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.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Condolences to you both, and to the Finnish industry.