Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How can someone write this beautifully?

"He is awake, with no idea what time it maybe, or whether, really, he has slept at all. He sleeps poorly these days. Strange, too, how time's become a blur. At first there's no reason to know the time of day, then days themselves give way, finally years. Till only the change of seasons marks another passage, another decline. To remember, he has to think back to where he lived, what rented room or cheap apartment in Gary, Gretna, Memphis, Seattle."

The first paragraph of James Sallis's A Killer Is Dying, not yet published.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Weeds

This is not the TV show, you know, this is the Nick Nolte film from 1987 that has never been released on DVD. Weeds is an interesting, if flawed film (for some reason or another, all my Tuesday picks are interesting, but not very good films) about Nolte who runs an absurdist theater show with his prison mates. Nolte lifts stuff heavily from Jean Genet and almost gets caught.

The major flaw in the film is that you never believe what's happening. The first book Nolte reads is shown to be War & Peace and soon he moves on to Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and the afore-mentioned Genet and the next thing he's an intellectual making theater that's straight out of Sartre and others. The inmates also happen to be great singers and musicians and write their own catchy songs. C'mon! The film is said to be based on reality, but there's no guarantee that this makes believable stories. And Weeds, while occasionally touching, just isn't believable.

How come was I able to see this even when it's not on DVD? I bought an old VHS cassette from a thrift store. I've also seen this on VHS, one of the early films by the director, John Hancock.

More Overlooked Films here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Charles Ardai talks about the lost Cain

Duane Swierczynski talks about the recently found James M. Cain novel with Charles Ardai. Take a look here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: Juri Nummelin: Outoa huminaa, Joe Novak

I was going through bookshelves to put away some books I don't really need and I found my first novel, the self-published Outoa huminaa, Joe Novak ("It's a Weird Buzz, Joe Novak" or some such in English). I read it and, you know what, it's not half bad. Had someone else written the book, I would've really liked it. I read the whole book (it's only some 90 pages though) in one sitting. There were some clumsy sentences in it, but it was more like an ARC that I read, not the finished product, so I may have cleared those parts. Is there more of this kind of stuff available, short, breezy private eye or other crime novels that have an air of absurdity hovering above them? I've been calling this a mix between Carter Brown and David Lynch.

I was going to skip doing more Joe Novaks, but seems like I've enjoyed doing this so much, I'll have to rethink my decision.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

George "Jerry Cotton" Nader's gay porn sci-fi novel

James Reasoner has written about the German pulp series (or Romanhäfte, as the actual term is) in his blog here and here (and here). Just today a friend of mine posted this on Facebook: the 1979 cover for George Nader's science fiction novel Chrome that's about the gay robots of the future! (Or some such, I'm not actually quite sure.) The cover is, shall we say, weirdish - and not very erotic.

And just what does this have to do with Jerry Cotton, you ask. Well, George Nader was the guy who played Jerry Cotton in the German-financed and German-directed movies in the sixties and seventies. I once tried to watch one, but couldn't get very far.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kjell Westö: Lang (A Finnish crime novel)

Well, not actually a crime novel per se, more like a mainstream novel with a crime in its center. Kjell Westö's (from the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland) Lang (2002) is a tale of a celebrity writer and talk-show host who gets dragged down into a strange ménage à trois with a young woman, who has a 6-year old boy, and the son's father, a young man with a criminal bent. Seems like the woman and her former lover are still engaged in a sadomasochistic relationship that ends up in a tragic killing.

Westö tackles many issues, ranging from the verbal abuse that the talk-show host engages upon his interviewees to the larger social abuse the rich engage upon the poor, and the society of the spectacle.  This is all quite interesting and the book has a pretty good narrative drive, but Westö's style is overwritten. This could've benefited of being 40-50 pages shorter, though the last 50 pages were very good.

I don't know if this is translated in English (or any other language the readers of this blog master), but it might work in other languages, as it's not a typically Finnish novel. The themes are pretty global and the narrative is full of urbanisms.

Edit: my friend Tapani Bagge says this novel has been translated in English, he remembers seeing a review of it in CrimeTime magazine. Anyone? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Big Sleep Books: Duane Swiercznyski's "Expiration Date" Winner of 2...

Big Sleep Books: Duane Swiercznyski's "Expiration Date" Winner of 2...: Congratulations to Duane Swierczynski for winning the 2011 Best Paperback Original Anthony Award . The Anthony Awards are given at each a...

