Thursday, June 30, 2011

The new issue of Isku out

The new issue of Isku, my crime fiction webzine, is out. Check it out! The fourteenth (!) issue contains short stories by Pearce Hansen, Patti Abbott (in translation, that is), Seppo Tuisku (a vintage story from the late fifties), Jussi Katajala and Tarja Sipiläinen. Pretty good lineup, that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jason Starr: The Pack

As everyone who's been reading this blog for long, I'm a stout admiref of Jason Starr. He writes tough and bleak noir with warmth towards his sociopathic protagonists and antiheroes. He doesn't much revert to mere pastiche of noir clichés and I think he's one of the best examples of how noir can be meaningful literature, both as art and entertainment. It's a small wonder Starr isn't better known.

His later books have gotten more a thriller-like aura, with more pages and bigger issues. There have been talks about big movie adaptations (I seem to have heard about David Fincher buying the option to Panic Attack) and I certainly hope there will be a HUGE movie from his newest novel, The Pack, which I just finished late last night. It's a crime novel like all his earlier novels, but it's also a horror novel. It's also a social satire, in which Starr gets to depict his usual pathetic sociopaths and everyday psychopaths. The middle-class life that Starr writes about is full of anxieties, uncertanties and loneliness. When something bad happens, there's no one out there for you. You're always on your own. Except for a few lunatics, who pray on your bare soul.

In The Pack this theme gets very real, as the protagonist, Simon Burns, ends up in a pack of werewolves. They are very cool guys, seemingly getting along well with their masculinities, taking crap from no one, especially their exes and employees, and Simon, recently fired from his job and spending frustrating life as a stay-home-dad, feels suddenly a burst of new energy. The feeling is misleading, but I'm not telling you more. Starr puts some new twist to the werewolf angle and there's some nice irony in how the werewolf leader combines the utter masculinity and an urge to kill. Jason Starr talks about the theme more in Spinetingler's interview here.

But then again, there's some padding. I can't get away from that. There's too much telling about how someone feels or behaves and about the reasons for that behaviour. Fake ID and Nothing Personal and all the other early novels by Starr have no padding. Is this the price we have to pay to get bigger recognition for a great writer like Jason Starr?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Hell's Hinges, The Terror of Tiny Town, The Phantom Empire, Les Petroleuses

We had our annual Summer meeting of the Finnish Western Society last Saturday. We (seven guys) were at a log cabin in Karkkila, a small town somewhere near Helsinki, and watched at least three western films in the whole. One we watched in part, and one we took a look at.

The best of films was no doubt William S. Hart's silent western, Hell's Hinges (1916). It's a solemn religious drama, in which Hart is a heartless killer who falls in love with a young woman and says goodbye to his past. Hart is very believable as a ruthless assassin. Despite being in black and white and silent, this was the only film that held our interest throughout its whole run. (Well, not everyone's. Someone said: "Next one will have to be a colour film!") I'd really love to see more of Hart's films.

The cult favourites, The Terror of Tiny Town and The Phantom Empire, however wore us out. The first one, famous for its all-midget cast, was way too traditional. Replace the midgets with grown-ups, and I'm sure not many would remember the film, let alone watch it. The Phantom Empire we couldn't make ourselves to watch through. It's just not suited to watch in entirety. I'm sure it would work better with a 20-minute episode every week, just as it was meant to be screened. Both films are better as ideas than as finished products.

The French film, Les Petroleuses/Frenchie King from the early seventies, has the advantage of sporting two very beautiful women in the lead, namely Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale. We couldn't come to an agreement which one is more beautiful. But the film is sadly a spectacle of disjointed events, some very colourful and mildly funny. There's just no coherence to it, which goes on to show that the French prefer spectacle to story-telling. Still, Bardot is very hot in her black outfit, and Cardinale is very, very lovely.

We also took a glimpse at an abysmally bad The Wackiest Wagon Train in the West that was put together from the episodes of Dusty's Trail. That's a TV show I'll never want to see. We lasted about 15 minutes.

