Monday, December 24, 2012

Snow sledding

Here's a Christmas present of sorts to all the readers of this blog: the father of my son's friend shot a video about us sledding some weeks back. The song in the soundtrack is, I believe, also by my son's friend's dad. Merry Christmas to you all! (And oh, by the way, you can take a peek at the Xmas glamour at our house: here's my wife in her Christmas dress in her vintage blog.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book(s): The Eighth Circle, Don't Ask, Chip Off the Bloc

Here are three books all of which I've read or tried to read recently.

Stanley Ellin's The Eighth Circle (1958) has come with high praise from many crime fiction aficionados as one of the more original private eye novels. Ellin has written some very good short stories, some of which are classics, and some good films have come out of his novels, but I couldn't get past page 100 or so of The Eighth Circle. Maybe I'm the one to blame, but nothing much seemed to happen. I also couldn't get into Ellin's style. The situation might be different if there were a good Finnish translation of the book, but unluckily this is not the case here. I'm sure many of Pulpetti's readers might like Ellin's book. (The Penguin cover is so great I wanted to use that, even though it's not very American in style.)

Donald Westlake's Don't Ask (1992) is one of his Dortmunder novels. I haven't been a fan of Dortmunders (lately I've found I don't really find jokes funny, especially in a book), but I've liked to read one now and then. This wasn't very entertaining, I must admit. I struggled the book through, as I hoped the book would turn funnier. Beside some mild amusement and some satire on United Nations and some quirky characterization the book seemed a bit forced. I'm actually sorry to say this, since I've liked other books by Westlake very much.

Gar Wilson's Chip Off the Bloc (1986) is something completely different: it's a book in the men's adventure series Phoenix Force that's a spin-off of the Mack Bolan series. I don't really care for this kind of stuff, but I have, shall we say, an academic interest for it. I left most of these books out of my first book, Pulpografia, and I've been thinking about a sequel in which I'd talk about these later men's adventure series. (Seems though I'll never make it. I might settle for a longer article.) This one was written by a guy called Paul Glen Neuman who has a website of his own (he lists at least thirty screenplays he's written, but none of them seems to have been filmed). Neuman has done also other men's adventure series, so I guess you could call him a pro. Chip Off the Bloc is written in a pretty dull way, I must admit: there's no actual development, the scenes just follow each other and something just happens in them. I understand this is supposed to be simple stuff, to be read shallowly and leisurely (which is actually what I did), but I think you could do these books with more imagination and better characterization. Now there's not much life to these people. The book has also some funny outdated stuff on early modems and computers. (I recall reading somewhere that Dan J. Marlowe penned one or two of these books, is this confirmed in the new Marlowe biography? The Finnish edition of this book, by the way, is credited with the original title as "Chip Off the Bloch"!)

More Friday's Forgotten Books here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Django (1966)

This is the original Django film directed by Sergio Corbucci, who's one of the more important Italowestern directors, not in the rank of Sergio Leone or even Sergio Sollima, but follows rather close behind.

I'm not hot on Italian spaghetti westerns, but there's certain grandiose about them I'm slowly getting warm to. I still think Leone is a bit overrated, but there's no danger of thinking Corbucci is overrated. There's no place for him in the cinematic canon, though there are some nice stylistic touches in Django. Some of the picture compositions are striking as well. The noisy renaissance acting is very far away from the stoic Hollywood acting of the westerns, not to mention the outrageous violence. I think at least 150 people die in the film. 

All this said, I found Django mildly entertaining and quite funny at times. None of it makes any sense, but I don't think anyone thought it should. More Overlooked Movies here

Friday, December 07, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Clark Howard: Dirt Rich

I mention this book in my Pulpografia in the entry for Clark Howard, but I've actually never read it - until now. Dirt Rich (1986) is a long, sweeping epic on Texas, oil, fatherless sons, tyrant fathers, absent sisters, treacherous wives and hard-working men. The story starts from 1918 and ends just after World War II, and there are also some backflashes to the days of Wild West. Lots of things happen in the 800 pages of the book.

Clark Howard is an excellent short story writer and he also seems to be a good novelist. There's lots to admire in Dirt Rich, for example how Howard never really tells what a person looks like, but you still get the feel of how he/she acts, moves, reacts, dresses. The real history of a nation is somewhere in the background, but still effecting the acts of individuals.

I know the Friday's Forgotten Book meme is about Ray Bradbury this week, but I just happened to finish this late last night.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Way of the Gun

Christopher McQuarrie wrote the much-admired The Usual Suspects and much was expected from him after that, but it seems to have taken five years before he got to make another film - for some reason or another, he hasn't made another film with Bryan Singer, who, as we well know, has gone on to make successful films (though they haven't interested me as much as The Usual Suspects). 

McQuarrie wrote and directed The Way of the Gun in 2000 and it seems to have vanished somewhat. There's much to blame in the film itself: the lead characters are not sympathetic (or even interesting) in the least, not even in the you-hate-them-but-can't-turn-your-eyes-away way, and the plot seems forced and pretty difficult to follow at times. The film also begins with a scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the film. 

But at the core The Way of the Gun is actually a pretty good neo-noir film about two almost sociopathic criminals who try to make it big kidnapping a surrogate woman pregnant to a shady millionaire and his cold wife. There's not a good human in the film as everyone is only trying to make things profitable for themselves. In the end, though, some of the characters try to make better, but it proves to be futile. The theme of honour comes to the fore, but in the film there's no sense trying to be honourable. 

The climax with its long shoot-out at a Mexican bordello is reminiscent of Peckinpah and The Wild Bunch. The thematics of the film remind one of Peckinpah, but there's something lacking. Maybe by 2000, one just couldn't handle the thematics of honour and betrayal with confidence. And confidence is something that McQuarrie's direction is lacking, though there are some good moments throughout the film. One thing has to be said in the film's favour: James Caan is simply wonderful as an older heavy. 

More Overlooked Movies at Todd Mason's blog

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Gil Brewer: The Brat

I meant to do this for the Friday's Forgotten Book series, but I didn't have enough time on my hands. I've been rather tired lately - frustrated even - and am already on some sort of a Christmas vacation (which the tax refund, paid to me by the state of Finland, makes possible). I've been doing too much work for the past couple of years and it's starting to show.

Sorry, didn't mean to vent. Gil Brewer's The Brat (1957) is a prime example of Brewer's mix of white-collar noir and backwoods exoticism: "the brat" of the title is a sultry babe living somewhere in the Florida swamps whom the lead man takes away to the civilization to live with her - only to notice that "the brat" has something in her mind.