Lost James M. Cain novel rediscovered

Hard Case Crime is going to publish an unpublished novel by James M. Cain! Take a look here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Massimo Carlotto: The Goodbye Kiss

I read a review of this books somewhere on-line (can't remember where; I think it must've been Bookgasm, but can't find that one) saying that the protagonist of the book is a much more sleazier scumbag than anyone Jim Thompson ever wrote about. I knew at that instant I gotta have the book.

And it was worth every cent. Massimo Carlotto throws a very lean and mean crime novel, clocking at 144 pages, and you hate all the characters at every step they make, every word they utter. You can't root for these guys, but you just can't turn your eyes away. Carlotto says in an interview that he's not interested in good guys winning, and it clearly shows. It's not easy to say whether the antihero of The Goodbye Kiss wins or loses, though he's still alive in the end, but some confusion is always for good. The violent bits are nasty, but they are over very quickly, with an effective matter-of-fact style. In fact, what makes this so chilling that while Jim Thompson used a non-reliable narrator you just have to believe everything Carlotto's antihero Giorgio Pellegrini says. There's no going back to deception of thinking "maybe he's a looney".

We've been planning a trip to Italy for a week next summer. Reading Carlotto's book I said to Elina: "Seems like anything you do in Italy your money will go to some criminal psychopath." Wonderful stuff! Don't let the sunny feelgood cover fool you.

Nota bene: there's a movie made from The Goodbye Kiss, getting quite mixed reviews from the IMDb crowd. Anyone seen it?

The Finnish Film Archive screenings

I'm just advertising here: the Finnish Film Archive starts its series here in Turku after the summer break. Here's what we have to offer this fall:

Kansallisen audiovisuaalisen arkiston Turun sarja, syksy 2011
Puutarhakatu 1:n auditorio
Näytökset maanantaisin klo 19.00
Liput 5 e / näytös

10.10. Federico Fellini: Vetelehtijät (I vitelloni/Dagdrivarna), Italia/Ranska 1953 • Franco Fabrizi, Franco Interlenghi, Leonora Ruffo, Alberto Sordi • musiikki Nino Rota • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 104 min •

17.10. Lucio Fulci: The New York Ripper (Lo squartatore di New York), Italia 1982 • Jack Hedley, Almantha Keller, Paolo Malco • English version • K18 • 90 min

24.10. Alain Corneau: Piru perii omansa (Série noire/Mordlysten), Ranska 1979 • Patrick Dewaere, Myriam Boyer, Bernard Blier • käsikirjoitus Georges Pérec – Jim Thompsonin romaanista Piru perii omansa / A Hell of a Woman • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 114 min

31.10. Carl Th. Dreyer: Vihan päivä (Vredens dag), Tanska 1943 • Thorkild Roose, Lisbeth Movin, Sigrid Neiiendam, Preben Lerdorff Rye • käsikirjoitus Mogens Skot-Hansen – Hans-Wiers Jenssenin romaanista ja näytelmästä Anne Pedersdotter • suom. tekstit • S • 95 min

7.11. Michael Mann: Veren maku suussa (The Jericho Mile/Blodsmak i munnen), USA 1979 • Peter Strauss, Richard Lawson, Roger E. Mosley • käsikirjoitus Patrick J. Nolan • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 98 min

14.11. Dušan Makavejev: Montenegro eli helmiä ja herjoja (Montenegro, eller Pärlor och svin), Ruotsi/UK 1981 • Susan Anspach, Erland Josephson, Per Oscarsson • English version • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 97 min

21.11. Gennadi Kazanski & Vladimir Tshebotarjov: Amfibiomies (Tshelovek-amfibija/Havsdjävulen), Neuvostoliitto 1962 • Vladimir Korenev, Anastasija Vertinskaja, Mihail Kozakov • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • S • 82 min

28.11. Eric Rohmer: Leijonan merkki (Le Signe du lion/I lejonets tecken), Ranska 1959 • Jess Hahn, Van Doude, Michèle Girardon • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • S • 103 min

5.12. Aleksei German: Ystäväni Ivan Lapshin (Moi drug Ivan Lapshin/Min vän Ivan Lapshin), Neuvostoliitto 1984 • Andrei Boltnev, Nina Ruslanova, Andrei Mironov • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 99 min

12.12. Al Adamson: Dracula vs. Frankenstein (Verimessu/Blodsmässa), USA 1971 • Carroll J. Naish, Lon Chaney, Zondor Vorkov • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K15 • 89 min

14.12. Emir Kusturica: Isä on työmatkalla (Otac na sluzbenom putu/Pappa är på affärsresa), Jugoslavia 1985 • Moreno De Bartolli, Miki Manojlovic, Mirjana Karanovic • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • K7 • 136 min

19.12. David Lynch: The Straight Story USA/Ranska/UK 1999 • Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton • kuvaus Freddie Francis • musiikki Angelo Badalamenti • suom. tekstit/svenska texter • S • 113 min

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

David Corbett's Do They Know I'm Running?

