Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

With a link to this hilarious book I wish everyone a better new year!

(And yes, if you've been reading news and are wondering: there's been another shooting incident here in Finland, this time in a shopping mall in Espoo which is a largish city/county just near to Helsinki. It's a sad time, once again. When will they ban keeping handguns so readily available???)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kiss Me Deadly: some personal reminiscences

I wrote about seeing Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly for the umpteenth time one or two posts back. I got to thinking about when and where I saw the film for the first time. You know, the film was banned in Finland for 40 years, mostly for being so violent (and it really is, and the soundtrack is full of screaming, screeches, beatings and explosions). I read about it here and there (in Danny Peary's book Cult Movies, for example) and was really intrigued for years. You have to remember this was the time before the internet - you just couldn't swing your Visa and order a VHS from abroad, like you do now (except that you don't order any VHS's anymore).

I'm not sure anymore whether I first saw Kiss Me Deadly in television or in a cinema club screening. I remember distinctly though that I had a hand in showing the film in the cinema club of Pori, where I grew up, and this was already the second time I saw the film. This happened in 1988 or 1989. The film got its first actual screening in Finland in June, 1988. I see from the Elonet database that it was shown on television in 1989. This could be my first seeing of the film, and now that I think of it, I remember the thrill of seeing the ads for the film. I still remember that the teaser was taken from the scene in which Hammer buys popcorn and beats the shit out of a guy who's following him and makes him fall down the stairs - and probably kills him.

My father taped the film and I think I watched the video at least twice, if not more. I remember watching the tape with a friend of mine, who had some liking for film noir, mainly for the stylistic reasons - he liked to wear classic men's clothing. He was very disturbed after the film. He had to play piano to stop his hands shaking. (I'm of course exaggerating a little, but not much. My hands were shaking after I watched the film couple nights back.)

After that I must've seen the film in cinema clubs and the film archive screenings during the 1990's and 2000's, but how many times, I'm not sure. I remember some screenings during which the audience was laughing at the film, thinking it was some high camp. I also remember that influencing my own experience about the film, for which I'm sorry. Later, in the 2000's, I was giving a lecture on the history of cinema at the Tampere university and was talking about film noir and showed the scene in which Hammer tortures the morgue surgeon - the audience was thrilled, some were laughing, some were shocked.

Some years back I started to hear about the original, restored ending. The cheapskate that I am, I didn't order a DVD to watch it, but if it wasn't shown on Finnish television this week, I would've acted sooner or later. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend you do it at once.

(Oops... you might want to check this out. Not safe for work.)

A major new novel, still unpublished

Late last night I finished the manuscript of a new novel of an English crime writer. The manuscript is as yet unpublished, but I know that it will be published some time next year in Germany, and possibly some other European countries. The English publication will follow. I don't know when, and I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to discuss this more. Suffice to say that I've written about the said author's works here in Pulpetti.

But I just want to say the book is perfect, just like its predecessors by the same writer. The book is about 9/11 and it has the most plausible explanation I've ever read concerning what happened to the World Trade Center towers. And the effect of that explanation is overwhelming. You can feel the futility of human effort in the last pages of the book.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kiss Me Deadly, once again

I finally saw the real ending of Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly, when it was shown late last night on Finnish television. The film itself I saw at least for the sixth time, and it never stops to amaze me.

There's been some debate about whether this, the original ending, is really better than the false ending we've come to know. Okay, it's really unrelenting in the false ending when we never see Mike Hammer and Velda escape the exploding house, but it's always been a bit clumsy and rushed. Some have said that Aldrich foresaw the metafictional techniques of the New Wave of the sixties: when the world goes mad, the films must give up their old narratives and go mad. Yeah, right. They were thinking that in the fifties' Hollywood.