I'm sure The Brat was the publisher's title, since this babe sure is no brat, she's an evil liar and a scumbag. You might call Brewer - or at least his books - misogynistic and you'd well be right. But there's no denying the simple, yet forceful narrative drive in the best of his works. An important issue is also his handling of the bourgeoisie despair: there's not much living beyond the boundaries of the family and work. And when these boundaries break, the nightmare awaits.

I don't really like the cover of the book. It looks like the femme fatale of the book is wearing diapers.

The book is readily available from Prologue Books as an e-book. (I read this from my Kindle and I'm not complaining any about it.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Andrew Dominik: Killing Them Softly

Now, this is how crime movies should be done!

Based on a 1974 novel by George V. Higgins, Killing Them Softly moves mainly through dialogue-driven scenes. I mean: it's mainly just talk. But this is no pseudocool post-Tarantino mannerism, as nor Dominik neither Higgins drive to make it funny. Even though it often is, since I found myself laughing out loud several times, especially to lines like this: "We are not the only smart guys here."

The actors are great, the direction is concentrated and focused, there are no empty scenes - save for some highly esteticized shooting scenes, which I felt were somewhat unnecessary. Dominik also forces the message to the viewer's mind with running George W. Bush's and Obama's speeches on the background almost all the time. But I'm not really complaining, as the picture is otherwise so good.

Here's a good review of the film.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Smokin' Aces

Smokin' Aces is a mildly entertaining post-Tarantino crime film that has lots going for it, but for some reason or another it never really delivers. There are too many characters and plot lines some of which are left undeveloped. Almost all of the characters are way too overblown.

The film has Alicia Keys as a sexy assassin in it, though. I couldn't say anything bad about that aspect.

It also has great ending credits, as evidenced below.

More Overlooked Movies on Todd Mason's blog.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: David Hume: Midnight's Last Bow

Besides being a renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume was also a prolific British crime novelist. His real name was, as Steve Holland here says, John Victor Turner and he lived from 1900 to 1945. He wrote fast, turning out three or four books a year.

His best known creation was private eye Cardby, and Steve Holland says that in these books Hume representend the hardboiled school, being probably the first British writer to have a hardboiled private eye as his hero. I haven't (as yet!) read any of those, but they were hugely popular in Finland in the fourties and fifties. I remember my dad talking about them and I also seem to remember he was also confirmed you could say the books really were hardboiled. (He said the books were "Karppi" books.)

I realized, pretty late (but not too late, since this book will be finished by 2020, if even then), that I'll have to include Hume in my book of British crime paperbackers. I picked up some of his books from a thrift store and after finishing Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, I read Hume's book Keskiyö, originally Midnight's Last Bow.

Now, at first I thought I ran into a bibliographic dilemma, since at first glance Hume didn't seem to have book with this title. Maybe, I thought, someone had been commissioned to write new books under Hume's moniker. But no such thing, as I found out in this fine post by Steve Lewis at his Mystery*File blog. It seems Hume wrote shortish crime novels featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Sanderson for the British weekly paper Thriller and they were collected in two volumes, from which the Finnish translations were picked up and published in separate paperbacks. Hence Keskiyö/Midnight's Last Bow is a very slim book, clocking in at 102 pages.

It's also a pretty quick read. There's no the hardboiled style of the Cardby books here, instead we have a very matter-of-fact style of later police procedurals here. Sanderson moves through the London underworld searching for the mysterious thief Midnight who's rumoured to be making a big caper. There are lots of characters and, in what turned out to be careless reading, I lost myself and in the end I didn't really know who it was they arrested. My bad entirely, as it seems Hume/Turner wasn't a sloppy writer. The emotionless narration was entertaining enough that I'm not dissatisfied with the fact that I'll have to read more Hume in the future.

The cover presented here is the first Finnish edition from 1939. I read the second edition from 1962 with a different cover.

I notice too late that due to Thanksgiving Day Patti Abbott isn't making her usual round-up of blog posts this Friday, so I'll just link to the earlier week's round-up.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Megan Abbott: The End of Everything, pt. 2

The End of Everything is a very beautiful book, hauntingly written - it was actually pretty hard to get into the rhythm of Megan Abbott's writing, its clipped sentences, repetitions and allusions. I found the book demanded some quiet around it, you couldn't read it in passing, just a few pages at a time, you had to concentrate.

As Megan has herself pointed out, there's a strong link to Twin Peaks in The End of Everything. There's the friendship of two young girls in a small town, and suddenly another one disappears, for apparently no reason.

This is a quiet crime novel, almost not a crime novel at all (the Picador edition I read seems to make that quite clear what with the cover). There's only one person killed in the course of the book (I'm not sure if this is a spoiler or not). Up to the middle, the reader hasn't a clue of what's been going on. The secrets stay hidden until the very last pages - and linger on even after the book is over. The sexual tension in the book is almost overwhelming, but there's no actual erotic content in the book. You can't make a mistake this is a book written by a feminist, but Abbott doesn't shy away from showing how awful women and girls can be.

Strongly recommended. I'll be interviewing Megan shortly (after I've read Dare Me, that is) for a Finnish magazine, I'll post the results here as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park

I just saw this TV-made movie on 35 mm print last Monday. It's supposed to be a horror movie, but it's almost a kiddie picture. The film's not very good, to put it mildly (though it was directed by veteran Gordon Hessler), but its cheerful jerkiness is entertaining throughout. Wouldn't you laugh at Gene Simmons acting badly and throwing flames out of his mouth to the sound of a lion roaring? The Kiss guys have also raybeams coming out of their eyes! And they can fly!

As for the music, I don't really care for Kiss, but some of the song are actually pretty good power-pop items.

Here's a sample from the film with "Hotter than Hell" to other lyrics.

More Overlooked Movies at Todd Mason's blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Modern Noir

Great Pinterest board by Brian Lindenmuth on Modern Noir. Lots of great books and lots of books I haven't read (some I haven't even heard of). Some I managed to get translated in Finnish.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Megan Abbott: The End of Everything

I'm on page 90 and it seems nothing but excellent so far. Might be her best, but I haven't as yet read Dare Me.

My earlier Megan Abbott reviews here, here and here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Death Weekend (1976)

Death Weekend is one of the Canadian exploitation movies made in the seventies and eighties, and this one was strictly made in the wake of Deliverance and other horror movies about hicks terrorizing nice city folks. Death Weekend, however, doesn't portray any of the city folks being very nice.

