Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: James Reasoner: Diamondback

This isn't supposed to be a forgotten book, since it's out available on Kindle and different other formats. You can also buy a trade paperback edition of it, if I understood correctly. James Reasoner's Diamondback was never commercially or traditionally published, so I think it figures here - and taking part in this meme I have a reason to finally write about it.

There's a story behind James's book: he wrote it on spec to a paperback publisher that had published his first novel, Texas Wind (which is great unto itself). The publisher went bankrupt though, before the manuscript was bought (or at least that's how I figured it; I may be a bit skimpy on details), and James's book didn't see the light of day. I think he tried to sell it to different publishers throughout the years, but without success. At one point he sent it to me. We'd talked about over e-mail about his career and writings and I'd already published one of James's early short stories in my zine, Isku (which was a print magazine at the time, now a webzine). I think there was some talk about getting Diamondback out in Finnish. (If I wanted to lose all of my money, this is exactly what I'd do: start publishing a series of translations of trunk novels!)

Then came the fire. James's and Livia's house burned down. I was devastated when I saw James's blog post about the fire. I was very, very glad to be able to help: I had two or three James's early short stories on my computer, plus Diamondback. James was glad to get them back - all of his files had been destroyed in the fire.

I wanted to do something more to help. But how? I was here on the other side of the planet. Then it came to me: I'll publish Diamondback and give the money to James.

I'd noticed lots of authors and publishers had started using Lulu and other PoD sites. I figured this might be the best solution: I'll do the layouts, put the book on sale and James will get the money. I thought it might be good to spice up the book a bit. I asked Bill Crider if he could do a foreword - sure enough, he did one. I asked Duane Spurlock (whom I knew through the WesternPulps e-mail group), knowing he had done some illustrations, whether he might want to do the cover. And sure enough, he did one. See the result above. I even asked for blurbs. I think I got one from Allan Guthrie, saying "James Reasoner is one of my favourite writers".

Everything was ready. Then I started downloading the thing on Lulu. Nothing came of it. To this day, I don't know what caused it. The file that Lulu would've used to print the book was too small in size - I think my computer is ("was" actually) missing a driver or something like that. Whatever it was, I was so frustrated I didn't know what to do. (My layout software is pirated, which is probably something I shouldn't confess, but that might explain the problems.)

So, basically I had a great book in my hands, but I couldn't do anything with it. I tried to think of other options. One of them was to do a small print run of books and try to sell them, but it would've cost too much, so nothing came of that.

I was very relieved to notice that James has now put Diamondback on sale on Kindle - and if I understood correctly, Bill's foreword to the book is included. And here, for the first time, in public is Duane Spurlock's cover for James Reasoner's Diamondback. (I'm so sorry for the bad quality of the picture. If possible, I'll change it. I think it's on my old computer, this is just taken with my cell phone of a print-out I did. The colours are misleading.)

Oh, what's the book about? It's a great action novel in the mold of classic men's adventure series, but with a dash of social conscience thrown in. James has written some very good short stories about the Mexican immigrants and the same theme is visible here. The opening is great:

It was the heat, Tom Sloane had decided, that brought out the killing violence in people.

He was uncomfortable, sitting on the hard, cracked ground, but at least the sun had gone down several hours earlier, taking with it the broiling hundred-degree-plus temperatures. It looked like the heat wave was never going to break, and in the last two weeks, Sloane had seen more incidents of violence than he usually did in two months. Husbands and wives and children abusing each other, nervous hold-up men gunning down clerks in convenience stores, perfect strangers exchanging gunfire over an imagined insult on the freeway . . . Sloane was no stranger to violence, but it made him tired to think about it. He did what he could, and that was all any man could do.

As you all know, James is very good in action scenes and the same goes here:

Sloane was barely aware of Angela's muffled scream as the tip of the knife came up to meet his punch. He changed the trajectory of it a fraction, and the blade caught his coat sleeve and ripped it savagely. That threw the punch off, making it glance almost harmlessly against Arturo's shoulder.

The nose was the place to go for. In its damaged state, it would be the weakest link in the chain. Sloane feinted, drawing another thrust of the knife, then stepped inside and peppered Arturo's face with quick bursts of his fists. The man let out a howl and took an involuntary step backward, blood starting to show on his bandages. Sloane followed, grabbing his right wrist and hanging on. The left one was bandaged also, where Sloane had kicked it in the Red Bull, and he knew it would be worthless to Arturo. Sloane jerked and twisted again on the other wrist, and the knife fell to the floor, landing without a sound on the thick carpet.
Sloane let go of the wrist and backhanded his opponent. Another blow to the belly doubled him over. Sloane clasped his hands and brought them down on Arturo's neck, driving him to the floor. Dazed, the Mexican's scrabbling fingers found the knife and snatched it up. He put his other hand down for balance and tried to lever himself up.
Sloane kicked the arm out from under him.
So, what else do you need? Check out this link and order Diamondback to your Kindle or whatever reading device you're holding.

Here's the link to other Forgotten Book entries at Patti Abbott's blog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Meek's Cutoff

This quiet Western movie has been mainly on film festival circuit and I saw it two weeks ago in a Finnish film festival. It's an indie Western that doesn't much resemble any other Western movie I can think of.

