Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Mack Bolan: The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross, an 1988 entry in the Mack Bolan series, written by Mike Newton as by Don Pendleton, is something we sorely need, when the Nazis - the so-called alt-right - are marching in the US, and in Finland as well. In the book, Mack Bolan beats the Nazis and the Klansmen somewhere in the Deep South and finds out that the extreme right wing is financed by the Russians (as they might well be in Europe, don't know about the US). The Nazis and the Klansmen are ridiculed throughout the book, which is very fine by me.

I didn't think this was a particularly good book, though it's solidly written by a professional. I kind of leafed through the whole thing, just looking for something to pass the time. Which is what this kind of entertainment was made for. But it should be vital that this kind of information also tells us what's important, what are the values that are really worth fighting for. And being low-level literature, it's available also to those who are prone to social exclusion and marginalization and thus to the temptations of the right-wing populism. Mack Bolan could never be called a Leftist social justice warrior (a pejorative moniker used by the right-wingers), so there might be a chance for someone to realize fighting Nazis is also manly.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Anthony Neil Smith: All the Young Warriors

I had a one-week holiday in the first week of September. I though I was going to read some crime novels that were sitting on my Kindle. Well, yeah, I did, but it took longer than a week. I read Barry Malzberg's first Lone Wolf novel, Night Raider, written as by Mike Barry (forgot to blog about it) and then I read W. Glenn Duncan Rafferty's Rules (about which I blogged here). I also started Lawrence Block's old sleaze title, Sex Without Strings, but it didn't seem interesting enough (no crime plot that I could see!). And then I started Anthony Neil Smith's All the Young Warriors, really not knowing what to expect. I finished it only tonight.

Okay, it's only 304 pages in a Down & Out Books paperback, but it felt longer - and I don't mean this in a negative way. I could've sworn it was more like 400 pages. The scope is almost epic, close to what you have in more literary novels. Two Somali guys kill a pregnant female cop in Minneapolis while they are already headed towards Somalia, their fatherland, and the lover of the woman, a cop himself, decides to go after them with the help of the other guy's father, who happens to have a gangsta past. And this is only a skimpy outline. The book's more like Conrad's Heart of Darkness taken into the 2000's (well, with the exception that Conrad's novel is a lot shorter). The grim outcome in the end couldn't be darker, even if it's happy for some of the characters.

The subject of the book could easily be racist in the hands of someone else, but Smith, while he certainly pulls no punches, is not your typical stereotype-weaving thriller hack. The Somali characters come out alive, and while some of them are evil and do evil stuff, I didn't see the book calling them evil only because they are Somalis. The discussion about cultural appropriation is hot at the moment, but I didn't see that in here - of course I'm not a Somali myself, so what do I know? But Smith's novel seems free of that appropriation.

All the Young Warriors takes its time to get going, but the reader is awarded in the end.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Where the Sidewalk Ends

I'm a film noir buff, yet I haven't seen many classic film noirs everyone is already acquainted with. So I was lucky to finally see Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends from 1950, about which I remember reading over 30 years ago. It's a classic film noir, and without the ending it would be a perfect noir.

The plot is great, the stuff of the bona fide noir paperbacks: the violent cop, bent on destruction, kills almost inadvertently a suspect and tries to hide it. Dana Andrews playing the cop is actually a homme fatale in the film, as there's no femme fatale anywhere in sight. There's a woman the cop falls in love with, but she's no bad kitty. It's more like the cop drags him down in his personal hell. The ending is too optimistic, but what can you do? This was Hollywood in 1950.

Preminger keeps the story moving along in a nice pace, and Joseph LaShelle's very noirish cinematography shines throughout the film. There are lots of good character actors in minor roles, such as Karl Malden as a lieutenant and Neville Brand as a gangster. And, oh, did I mention it has Gene Tierney? She looks especially lovely in this.

Anyone read the original novel, Night Cry by William L. Stuart? Vintage Hardboiled Reads has, and it looks great.