Produced by young Ivan Reitman, Death Weekend is actually a pretty good film, with solid direction by veteran TV director William Fruet and good actors, mainly with the menacing Don Stroud as the main terrorizer. Brenda Vaccaro is also good as the terrorized woman. She is spending a weekend on a cottage owned by a Corvette-driving dentist playboy, a sleazy scumbag who takes pictures of women he's taken to his cottage. The film begins with a good car chase the terrorizers lose, hence the revenge on the playboy and his woman. 

Everyone in the picture is a scumbag, save for Vaccaro, who's resourceful, strong and knows how to use things (which the dentist doesn't do). One might say Death Weekend is an attack on self-content petty bourgeoisie and also a description of the threats it's facing. There's a frightful scene in the middle of the film where the gangsters start to destroy the playboy's place, throwing things, smashing furniture, books, bottles, mirrors etc. It goes on and on - a whole way of life is being ruined here, almost in a way that an absurdist or surrealist theater group might do. Antonin Artaud might've liked this film. 

Having said that, it's a mild disappointment that Vaccaro's revenge is a little too easy. The major flaw in the film are the last seconds which may be telling that Vaccaro fell in love with his rapist. It's pretty ugly, given the film doesn't show the rape scenes in an erotic way of any kind. 

There's no DVD of the film at the present, but I managed to see a 35 mm print. The colours of the print had started to fade, but not too much. Some of the scenes seemed to be cut. 

Here's the Canuxploitation Site review of the film with more background on the makers. 

More Overlooked Movies here

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

David Ayer: End of Watch

Earlier today I saw David Ayer's new film End of Watch. It covers the same ground as Ayer's previous films Training Day and Dark Blue, which he only scripted. There are also some of the same directorial stylistics as in those two films, especially Training Day, which, in retrospect, might seem to be more Ayer's than its director's, Antoine Fuqua's film. Neither of the two films are entirely successful (see my short reviews here) and the same goes for End of Watch.

It's almost entirely shot through recordings made by Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Brian Taylor, an obnoxious and adventurous cop who acts a bit macho. He keeps a video cam with him all the time and adjusts two tiny recorders on him and his partner's shirtpockets. There are also some surveillance camera shots and other similar stuff. But the film's fault is that the use of these devices is not fully consistent. The same problem lies within the script as well. There are some unmotivated characters, who are not as well developed as they should be. And the final meaning of the film - what Ayer is trying to say - remains unclear. There are some hints that Ayer means to say the war on drugs is futile, but I should say Oliver Stone (and of course Don Winslow) cover that ground much better in his Savages. There are some scenes that are shared by both Ayer and Stone, but whereas Stone veers towards crazy drug fantasy, Ayer tries to remain on the realistic side. Most of the time, he succeeds and there are some very intense moments throughout the film.

The Finnish title of the film is pretty bland: Poliisit, which means simply "Cops". I paste here a comment made by my friend Sami on Facebook and try to provide a translation: "Heh, tai sitten [nimenä voisi olla] "Kyttäkaksikko tappolistalla"... maahantuojan itse keksimänä mainoslauseena "HUUMEGANGSTERIEN varpaille astuminen käynnisti VERIRALLIN!" Ja ikärajana tietenkin komeasti K-18 ("Vellihousut, pysykää kotona!")" ("Yeah, and the new title could be "The Cop Duo On the Kill List"... with the blurb "Stepping on DRUG LORDS' toes started A BLOODPATH! It should have to be X-rated, with another blurb: "If you're chicken, stay home!" Or some such nonsense.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Michael Dirda on Chandler

Here's Dirda's review on a new biography of Raymond Chandler: "As this new biography by Tom Williams reminds us, the chronicler of Southern California corruption is in multiple ways a hyphenated man, constantly apart or between, neither this nor that, both charming and weird."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Straight to Hell and assorted Western-themed oddities

Some weeks ago we held the annual summer meeting of the Finnish Western Society in which I've been the chairman for over ten years now. What we really do is publish the magazine called Ruudinsavu, meaning Gunsmoke, with articles, essays and reviews of all things western. In our annual summer meetings - this time not held during the summer, as you can see - we have a habit of watching some pretty stupid and outlandish western films, such as The Terror of Tiny Town or the Czech Lemonade Joe. This time we watched - or actually tried to watch - some five films. We really failed at three. Here's a lowdown.

The first one was Winnetou, the German-made film with Lex "Tarzan" Barker in the lead as Old Shatterhand. The scenery of the film shot in Yugoslavia was very nice and there was some nice action, but we had the film only with the Bulgarian subtitles and it wasn't even dubbed in English, so we pretty much gave up on it and went to sauna. [Edit: I fixed this bit, since it was explained to me that Barker played Old Shatterhand, not Old Surehand - just have to wonder where Karl May picked the names for his characters!]

After sauna we ate chili with tortillas and watched Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (1987), a film I'd always wanted to see, but for some reason always failed. I've liked everything I've seen by Cox (especially Repo Man and Highway Patrolman), but this proved to be a disappointment. Well, it was said to be disappointment already when it came out. There was still some pretty cool and outrageous pre-Tarantino violence and some familiar faces throughout the film. Not much sense in any sense of the word, though.

Then we tried to watch the only really good film in the bunch, the Portuguese sardine western (cf. spaghetti western) called Estrada de Palha, Hay Road in English. The story about a Portuguese translator of Thoreau trying to right some wrongs with his rifle reminds one very much of Budd Boetticher's and Monte Hellman's minimalist westerns, but it was so slow-moving the other guys didn't want to watch it. Here's the trailer, though.

Our host, Sami, had bought some Turkish pirated movies some years back and one of them was western-themed. I forgot the title already, but it was about a stupid jerk who truly loves his westerns and wears a Stetson all the time and beats the big town baddies just with his luck. Without any titles, we gave up on this pretty soon. I don't really know why we even tried. It was fun for the first 15 minutes, I guess.

The last film - and we were pretty wasted at this time - was the godawful The Legend of Alfred Packer (1980) that looks like some guys from the small town summer theatre get lost in the desert during winter and start eating each other in scenes that are lit only by candlelight. There's no word to describe this atrocity, but we did have some fun with it, especially with the beards everyone's wearing. I don't know why, but the ancient Finnish VHS cassette boasts the director of the film has won the Academy Award (actually it says he won the "Oskar", whatever that is), but I didn't know there were those for the worst films.

I think the other guys were left watching the 1994 Bad Girls, but I left home to get some sleep. It was a fun night, but not for everyone.