I've been reading David Corbett's articulate and interesting posts on the Rara-Avis e-mail list for some time now and many people on the list have recommended his books, so I thought I'd give one a try. Do They Know I'm Running? is a very serious crime novel, almost more like a mainstream novel (he's being compared to Graham Greene in the back copy), and it touches very serious issues with painstaking details and social criticism.

The book is set in Central America and the story involves hijacking a possible Muslim terrorist into the USA. This is being done with the help of some Salvadorans who are anxious to make a better living up north. The global politics and the Mexican drug lords step into the game and the result is ugly.

As I said, the book is serious. It's almost too serious. It's also a bit too long and there are too many characters, I at least lost track. Well, I started this when I was sick... I also had some trouble getting accustomed to Corbett's literary, somewhat spastic style, but there were many moments of greatness and some beautiful prose. Some of the action scenes were very good too. Corbett manages also to show how even the baddest of the people are usually victims and results of the circumstances. Recommended, but not for fans of more pulpish stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Big Brass Ring

The Big Brass Ring has been getting lots of bad reviews in IMDb, and I can easily understand them, since they are right about many things: the story is convoluted, the character development is hazy, the scenes are dark and the actors don't do much.

But that's because the film-makers wanted it that way. At least that's how I saw the movie. It's made from the last script Orson Welles did, with his companion Oja Kodar, and the director is George Hickenlooper, an interesting film-maker in his own right. (Oh, he died last year! I hadn't realized!) The story is about two indie candidates running for guvernor in a Southern state. William Hurt is the good guy of the two, but he seems to have a secret. It's unraveled slowly, through flashbacks that are not in chronological order.

There are real problems in the film (I don't think a convoluted story or dark scenes are real problems), and that's the fact you can't really empathize with these people. They are pretty much too slight, too far away, too distant, and that's something that I don't think the film-makers (nor Welles in his script) wanted to do. It's just a flaw in the film. Some of the actors don't have much to do, like Irene Jacob, whose journalist character is a bit stiff. One of the problems is also that there's a feeling of undecidedness. In the beginning the film feels like it's taking place sometime in the 1960's, before the civil rights movement and all that, but still it takes place in the present time. This is confusing, since the story itself and the central characters could be better suited to the sixties, as some of them are almost straight out of such films as A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Chase (Arthur Penn's seminal small town film).

As for Hickenlooper, I've also seen his Persons Unknown, an interesting crime film with Joe Mantegna, Naomi Watts and Kelly Lynch.

The Big Brass Ring is also interesting, but probably meant for Orson Welles completists only. At IMDb there's an interesting comment from the script writer, F.X. Feeney. Welles's script seems to have been published as a book.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hard Case Crime dress - and a beauty in high heels!

Fashion designer Hally McGehean will be premiering her first wearable art collection during New York Fashion Week in a two-part fashion event in the Meatpacking District and SoHo. Among her ten featured designs of the show, McGehean will debut her Hard Case Crime dress. The Hard Case Crime dress is made out of nearly 1,000 miniature reproductions of covers from the award-winning Hard Case Crime line of retro-styled paperback crime novels. The skirt features every cover ever published in the series, including works by writers like Stephen King and Mickey Spillane, while the daring backless top is composed of interleaved copies of the cover of BABY MOLL by John Farris, whose cover was painted for Hard Case Crime by the legendary illustrator Robert McGinnis (whose other work includes the movie posters for “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and the original Sean Connery James Bond movies in the 1960s). The outfit’s oversized belt features another McGinnis original, his rare horizontal cover painting for LOSERS LIVE LONGER by Russell Atwood.

Hally McGehean - Pop Up Pop Art Fashion Event
Monday, September 12, 2011
Part One: The Highline Runway Walk, Gansevoort Plaza, Gansevoort & Washington Sts., 5pm
Part Two: Boutique Showing of Collection, SoHo Loft Gallery, 180 Lafayette St, 6th Fl 7-9pm

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kevin Wignall's vampire trilogy

Huh, Kevin Wignall and vampires? Sounds quite an unlikely combination, you say? The writer of noir masterpieces Who Is Conrad Hirst? and Among the Dead? Well, it's happened: Blood is just out, under Kevin's nom de blume, KJ Wignall, and it's quite excellent, in a way the more recent vampire doorstoppers aren't.

