Re: RARA-AVIS: My late introduction

Juri Nummelin (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 18:03:35 +0300 (EET DST)

On Fri, 27 Aug 1999, William Denton wrote:

> How popular are these writers in Finland? How well have they been
> translated?

It depends. Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald are all respected and liked here, but I'm not sure how many readers they have. The HB stuff is here more a intellectuals' hobby than the average readers'. And I think it was the leftists in the sixties and seventies who first began to pay attention to the American hardboiled writers.

The big publishing houses here do mostly bestsellers and blockbusters, but some smaller publishers like Book Studio (boring name, isn't it?) print Leonard, Lawrence Block, Highsmith, Margaret Millar (she has some great books, whether or not they are hardboiled) and Joe R. Lansdale. Some other publishers print James Ellroy ("American Tabloid" is coming this fall), Walter Mosley, Marcia Muller and Jim Thompson. We don't usually get the older books translated, but the movie focused publisher Love made Geoffrey Homes's "Build My Gallows High", Goodis's "Dark Passage", Cain's "Double Indemnity", Woolrich's "The Phantom Lady" and "The Bride Always Wore Black" (did I get it right?) and Dorothy Hughes's book about which Nicholas Ray made a movie ("Knock On Any Door"?). But alas the publisher seems to be defunct.

Gil Brewer and the other paperback writers were popular in the sixties and the seventies, but not anymore because the supposed readers (working class men) don't read any more, so new paperbacks don't get published in Finland. But nobody paid any attention to those writers when they were published, so everybody seems to have forgotten about them. My main function doing my bibliography is to get people to read them once all over. (And maybe to collect them so that I could get money from my duplicates...)

> Are there any Finnish hardboiled writers?

Well, not actually. Some writers tried to copy the American writers in the fourties and fifties, but the results are preposterous. The Finnish crime literature is focused more on police activity, like in police procedural novel, or psychological and sociological doings of the crime. One writer, Reijo Mä«© (pronounced like 'macky'), has a PI called Reijo Vares and he is your regular hardboiled PI: drinks, makes love, hates everyone, gets beaten and mugged. But I haven't read the books. Everyone says they are good, but I haven't had time while reading my gilbrewers and daykeenes.

> If it's hard to
> get American books in Finland, it's even harder to get Finnish books in
> Canada.

Sometimes you find a Signet or even a Fawcett Gold Medal in the Finnish second hand book stores. Once I found at least ten John Macdonald first editions at one mark each (something like 25 cents). I simply don't know where the guy who sold them had got them.
  Vow, what a letter! Hopefully you beared with it.


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