More Overlooked Movies here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New publications

I just picked these new publications earlier today from the publisher and the printers. From the left: a small collection of Olavi Karjaliini's really weird stories from the 1830's, the new issue of Seikkailukertomuksia / Adventure Stories and the small booklet containing my translation of Ray Banks's hilarious PI story "Dirty Barry".

The Karjaliini book is a true oddity. I was going to publish it myself, but then it came to me to ask my regular publisher Turbator if they wanted to do it. And they did. These are very crudely written stories in dated vernacular, published in Elias Lönnrot's (the guy who did Kalevala) magazine Mehiläinen / Bee. None of them have ever been published in antiqua font, so I typed them up and wrote a short foreword. Turbator did a print run of 100.

The issue of Seikkailukertomuksia is the fifth and it will be the last one as I simply don't have enough time or energy to do these things or to broaden the reader base. The issue contains six stories:

Jussi Katajala: Hämäys (a new western short story by a good writer)

H. de Vere Stacpoole: Ihmeellinen muisti (published originally in Finnish Kiki 12/1929, translation by unknown, a mystery story by classic of the adventure genre, but I've been unable to locate the original title)

Iisakki Evä: Bora-Boran valkeapää: kertomus Etelämeren saarelta (published in Lukemista Kaikille 23/1934, originally probably a Swedish story, based on the fact that the story is accompanied by illos by a Swedish illustrator, Gunnar Ljungdahl - nevertheless the first real zombie story in Finnish I've encountered!)

Eino Leino: Laulu Vuorilammella (published in the book called Päiväperhoja, 1903), a weird, somewhat horrorish short story and a political allegory from the classic writer whose short fiction I've earlier published in Isku and Ässä

Juri Nummelin: Valkoisten jättiläisten valtakunta (the last installation of my sword and sorcery serial with the last Bjarmian in the lead, facing some white giants and their squid-like leader; will publish the serial later on as a paperback, fully edited and rewritten)

Hannu Väisänen: Mannerheim vignettes (some short-short stories about Marshal Mannerheim and his encounters with the classic adventure fiction heroes)

As for Ray Banks - well, he's Ray Banks. Go read the original story in English, it'll do you good. Both of my publications have very limited print runs. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Robert Colby: The Captain Must Die

Thanks to Kindle and Prologue Books, I was finally able to read this magnificent crime paperback by Robert Colby that has been getting praise from the likes of Ed Gorman for some years now. I've earlier read some very good short stories by Colby and his paperback novel Beautiful but Bad (Monarch 1962), but this one has eluded me. Not anymore, of which I'm very glad.

The Captain Must Die (Gold Medal 1959) is one of those late fifties to early sixties noir paperbacks that tell about paranoia, broken dreams and people's hatred towards each other. This is firmly set in the world of well-being suburbs and tells about what's going behind the happy facade. This is also about the effects of war and the frustration that it breeds. Colby weaves his plot smoothly, albeit he has also fragmented it in a way that seems way ahead of its time - at least for a 50-year old crime paperback! Some scenes are very exciting and suspenseful. The ending may a be a bit too happy, though. (The cover lets us suppose it's a war novel. It's not - the war is in the background all the time.)

Here's Cullen Callagher on Colby's novel, and here's Ed Gorman, calling it a masterpiece. Here's Peter Enfantino's essay on Colby. Load the novel here. (And congrats to Prologue Books for doing this. There were some formatting and scanning errors in the Kindle version, but not so many that I'd actually complain.)

More Forgotten Books here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Strange One (1957)

I think this one really qualifies as an Overlooked Film, especially in Finland, where it's never been shown in the Finnish Film Archive's screenings and it was last seen in TV in 1971. There is a rather recent DVD, but there hasn't been much talk about the film, at least in the venues I follow. I managed to see the film last Monday, when it was - for the first time, I believe - shown in the Film Archive screening here in Turku.

The Strange One was made in 1957, during a time when there was discussion on the new wave of American film making and the likes of John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Lionel Rogosin and Irving Lerner. Jack Garfein fits the bill perfectly. The Strange One is a somewhat noir-influenced film about sociopathic Ben Gazzara who bullies other cadets and freshmen around a military academy somewhere in the South. Gazzara, making his film debut here, is simply wonderful in his moves and gestures. He's great in that he makes sure he's actually the only likable character in the film, albeit his misanthropic attitude. All the other characters in the story are stupid or irritating, so the viewer gets to sympathize the wrong guy. There's a strong noir undercurrent in The Strange One, one we know from the work of Jim Thompson and Jason Starr.

You probably realize that "The Strange One" refers to homosexuality - the title could be given to a gay/lesbian sleaze paperback of the early sixties. There's lots of homosexuality in The Strange One, from the latent homosexuality manifested in Gazzara's violent threat to the obviously homosexual writer of the barracks who wants to call Gazzara "Nightboy", clearly a queer moniker. The depiction of homosexuals in the film isn't overtly sympathetic, though.

The ending of the film could've been stronger, but it also has a surprise not many can see. This is based on Calder Willingham's novel End as a Man - I have it, but have never read it, any comments on it? The script was also by Willingham, from the play he made from the novel.

The Strange One is an alluring film that was ahead of its time in its depiction of homosexuality and sociopathic behaviour behind the walls of an institution. Some have said it's an analysis of American fascism. Whatever name you give the phenomena it depicts, The Strange One is still a powerful film in its own, marred only by some staginess and some overblown acting. What's most curious about the film is that the director Garfein is an Auschwitz survivor! His other film, almost dialogueless Something Wild, seems also very interesting.

More Overlooked Films here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Urban Waite: The Terror of Living

This debut novel by the 28-year old writer made its way, rather surprisingly, into Finnish. It's a very good crime novel, reminiscent of work by Cormac McCarthy (especially No Country for Old Men) and Robert Stone, at times perhaps by Elmore and Peter Leonard. Urban Waite isn't going for comedy, though, like the Leonards at times do.

The Terror of Living is a sad novel about oldish criminals and ex-cons. There's also a young marshal, who's trying to make past wrongs right and catch the dope peddlers. There's also the Vietnamese mafia and a serial killer who's sent to find the lost drug loot. There are some very ugly moments, but the over-all effect is melancholic and lonely. Waite's people are lost in remote landscapes and trying to grasp each other and failing to do so. Comes quite highly recommended.

The Finnish title is Pelon rajalla (On the Border of Fear or some such). Thanks very much for Karisto for publishing the translation! I'm a bit afraid the book will be lost amidst all the Scandinavian megabores and other superthrillers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday's, er, Wednesday's Overlooked Movie: Best Seller

When I first saw this film back in the day, I was very surprised to see a clever, critical and well-thought crime film. It has stuck with me for years, but you know what happened when I just saw the film again for the first time in 20 years?

