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.)