Let's go through this once more: Aldrich was a director who liked to show off how marvellous he is. Look at some of the camera drives in Vera Cruz. The man who made those couldn't have made anything like the false ending of Kiss Me Deadly. These traits show also in Kiss Me Deadly: the backward opening credits, the smooth camera drives from rears of the cars, the short camera drive in the scene in which the truck driver tells Hammer that the man he drove over was pushed*, the editing in the fight scenes (Hammer beating a guy at top of the long stairs, Sugar Smallhouse and Charlie Max fighting in the water with Hammer). They are fast, fluid, furious, never clumsy or crude. How could one think that this guy could've done the false ending of Kiss Me Deadly?

There are some glitches in the film, though. When Christina Bailey is being tortured and we see only her legs (and hear her screaming), her legs don't move. That's clumsy, but forgivable. When Mike Hammer is being tied down to a bed and Dr. Soberin walks into the room and starts talking, we see only his shoes and trousers. We hear him talk, but there's something clumsy about his appearance. It seems clearly that he's not speaking aloud in those scenes. This may have been done on purpose, to heighten the nightmarish quality of Hammer's condition.

There are also some scenes that make some of the ironic hipster audience giggle, like Velda doing her exercise badly (I think that must be done on purpose) or Carl Evello's half-sister sucking up on Mike Hammer. That was parody of the private eye clichés already when the film was made, and the fact that the sister's behaviour is never fully explained actually increases the absurd feel of the film.

I think David Lynch learned everything from this film (plus Sunset Boulevard). You always have a feeling everything is not explained and you're witnessing a dream. Just see the scene in which Carl Evello talks to the tied-up Hammer and repeats: "Remember me." If that doesn't remind you of Twin Peaks, then nothing does. (Or then you haven't seen Twin Peaks.) In the end you also have the flashing lights that are seen in every film Lynch has made, from Eraserhead on. And I'm pretty sure the house that explodes backwards in Lost Highway (Lynch's best film, if you ask me) is a reference to Kiss Me Deadly, as is also Bill Pullman, who looks a lot like Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer. (I've been wondering whether the fact that Jack Nicholson in Chinatown looks like Ralph Meeker is a coincidence or a pun on Polanski's and Nicholson's part. Both films strip private eye of his heroics.)

I'm no fan of Mickey Spillane and his books. I grant he was very, very influential, but I'm a bit sad to notice that he's been replacing Ross Macdonald as the third part in the hardboiled trinity beside Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. That must say something essential about our time. My doubts about Spillane's merits is one of the reasons I like Kiss Me Deadly so much: it shows what kind of guy Hammer really is. I've always wondered how some fans of Spillane like Ralph Meeker and say he's the best Hammer player on screen, while he's clearly incapable of doing right decisions, is a bit stupid, falls for traps and enjoys making his secretary flirt with old men and listening to the sleazy tapes Velda makes of her meetings. And he's a sadist, enjoys beating other people and smashing things. Yeah, the people he beats up are baddies, sure, and yeah, he's angry when he beats the morgue attendant (great scene, that) and the athletic club clerk, sure. Sure. This man is not a hero.

There are so many things I like about Kiss Me Deadly that I could go on and on writing about it, but real life is calling me (gotta take a shower and start preparing lunch for family). If I have the time and energy, I'll write something about whether Aldrich really wanted to make a travesty of Mike Hammer. If I don't, please see James Naremore's discussion on the film in his book, More Than Night.

* The truck driver looks like James Woods in the scene, doesn't he?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"It's a man's world. We just die in it"

Money Shot author Christa Faust's provocative article in LA Mag. You know, Money Shot is coming out in Finnish next February. The cover is thrilling. I'll let you see it if you'll behave nicely.