There's a funny anecdote in this: Kevin said to me when he came to Finland that he wrote the trilogy several years ago, but at the time he was told that no one's interested in vampires anymore. But then we all know what happened and Kevin sold the trilogy. And Blood's pretty damn good! It's aimed at teenage readers, but I've read lots less mature horror novels. This is full of magic and action (and even some downright scary moments), and the sadness and melancholy that everyone who's read anything by Kevin is bound to recognize. I was ready to read the next volumes at one sitting...

The book is slightly marred by the fact it's written before the recent vampire boom and hence there's not much surprise in what makes Wignall's protagonist run.

I don't like to give away plot points and direct you straight to KJ Wignall's website here. You'll find all the scoop there. And one, not so minor point: this will be published also in Finnish next year.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Oh, I have a new book out

I just put up a lengthy post about my new book in one of my other blogs. It's my first book for children: a collection of fairytales by Finnish writers not usually known as fairytale writers. Take a look here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The new issue of Pulp out

My webzine Pulp has a new issue out. Check it out here. It's in Finnish, mind you, but take a look nevertheless. You might find some nice illos or some such.

Tuesday's (or actually Wednesday's) Overlooked Film: The Humpbacked Horse (1975)

As you're probably aware by now, I'm interested in old animated cartoons and animations in general. I've always been interested in them, but I'm now trying to start a new book project: a book on the history of the animated films. There's only one book on the subject in Finnish and it's been sold out for ages now, as it was published in 1978 (IIRC). As for its contents, it's pretty lightweight, though entertaining.

Developing the project in my mind, I've been watching lots of obscure cartoons, some with my kids. Some of the older Japanese anime films have been largely forgettable, but the Russian cartoons seem to be very good, especially the longer ones. Mihail Tshehanevsky's The Wild Swans (1966) from the H. C. Andersen tale was very stylish and beautiful, alwas retaining its almost art deco artfulness. Ivan Ivanov-Vano's The Humpbacked Horse from a Russian poem that I watched more recently was however more in the vein of a traditional fairytale, though very well drawn.

Ivanov-Vano was one of the foremost Soviet animators, starting out with short subjects in the thirties, and filming The Humpbacked Horse already in 1947 (this previous film was shown in Finnish cinema at the time!) and remaking it in 1977. My dad had the later film on VHS and I loaned it. The quality was already pretty poor, but the film, minus the dreadful dubbing (just one person doing all the lines, with the original Russian lines audible in the back!), was very good, exotic and very well drawn (especially the backgrounds). The storyline featured interesting locals, magic and adventure.

Kauto also got a glimpse from the film and much to my surprise stayed with it until the end. And then yesterday he asked if he could see it again! But alas, the VHS had deteriorated, just in two or three days after my first viewing, and you could see practically nothing. I'll have to haunt this down either on DVD or on a better-quality VHS.

Here's some info on the film, and here's Wikipedia on Ivanov-Vano. More Overlooked Films here.

And here's an interesting item, a satire movie by Ivanov-Vano from the story by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, made already in the 1930's.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

New Finnish crime literature: Bagge, Rönkä, Kilpi

I was down with flu for almost two weeks. I'm still a bit ill, but I'm so behind my work I'll have to start doing something. The architecture book I've been writing for about two years (or at least seems like that already!) is seriously late from all the deadlines and I'm hating it big time.

Okay, I wasn't going to talk about that. I was going to mention three new Finnish crime novels I read while I was sick. One of the books was work-related as I wrote a review of it for a newspaper. 

The best of the three was my friend Tapani Bagge's Kasvot katuojassa (Face in the Gutter, out from CrimeTime), a novel of linked short stories and novellas. Fast-moving, touching at best, always on the side of the losers, at times pretty violent and often funny. Very fast read even though I wasn't quite sure why it had to be done as a novel and not as a collection of short stories. The story goes back and forth in time unnecessarily. (The cover for Tapani's book is done by Lasse Rantanen.)

Matti Rönkä's Väärän maan vainaja (Dead in a Wrong Country, Gummerus) is the new entry in Rönkä's series about Viktor Kärppä, the Russian ex-soldier working as a building contractor in Finland and helping out other Russians, dealing even a bit for the Russian mob. Mediumboiled, always on the side of the losers, usually well written, good descriptions and snapshots of the Russian way of life, but still a bit lukewarm. 

Marko Kilpi is one of the most revered crime writers working now in Finland. He was even nominated for the  prestigious Finlandia literature prize. I can't begin to understand why: his first novel Jäätyneitä ruusuja (Frozen Roses, 2007, reprinted now by his new publisher) is a clumsy and over-written piece of pretentious stuff trying to act as high literature. People say Kilpi has improved as a writer, I seriously hope this is the case.