I don't know if Todd Mason is making his usual round-up, since there's only one guest post in his blog here. Maybe there's more to come.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: James Hadley Chase: Sucker Punch

Here's a link to an old post about James Hadley Chase's Sucker Punch. More forgotten books at Todd Mason's blog here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: At Close Range

I found this small classic from the eighties I'd never seen in a thrift store. It was an old VHS cassette, but it cost only 20 cents, so I thought I'd grab it. I'm glad I did, since it's a pretty decent film, although not a masterpiece.

At Close Range is a piece or rural noir, with young Sean Penn as the son and Christopher Walken as the father and also as the leader of a ruthless gang of criminals who operate in a small Pennsylvania town. Penn and Walken don't really know each other in the beginning of the film, as Penn lives with his mother (played by wonderfully understated Millie Perkins) and the family tries to reject the father. Penn leads an unhappy life with his mother and gets attracted to his father's exuberant way of life. Complications ensue, and the ending is a tragedy. There are other familiar faces in the crowd: Mary Stuart Masterson as Penn's girlfriend, Christopher Penn as the brother of Sean (as in real life), Crispin Glover as one of Penn's friends lured by the criminal life, David Straithairn and Tracey Walter as members of the gang. There's also Kiefer Sutherland, but I recognized him only in the last scenes.

There are lots of nice touches here and there and some of the scenes are very well done. Some of the small-town scenery and atmosphere reminded me of Twin Peaks. The climax is gripping, with lots of stylishly done shootings. The story about a father and a son allying and then fighting fiercely each other has overtones of a classical tragedy. There's still a feel of distance that might leave you cold. I'm sure this doesn't work well on the small screen. My main grudge, though, is that while Walken is an excellent actor, I just don't buy him as the leader of a Hicksville gang of criminals. Yet the film goes on to show that not all the Hollywood films of the eighties supported the Reagan-era ideology of keeping families under the Father's Rule, as critic Robin Wood has claimed.

The director of At Close Range, James Foley, has an interesting filmography, with lots of noirish films, but seems like he's never done a really good film, though Glengarry Glen Ross comes very close. Some say After Dark, My Sweet is one of the best Jim Thompson films, but I'm not sure if I've seen it.

More overlooked films here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New books out: Duane Swierczynski, Ken Bruen, JP Koskinen

I just won't stop putting out new titles! I received my translator's copies of Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde last Friday, alongside with Ken Bruen's London Boulevard and the Finnish writer, JP Koskinen's Eilispäivän sankarit (The Heroes of Yesterday), which I both had a hand in.

Here's Ossi Hiekkala's great cover for Swierczynski's book. The book is Vaaleaverikkö in Finnish, which is a literal translation. We would've gone for Blondi, but we didn't want the book to get mixed up with Joyce Carol Oates's Marilyn book. The cover wasn't an easy one. We wanted to avoid the easy Sin City banality of this cover, but doing a dramatic cover without any weapons or some such proved very difficult. I think Ossi did a fine job.

As for the Bruen, I only picked the book, located the agent and started the negotiations (and found the translator for it). Koskinen's book I commissioned, but I never edited it (someone else did. It's about an old criminal who's been inside for the last 30 years, and when he's finally getting out, he doesn't understand shit about the new world. It's a very touching book, with some heavy-duty violence and black humor.

This is a nice job, but the titles have been selling too poorly, so it looks like I won't be doing it anymore. There's still Jason Starr's Fake ID coming out, hopefully next year. (Hopefully especially, since it's my translation.)

More on the titles here, alongside with some other books.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The First Charge of the Machete

Since Todd Mason asked, I thought I'd post at least a link to an earlier film post. So this old post about a Cuban avantgarde action film will have to do as a Tuesday's Overlooked Film post.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A new mag out

As you all know, I've been doing lots of different fictionmaggish zines for years now, Isku being the main venue. One of the others has been the decidedly haphazard Jännityslukemisto (Suspense Magazine or some such in English). In it I've published only stories that haven't been good enough to be published anywhere else. I decided to pull the plug on this one, but I had enough stories to do a fourth issue - and it's out now, with the print run of 20! Here's the cover. I think the photo in the cover is from an ad from an outdoor magazine (and it's taken with a cellphone camera!). The blurb below shouts: "Hellishly good killing action!" or some such nonsense. The logo of the magazine is taken from an old Finnish pulp mag of the same name (something I've done before, with Isku and Seikkailukertomuksia and Ässä).

