Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gordon Davis's AKA Leonard Levinson's Death Train

It's not Friday, but I think this could be linked to Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Books series of blog posts.

I wrote earlier about a war paperback by Gordon Davis that was for some reason published in Finnish as by "Steve Jenkins". The real name behind the pseudonym was Leonard Levinson, a prolific paperback writer from the seventies and eighties. Late last night I finished the other Gordon Davis novel published in Finnish, called Kuoleman juna. It's the literal translation of Death Train, and it's the first book in Davis's Sergeant series.

Just like the earlier "Steve Jenkins" novel, this was also fluently written and quite fastly and crisply paced, without much padding. Some of the scenes with historical figures, like Eisenhower, could've been left out, but then again they are not very long. The battle scenes are short enough and there's enough action to keep the reader's interest going. The main character, Mahoney, is delightfully cynical - I think it's him on the cover. There are some sex scenes, but Davis/Levinson has just enough style to make them plot points, not just loose scenes with sex. I'm not sure, though, whether the scene with a young nun, Mahoney bursting with lust to break her virginity, was done with good taste. Well, then again Mahoney decides to pull out.

I'd like to read more of Levinson's work, as he seems a writer who knows how to spin a yarn and keep it tight, but there are no more translations (I think) and ordering these from abroad seems a bit silly. I was thinking I'd try to compile a Levinson bibliography with the help of Hubin's biblio, Abebooks and Pat Hawk's pseudonyms catalogue, but I won't do it now. Later on I'll write a more thorough article in Finnish about these two books and post it on the Pulp magazine blog here. Here's Bill Crider on one book by Levinson, the non-genre The Last Buffoon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde and Ken Bruen's London Boulevard out in Finnish in 2011

Commercial follows, in Finnish:

Arktisen Banaanin kevät 2011 pitää sisällään kaksi kovaa dekkariuutuutta: Keikkakuskin kirjoittajan Duane Swierczynskin hengästyneesti ryntäävä scifi-trilleri Vaaleaverikkö sekä irlantilaisen kovaksikeitetyn rikoskirjallisuuden supernimen Ken Bruenin ensimmäinen suomennos, kohta elokuvaksikin tuleva London Boulevard.

Vaaleaverikkö on raju kaahaus läpi öisen Philadelphian, 24 tunnin jännäri, jossa ei ole tyhjiä hetkiä. Naisella on veressään tappava virus ja uudeksi uhriksi joutuu viaton, avioero-oikeudenkäyntiä odottava toimittaja. Kirjasta sanottua: "OK, so we have hot girls, self-replicating killer-spy nanomachines, journo-suckers, affable hit-men, double-secret government cadres; are we forgetting anything? OH YEAH, a severed head in a duffle bag!"

Bruenin London Boulevard on ovela pastissi Billy Wilderin klassikkoelokuvasta Sunset Boulevard, mutta omillaankin toimiva kovanlyyrinen, haikean väkivaltainen rikosromaani. Elokuvan pääosissa ovat Keira Knightley ja Colin Farrell ja sen ohjaa Scorseselle käsikirjoituksia tehnyt William Monahan.

Vaaleaverikön kansikuvan on piirtänyt Ossi Hiekkala. Lisätietoa löytyy kustantajan sivuilta.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The cover for my vampire anthology

Here's the cover for my forth-coming vampire anthology. The book's title translates as "The Lust for Blood: Finnish Vampire Stories". This is not the final version, but gives you some taste. The illustrator is Timo Ketola.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sarah Waters's The Night Watch and Fingersmith

I guess this could qualify as a Forgotten Books post, even though the books in question are not forgotten in the least. I've seen Forgotten Book posts about Edgar Rice Burroughs and Christa Faust's Money Shot, so I guess the rules are not very strict.

I've finally completed my share of the reference book on historical novelists. I read two of Sarah Waters's novels, the only two translated in Finnish, and liked them quite a bit. Doing this book has been quite a task. As you may remember, I didn't like Arturo Perez-Reverte's books and I almost ended up hating Robert Harris's novels on Cicero. I must confess skipping pages a lot. There were also other writers that left me utterly cold. The one exception - before Waters - was Tracy Chevalier, who writes in a terse prose I happen to like, and she handles difficult themes (women's oppression and stuff like that) pretty deftly.

One could compare Sarah Waters to Chevalier. Both write about women's oppression and their silence in the by-gone centuries. Sarah Waters adds a theme of being lesbian in the Victorian age. Both write books that are not easily categorized - they have elements of a crime novel, they have some experimental bits in their books (Waters has less of them), both are eminently readable. Waters harks back to Charles Dickens and his time, while Chevalier is a strictly 20th century writer, with a style maybe reminiscent of Jean Rhys.

Fingersmith is more strictly a historical novel, set in the 1860s. Some low-lifes, portrayed grotesquely à la Dickens, are trying to get money out of a peculiar old guy living in a mansion outside London, collecting pornography. They force a young girl to be a maid in the house and one of the low-lifes starts to flirt with the daughter of the old man in order to get married and inherit the old man. Everything seems to succeed well, but then Waters throws a very nice twist in the tale and manages to bring new themes into her book: the violent treatment of women in the mental institutions. There's yet another twist in the book, which makes it a relenting read. The last hundred pages are very exciting and tense. The love story between the two girls is touching, and Waters's view of Victorian pornography is interesting.