Meek's Cutoff is a simple story of some dozen settlers who are going somewhere in middle of the desert. They are escorted by a man called Meek, who seems to be as lost as everyone else in this film, even though he thinks he knows all the time where they are. The settlers meet an Indian and capture him and think he can show them the nearest waterspot.

The film is very quiet and slow. There are lots of scenes where people just work and don't say anything. In the scenes with people that are far away their dialogue is only barely heard, and some of the important plot points take place during those scenes! (Put the subtitles on, if you're watching this on DVD.) The climactic scenes are also pretty slow with long shots. There's all the time some tension on, though - this is not a boring film. (Must admit, thought, that I took a nap during the screening. I can blame only the viewing hour, from 5.00 p.m. on. I'll always fall asleep during those two or three hours.)

The ending is cryptic. It feels like there's something you just can't grasp, some inner meaning that just doesn't want to come out. The director Kelly Reinhardt has said though that the ending came about because they ran out of money! Yet there's something intriguing about the ending.

I recommend Meek's Cutoff, but don't expect any chases on horseback, fighting with Injuns or any other Western stuff. Nothing blows up real good. Some critics have compared this to the French director Robert Bresson, but I can't find any deep religious symbolism in Meek's Cutoff (unless the image of lost settlers is a religious symbol in itself). You might compare this to the Western films of Monte Hellman, but Hellman's films are B-westerns on the surface, this isn't. I kinda wished, though, this would've been more cryptic, more difficult to decipher - yet I find myself in some trouble saying something definite about it. Will have to see this again.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My novel will be out

I'll be a real writer next Fall! Just heard yesterday that a small Finnish publishing house will put my historical science fiction/religious satire/horror/hardboiled crime -novel out some time after the Summer. This is a manuscript I've been working on and off from the early nineties (and, if you want to, already in the late eighties, since this is loosely, very loosely based on the first short story I published in 1988!). I don't know what kept me at it, but now I'm glad there was that something!

The working title for the book is "Gotterdammerung" (has been already from the afore-mentioned short story), but it doesn't fit the contents of the book, so I'll have to come up with something.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Erotic fiction

Kate Laity and the beginner's guide to the erotic fiction here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mellors and me

Over at Facebook a friend of mine posted this link about different Lady Chatterley covers. I pointed out that this Argentinian cover was my favourite and said I could even use it as profile picture if someone put eyeglassed in it and made the person bald. Another friend of mine did what was asked, with hilarious results.

New pulp magazine

Moonstone Books launching a new magazine.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I've never seen Xanadu, but Vince Keenan's blog post about it is very funny and actually thought-provoking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Winslow's Savages

I just read
Don Winslow's

It's fucking good.

You better believe it.

Like a treatment for a Tarantino flick
written by a sharp sociologist.

Out now in Finnish

Monday, May 16, 2011

A new book out, once again!

Earlier today I picked up my new book. Sigh, you say, once again? Yes, once again! This is a small pamphlet I edited and wrote a foreword (and published). It's a collection of three short stories (there weren't more) by "Jaska Autero", who was, I believe, a pseudonym. I don't know who he is, and from the stories it seems he was two different writers, since one of the stories differs so much from the others. The stories are horror and science fiction set in the Finnish Continuation War against the Soviet Union. The horror and SF aspects make the stories almost unique and while they certainly are not great literature, they are interesting forays into a pretty uncharted genre.

The stories are called "Kostaja/The Avenger", "Olin kuollut mies/I Was a Dead Man" and "Salainen ase/The Secret Weapon". They were all originally published in the Seikkailujen Maailma magazine in 1944, when the war was already coming to an end (and Finland's defeat). The cover illustration is by an unknown artist and it accompanied the "Salainen ase" story. Here's my foreword to the book (in Finnish).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jeff VanderMeer on Finnish SF/fantasy

American writer Jeff VanderMeer was on a tour in Finland with his wife some weeks ago (I don't know why the word about this never reached me, they even dropped by in Turku where I live to meet people in the SF fandom, but I think that's totally my own fault) and interviewed lots of people. Here's his final essay on the state of SF and fantasy in Finland: "Right now, many of these writers remain just tantalizing possibilities for English-language readers, but it may not remain that way for long. We can’t be certain which of these Finnish writers you’ll be reading in the future, but we are certain you’ll come to know many of their names much better very soon." Lots of great people I know and have worked with and I can't but say VanderMeer is right.

Edit: here's also an interview with the Tähtivaeltaja editor Toni Jerrman. 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Finnish publisher Kari Lindgren dead

My friend, author Tapani Bagge notified me that one of the last large personalities in Finnish publishing, Kari Lindgren, died recently after suffering from a strange disease for three years. This is a big blow to Finnish publishing, since Kari Lindgren did lots of books the other publishers didn't want to touch or didn't know how to handle them. Without Lindgren it's possible we might've never had translations from Joe R. Lansdale, Gerald Petievich, Lawrence Block, Richard Stark... He also did lots of vintage noir and hardboiled crime: Dorothy B. Hughes, Marc Behm, Margaret Millar (whose Like an Angel, one of the best crime novels ever, was published by Lindgren), Dashiell Hammett, Fredric Brown, Ross Macdonald and others, with some classic cozies thrown in.

