Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trailer for True Grit

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the Coen brothers' rendering of True Grit, Charles Portis's hilarious, violent and touching Western novel. (For some reason I'm thinking it as a film version of the book, not just a new version of the John Wayne film.) But this trailer seems a bit too serious to me - Portis's novel is much funnier than what we see here. Maybe it's the music.

Or then it's just the trailer.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Forgotten Book: Gordon Davis: Hell Harbor: Battle for Cherbourg

I bought some old paperbacks from an old used book store in Forssa that was closing down and selling everything out with half a cover price. One of the books was a war paperback that I've never taken a closer look at. It was by "Steve Jenkins", called Operaatio natsisatama (Operation Nazi Harbour; stupid title if there ever was one). It was published by Viihdeviikarit, one of the last cheapo paperback publishers in Finland, in their Etulinja/Frontline series in the early eighties. The book was left lying on the floor with some other books, but then one night, pretty tired of the historical novels I've been reading for a reference book project I picked the book up and started to read it. It was fluent and fast reading, with lots of dialogue and pretty good action scenes and one or two sex scenes: good old-fashioned disposable trash. I got more interested in the book and started Googling.

No "Steve Jenkins". No war paperback was ever published under that by-line. Googling more I found out that this might've been published originally under some other name - and then I found out that the Etulinja series this was published in held also another book with the main character called Mahoney. That book, called Kuoleman juna/Death Train, was written by one Gordon Davis. And bingo! Gordon Davis is a pseudonym used exclusively by Leonard AKA Len Levinson, a paperback hack working mainly in the seventies and eighties, and the book called Operaatio natsisatama was also written by him and erroneously published in Finland under the "Steve Jenkins" by-line. (Why this? We can only guess.) The original title is Hell Harbor.

The books were a part in Levinson's Sergeant series, which conveniently happens to have a Wikipedia article, even though Levinson doesn't merit one. There's not a lot of information on him anywhere in the web. If anyone knows more, I'd be interested to hear. Has there been an interview with him in Gary Lovisi's Paperback Parade or some such? Levinson was born in 1935, that much Lee Server says in his encyclopedia of pulp fiction writers. Server raises Levinson's non-genre paperback, The Last Buffoon (1980) as "Leonard Jordan", from the pile and says it's an interesting account of the life of a paperback hack. Anyone read that?

Elina's blog

My wife Elina has just started her own blog. Take a look here. The blog, called Hopeapeili (Silver Mirror; an old Finnish fashion mag), will be largely about vintage fashion and it's in Finnish.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Herschell Gordon Lewis's third novel?

A friend of mine here in Finland is going to interview the notorious horror/camp director Herschell Gordon Lewis. I mentioned to him that Lewis also wrote novelizations of some of his films and that there were reprints of two of them, Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast. Both came originally from Novel Books in 1963 and 1964, retrospectively, and the reprints came from Fantaco in the late eighties (the cover of the other one on the left).

But I seem to remember there was a third one. I've seen the cover for it somwhere in the web, but can't find it again anywhere. The copies of the original editions seem to be very rare (none in Abebooks at least), but I'm sure there was a third one. Now, can anyone confirm this and tell me what the title of the third HGL novelization was? For some reason I seem to remember it was Monster A-Go-Go, but my friend tells me Lewis has discredited the film so that there wouldn't be much point in him having written a novelization of it. The Wikipedia article on Lewis doesn't mention any of the novels.

Why am I interested in this? I asked my friend to ask Lewis if he would allow doing translations of his novels in Finnish!

EDIT: another friend of mine located the book. It's Color Me Blood Red (Novel Books 1964); see the cover on the left. It's mentioned in this thread of horror movie novelizations and tie-ins. The photo of the book isn't very good, I'm sorry to say.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories zine out

As you well may remember, I've been publishing some fictionmaggish fanzines of my own. I decided to move Isku and Pulp to the web, but Seikkailukertomuksia (Adventure Stories) still keeps coming in print. The fourth issue came out of the printers today and boasts a stellar cover by Anssi Rauhala. It's for an old Orientalist story by one Kaarlo Julkunen from the early twenties, called "Dzarir and Nechedil".