It wasn't that bad, really. Especially given that I found the VHS cassette in a trash bin, and the explosive first scene - the big caper with Nixon masks on the robbers - was left out from the TV-taped film. The film was still entertaining and interesting enough to warrant the revisit, but the film suffered from being too much from the eighties, you know, full of testosterone, but still with somewhat stilted narration. There are holes in Larry Cohen's script and the whole concept of the film seemed a bit implausible, but the character of James Woods is left vague enough to stir up interest. Brian Dennehy is his usual affable good, but I'm not sure if he's convincing as a cop author.

But still, criminally overlooked if you look at the eighties' cop films in general. Best Seller doesn't ask easy questions nor does it give easy answers. It's just that you don't really know what the question is.

Hey, Vince Keenan reviewed the movie here!

More Overlooked Films here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

My Kindle

I just bought a used Kindle via net and received it today. I've already registered it and downloaded - is that the right word here? - all the 81 free e-books I've earlier downloaded from Amazon for the Kindle Reader I've tried to use on my laptop. Seems like I've got a shitload of new noir and hardboiled from writers like Dave Zeltserman, Anthony Neil Smith and Roger Smith, with some classics from Prologue Books, like Whit Masterson and William Campbell Gault. If only I had some extra time in my hands...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Al Nussbaum collection!

Al Nussbaum was a famous bankrobber and a friend and colleague of the hardboiled classic Dan J. Marlowe who churned out short stories in the early seventies. His son is now raising money to publish a collection of Al's stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My newest book

Here's the cover for my newest book. It's a collection of short stories with private eye Joe Novak, earlier published in my self-published magazines (Isku and Ässä) or in some one-off booklets. There are also two previously unpublished stories, my foreword and Tapani Bagge's short preface. The great pulpy cover is by Timo Ronkainen.

Here's the entry for Joe Novak that I haven't updated for Kevin Burton Smith in years, it seems!

The title of the book translates as "The Case of the Frozen Detective". All the stories are titled in this manner, there's "The Case of the Former Partner", there's "The Case of the Old Case", there's "The Case of the Stuttering Neighbour" (whom Joe Novak almost shoots). My favourite is "The Case of the Windowless Monad", but we just couldn't use it in a title. The caption on top translates as "Murders, gals and transvestite cops!" (There's only one, though.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Goodbye, Uncle Tom

The mondo documentaries were a fad in the sixties carrying on till the seventies and even the early eighties. The genre was born in the hands of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi in their dubious early film Africa Addio (1966) that was blamed for racism in its depiction of what happens to Africa after the white Europeans leave the continent.

I haven't seen Africa Addio, but I just recently saw another film by the same duo, called Addio Zio Tom AKA Goodbye, Uncle Tom (1971). It's another exploitation documentary, using lots of footage of sex, rape, killing, maiming and torture. It's also a political film, since it's about the rise of Black Power in America in the late sixties and about the slavery of the earlier centuries. All the scenes are acted out, as there are understandably no archive films about the time of slavery. This is by no means as clever as the Cuban The First Charge of Machete.

Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very shocking film with all its violence and gratuitous sex, including even minors. It's clear that the directors want very much to condemn the exploitation of slave business and the bad treatment of the Africans, but still they use it to depict sex and violence to attract audience. Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very confusing film: I really didn't know what to think about it. It's also a bit too long, but the main problem is that it never really gives the word to the Africans or the Black Power activists of the sixties (it even at times ridicules the African-Americans of the late sixties, either for the lack of political consciousness or at their funny seriousness), and with this gesture it becomes clear that Jacopetti and Prosperi want to shout at white Americans: "Watch out, the niggers are coming and it's all your fault!"

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Edit: Earlier I had used Mondo Case as an example, but I was pointed out that I was actually talking about Africa Addio.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More old animations

I watched the whole VHS cassette I mentioned earlier having the fifties' Disney animated short Susie, the Blue Little Coupe. Found out there were many interesting cartoons I had no prior knowledge of and some that were not very easily available in other formats when the cassette was published (which, by the way, took place in 1999, though I'd thought it would've been an older publication - perhaps it was a republication of an older one).

Billy Mouse's Akwakade, seemingly redistributed in the late sixties on television under another title (which I already forgot), a parody of an Esther Williams swimming film:

Parrotville Post Office, a 1935 cartoon by Burt Gillett made for Van Beuren Studios:

Dave Fleischer's Little Lambkin from 1940:

A Waif's Welcome, another Van Beuren animation directed by Burt Gillett:

Strolling Through the Park from 1949 made for Famous Studios. Sorry, no YouTube link for this. Quite stylishy animated, and there's also a sort of karaoke part for everyone to join the singing.

And finally Spirit of '43, a war-time Disney propaganda film, which I thought were not very well available in the nineties. Now they are of course available on DVD.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: The Mark of Zorro

I've been compiling the new issue of Ruudinsavu (= Gunsmoke), the official magazine of the Finnish Western Society. I've been dreaming about the issue dedicated to the Zorro phenomenon, to the movies and comics and other stuff that's been made about him. It seems like it's now coming true, with me writing the article on Johnston McCulley who originally invented the character and wrote the first stories about him.

McCulley wrote four novel-lenght stories about Zorro, but weirdly enough only the first seems to have been published in book from. Can this be true? And the first one, originally "The Curse of Capistrano", later published as The Mark of Zorro, the title of the Douglas Fairbanks film of 1920, is now available only in the POD edition from Wildside Press. (It's okay, but it has an ugly cover, with McCulley's name written wrong ("McCully") and the book has some formatting and scanning errors.) How can this be? McCulley died in 1958, so his work is technically still under copyright - except seemingly for The Mark of Zorro, since I don't think Wildside Press is paying anyone anything for the rights of book. Is there a problem with McCulley's heirs? I notice Googling around that there's been talk about the collected Zorro short stories coming from Black Dog Books, but so far nothing.

Back to the actual book. "The Curse of Capistrano" was published in All-Story Weekly in 1919, making Zorro one of those long-living heroes originated in the pages of a pulp or other fiction magazine, just like Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes. The story was fast made into a movie and hence the book was getting to be known as The Mark of Zorro.

The book is entertaining, and though it's dated in many ways (Zorro never kills anyone, except one guy in a duel and that's perfectly alright for everyone concerned), it's still a quick read. McCulley uses a highly sophisticated style, one he probably thought suits the early 19th century Spaniards, and at times it's a bit too funny - unintentionally. The book's also staged like a play, with far too few scenes for action and too many of them take place indoors. There are some good battle scenes to make up for the staginess. The basic gimmick - that Zorro and Diego Vega are one and the same guy - is basic knowledge to everyone now, so the book loses one of its advantages at first sight.

