Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Actual First Novel arrived today!

Here I'm sitting on the floor, reading bemusedly the first novel by be that's published by someone else than me. (In real life this is my fourth novel!) Jumalten tuho / Twilight of the Gods / Gotterdämmerung came out from Pikku-idis just last week, I received my author's copies today by mail. All eight kilos of them.

I'm not yet sure what to think of this. Of course I'm happy as can be, but at the same time I'm feeling a bit empty and sad. After all, this book has been over 20 years in the making. It started with a short story (shares the same title as the book) that was published in 1988 in a Finnish science fiction fanzine called Tähtivaeltaja and continued with the sequel to the story some five or six years later. I couldn't find a publisher for the sequel - it was too long to be published as a short story in the same magazine and it wouldn't've made sense to publish it as a book, so I just kept revising it every time I got some extra time - and inspiration, too! I remember writing some of the most shocking scenes to the rhythm of Godflesh's metallic industrial beat. I don't when exactly, but at some point I dropped every allusion to the original short story. Then, after I'd moved to Turku, I shopped it around. Jari Tammi of Pikku-idis was interested in it already in 2003 or 2004, but then he stopped doing business for some reason or another, but he got back to publishing and my book in 2010 and we made a deal of putting the book out. By that time, I'd rewritten the manuscript, but still it required lots of revisions. I'm a fast writer, but a slow reviser. There's lots of stuff in the book I'd like to rewrite even now.

And I think I'd need some time to recover from the shock! Yet I'm preparing a university course I'm starting next week and I just started translating Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature" in Finnish, alongside some other stuff! My son said to me: "You publish too many books, dad", when I showed him Twilight of the Gods and he didn't seem impressed at all. I've gotten used to putting out anthologies and non-fiction books and what not, but this seems more personal - even though the book isn't very personal per se, it's more like an enjoyable romp, not something I've invested my life or personality in. In fact, I'm a bit worried about how that superficiality seems to others.

Here's some more stuff about my book, and for my Finnish readers: do check out my other blog where I'm posting bits from the book that were taken out in the last revisions. There's also a small contest coming, I'm giving three books away!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fires on the Plain open for submissions

Cullen Callagher, the mastermind behind the great Pulp Serenade blog, is officially soon launching his new website, Fires on the Plain. It's a webzine for western short stories, and Cullen writes:

What are we looking for? Westerns with an edge. Hardboiled. Noir. Gritty. Dark. Tough. Stuff that Harry Whittington, Clifton Adams, H.A. DeRosso, or Brian Garfield would have written. Who else do we love here at Fires on the Plain? Elmore Leonard, Ed Gorman, James Reasoner, T.V. Olsen, Frank Castle, Tom Piccirilli, George Gilman, Bill Pronzini, Richard Telfair — the list goes on.

So, git your writin' gear and start shootin' those, umm, letters? The site looks promising and I have a good trust on Cullen to find some good noirish writing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Plunder Road

This is apparently a pretty rare late film noir, since it's got only five reviews in IMDb. I loaned this on a VHS cassette from a friend of mine, as I'd always wanted to see it, and while it didn't quite live up to my expectations, it's still a very worthwhile little thriller.

Plunder Road is a caper film, done on a minuscule budget, with limited sets and a small number of players, though the caper in the beginning of the film is quite far away from being minuscule. The film doesn't tell much about the guys who do the caper, but we are made known that some of them are career criminals and former inmates. The movie is about trying to take the loot to a safer place with three different trucks. It's a road movie, but the machines these guys drive are machines of imprisonment, not freedom, like they are in Easy Rider or Thelma and Louise. Likewise, the whole movie is intentionally mechanic, which increases the sense of irony. The players in the movie are nothing but pawns in the game. They struggle to get out, but because they do what they do, they have no chance.

There are some inconcistencies throughout that lessen the impact of the film, though, but not remarkably so. If you get a chance to see this, don't hesitate. All the actors are unknown (at least I didn't recognize the names of the faces), except Elisha Cook Jr., who's remarkably good in this as well. The writer, Steven Ritch, plays himself one of the crooks.

The director, Hubert Cornfield, is a very interesting figure in his own right: many of his few films were based on paperback originals: Lure of the Swamp is based on a Gil Brewer novel, 3rd Voice is based on a Charles Williams novel and The Night of the Following Day is based on a Lionel White novel. Later on he seems to have moved to France.

More Overlooked Films to be had on Todd Mason's blog. (At least I think there will be something. I won't have the time to do this tomorrow, so I did it already.)

Donald Westlake Friday

I'm a bit late on this, but better late than never, right? Here's a link to the Friday's Forgotten Book postings organized by Patti Abbott, all about Donald E. Westlake, to commemmorate the forth-coming publication of Westlake's lost novel, The Comedy Is Finished.

Complete Paul Cain

From Centipede Press. The package looks very nice.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Robert Silverberg's sleaze novels

Old smut paperbacks have been seeing quite of a renaissance in the last couple years: there have been lots of blog posts about them, there are Facebook groups for them and associated stuff (try this) and what's the most important thing, there have been quite a few reprints. One of the most interesting of them has been the collection of Robert Silverberg's two sleaze paperbacks, called Gang Girl/Sex Bum. It's a very good book which I recommend highly, if you're into noirish and nasty little crime stories.

