Sunday, September 29, 2013

My forthcoming novel about Lovecraft

Monday sees my new book coming out. It's a very short novel or a novella in which horror writer H. P. Lovecraft is the main character. The book, simply called Haamu ("Ghost"), with the subtitle Kertomus Hollywoodista ("A Tale of Hollywood"), is a case of alternate history: in the book, Lovecraft didn't die from cancer in 1937. After he's been miraculously cured, he decides he's had too much of horror stories in his life, sells his house and library and moves on to Hollywood where he desperately tries to break as a screenwriter. He's living in a beat-up hotel and writes pulp stories but in different genres than before (crime, romance, even mainstream stuff) and tries to keep up his letter writing, mainly with Clark Ashton Smith.

The book is fragmentary and shows us glimpses of Lovecraft trying to write and earn his living. There are also some scenes on a desolate block where Lovecraft finds a dead mole. There are also some real-life Hollywood characters, mainly other writers from B-studios, but also director Edgar G. Ulmer whom Lovecraft meets at a party. There's also Earl Peirce Jr., who's also trying to work in Hollywood and comes up with an idea he tries to sell to Lovecraft. Some of the scenes in the book are more surreal and some of them may seem like Lovecraft is hallucinating, and he's not at all times the most reliable narrator. There's no horror in the book, though, and it has no supernatural elements. It's not a genre novel.

What's the idea behind the book? The vision of Lovecraft working in Hollywood has been with me for years. I think someone suggested it almost ten years ago at the Fictionmags e-mail group where I once was an active member (still am, but not a very active one). At the time, the writer (I can't remember who it was) suggested Lovecraft might've worked in Hollywood already in the early twenties, but I decided to make this an alternate history, set in 1941. (One book that had some influence on how the novel turned out was Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays, her novel on Hollywood that I read prior to starting work on Haamu.)

But there's still something I can't really explain in the book - in my own book! Doesn't art exist to make you wondrous? I'm sure many Lovecraft aficionados will tell me that my Lovecraft isn't the real Lovecraft, and I'm sure they're right. There are of course things that I decided should be according to how he was in real life, but then I also decided I don't have to act as if this was the real Lovecraft - after all, he's gone through a sickness that was supposed to kill him. His writing style has changed drastically, but that came also because I didn't want to emulate or parody Lovecraft's unique style - there are comments on this in the text. There are also subtle hints he's not really alive, as if this were a dream, but I won't give anything away.

The cover for Haamu is by Aapo Kukko, a young graphic artist. He's a very capable guy. Coming out from Turbator, Haamu has a very small print run, so be sure to grab it! Any foreign agents reading this? (Insert smiley here.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Erica Jong: Fanny

Been working on another book on erotica and reading said stuff. I just finished Erica Jong's Fanny, a long picaresque novel on Fanny Hackabout-Jones, better known as John Cleland's Fanny Hill. This was an entertaining book, somewhat long-winded and full with anachronistic feminism, but I didn't mind. Here's a contemporaty review from the New York Times.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Age of television and reading magazines

Many years I picked up a book from the fifties called The Age of Television. I'm not sure what I was thinking I was going to do with it, but there were these somewhat fascinating diagrams of magazine reading (and reading in general) in accordance to television watching. I'm sure someone will find these of interest. The diagram that shows changes in the circulation of magazines is the most interesting one.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Help needed identifying cartoon characters

I just bought a miserable old VHS cassette with five short animated cartoons. All the five films in the bunch were without opening titles, and I could recognize only one of the cartoons (a Filmation Popeye), some others were probably Terrytoons. I'll have to check into them later, but here's a photo I took of the first one. Does anyone recognize the characters in the picture? There's also a third cat, who's a kid brother or a nephew of the two in the picture. The cats spoke English under the lousy Finnish dubbing. I'm thinking this might be something Gene Deitch cooked up with Yugoslavian animators in the mid-to-late sixties.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wanted: railroad detectives!