I'd really like to read the other McCulley Zorros, but it seems it's almost impossible, unless I pay some real money for the old pulps they were published in. (Make sure to note these Zorro tie-ins from Sandra Curtis that to my knowledge have never been published in English.)

The weird things don't end here, by the way: McCulley's Zorro was never published in Finnish. We've had only the movies and the Disney TV show and Steve Frazee's novelization of it.

Other Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jason Starr's Tough Luck Redux

Jason Starr's Facebook status from earlier today: "Handed in screenplay MICKEY PRADA (based on my novel Tough Luck) for Michael Rapaport to direct."

This is great news. Here's my old post on Tough Luck.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ben Haas

Lynn Munroe has just posted an excellent essay and a thorough bibliography on Ben Haas in his website. Ben Haas was of course better known - at least here in Europe - as John Benteen, the writer of the delightful Fargo series. Lynn Munroe writes in length also about Haas's sex and sleaze paperbacks, many of which were previously unearthed.

I haven't read much Haas, but along with the Fargos I'll heartily recommend Big Bend as Richard Meade and some of his Lassiters and Cutlers. (Why not all of them? Because I have read only few. All have been consistently good.)

Oops! There's no Wikipedia entry for Haas! Work up one!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Susie, the Little Blue Coupe

Finland also had its share of cheap VHS cassettes loaded with old animated cartoons that had fallen out of copyright, mainly from the small studios, like Van Beuren, and stuff from the thirties and early fourties. I've been buying them cheap from thrift stores and other places for some time now - not all of them are available on DVD, and as you are well aware, I'm interested in the history of animation (I even have an unsold manuscript on the subject).

But this I'd never seen - I didn't even actually know it existed. And I sure didn't know there were Disney films that have fallen out of copyright. The video cassette looked awful with a very bad recreation of the Little Blue Coupe on the cover, but since I pack a cell phone with a net access all the time, I was able to Google the film to know it was worth the 20 cents. Well, I might've bought it nevertheless.

This small film was directed by Clyde Geronimi, who later on directed lots of Disney feature-length classics, like Cinderella and Peter Pan (to be exact on this, he was one of the directors on those movies).

The cassette holds some half dozen other animated cartoons from the thirties and early fourties, but this was clearly the gem of the bunch. I'll probably write something more about the other movies later.

Move overlooked movies at Todd Mason's blog. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

New sleaze novel just coming up

As some of you are aware, I've self-published two sleaze crime paperbacks in 2010 and 2011. This year will see yet another sleaze novel, but it will be a double, just like the old Ace Doubles - or actually the Midwood Doubles might be a more appropriate reference point here!

The other book was written by a friend of mine who wanted to use the pseudonym Carlos Caramba. I'm still using my old moniker Mikael X. Messi. Both books have the same title: Runkkuloma Rivieralla. It means something along the lines of "Jacking Off at Riviera" and it refers to the idiotic Finnish title of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday (I know, I know, they aren't at Riviera in the film!). It also refers to a once popular vacation spot at Masku, near the town of Turku, that's known as Riviera.

The cover photos are found material, the other one is from an old LP, the other one from an old C-cassette. I guess no one will come asking about copyrights.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just a work-related update

I've been working my ass off lately, writing articles and reviews for the magazine of the Finnish Western Society, Ruudinsavu (= Gunsmoke), getting some of my future books together (been working on several projects on Finnish history and the history of misanthropic thought - not much pulpish content here), translating Lovecraft's essay Supernatural Horror in Literature... He's an awful writer, you know? I think there must be more, but I keep forgetting. None of these bring much money, I'm sad to say. I keep reviewing some books from time to time, but for some reason or another they always end up on the boring side - the most recent example being a new thriller by Finnish writer Max Manner, which I barely managed through.

I'll try to work up some decent blog posts in the near future.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Patrick DeWitt: The Sisters Brothers

Catchy title, ain't it? I'm in a minority here, but the title is probably the best thing in the book that's been celebrated everywhere it's been published, including Finland. (Patrick DeWitt also came here to promote the translation. I was away travelling, otherwise I would've made an interview with him.)

Okay, I'll take some of that back. The Sisters Brothers is a book filled with lots of funny stuff, some of it absurd, some of it downright scary or nasty, some of it so disjointed it doesn't have much to do with the rest of the book. There's something demanding respect in the way DeWitt writes a western novel without any of the usual western themes. There's no juxtaposition of Wilderness and Civilization, there's no Shane character trying to decide into which world he belongs, there are no cattle drives, there are no lone cowboys, etc., etc.

The book is filled with intentional anachronisms, such as a hired killer demanding a low-carb dish, since he wants to lose weight. Almost none of these felt funny to me, only clever and not very clever at that. The forced cleverness was the most annoying thing in the book to me. The irony felt too obvious and too overworked. I thought this might be called "The Hipsters Brothers", since this is clearly directed to urban 25-30-year-olds who dwell in irony. Which is of course okay with me, if there are new western readers this way. But this wasn't for me, though I somewhat respect the gesture.

And I totally understand this is an old fart speaking here, but there are better ironic western novels out there, such as Charles Portis's True Grit. I'd also call forth Charles Locke's The Hell-Bent Kid. I admit I'm not particularly well-read in the revisionist anti-western western here, but some of the most-mentioned include Roy Chanslor's The Ballad of Cat Ballou, Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Thomas Berger's Little Big Man and E. L. Doctorow's Welcome to Hard Times (made into a movie).

I don't see a line leading from them to DeWitt's novel. I don't honestly know what that means.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Peter Rozovsky on hardboiled

In his blog I too rarely read Peter Rozovsky has started a new series of posts: he looks into the classic American hardboiled crime fiction. Here are his posts on Lionel White, Edward Anderson (Thieves Like Us), James M. Cain, Dan J. Marlowe and Robert Silverberg (admittedly a small one) and finally Dan J. Marlowe (again!), Paul Cain and Jim Thompson. He has also some other fascinating posts on different subjects, go read them all!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sidney Lumet: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

There have been lots of raves about this movie, but I managed to see it only last night on Finnish TV. And indeed it turned out to be worth of the raves: a noir thriller worthy of the best Gil Brewers, Harry Whittingtons and every other working-class noir novel of the fifties and early sixties. It's great to see veteran director Lumet working at the top of his form.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are very good as Lumet's laymen who desperately need money for various reasons. They plan to rob the jewellery store of their parents. Of course everything goes terribly wrong. The family relations rise to front and the father, played by the great Albert Finney, gets suspicious. The ending is ironic and cruel and also plausible in every way.