Gang Girl was first published as a Nightstand book in 1959 and it was one of the first of Silverberg's many sleaze novels. It's a juvie book, about a 16-year old (!) girl trying to break into a new gang and making her way up to the top. Some of the sex scenes are downright nasty, especially the gang rape scene that goes on and on. The ending is very noiry and fits the bill. Sex Bum, from four years later, is a better book in my opinion, though Gang Girl is not bad in any sense of the word. Sex Bum, this time a Bedtime book, tells about a young guy living in a hicksville wanting bad to make it into the mob. There are lots of sex scenes, but coupled with the crupulousness of Johnny Price they make a chilling read - this guy feels like he's stepped out from the pages of Jim Thompson of Jason Starr. The ending is very chilling.

These books were written fast to make fast money (and money Silverberg made: he bought a big house in Greenwich Village with the money he got writing these books!), and it shows somewhat. There are some meaningless characters in Sex Bum, and Gang Girl suffers somewhat from being too episodic, but I don't mind, as both books are also immensely readable. As there's also a foreword by Silverberg himself and an afterword by Michael Hemmingson, plus a 3-page bibliography of Silverberg's smut books, this books comes very highly recommended. Can't wait for this to arrive.

More stuff about Silverberg's sleaze books here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ed Gorman's Cage of Night

I was earlier asking about misanthropy in crime fiction, but now I'm writing about a crime novel that's far from being misanthropic. Actually Ed Gorman's Cage of Night is anything but: it's a humane and warm story about people whose lives are petty and close to miserable, full of search for love that never seems to arrive. Gorman really feels for his characters, they are not just toys in a game. There's also nothing nihilistic about their misery and they don't go on a rampage shooting people or some such. They just try to cope. Sometimes something nice happens, but that's sometimes. Yet the story moves along in a nice pace - I couldn't stop reading, as the cliché goes. It was true this time.

I also admired how Gorman handles the very fine line between psychological suspense and supernatural horror. In the end, nothing is obvious.

This was my first novel-length Gorman, but it won't be the last.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Misanthropy in crime fiction

Question for the group mind: can you think and name any examples of misanthropy in crime fiction, classic, hardboiled or other? I should be writing an essay on the subject, but can't come up with enough examples, though I think Jim Thompson (especially Pop. 1280 and The Killer Inside Me) and Patricia Highsmith (Tom Ripley!) are essentials. What about Charles Willeford? Isn't a book like The Woman Chaser misanthropic?

Someone suggested Andrew Vachss, but he seems to have an ethos that the innocent can and should be saved. There's of course lots of nihilistic neo-nah (the phrase coined by Kevin Burton Smith), but I haven't really sampled those. I'm not sure, though, whether mere nihilism is enough. Misanthropy is more of a philosophical stance, whereas nihilism seems more like a juvenile attempt to be tough and rough.

Any ideas? I'm not really sure if I can do this (the idea wasn't mine to begin with), but if there are enough examples I'm willing to try. I appreciate any thoughts on the subject. If there's a book on the subject, or even an essay, I'd really like to hear about it.

The Pop History Dig » “Rockwell & Race”1963-1968

Long and interesting article upon which I stumbled and thought to share:

The Pop History Dig » “Rockwell & Race”1963-1968

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: The City of Fear

Irving Lerner is not a household name, though he's been revered by some film noir enthusiasts for a long time, such as Martin Scorsese. Until last Monday night, I'd seen only his late and flawed conquistador film, Royal Hunt of the Sun. Now I've seen also his The City of Fear, thanks to the Finnish Film Archive. (Well, I organized the screening myself, but you know what I mean.) Thanks also to Tapani Maskula, a film critic from Turku, with whom I've talked about film noirs and other B-films for almost ten years now. Tapani was there in the screening to talk about Lerner, who seems to have had a very interesting life.

The City of Fear is a very tight little thriller about escaped convict Vince Edwards who thinks he's onto something when he gets his hand on a small metal cylinder. He thinks there's lots of heroin, but instead it contains radioactive material. Pretty soon he gets sick, but still tries to sell the "heroin". The ending is very ironic, even though there's something unintentionally funny about the radioactive bits in the film - what can you do, Lerner shot the film in seven days with a very low budget for Columbia who needed short films for drive-in theaters? Lerner was before everything else an editor, and this shows in many scenes as they are expertly edited, with verve, rhythm and style, with a touch of Russian montage here and there. Vince Edwards is very good in the lead role: he shows no empathy and you don't actually feel for him, but there's something about the empty stare that Lerner emphasizes with his shooting and editing. The facade reveals absolutely nothing, but the way Edwards fondles the cylinder in his pocket... there's something homosexual about the affair of the man and his fantasies.

I'm hoping to see more of Lerner's films: Murder by Contract (one of the all-time favourites of Scorsese), Edge of Fury (based on American surrealist Robert Coates's novel Wisteria Cottage), Studs Lonigan (from the James T. Farrell novel)... there are some others, too, but they seem to be too obscure. There's one here, take a look. The City of Fear and Murder by Contract are available in the Columbia film noir DVD set.

Tapani Maskula, whom I mentioned earlier, gave his speech about Lerner - I'd really like to read Lerner's biography. Anyone out there willing to do one? Tapani mentioned in the end that The City of Fear is the film that convinced him to become a movie critic.

Other Overlooked Movies here.