Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Swedish paperback covers

I found some Swedish paperbacks and other books in our house's trash bin. Took them out, but decided that I had no use for them, so tossed them back. I scanned the covers, included are some tidbits on the books and writers.
Two crime covers for American paperbacks.
The right one is by the great Bertil Hegland. 

James Morris was, if I recall, the pseudonym of Niels Meyn (in the other photo),
under which he wrote a series of Tarzan copies with Jukan.
I don't know who Jack Morris was.
Alibi-magazinet was a Swedish digest-sized fictionmag,
devoted to crime stories. Each issue had one story.

Niels Meyn was a Danish author, mainly of children's books.
This scifi title means "Around the World in 80 Hours".
See his Wikipedia page here.

Vernon Warren wrote pseudo-American private eye books
in the fifties, his hero was called Brandon. Not quite bad, actually,
I've read one and would possibly read another.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Black Rainbow (1989)

I watched this unknown gem from a VHS cassette I bought from a thrift store. The quality of the cassette was better than could be expected, no one had probably watched the film before me, which kind of makes me sad.

Black Rainbow tells about a medium (Rosanna Arquette) and her alcoholic father (Jason Robards), who travel somewhere in the forgotten parts of the United States, and put up shows where Arquette takes contact with the dead people, normally the loved ones of the members of the audience. Two things take place: Arquette starts talking with the dead persons who are not yet dead, and someone starts killing them at the same time. The premise is clever and it's pretty well developed, taking the story to directions one wouldn't easily guess. There are some very good scenes between Arquette and Robards, and some of the scenes from the clairvoyance show are silently thrilling, getting close to horror. Tom Hulce plays a reporter, who suddenly starts to believe in Arquette's powers. The main actors are believable.

Black Rainbow was directed by the English Mike Hodges. Hodges has done some very good films, like Get Carter and Croupier. Then he has done some outrageous camp classics, such as Flash Gordon (though it was done intentionally, I'm sure). Black Rainbow is surely one of his better films, a serious look at abuse and exploitation, not only at the clairvoyance shows, but also on a larger scale. It's a pity the film is not better known, as it didn't get a proper release at the time (Hodges seems to be suffering from this even now, since the same thing happened to Croupier). The film has been released on DVD, but some of the editions are no better than a VHS cassette.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here (as soon as he gets the post done, I'm sure).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Book: Martin M. Goldsmith: Detour (1939)

The film made from Martin M. Goldsmith's novel Detour is far from forgotten. Detour by Edgar G. Ulmer from 1945 is actually one of the better-known film noirs of its era, though it's been erroneously labeled as an extra-cheap quickie. It's now known that Ulmer exaggerated his tight budget and claimed the film was shot in a week, although it took longer than that. This is all well explained even in the Wikipedia article for the film. It also states that the film was shown regularly on television throughout the sixties and seventies, which explains why it was picked up by the first American critics of film noir, such as Paul Schrader, when other equally interesting films were neglected.

But the original novel by Martin M. Goldsmith is a different story altogether. The book was published in 1939 by Macaulay (a lending library publisher, if I'm not mistaken) and getting no reprints until the small press did it in 2005. This is astonishing, given the quality of the book. It's a moving tale of two persons living during the depression, trying to make ends meet. The other one, Alexander Roth, is a violinist trying to get to Hollywood to meet his girl friend living in Los Angeles. The girl, Sue Harvey, is a wanna-be actress, who hates her agent and is working in a diner. Alexander hitches his way across the continent, looking like a bum. He's picked up by a strange man, who has lots of cash and smokes joints. The man dies in his sleep and Alexander is left on nothing. He suspects that if he notifies the police, no one would believe he's innocent. He takes the money and the car, but meets a strange girl, named Vera. Vera reveals he also travelled with the dead man and hence know Alexander is not who he says he is. Vera is one of the meanest bitches in written word, and I'm not saying this lightly. The way Goldsmith paints her with words just makes your blood go chilly. The hate and lack of interest in anything (but money) ooze from her.

