Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some books I've read recently: Bruen, Gischler, Marc Behm, Finnish sleaze

The Annual Summer Reading Report!

I usually try to read something non-work related during the Summer holidays, but with me and my precedence for crime fiction, it's pretty hard to say if it's work or not to read Ken Bruen or Victor Gischler. Bruen's London Boulevard I picked up to be translated in Finnish quite recently and Gischler has been on my possible-to-be-translated list for some time now.

The Pistol Poets was the first of his actual crime books I've read, though. It was actually a bit different than I'd thought it to be - can't really say what I expected, but certainly not a university satire! The Pistol Poets is more than that, since it's also a great crime novel with lots of dark humour and tough violence in it. Gischler spins the multifaceted yarn very well, makes it seem very easy, and many characters are full of life, though not many of them are worthy idols, more like low-life trash! Very heartily recommended, if you're not familiar with his work. (Here's my earlier take on his Vampire A-Go-Go. It was funny as hell, but a bit juvenile at some places.)

Ken Bruen's The Guards was his first Jack Taylor novel for me. I've read earlier London Boulevard, which I liked (with some reservations toward its nature as pastiche), and Rilke on Black, which I thought lacked plot. The same could go for The Guards as well. I'm not sure whether it was just me, but I thought the book should've had more strictly plot-related stuff to it. I couldn't even warm myself up to Bruen's style, though I liked it in London Boulevard. And Bruen's habit of dropping crime authors' and films' names is only a knowing wink that doesn't bring much new to the books themselves.

I'm in the middle of Marc Behm's Eye of the Beholder (1980; in Finnish as Vaanijan silmässä, Book Studio 2002; translated by Mika Tiirinen [the same guy who's done the Finnish Wignalls!]). It's a classic of weird noir, a decidedly non-psychological psychologic crime novel, with a private eye hero, called only Eye, whose existence we soon begin to suspect. Very original, but also, I think, a bit dated. It may be due to the Finnish translation that's not very rich in tone. But then again I think Behm went for monotony. I'd like to hear some comments on this.

I also read a Finnish sleaze paperback from 1979, anonymously published Kova kovaa vasten (The Tough Get Going or something like that). It's a private eye novel, with lots of sex scenes and almost non-existent plot - it's there and it seems to make sense, though one forgets what happened before the last 50-page orgy. Some of the sentences read like it was written by a "real" writer, but I don't know who it is. No one's done any research into these books in Finland, which is a pity.

As usual, I'm sure I'm forgetting something... I haven't read as much as I would've liked to, but there's still Summer left!


Anders E said...

I read EYE OF THE BEHOLDER in English in the early 2000s and absolutley loved it. I can't recall I found the writing monotonous, though. Browsing through it now I can however see it's written in a sparse matter-of-fact style. This happened. Then that happened. But that just fits the narrator only so well. And what a totally original spin on the -- generally speaking -- tiresome serial killer genre it is! How would you say it is dated?

Juri said...

Yeah, you're probably right. This was one of those moments where the actual, physical reading harmed the book more than the book harmed the reading. I was reading two books at the same time and took a pause in reading EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, and then we were travelling, the book with us, and I got only glimpses in between the trips. You know how it sometimes goes. I'll try this again, and in English.

Have you seen the movie?

Anders E said...

Yeah I know, trying to read something when you're not focused just does not work. At such times I just put the book aside and let my mind run through whatever it is.

I saw the movie on TV not long after I had read the novel - one of those weird coincidences. All I can remember is that it wasn't a disaster. But that's all I remember about it so it was probably not very good either. Unforgettable novel, forgettable movie.

Juri said...

I should probably add that I finished the book. Will have to report later, now I'm a bit tired.