Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I just founded a publishing company

Well, not exactly. I just didn't do it, just like that, it was a long and at times frustrating process. But now it's up, after planning it and thinking about it for many, many years.

The publishing company is called Helmivyö in Finnish. I'm not really sure what it should be called in English - literally it's a bit like "a string of pearls", but the word "helmivyö" is an old word originally meant to be the Finnish translation of "anthology". It's probably translated from the Italian "collana", which means both "collection" and "jewel". And so my publishing company does a lot of anthologies.

The first of which is Ajokortti helvettiin ("License to Hell", according to the short story the title was taken from), a collection of flash fiction stories I published in my short-lived Ässä magazine (plus three new stories from Rob Hart, Stephen D. Rogers and Anthony Neil Smith).

There is also a collection of my reviews, articles and what not about American hardboiled crime novel, called Epämiellyttäviä päähenkilöitä ("Unpleasant Protagonists"). It turned out to be almost 300 pages! There's stuff ranging from John K. Butler and old true crime mags to James Ellroy and Gillian Flynn. (Okay, I'm cheating a bit, since Flynn isn't hardboiled, but she's noir, and that's close enough.)

The third book is Kalmankylväjä ("Deathbringer" or something like that) by Petri Hirvonen, a very short and tense action novel taking place somewhere in South America.

Two of the books, my collection and Petri's novel, were designed by J.T. Lindroos, the mastermind originally hailing from Finland. The cover for the flash fiction anthology was done by Jenni Jokiniemi.

The books are available only in print-on-demand. They are not available as e-books, since there are no markets for them in Finland. (It's a long and boring story.) I have plans for future books (actually I have four almost ready), and this might be something, well, not big, but biggish. We'll see. I'm not one to boast about my possible successes. You can see more here (it's obviously in Finnish).

PS. There might be some translations in the future, as I've accumulated lots of connections through years. I'll contact you.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Joe R. Lansdale binge

I've been reading lots of Joe Lansdale lately, since I wrote an article on him and his works for the magazine of the Finnish Whodunit Society. Here's a lowdown and some mini-reviews:

The Thicket: amazing Western novel that approaches horror literature without using any topics of the horror genre.

Paradise Sky: great epic Western with a very sympathetic African-American lead, some very violent scenes throughout.

Cold in July: great film, but even a better book, one of Lansdale's best. Lansdale himself dubbed this as his Gold Medal paperback. Lots of twists and turns, but I thought each and every one of them was logical.

The Bottoms: great mix of Mark Twain and more gory horror, though I saw quite early who the killer was. (It's never any reason for me to read a crime novel, to keep guessing who the killer is.) Great characters, people you wanted to know about and care for them.

Sunset and Sawdust: maybe a bit too reminiscent of The Bottoms, but still a very good crime novel, with a plausible and likable female lead and his two not-so-likable helpers. Lansdale does the epoque very well without emphasizing it too much. I like that.

Leather Maiden: possibly Lansdale's most conventional crime novel, but thoughtful and gripping nevertheless.

The Nightrunners: some terrific scenes and great characters, but there seemed to be a subtext of warning about teenage criminals, which felt odd.

I'd read almost all of the Hap and Leonard books earlier, so I read now only Mucho Mojo (great) and Vanilla Ride (a bit too straight-forward, but entertaining nevertheless). I didn't have time to read Devil Red nor Honky Tonk Samurai (nor the novellas that were published interim), a short mention based on what I could find had to suffice.

Lansdale doesn't have a Finnish publisher now. He hasn't had one since 2003. That's a crime. Someone should do something about it, what with the Hap and Leonard show on HBO and the graphic novel series coming out.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Donald Westlake's James Bond treatment surfaces as a novel

Hard Case Crime has dug up a James Bond novel Donald Westlake wrote as a treatment several years ago. It looks great. I'm not interested in the Bonds in the least, but this might be worth a look.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The bibliography of science fiction pornography released

The title says it all. This is done very well and exhaustively, it seems, by Kenneth R. Johnson, published via Phil Stephensen-Payne's website. Merits a look, I'm sure.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Paul DiFilippo on the VanderMeers' new massive anthology

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have compiled a massive anthology The Big Book of Science Fiction, which indeed looks big. Paul DiFilippo dissects it here and gives it a highest praise. The intro on the anthologist's work resonates with me, as there's been some discussion on the new curator culture. I've been drawn into that discussion (over here in Finland, that is), but I merely think of myself as an anthologist, nothing more (and nothing less!).