If you like your noir believable and about ordinary people and not about sick, traumatized psychos, check this film out. If you like your noir without empty pastiche or knowing winks to the classics of the genre, check this film out.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Discussion on female noir

Some interesting comments on writers such as Ursula Curtiss, Charlotte Armstrong and others. Didn't know Shelley Smith could fit the bill.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Tales of Suspense audio book

I bought this for one euro from the local recycling center. It had once belonged to a small town library in the Eastern Finland - and I really don't know why it was purchased there in the first place! I'd guess no one had ever loaned it.

There are two C-cassettes (and yes, I still have a C-cassette player) and a leaflet containing the four stories read aloud in the cassettes: Rob Kantner: "The Last Day", Nancy C. Swoboda: "Roomer Has It", Chet Williamson: "The Undertaker's Wedding" and Pauline C. Smith: "The Dog". The readers are William Hootkins and Barbara Rosenblat. The year is 1986.

There's just one problem: I don't usually have time to listen any audio books, so I guess I'll just read the stories.

More Forgotten Books here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fanny Ellsworth and the new Black Mask

Keith Alan Deutsch has some very interesting points to make about the evolution of hardboiled fiction and Fanny Ellsworth's editorship at Black Mask.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday's Overlooked Film: Martha, by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I meant originally to do this post on Tuesday and link it to Todd Mason's blog meme about Overlooked Films, but I simply didn't have enough time on my hands. Seems like there's a continual shortage of it, while I try to make a living.

Martha (1974) was an almost forgotten film before it was resurrected in 1994. There had been some controversy about the copyrights, since the made-for-TV film is based on Cornell Woolrich's novel (the title of which I actually don't know) and they probably forgot to pay the due sum to Woolrich's estate. Lucky the film is still available, as it is a gem. It's neo-noir in its purest form, universe where you can't escape from and you don't probably even want to. It's a tale of a possibly sadomasochistic love-hate relationship between a husband (played by sleazy, but respectable Karlheinz Boehm, who was very good in Michael Powell's Peeping Tom 14 years earlier) and a wife. The wife (played by not very beautiful Margit Carstensen, who fits her role perfectly) lets the man humiliate her in every possible moment and dictate her lifestyle. This is vivisection of bourgeoisie life.

Martha could've been directed by Helmut Newton, since the emphasis is on fetish: all the tight skirts and high heels and black stockings... and the scene in which Boehm lets his wife burn in the sun and then attacks her with a vehemence is strangely and cruelly erotic. This is noir at its cruellest and coollest, filmed in bright daylight.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Robert Crais: The First Rule

I hadn't read any of Robert Crais's private eye novels with Elvis Cole, but I had heard good things about them, so I was curious when The First Rule from 2010 was translated in Finnish just this month. It stars Joe Pike, who was first Elvis Cole's dangerous sidekick buddy, but has now his own series of books. He's a former mercenary and he's also as tough as they come.

The First Rule is about Pike investigating the killings of his former colleague and friend and his family. It seems soon that there are bigger things at stake and the clues lead to the Eastern European mafia. Crais moves the story along smoothly, which is always an asset, when you're talking about a book like this. This kind of stuff is almost comfort reading for me. Pike is violent, but only when it's necessary. He's a vigilante, but he doesn't go about babbling about it, which makes the ideology easier to stomach and the character more believable. There are some moments, where I would've cut down the wordage, but all in all this a compact book, gripping and fast to read.

This is by no means an entry for the Friday's Forgotten Books meme, but take a look at the other entries here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ayn Rand

"I hope you don't have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky."
- Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Peter Cheyney's Dangerous Curves

I have never read much Peter Cheyney, largely because his reputation has been so bad. I started to read an old paperback edition of his Slim Callaghan novels, Dangerous Curves from 1939. I'm not sure whether I'll read more by Cheyney, but seems like I have to, since I want to do my book on British crime writers one of these days... Give me a Hank Janson by Stephen Frances any day instead!

Cheyney's dialogue is terrible pseudo-tough wisecracking and I've rarely seen such stupid chauvinism in a book. There's some toughness to Callaghan, a London PI, but I must admit he's not a very interesting character. The plotline is confusing to follow - and it's also not very interesting! There's no life to Cheyney's characters.

I was very pleased to receive a Joe Pike novel The First Rule by Robert Crais in the mail today. I'll start reading it tonight and toss Cheyney gladly aside.

But do take a look at the Cheyney cover gallery at Steve Holland's Bear Alley blog here. Dangerous Curves was published in Finnish as Kuoleman huvipursi (The Yacht of Death or some such) in 1957. See photo. I don't know the illustrator.

More Forgotten Books here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: The Way You Wanted Me

Teuvo Tulio is one of the most revered of the Finnish film directors, but his oeuvre is a mixed bag. Even in his best films there's an element of high camp, with crazy plotlines, wild characters, hazy motifs and incoherent editing. There's still a very strong vision of a human being controlled by his/her lust. Tulio made some of his best films during the expressionist-styled film noir era, i.e. in the fourties and the fifties, and it's fitting his films could be labelled film noirs. It's interesting to note that many of his films deal with sadomasochism and they were written by a woman - Regina Linnanheimo, who also acted in the films she wrote. And she could be a sultry baby! 

Such is the case with Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit (The Way You Wanted Me, 1952), a story of an innocent girl who makes an illicit child and tries to make a living in a big city. The simple story is done with some visual verve and some very nice noirish sets and scenes, but the ending is too abrupt. Here's a better text about the film in English, and this link leads you to the Berkeley University film screening of Tulio's films.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Joe Kubert

Here's a nice tribute to the comics giant Joe Kubert who just passed away.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pulp crime writer Charles Beckman rescued!

This is simply wonderful! Charles Beckman who wrote for the crime pulps and digests and some paperbacks  is going to do a collection of his old stories. See discussion here at James Reasoner's blog!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: John Creasey: Gideon's Risk

I haven't had time to finish this book, but here goes nevertheless.