Jim Doherty over at the Rara-Avis e-mail list was asking about railroad detectives in fiction. He's been able to come up with these titles, but needs more. Any suggestions?

"The Second Challenge" by MacKinlay Kantor (REAL DETECTIVE TALES AND MYSTERIES, Feb 1929)
"You Pays Your Nickel" by Cornell Woolrich (ARGOSY, 22 Aug 1936), also known as "The Phantom of the Subway"
"Ride 'Em, Mokawk" by William Rohde (SHORT STORIES, Oct 1950)
"The Girl in Car 32" by Thomas Walsh (EVENING POST, 7 Nov 1953)
"Yard Bull" by (MANHUNT, Aug 1954)
"The Ghost Station" by Carolyn Wheat (A WOMAN'S EYE, edited by Sara Paretsky)
"The Right Track" by R.T. Lawton (WOMEN'S WORLD, 26 Oct 2009)

Friday, September 13, 2013

More Finnish fantasy

Review of the first English-language collection of Jyrki Vainonen's silently surrealistic fantasy stories, out now. Recommended: Jyrki is a good writer (and a personal friend, but don't let that fool you).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Steven Torres: The Concrete Maze

As some of you may remember, I had some trouble reading some new noirish e-books - they were lacking style, substance and coherence. As I had some holiday left, I decided to try another one, as I didn't yet want to start reading work-related books. I chose The Concrete Maze by Steven Torres, and it proved to be a good choice.

It's a very realistic, almost minimalistic piece, about a 13-year old Puerto Rican girl who goes missing, and his father goes searching for her. The first person narrator is a young guy over 20, the nephew of the girl's father. His narrator's voice is somewhat melancholic in all its no-nonsense curtness. And the melancholy sure fits the novel, since it's full of grief, misery and tragedy. I was hooked by the guy's voice. This could be a vigilante novel in the style of the seventies' Death Wish clones, but even though the young guy and his uncle show courage in the course of the book, they are no heroes and some of their conduct is suspicious as they torture some of the suspects.

All this said, I must say that the book drags somewhat in the middle, when nothing new seems to be happening, and the final revelation in the climax is a bit too much. There was something in there I didn't buy. But still, The Concrete Maze comes highly recommended by me.

Here's Allan Guthrie's interview with Torres.

I read also Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty to finish my holiday reading (and to give him his due), but from now it's only work books for me.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: True Confessions (1981)

True Confessions, by Ulu Grosbard, is a rare film, at least in Finland. It's never been shown in Finnish television and it's been released only in VHS in the mid-eighties. It was released in cinemas, but I'm not sure how widely it was shown. I remember my dad liking the film a great deal.

I just bought the VHS I mentioned from a thrift store and got around to watching the film the other day. I read the John Gregory Dunne novel this is based on some years ago (here are some of my reflections), but I noticed I didn't remember much of it. The film is based loosely on the Black Dahlia case, and both the novel and the film seem to offer an explanation to the case, but in the film it was shown in a very oblique fashion, as was typical in the more artful crime films of the seventies and early eighties. Really: I had to check the Wikipedia article for the film to realize what went down in the end of the film!

That said, True Confessions is not a bad film at all. It's all been done on purpose. The lead actors, Robert Duvall and Robert DeNiro are quite good (and DeNiro is not hamming it up as usual, he plays the Catholic priest in a very subdued note), and they are packed with a nice bunch of character actors. There's a gritty realism to the police work in the film, and it also shows the shady side of politics, construction, Catholic church and prostitution linked with the police force. This is a very nuanced view of being a police in the late 1940's America.

There's not much action in the film, nor much suspense, but it's still catchy and interesting to the end - even though I didn't fully realize just what happened. Who got busted and who walked? Should probably read Dunne's novel again.

The film was scripted by Dunne himself and his wife, Joan Didion, who's probably now the better known of the duo. (And only her works have been translated in Finnish.)

More Overlooked Movies here. And damn, I only now notice that Frederik Pohl died yesterday. He sure lived a full life.