(I'll promise to get back to blogging once the vacations end!)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Book: It Rhymes with Lust

Possibly a first edition,
based on the defects on the cover.
One of the stablemates in any genre is to discuss what was the first artifact produced in the particular genre. Hence there are many first graphic novels. I don't know what the first graphic novel really is, but I do know that there were many before It Rhymes with Lust was published in 1950 by a small outfit called Picture Novels, a subsidiary of St. John Publications.

It Rhymes with Lust was written by Leslie Waller and Arnold Drake and illustrated by Matt Baker. Drake and Baker had been doing regular comics for some time, mainly for DC, Waller had published a crime novel or two. Later on he did lots of movie novelizations. There have been two reprints, one in Comics Journal ten years ago and one by Dark Horse in 2007. It's been sold out for some time now, but I managed to pick up a copy.

It Rhymes with Lust (a great title, by the way!) is a slightly noirish exposé story of a cynical journalist who's called to a town called Copper City to run a newspaper published by the big man of Copper City, Buck Masson. Masson has passed away just before the story starts, but our man doesn't know it entering Copper City. It's soon revealed to him that Copper City is a corrupt place and eventually he has to stop the corruption. He has to face some thugs run by the deceased Buck Masson's lusty widow, Rust ("it rhymes with lust"), but he also falls in love with Buck Masson's daughter.

It Rhymes with Lust wouldn't be great literature if if were a prose novel, but now it's interesting, at least as a curiosity. It might work also as a movie, but even then it would be cliched. The active woman, Rust, is a bad femme fatale, and the passive one, Buck Masson's daughter, is a good girl. You've seen this a thousand times. Matt Baker draws well (beautiful women especially), his line is fluid, and the continuity is pretty good - this stuff reads fluently -, but as a story this would require some extra twists.

Picture Novels published another graphic novel, The Case of the Winking Buddha, by pulp novelist Manning Lee Stokes and illustrator Charles Raab -, but that's never been reprinted, so I'm not very likely to be able to read it. It has a great cover, though. Stokes wrote some crime novels from the thirties on and later he did a dozen Nick Carter paperbacks.

I noticed while reading this that a new small publisher Automat.Press has just launched a new Kindle edition of another early graphic novel, also in paperback format, i.e. Joseph Millard's Mansion of Evil. It was originally published by no less than Fawcett Gold Medal! Millard was an interesting character in his own right, making comics in the 1940's and 1950's and then moving to paperback originals. He wrote as Joe Millard some The Man With No Name westerns in the early seventies (though everyone knows Clint Eastwood has a name in all the Sergio Leone movies he's in). There are some free pages of Mansion of Evil in Amazon, and from those it seems that Mansion of Evil is purer noir, with its doppelgangers and all that stuff. Graphicwise, it doesn't seem as solid as It Rhymes with Lust.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Arthur Lyons: The Dead Are Discreet

Arthur Lyons is one of those now forgotten private eye writers who brought some seriousness to the genre, following in the footsteps of Chandler's later novels and Ross Macdonald, shying away from Mickey Spillane's evangelist violence and Brett Halliday's light-heartedness. I don't think many read Lyons now, and there are no Finnish translations.

I'd read earlier one of Lyons's Jacob Asch novels and liked it a bit, so I decided I'd try another one. I'd found a used copy of a No Exit Press reprint of Lyons's first novel, The Dead Are Discreet (originally from 1974), and started to read it while we were at the summer cottage. I had to bring the book to town, since I didn't have time to finish it at the cabin. Jacob Asch is a grumpy and lonely man, in the normal tradition of the hardboiled private eye literature. In this book, his first outing, he tackles the early seventies' Californian milieu of Satan worshippers and other firm believers of the occult.

The premise is intriguing, but The Dead Are Discreet was a disconcerting experience for me. I like Asch's character and Lyons keeps the story moving, but the image of homosexuals as sick perverts was disgusting - and, mind you, also clichéd. It's very much of its time, and I don't think Lyons would make this kind of book any more (he's not writing, though, he died some years back).