John Creasey has been one of the most prolific writers in the world, but there are only few of his books translated in Finnish - his series on the Superintendent Gideon made its way in Finnish only twice. I believe it has something to do with the fact that the books came out of nowhere and the publisher didn't allow the readers enough time to get acquainted with the series and all the characters. It's interesting to note however that many aspects of the police procedural genre we usually associate with TV series like Hill Street Blues and The Wire and writers like Joseph Wambaugh were already fully used by a Briton like Creasey. There is the sympathetic and determined main character Gideon, there are lots of his colleagues and employees (what's the right word here?), there are intertwined plotlines, there are many subplots, there is the sociological perspective to all this. There's also the British class society very visibly in sight, many of Creasey's - or Gideon's - sociological notions lean on patronizing.

I would tend to say this is a bit outdated, but interesting nevertheless. Gideon ottaa riskin (Gideon's Risk, 1960) came out in Finnish in 1965. More Forgotten Books at Todd Mason's blog here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Return of Philip Marlowe - once again!

What do you think of this bit of news? I remember someone saying Banville's crime novels as Benjamin Black are poor, but I've never read any of them - or anything by Banville, for that matter. Doesn't he write reviews of crime literature for some British newspaper?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Scottish police procedural writer Bill Knox

In my on-going effort to write a book on British paperbackers, I read my first Bill Knox. Now, Know is pretty forgotten these days and on him I seem to rely solely on his Wikipedia entry which is a bit skimpy, but seems reliable. Take a look here

I read his first novel, Deadline for a Dream, that was published in 1957 and translated in Finnish five years later as Ei armoa unille (which is a misleading title). In the book Knox uses his knowledge about working as a journalist as the main character in the novel - beside the leading cops, of course - is a young journalist who's fallen in love with a good-looking woman who wants nothing but the best. The young writer decides he'll rob the money car. There's something in the set-up that doesn't ring true to me, though Knox uses it to a good effect in the scenes in which the journalist guy does the story on the robbery and interviews the cops. The climax in the end is exciting, but leaves a bitter aftertaste when Knox's police heroes say that the guy was really a victim, the actual criminal was the babe who just wanted more money and furs and fancy restaurants. 

Knox seems a reliable police procedural writer and I'll be reading more of him with some interest. I'm in the middle of John Creasey's Gideon's Risk (surprisingly the only Creasey novel translated in Finnish!) and see the tradition of the police procedural genre in England. There's also Leonard Gribble. (He and Creasey also dabbled in westerns, by the way, Creasey wrote as William K. Reilly and Gribble as Stetson Cody. Anyone read those?) Any other names you care to mention? 

Oh, here's someone writing about the five translated Knoxes in Finnish. I don't know the illustrator of the Finnish paperback edition, but it's a scene right in the beginning of the book. 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Book haul

I'm not huge on science fiction, but I like to read books in that genre once in a while (hell, I've even written a book in that genre!). I seem to be most interested in the noirish American science fiction of the fourties, fifties and sixties and would happily say that Philip K. Dick and Alfred Bester are my two favourite SF writers. Here's a picture of the books I found at a new thrift store here in Turku, Finland (Pansio, to be exact). There were at least two boxes of old SF paperbacks for euro a piece. I snatched these, but will probably go back for more. The Elmore Leonard doesn't really belong there with the other books, but it could be the first book I'll be reading of these.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Glenn Bowman at Thrilling Detective

After reading two or three Hartley Howard's Glenn Bowman novels, I noticed that Thrilling Detective didn't have an entry on him. I sent Kevin Burton Smith (the proprietor of Thrilling Detective) a skeleton entry, which he expanded almost into an article! Here it is, if you want to take a look. There are some errors in the links, but I sent Kevin another note saying about them.

(And thanks, I've just gotten back from the last trip of this Summer and plan to post something in the near future.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Hartley Howard Double Bill

Okay, let's be honest about this: I haven't finished these two novels I'm about to introduce. I've been away and travelling and one of the books was forgotten behind and when I was able to get back to it, I couldn't anymore remember what had been going on. The other one then didn't simply feel rewarding enough.

Then why am I writing about these books? Because I'd really like to get my book on British crime paperbackers done. Hartley Howard's books were originally published in hardcover in England, but all of them were paperback in Finnish translation. They also have something of a paperbackish feel to them: Hartley Howard's private eye hero Glenn Bowman feels a mix between Mike Hammer and Lew Archer. The earlier of the two books, A Hearse for Cinderella (1956, translated as Kaikki menetettävänä/Everything to Lose; see the photo, illustrated by Bertil Hegland), starts like Kiss Me Deadly: Glenn Bowman is driving in his car late at night and almost runs over a young woman dressed only in an overcoat. Bowman takes the girl to the doctor to find out the girl escapes the minute he's taking the doctor to see her. Escapes - or is kidnapped. The plot is a bit too convoluted to be fluently followed, but there is big stuff at stake here.

Epitaph for Joanna, published much later (1972), reminds me more of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books and is more serious in tone. Bowman comes across as a really sad type, being all the time all alone without any friends - which was typical to the private eyes of the bygone days. Did Archer or Philip Marlowe ever have any friends? The same goes for Bowman as well. The plot also reminds me of Ross Macdonald, with the stuff from the past affecting the present-day lives of the book's characters. In this book, the stuff from the past is the accidental death of a young woman called Joanna a decade earlier.

The biggest problem with Howard's books is that his scenes are a bit too long and stilted. The melancholy of Glenn Bowman is too meticulously told, the reader - at least I am - is too easily bored with Bowman's whinings. Less would do. The plots are over-complicated to be at times so thin. The books might read better in the original English, I read these in Finnish translation and the old Finnish paperback translations are not usually very good. But nevertheless I'm going to give Hartley Howard another shot or two.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Maniac (1980)

This slasher flick by William Lustig is known for its outrageous violence and utter splatter, and it has been banned i.e. in Finland. Now it's been released on DVD in here as well - there are two discs, the other containing the uncut version. I watched the uncut version earlier today and wrote a three-star review of it.

There's a short introduction by Drive and Pusher director Nicolas Winding Refn in the beginning of the film. Refn says that Maniac is a combination of an European art film and a splatter film. He may well be right, as the film is purposefully slow and brooding, with Joe Spinell's confused monologue on top of everything else. The slow pace gives the film a detached, yet somehow intimate feeling. There are also no clear explanations as to why Spinell's character, Frank Zito, is killing all these women and scalping them. There are one or two scenes about it, but that's about it.

The combination of the slow pace and extremely brutal killings is an uneasy one, and I think John McNaughton did it better with his Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer, just six years later, but Maniac is still worth seeing, if you can stand it. There are some implausibilities, though. I didn't buy that a maniac like Frank Zito could pull out the artist act and almost seduce the woman photographer like he does in the film.

More Overlooked Movies at Todd Mason's blog.