The Night Watch is set in London during the bombings of WWII. The book is episodic and starts from the end, moving towards the events taking place first. It works marvellously, even though the book didn't hold my interest as well as Fingersmith. The scene in the middle, with the abortion going wrong, is very, very strong.

I recommend these two books quite highly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New posts on other blogs

I've been busy on the blog front, but I'll just have to post links to my recent posts instead of producing original material here on Pulpetti. Both links are in Finnish.

My essay on the greatness of Carl Barks. My main point: Barks is one of the few (or only even) comic artists that you can read and appreciate and with whose characters you can empathize with, both when you're young and when you're old. (And during the time between, of course.)

The entry for pulp writer Paul Ernst from my 2000 book, Pulpografia. I also snitched Ernst's listing from the Fictionmags Index and posted it here. (I'd link to the Fictionmags Index, but the links don't stay put, which is a pity.) And oh, here's a good review for the recent collection of Ernst's pulp writing. In English.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My article on the Knight Rider

I posted my article (in Finnish) on the latest incarnation of the Knight Rider TV series here on one of my other blogs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Danger Lives

In the on-going film noir series of the Finnish Broadcastig Association (or Corporation?) John Farrow's Where Danger Lives was shown last week. Tonight they'll be showing Angel Face by Otto Preminger, and I'll be glued to our sofa opposite to the television set.

I've been a bit disappointed in some of the films, most in Anthony Mann's Desperate and Ulmer's Ruthless, but Where Danger Lives was top-notch. Robert Mitchum as the fall guy with a head injure, Faith Domergue as the psychotic woman, with only 24 hours to escape their fate... I couldn't but love the film, except for the ending, which was way too happy. They should've let... well, let's not spoil it. (Googling for the film I found this crime film blog: Where Danger Lives.)

Sorry for not having written more often (and in more depth about Farrow's film), but I've been very busy. This week I've written one book review, two articles (one on the newest incarnation of the Knight Rider TV series, one on Carl Barks and how he's really the greatest comics artist there ever was) and one friggin' long lecture on the history of Finnish fantasy literature. I'll be delivering it tomorrow in the city library of Pori, the town I spent the first 18 years of my life.

And oh, I also wrote a short story, for another anthology of absurd stories, this time set mainly in Turku. And oh, the earlier anthology of absurd short stories came out today.

And all this time I keep thinking: get back to work. Sounds like the so-called stress they talk about, huh?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil

Republicans seem to have won in the election. Oh my...

One good example that there have been good Americans is Abraham Polonsky's noir masterpiece Force of Evil (1948). Okay, I know there are lots of people willing to give bad credit to Polonsky, because he was a known Communist. I don't think however that anyone can say that Force of Evil is anti-American. It's a well-thought and well-constructed story of what capitalism does to people. Polonsky's genius is in noticing that it destroys people even when taken to the underground culture of organized crime, i.e. numbers racket. The most concerned he is about those little people who can't fight back: the unemployed, elderly, widowers, young lonely women...

Force of Evil is a story of two brothers, one rising up fastly in the gangster world, one giving people a little piece of hope by organizing a small-time numbers business and employing a steady group of people who seem to have nothing much left in their own lives. John Garfield, who plays the successful brother, has to decide whether to force his brother out of the business. The organized crime works like the banks or the other big monetary institutions in capitalism - and everytime violence and destruction ensue. It's like a force of nature, force of evil.

Polonsky directs and writes with verve. The film hasn't dated a bit. It's even a bit difficult to follow, since Polonsky keeps the story moving with such a fast pace and the dialogue reveals only the most necessary bits. Force of Evil resembles and predates Sopranos or The Wire with several decades. I'm pretty sure some of the characters in Sopranos have been modelled out of some of the characters in Force of Evil.

But is Force of Evil noir? The ending is upbeat, no matter what happens to John Garfield's brother. Garfield decides he'll fight the evil of organized crime that is capitalism. If we think that noir is something utterly grim and hopeless, then Force of Evil isn't noir.

This is another film noir that's based on an earlier novel, Ira Wolfert's Tucker's People from 1938. Anyone read that? Comments?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two Ken Bruen films coming - and the first Finnish translation

Ken Bruen's excellent noir novel London Boulevard (2001) will be published in Finnish by Arktinen Banaani next Spring. The film based on the book will hit the big screen in the UK on November 26th and in the US February 2011. Which will probably be the European release date as well - and also the release date of the Finnish edition.

Here's the trailer and some more info for the film, written and directed by William Monahan, starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. The book is a clever pastiche on Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, but also a hard-hitting crime novel in its own right.

Ken Bruen's other novel, Blitz (2002), will also be released as a film pretty soon. The film will star Jason Statham, which might turn some people away, but the trailer here seems as gritty as they come.