With this, I say Merry Xmas! Should it be XXXmas, with Ms. Faust?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old Finnish ERB cover

I'm not sure whether I'll be posting anything before Xmas, but here's an old Finnish cover for a Pellucidar novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I took the photo at a book store, so I don't have it with me right now, but I should say the book's from 1924, published by Karisto. The caption below says "Ten marks". I don't know the illustrator - I don't even know if it's Finnish or import.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Michael Moorcock: Katso ihmistä/Behold the Man

A change of pace: I wrote a review for the recent Finnish translation of Michael Moorcock's Behold the Man. The book is Katso ihmistä! in Finnish, which is the literal translation of "Ecce homo".

The book is originally from 1969; the original novella from the New Worlds magazine came out in 1966, and I just heard that there's some padding in the book Moorcock didn't want to do. It's still pretty powerful in just about 160 pages, even though while padding the narrative Moorcock has resorted to techniques that seems outdated now, like using very short, repetitive paragraphs that have no obvious relation to the plot.

The book's about one Karl Glogauer who's had a somewhat hideous life, living without a father and with a cold, distant mother, being abused in school and at a summer camp, and in his adult age being without a direction and without love. He's given an opportunity to travel back in time and he chooses to go to 29 A.C. to witness the crucifixion of Christ. There's cruel, brutal and clever irony in the outcome. Jesus never had to deal with Glogauer has: the poor man has the history of the world on his shoulders.

If you've never read this before, you should definitely check it out. It's a realistic historical novel, a thought-provoking science fictional novel and a philosophical study at the same time. And to buy it is to give more power to the book's Finnish publisher, the small but potent Vaskikirjat, who earlier brought Silverberg's Gilgamesh the King and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend to Finland.
The Finnish cover of the book, by M-L Muukka, doesn't give away the ending of the book, like many US or UK covers seem to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Declan Hughes: The Colour of Blood

Irish writer Declan Hughes is one of those writers who have brought the private eye hero back to the pages of books and shown that private eye books - even those that form a series - don't have to be clichéd or pastiches of older private eye books, like many seem to think here in Finland. I'm hoping some of these new writers can make it to Finnish - alongside Declan Hughes one can mention Dave White, Michael Koryta, Ken Bruen (whose series with Jack Taylor is coming on television), Don Winslow, Ed Lynskey...

The Colour of Blood, which is part of Hughes's Ed Loy series, was my first Hughes and I can recommend it. With some reservations, though, but more on them later. Hughes belongs clearly to the Ross Macdonald school of the private eye fiction, as he deals with the generational evil, living without love, living without a father or a mother, feeling outsider all the time, just like Ross Macdonald did so deftly in his Lew Archer novels. Hughes just brings the themes to this day: the novel starts with a rich man's daughter being kidnapped - or that's what everyone thinks - and the daddy is being blackmailed with porn pictures of her daughter.

Declan Hughes and Ed Loy are linked to Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer also in that Ed Loy is invisible if he turns sideways. He has his own tragedies, but Hughes never dwells in them as much as, say, Russel McLean in his debut novel, The Good Son.

My reservations were largely about the fact that there were too many characters in the novel - it was sometimes pretty hard to discern them from each other. The book was also a tad too long, even though it's not very long, at some 300 pages. There was also some melodrama that I didn't feel was necessary, especially in the climax.
Nevertheless, this is a very strong book that shows private eye fiction is nothing to sneer about. It's also a strong indication that Ireland has produced many good crime writers in the last decade or so.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A review of my war book

And the post # 1,503 is a link to a review of my book - in Finnish! This is getting worrisome. (No worries, though, I'll be reviewing Declan Hughes's The Colour of Blood next.)

So, here's a link to a newspaper review of my war book, Tankki palaa!

Sheila Barnes as a true crime writer

My post # 1,502 is a recycling of a comment on an old post! How boring can you go?