The first edition from 1939

Alex Roth is an amiable young man, if not something of a bore, and Goldsmith gives him a plausible voice. Sue, on the other hand, is not so amiable. She's a bit of a gold-digger, but also very earnest at that. The novel is written in terse and hardboiled vernacular, and the story races along smoothly largely through point-of-view narration. The depression era with all its worn-out ramblers comes alive in the pages of the book. When the film was made in 1945, the story of Sue Harvey was dropped alongside with references to sex and drugs. The book ends in an open note, in the end of the film the police pick up Al (changed from Alexander). Otherwise the film is pretty faithful.

Detour was republished, as I said, by a small publisher called O'Bryan House. They seem to have done only two books, according to this. Detour has its share of formatting errors, seems like they haven't done enough editing for the scanned text. Nevertheless, this was a very welcome reprint, a forgotten classic that should stay in print.

Here's Bill Pronzini on Goldsmith's two other crime novels, and here's Steve Lewis's review of Detour. And here's (also on Mystery*File) the foreword by Richard Doody for the O'Bryan House reprint.

More Forgotten Books for Friday found at Todd Mason's blog!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Megan Abbott on why women love crime

This nice essay by Megan Abbott is related to the wonderful-looking collection The Women Crime Writers, edited by Sarah Weinman, that just came out. And Abbott's essay is worth reading as well.

Sarah Weinman was wondering in one of her Crime Lady e-mails whether there have been substantial female domestic suspense writers outside the US and UK. I got to thinking about this (lazily, I must admit), and I haven't come up with any contenders. Many female Finnish crime writers of the time period of Weinman's book dabbled mostly in puzzle mysteries, but there must be some. Anyone?

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Jason Starr: Twisted City

Jason Starr has long been one of my favourite writers, and I can't help but fall in love with his plots. I picked up his Twisted City that I hadn't previously read and showed the back cover copy to my wife, grinning widely and saying: "This sure sounds like my kind of book!" It says: "Times are tough for David Miller, a journalist for a second-rate financial magazine who hates his boss, is tired of supporting his girlfriend's partying lifestyle and recently lost his sister to cancer. But things are about to get much worse."

David loses his wallet in a bar after a failed attempt at picking up a woman, and some days later a woman calls him and says she's got his wallet. David goes to a seedy neighborhood and meets Sue, who seems to be a junkie. She's asking lots of money for David's wallet. David goes to a bank to raise money and when he gets back, he's attacked by Sue's maniacally jealous boyfriend. After that, things really go wrong. It's a hell of a ride for David, and while everything's pretty dark and hopeless for our hero, you can't but laugh at his tribulations. Everything goes worse no matter what David does, even though there's one chance he could make things right, but he blows it too. The end is really, really nasty.

Jason Starr writes and plots with ease, and he's deceptive. Every time you think you miss a hole in the plot, it gets explained. The book moves with a breakneck pace and there's no empty page. This is a brilliant noir novel, once again. It's a damn shame my efforts to get Starr translated in Finnish have proven futile, but I'm still trying.

I read the 2005 printing from No Exit with a pretty bland cover, but their new covers for Starr's backlist are so stupendous (see above) I'm almost thinking I'd buy the whole set.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Cornell Woolrich's "It Had to Be Murder" and Hal Jeffries

I read Cornell Woolrich's short story "It Had to Be Murder" yesterday due to my book project on books (and seemingly short stories also) that were filmed. Woolrich's story (that, by the way, doesn't differ so much from Hitchcock's subsequent film Rear Window as is usually thought) was published in Dime Detective in February, 1942. It features Hal Jeffries (L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries in the film) as the hero, stuck in a wheelchair just like James Stewart in the film. Stewart's Jeffries is a photographer, but Woolrich doesn't give his hero any professional traits, but he knows the police and the lieutenant is his personal friend. The ending climax is a bit different from the film, as Jeffries of the short story doesn't have the photographic equipment Stewart uses in the film to distract Raymond Burr's Thorwald. One notable difference: Jeffries's hired help is an African-American man, not Thelma Ritter of the film.

I just got to thinking Woolrich may have written more stories that feature Hal Jeffries. There's something about the story to make me think he was familiar to the readers of Dime Detective. I can't find any info on this, however. There's no Hal Jeffries in the series index at the Crime, Mystery, & Gangster Fiction Magazine Index, so I'm must surely wrong, but I'd really appreciate if someone could confirm.