saying?

I was slightly disappointed in the first Gabriel Hunt outing, but I'm exhilarated to find out that the series is becoming something to watch. The book is accompanied by an extra short story by Ardai, but I haven't read that one, as yet.