Actually this is pretty interesting, since a lady called Nancy wrote about her mother's writings in true crime mags in a comment to a post about Art Crockett and his editorship of the said mags. I'll post her entire comment here:

My mother, Sheila Barnes, wrote for Art Crockett in the mid to late eighties too. She was in her seventies as well and had moved back from "retirement" in Florida to her beloved Hell's Kitchen. She actually lived down the block from the True Detective offices and I loved telling people my dignified, well-bred, attractive silver-haired mother wrote many of the lurid True Detective tales - usually under the names Nancy O'Brien and Ted McDermott (all thinly-disguised family names). My mother, a newspaper reporter for most of her life, loved working for Art Crockett and telling people what she penned. My mother died two years ago but I still have a number of True Detectives from her time there. I'm glad I stumbled upon this blog, very much by accident, looking for another unrelated friend with last name of Crockett.

So, if you by any chance happen to see a true crime mag from the eighties and notice the names Nancy O'Brien and Ted McDermott, you'll know that Sheila Barnes wrote them.

Oops! I thought this was going to be my 1,500th post!

But it turns out my earlier post - on the French paperback covers - was actually No. 1500 on Pulpetti. So I should've congratulated myself then!

It's never too late, though.

Here are two Finnish book covers, one is my book about forgotten Finnish writers, one is Finnish author Mari Mörö's newest book, a novel called Kuuri. Notice anything funny? It seems that there's a picture bank that the Finnish publishers use and they have only one old typewriter of which they've taken a load of photos. The funniest thing is that I used to have that kind of Remington Portable. I sold it in 1990, if I remember correctly, which I feel stupid about. It's a pretty machine, and in recent years I've amassed a collection of about ten portable typewriters.

Monday, December 14, 2009

French paperback covers, with a dash of Surrealist items

Here's a link to a French blog, with largely erotic and hardboiled paperback covers, some of which are pretty crude, but also eye-catching. Seems like the French also knew how to produce cheap trash. Fascinating, nevertheless. Notice the Gold Medal rip-off series called, seemingly, Oscar.

Listed are also some Surrealist items, like the first edition (rather non-descript) of André Breton and Philippe Soupault's Magnetic Fields.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A new publisher, Dancing Tuatara Press

I just want to pay people's attention to a new pulp-related published, Dancing Tuatara Press, that operates under Fender Tucker's Ramble House. Dancing Tuatara Press seems to be John Pelan, who's had his hands in with many pulp-related reprint projects with other publishers. One of the coming books is a collection of Day Keene's old pulp detective stories! (Pelan is asking for help, see below.)

Here are the first Dancing Tuatara books:

Pelan is lacking these pulp stories by Keene and is asking around if anyone has copies:

League of the Grateful Dead - Dime Mystery 2/41
The Island God Forgot - Strange Detective Mysteries 10/41
Cupid's Corpse Parade - Dime Mystery 7/42
Keep out of My Coffin - Strange Detective Mysteries 9/42
$10,000 Worth of Hell - Strange Detective Mysteries 1/43
Brother, Can You Spare a Grave - Dime Mystery 7/44
If the Coffin Fits - Dime Mystery 3/45
Death March of the Dancing Dolls 9/45

Monday, December 07, 2009

Review of Henkipattojen kylä

(Sometimes it feels pretty awkward to post these things in English, but...)

Review of the collection of Reino Helismaa's western stories, edited by me, in the local newspaper, Turun Sanomat. The book is still available for the measly five euros!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Gil Brewer's Flight to Darkness

New Pulp Press is launching their own reprint line and starting with noir favourite Gil Brewer's Flight to Darkness. Pretty cool cover and a sample chapter here.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A bit more on Ross Macdonald's book

As Bill Crider mentioned in his comment, the Ross Macdonald novel I was reading was originally, in the US, titled Meet Me at the Morgue. I think Experience with Evil, the UK title, might be more Ross Macdonald-esque. There's something stock noir about "Meet Me at the Morgue".

Here's the cover. I didn't have to scan the book, since Todd Mason found one in the net. It is indeed one of the best British paperback covers I've seen from this era, up there with the best of the American artists. The artist is Sam Peffer (his signature says "Peff", which is slightly funny if you're Finnish) and there's a website devoted to him here.