One of Macdonald's early novels, Blue City, was also one of the last books Lindgren published. It's sad to see him go, but unfortunately his demise was expected.

Lindgren started out in publishing in the middle eighties, with his company called Viihdeviikarit. He wasn't always very good to come up with good names for his outfits, as Viihdeviikarit means roughly "Entertainment Dudes". Viihdeviikarit was a strict paperback publisher, with lots of titles coming out each month. They did many Westerns, from the USA, the Great Britain and Germany (the Lassiter sex paperbacks). Some of the Westerns were Finnish in origin, i.e. the Hulkkonen series by Kari Nenonen, and some others. They also published war and crime paperbacks and some porn.  In the early nineties Lindgren changed the name to Book Studio and reformatted his line: the books became larger trade paperbacks and the lines got classier, with interesting new authors and well-chosen classics, alongside some more obscure titles. He also published lots of movie tie-ins, which the bigger publishers do very rarely.

In the early 2000s, the large publisher Gummerus bought Book Studio, which eventually caused Lindgren to leave and start a new business. This time it became BookKari, under which Lindgren worked out some interesting books, but it was clear his energy was fading. One of the books was Synnyimme lähtemään ("Born to Leave"), in 2006, by Pate Riikonen, who later turned out to be Tapani Bagge and Harri István Mäki, who later on collaborated on a book I commissioned for the Arktinen Banaani publishers.

We worked together on some books. I did my first short story collection for Lindgren. This was a collection of the Finnish singer-songwriter Reino Helismaa's early stories, called ..ja Reikärauta-Brown ("..and Six-Shooter-Brown" or some such). I also copied some short stories and serials by Mauri Sariola for Lindgren to be published as books, and I proposed my translation of Jason Starr's Fake ID for him. He was interested, but for some reason or another he passed. (The book is now coming out from Arktinen Banaani.) We talked about other books and I compiled another set of Helismaa's adventure and crime stories, but Lindgren didn't live long enough to do the book. I also compiled a huge collection of Finnish pulp fiction stories (with a good grant), but nothing came of it. This was sadder news to Tapani though than me, since Lindgren published Tapani's first adult crime novel, Puhaltaja (The Jack), in 2002, with some other books of his and always offered translation work for him. Tapani said he lost a friend.

Friday, May 06, 2011

My book of outdoor stories out next week

The last book for this Spring (well, not exactly the last, but close) is this collection of Finnish outdoor stories, called Outoja jälkiä/Strange Tracks. The stories in the book range from the late 19th century to 2007 and Juha-Pekka Koskinen's weird horror story. It's a strange bunch, but I'm glad I made it - more obscure writers have been rescued! This differs from your usual outdoor story collection in that I've included some pulp magazine stories in, for example adventure and crime stories by Seppo Tuisku and Antero Aulamo.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Finnish SF scene

My friend Jukka Halme talks with Jeff VanderMeer about the state of Finnish science fiction, especially about Johanna Sinisalo and her Birdbrain, just now out in the US, and Hannu Rajaniemi and his phenomenally successful The Quantum Thief.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Fabulous World of Jules Verne

I lured Kauto, my 6-year old son, to watch an ancient black & white Czech animation from an ancient VHS. To my surprise, Kauto watched the whole movie with me! It was Karel Zeman's Vynález zkázy from 1958, known in Finland as Salaisuuksien saari (The Island of Secrets) and in the English-speaking world as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (or Invention for Destruction). It's the film version of one of Jules Verne's lesser-known novels, Face au drapeau AKA Facing the Flag (in Finland as Isänmaan lippu). Zeman is best known for his animation collage in which he uses live actors mixed with stop-motion animation and the original illustrations for Jules Verne's novels. It's very beautiful, as if the fictional world of Verne comes out alive on screen. As an adventure, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne is slow-moving, but it also contains lots of beauty. It's the beauty of a silent cinema, of something happening for the first time and the thrilling sensation we get out of it. Zeman is one of the great artists of cinema.

Here are the opening credits. Seems like you can watch the whole film on YouTube. (More overlooked films at Todd Mason's blog here.)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Where's Lucky Luke?

The Official Blog of the Western Fictioneers, Professional Authors of Traditional Western Novels and Short Stories lists Top Ten Western comics. See the list here. Seems pretty nostalgic to me, but what's missing almost completely are the European comics. There are Blueberry (on 10) and Ken Parker (tie on 21), but where's Lucky Luke, where's Tex Willer, where's Cocco Bill, where's Yakari, Buddy Longway, Jerry Spring, Oumpah-pah... I know, I know, not many of these have been available in English, but here's hoping they will be!

Edit: a friend of mine pointed out there are more European comics included: Alejandro Jodorowsky's Bouncer on 19, Victor de la Fuente's Amargo on 20, Hermann and Greg's much-praised Comanche (tie on 25) and Giraud's and Charlier's (known for Blueberry) Jim Cutlass (tie on 32).