Other writers are Pietari Virtanen with a wonderful adventure story set in the 1950's Spain, Garnett Elliott with "Rendezvous on Zombie Island" from the Blazing Adventures webzine (which seems to be down), and me, with a fourth issue of my Pesäri saga. It's set entirely in a never-never-land, even though the setting resembles Finland of the bronze age of Kalevala. Well, then again it doesn't, and I'll very carefully advise you not to point out any historical errors in the stories. I thought the fourth story would end Pesäri's story, but it seems I'll have to publish yet another issue of Seikkailukertomuksia for the Pesäri saga to reach the end. (Even though I think writing this kind of pulpy trash only as rehearsing how the stories are narrated and how the pace the story, I'm kind of proud bringing the influence of Richard Stark's Parker books into the sword & sorcery stuff.)

The package is five euros. If you're interested, just post a comment.

Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour

I'm sure this confession won't rise my street cred in the world of the noir aficionados: I saw Edgar Ulmer's Detour for the first time just two nights ago. "What?" you say. "One of the most famous and notorious of all film noirs, and you haven't seen it?! How's that even possible?" I've been quiet about it and just kept on nodding, when someone has mentioned the film. "Yeah, that was interesting." Add a hesitant smile.

The Finnish Broadcast Association's Teema channel has started a series of classic film noir, and Detour was the second film in the string (with an old favourite, Murder, My Sweet being the first one). It's a great series, with some rarities in the bunch. My only gripe is that they stop in the mid-fifties. What about Murder by Contract, for example? One may argue there were great noir films in the sixties (Blast of Silence, Siegel's The Killers, Point Blank, Madigan etc.). And what about the noir films of the seventies: Klute, Chinatown, Hickey & Boggs, Night Moves..? Here's hoping they'll continue on to these - and maybe even the eighties' neo-noir films and the high-adrenaline postmodern noir of the 1990's and 2000's: Reservoir Dogs, Little Odessa, Bound, The Woman Chaser (which has never been released in Finnish), etc.

Okay, back to Detour. As everyone (well, I guess "everyone" applies here) knows, it's a very poor B-film, shot with $20,000 in a week, about a guy who's lifting his way to Hollywood from New York and ends up in trouble. If something is noir, then Detour is: there's no escaping your fate, whatever it is, and usually you fate is you'll die, probably sooner than later. Ann Savage as a hitch-hiker really makes the film: one of the scariest motherfucking sociopaths on any side of the Atlantic ocean. Period. And furthermore, she's not pretty in the least. She's actually quite ugly, if you ask me, and her style is awful. Her hair doesn't fit her at all, yet she keeps combing at it, like it would help. I don't know if this is something Ulmer set out to do or if it came only by accident. The way Tom Neal's character can't get away from Ann Savage is not out of this life: it's a nightmare that one can't escape out of. Unless by accident. That is your fate. Just accept it.

There are an awful lot of scenes in Detour that take place inside a car, with a camera shooting out of the front window. There's lots of voice-over narration. Yet none of this feels stilted. Detour is pure cinema, and I really don't know how Ulmer managed to break all of his poor film's financial restrictions. I sure am happy to finally have seen this.

I haven't Martin Goldsmith's novel that this is based on, but I know someone who has it and I'll be loaning it.

The Finnish Hobbit

Wanna see something different? GeekTyrant has found out someone has posted the entire Finnish miniseries based on The Lord of the Rings called Hobitit (The Hobbits) on YouTube. This was actually a stageplay before being turned into a TV series, and I seem to remember (this was almost 20 years ago) that many of my friends saw the stageplay and liked it. This seems a bit too cheap, however, and some of the actors are laughably miscast, like Taneli Mäkelä, the strong silent type of contemporary Finnish cinema, as Frodo. Kari Väänänen as Gollum mangles his face in an abrasive manner. And what's with the slap bass jazz in the background when he's seen changing into the green-faced monstrosity?

Some of the posts on YouTube have English subtitles, but not all of them. See the GeekTyrant link; here's one of them with subtitles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tapani Maskula's novel Houkutuslintu

The legendary film critic from Turku and a personal friend, Tapani Maskula, is now also a novelist. His first novel, Houkutuslintu ("Decoy" might be a good translation), came out earlier today from Turbator for which I've edited lots of anthologies. Houkutuslintu is an old-fashioned romp through the town of Turku in the late thirties and early fourties, with smugglers, loose women and speak-easies. I've yet to read the book, but I'm sure it's enjoyable.

The cover is great. It's by Anssi Rauhala, who also did the cover for my Sherlock Holmes anthology. (Sorry for the bad photo, just took it with my cell phone.)