And as for the book which I thought I was reading for the first time: Bill's revelation about the US title made me check, and yes, I've read the Finnish translation that came out in 1997, under the title Tavataan ruumishuoneella (which is the almost literal translation of the original US title). I just didn't remember a darn thing about it. Well, if I remember right, I read the book slightly after I'd broken up with the mother of my daughter, so it's been somewhat difficult time... (And it's been almost nine years since.)

Now, back to the book. I've still got some 30 pages to go!

(Oh, here's a review for another non-Archer book by Macdonald, in Finnish. Check it out!)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Book: Experience with Evil

I'm in the middle of John Ross Macdonald's Howard Cross novel Experience with Evil, from, I think, 1954 (I don't have the book with me as I write) and enjoying it, well, maybe not as much as a bonafide Lew Archer novel, but almost as much. It's interesting to see how Macdonald uses his usual tropes of fatherlessness and cold mothers and the generational evil even when Lew Archer is not around. Not to be missed by any Ross Macdonald fan. I'm not sure if the book is in print; I'm reading an old Pan edition. With a great cover, but you'll have to wait for that one.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

My first novel

Here's the cover for my first novel, Outoa huminaa, Joe Novak / It's a Weird Buzz, Joe Novak. It's a self-publication, so I'm not sure if it really counts, and the print run is only 50 - I can take more, if I run out of copies. So far I've sold five, and since I got the books from the printers earlier today, it seems I'll have to print extra copies.

The book is about my fictional hero, private eye Joe Novak, who runs into some weird things happening in the early sixties, sometime after JFK has been shot. There are weird sex cults, UFOs and men dressed in black - there's actually an abundance of them. In the middle of the plot are a brother and a sister who have moved from rural Washington to LA; the brother's wife has died from cancer and he seems to have lost his mind and has a habit of disappearing from time to time. Joe Novak runs for help - but notices pretty soon he doesn't know what's going on.

I described the book elsewhere as a mix between Carter Brown and David Lynch: it's playful and jokey and weird and incoherent at the same time. Joe Novak runs into beautiful and strange ladies in a tale that's full of secret and changing identities. I hope the mixture works, and I added some sadness in there, too, as befits the hardboiled private eye novel.

The book has only 90 pages, the text is somewhat under 20,000 words. The cover is done by Henri Joela who's also done stuff for my magazines, Isku and others. He says he took inspiration from a Finnish edition of a James Hadley Chase novel.

If anyone's interested (the Finnish readers, I mean), I'm selling the book for mere 6 euros. The publisher is called Verikoirakirjat, meaning Blood Hound Press. There's really no publisher under that name, but I've used it earlier, in the Robert Silverberg booklet I made some years back.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe from Norway

This book is probably not out in English, but it's likely it will be, since it's been getting lots of favourable reviews and the Finnish translation came out quickly, so the author's agents are doing their work very well. Nikolaj Frobenius (who scripted the original Insomnia) is a Norwegian author and one of his earlier novels was about Marquis de Sade's servant who can't feel pain. His newest novel, Jeg skal vise dere frykten (I Will Show You Fear, if I know my Norwegian well enough), called Pelon kasvot / The Face of Fear, in Finnish, is about Edgar Allan Poe and his battle with anthologist Rufus Griswold, and also about his battle with a mysterious serial killer who seems to duplicate Poe's tales, especially "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (that's the story we all want to duplicate, right?).

The book hovers somewhere between a gimmicky serial novel and a serious literary novel, not making up its mind which it wants to be. There are several good moments in the book and Frobenius has Poe's moods down well. He has also done his homework on Poe and even his lesser-known writings, such as Eureka, and especially on obscure American authors of the 1840s. Still Jeg skal vise dere frykten feels only like a gimmicky serial killer novel. If it winds up translated in English and you're a fan of Poe, try it. It's not a bad novel in any way.