Friday, January 27, 2017

Andy Straka: A Witness Above

I'd never heard about Andy Straka before, but I snatched his PI novel A Witness Above from the Brash Books newsletter, when it was free for a limited time. I read the book on my cell phone, which worked just fine.

A Witness Above stars Straka's private eye protagonist Frank Pavlicek, who's a former cop, fired from duty after shooting down a black kid, thinking the kid was armed. Pavlicek has retired from New York to his old haunts in Virginia. As he's training his hawk (something Straka seems himself to do), he stumbles upon a dead man, who seems to have a connection with Pavlicek's daughter. Soon Pavlicek gets a call of help from his daughter.

A Witness Above is a fluent, if not spectacularly original read. If you like hardboiled private eye novels, this should work for you. Straka's style is straight-forward and not overtly wordy, which at times suits me just fine. A Witness Above worked very well on the small screen of my phone. This is something one could read on a plane or in a train.

Monday, January 23, 2017

New collection of one-word poems out

As some of may remember, I have some interest in experimental poetry. I've done a collection of e-mail spam poetry that is still available (check it out here), and I've also done some very small booklets of other spam-related or found stuff.

Now there's a new book of experimental poetry out. It's called velernic syoke mulnec, and it's a collection of word verification words that were once used in blogs and other sites that required some sort of notification you're not a bot. So, a machine wanted to know whether we are humans. There's irony in that, to be sure.

velernic syoke mulnec is a part of the "pwoermd" movement (if there indeed is a movement), poems that include only one word. The words in velernic syoke mulnec are fictitious (unless by accident there are some bona fide words included), which also is ironic in itself. There's also a preface (two, actually), and it's in English.

These word verification words seem no longer to be in use, so the collection has already become a historical text, an archive, one might say. The bulk of it was collected by me and some other folks in the end of the first decade of the 2000's, and there was also a publisher, but for some reason or another it never came out. Now I decided to put it out as an e-book, and it will be free for some time now. So go grab it, if you're interested in this type of thing. The book is available also through Kobo. Amazon's preview option might also satisfy your interest.

The book looks like this:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teuvo Tulio, Finland's mad genius

Here's a new article on Finnish film-maker Teuvo Tulio on the AV Club's site. Short quote: "In the pantheon of unclassifiable filmmakers, there is a special place for Teuvo Tulio, Finland’s king of shameless melodrama. A fetishist, an outsider artist of 1940s and ’50s film, he was outrageous, incapable of subtlety, rising to a higher plane of camp—beyond Ken Russell, beyond Nicolas Cage doing an accent, beyond Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls."

I've mentioned Tulio at least twice on this blog, here and here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dan Simmons: Summer of Night

I was going to do this as a part of the Friday's Forgotten Book series, but then I realized it's not Friday, it's Tuesday, and I should be writing about an Overlooked Film! Well, here goes nevertheless.

I had bad luck selecting my readings for this past holiday season. I read three books that had nothing to do with my other work, but the first two proved to be pretty bland (won't name any names, though). Luckily the third one I picked to read proved to entertaining and exciting. I'd never read Dan Simmons earlier, but I might try another one by him, as Summer of Night was quite good.

Summer of Night is at times a nostalgic look at the small town life in Illinois in the early 1960's. The evil in the book is an old, empty school that seems to nourish a secret or a bunch of them. In the beginning we see a nosy kid getting sucked up in a tunnel in the boys' room, and everything starts to unravel as the main characters, a bunch of kids, start to search for the explanation. There are references to Aleister Crowley and other esoteric stuff, but Simmons has enough style to keep the lecturing away. The book is quite long, which I usually don't like, but this kept me turning pages.

Simmons also clearly has sympathy for the underdog: his heroes are a dyslexic boy who proves to be the cleverest of them all, a dreamy boy who fantasizes about being a writer, a misanthropic kid who hates his out-going mother (I thought the description of the mother was a bit unfair, but it remained believable throughout), and an ugly and ill-kept girl who likes to carry a shotgun around. There's warmth also in the depiction of the somewhat loserish parents. There are lots of exciting scenes, but the long climax was also very good.

Summer of Night came out in 1992 and was nominated for a British Fantasy Award the same year. There have been sequels, but I haven't read any of them. When I was still picking up books for the Arktinen Banaani's paperback line some years ago, I considered Simmons's hardboiled crime novels, Hardcase, Hard Freeze, and Hard as Nails, but I never got around to reading them. His science fiction novels have been popular in Finland, so it might've been worth the effort.

The Finnish cover depicted above is ugly as all hell, it's no wonder this didn't make much impact here. The Finnish title translates back as "The Horror of the Summer Night". I notice now that one of the sequels, namely Children of the Night, has also been translated in Finnish as well - will have to look for it.