The writers in the issue are me (with two stories!), Heikki Nevala (who just debuted with his horror collection Arvet/Scars from Turbator), Petri Hirvonen (who's done lots of stories for my mags) and Harri Erkki with a vintage porn story from a magazine called Cocktail. There are also two anonymous humorous horror stories - I found them on my old computer, without any note who'd written or sent them. But since they were meant for publication, I couldn't see any harm printing them. My stories are both hardboiled crime, the other one being a humorous parody originally written in the eighties and the other one being an experiment, told in imperative: "Look at the papers again. Shoot. Turn around when the corpse falls to the floor", et cetera. I tried to write this story already some years ago, but nothing came of it. When I started putting the Jännityslukemisto issue together, I decided I'd finish this, regardless of the coherent story and what I'd already written. I think it came out alright.

Here's in Finnish what I wrote about the stories in Facebook:

Heikki Nevala: Auki vain öisin (Heikin vanha novelli, jonka hän heitti ekaksi tarjokkaaksi Verenhimoon, mutta olimme sitten kumpikin sitä mieltä, että hän kirjoittaa uuden, ja se iilimatojuttu onkin tosi hyvä)
Petri Hirvonen: Kuolettava keikka (jos oikein muistan, Petri kirjoitti tämä kasarityylistä actionia edustavan novellin suomi-pulpin jättikirjaan, jota kokosin Book Studiolle viitisen vuotta sitten; kirjaa ei koskaan tehty ja novelli unohtui vuosiksi)
anonyymi: Metsästäjän hetki (jonkun kauan sitten minulle lähettämä kauhunovelli; tiedostossa ei ollut mitään kirjoittajan nimeä ja tiedostomuotokin oli txt)
Lena Erichs eli Harri Erkki: Kuinka mies vietellään (Harri Erkin seksinovelli Cocktailista vuodelta 1972, jonka piti alun perin nähdä päivänvalo uudestaan Mälli-lehdessä, jonka piti olla vanhojen miestenlehtien parodia; sitä ei kuitenkaan tehty, mutta kun tämä oli jo puhtaaksikirjoitettu, niin pitihän se johonkin laittaa)
Juri Nummelin: Paperi (kokeilu, jota yritin jo vuosia sitten, mutta jonka kirjoitin vasta nyt vähän väkisin loppuun, kauheasti juonta tai johdonmukaisuutta ajattelematta: miten kirjoitetaan kovaksikeitetty rikosnovelli imperatiivissa, siis käskymuodossa: "Ammu. Käänny kun ruumis kaatuu maahan" jne.)
nimetön: Tuopillinen tummaa (sama juttu kuin edellä, saman kirjoittajan tekemä, ei itse asiassa mikään huono juttu, mutta tarpeettoman vitsikäs kauhutarina)
Juri Nummelin: 25 donaa (puolen sivun absurdi pläjäys, jonka alkumuoto on teinivuosina kirjoitettu yksityisetsiväparodia; kirjoitin nyt uudestaan blogiini tekemän englanninkielisen version perusteella)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Wild fantasy from yesteryear, but by whom?

"Thousands of flaming torches, reflected from countless carbuncles, filled the king’s palace with marvellous iridescent light. Along the white marble walls, on benches covered in purple, the warriors languished, beautiful young boys kneeling before them to offer them succulent fruits, foaming wines. Boisterous and merry, the men greeted with a roar of laughter anybody who ventured to amuse the company with ribaldry and antics.
In the centre of the hall, dark-eyed handmaidens swayed in lustful dance, like fl owers floating in the spring breeze.
Other maidens stood around the dancers, accompanying their graceful movements with clashing cymbals and wailing flutes. More fiery than the torches were the handmaidens’ eyes - more than wines they stirred the men."

Any guesses where this citation is from?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Joseph Millard's graphic novel

Joe Millard's rare and early paperback-sized graphic novel is available now on Kindle. Jeff Vorzimmer has uploaded the first chapter to be viewed for free on Scribd here. Millard, who later on wrote lots of Westerns, including the ones with "The Man-With-No-Name", did also the art, at least that's how I figure it. Am I right about this? I don't find any mention on the artist on the site.