An inquiry from Bill Bickley:
Hello- I’m trying to identify what book the painting I purchased recently was used on…any ideas?? I thought it was a Mack Bolan or Nick Carter but have gone through most of those covers online to no avail. Do you know or perhaps know someone who has an encyclopedic knowledge of these types of books you can show or post this for others to see and offer opinions/answers?? Thanks!
However, I picked up a Finnish anthology of old sword and sorcery stories, mainly from Weird Tales, but also from some other pulp mags. The book is called Mustan jumalan suudelma AKA Black God's Kiss after the story by C. L. Moore in the book. Of the stories I read, Moore's was the best. It's full of surreal images and still it moves with a breakneck pace. Very beautiful and thrilling. The story came out first in Weird Tales in 1934.
The other stories I read were Robert E. Howard's novella-length "The Black Stranger" (1934-1935, unpublished in Howard's life-time, published in 1953 in abridged form and in 1987 in original form) and Manly Wade Wellman's "Thunder in the Dawn" (Amazing Stories 1939). Wellman's story was a bit slow and dated, I didn't feel the thrill of adventure in this, even though the premise is pretty good: a stone age warrior is really the Hercules of the Greek lore and is the cause of Atlantis sinking in the ocean. Howard's story pits Conan against some pirates and settlers, in the story everyone deceives one and another. It's a great read, though I still preferred C. L. Moore.
The striking cover in the book was drawn by Jukka Murtosaari, a friend of mine, who's studied classical American illustration art for decades now - and it clearly shows. The editor of the book is one Markku Sadelehto, who's done a good day's work bringing American pulp fiction to Finnish readers, as he's edited tons of anthologies for different publishers for over 20 years now. His magnum opus is the edition of the collected stories of H. P. Lovecraft. The sixth and final volume came out just two months ago.
Alas, I didn't have time to read more of the stories from the book. I've read this when it came out some 20 years ago, but don't remember much of it.
Here are some of Chambers's Sexton Blake covers. Pretty good ones, too, but I don't know the illustrator. There's a signature in Keep It Secret!, it seems it says "S. Barany".
Remember when I used to edit the noir paperback series for a Finnish publisher, with books by Duane Swierczynski, Christa Faust, Scott Phillips and others? Well, the story didn't end well, since the line was canceled after six books. The format was changed into hardcover, but that didn't help.
I'd already translated Jason Starr's excellent Fake ID over years ago and it was scheduled to come up next in the series, in hardcover. Ossi Hiekkala made this very nice cover illustration to go with it, but the book never came out, due to many reasons. I can't really tell you how sorry I'm for this.
I didn't read the Zorro story in the book, but I read the two preceding stories. The first one that also gives the book its title is written by "David Keene". The title reads as "The Queens of Death". Now, there's no David Keene who has written any kind of crime novels or stories that I can find. I can't find any trace of a story called "The Queens of Death". Of course it's possible that this story was published in a pulp magazine no one has ever indexed, but somehow I don't think that's right. I got to thinking it might be possible this is really by Day Keene. The Finnish publisher may have thought that "Day" is not a right name for an author and changed him to "David". These things happen. And Day Keene happens to have a pulp story called "Three Queens of the Mayhem", published in Detective Tales in February 1946, so it's entirely possible that this story found its way to Finland and got published as part of a three-story anthology.
There are three old women in David Keene's story. They are old ladies living together. They were once famous singers called The Beverly Sisters, but getting caught in a murder case ruined their career. Now one of the sisters asks private eye called Tom Doyle to try to find a girl one of the sisters was forced to give away to an orphanage. The story is fun, mildly parodist in tone and plot. It's written strictly in the zany school of hardboiled writing, reminiscent of Robert Bellem, Richard S. Prather and others. So, is it "Three Queens of Mayhem"? Anyone? Or is it some other story by Day Keene? Or is there a David Keene?
There's also another short story to stir up interest. It's called "Kadonnut sävel", which means "The Lost Tune" or some such. The hero of the story is troubleshooter of some sort called Hannibal Smith. He's a former sports coach, but now makes his living selling used stuff, giving loans and doing services to people. Hannibal Smith is a fat man, but he's also resourceful and intelligent and quick with his mouth. Now, there's a Hannibal Smith story called "Down Among the Dead Men" published in Dime Detective in 1945, written by C. William Harrison, who's best known for his paperback westerns. (I've read one, it was pretty good.) I'm pretty sure this story is by the same C. William Harrison. Can anyone confirm? The story is funny as Hannibal Smith is asked to take a photo of a cow somewhere in the fields. He does exactly that, but fast he realizes he maybe shouldn't have, since he's being suspected of a murder...
The great Finnish cover is by Poika Vesanto. Probably - I can't find his signature in the cover.
Sword and sorcery novel? Yeah, Viimeinen bjarmialainen/The Last Bjarmian (Bjarmia is a mythical place in the north-east region of Finland) is something I've always wanted to do and now here it is. This story came out first in five installments in the Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories mag I edited and published some years back. I wrote my serial set in ancient Finland almost from a scratch and later on I realized the story resembles westerns a lot: a lone swordsman comes into a small town, finds the town people corrupt, but still has to fight some bad guys that threaten the town from outside. But these bad guys are weird gigantic white monsters, not your basic Injuns or robbers. And they have a mysterious leader, living in a cave no one has ever seen... It's a bit like Hammett's Red Harvest coupled with Lovecraft.
The serial went through quite many edits before it hit the print, and I still think there remained lots to be done. The main problem was that the battle scenes resemble each other too much, but last week I figured out how it could've been avoided - two weeks after the book had come out. I guess this happens a lot.
There's also my foreword telling how the story got into print. (I posted the foreword here - in Finnish, of course.) The cover illo is another one by Aapo Kukko, who's really good at these things. He said he wanted to draw my hero, a guy called Pesäri, with Alain Delon in his mind. And I think he got it exactly right.
Writing these things - this and my collection of Joe Novak private eye stories and the one novel about Joe Novak - is more like a hobby to me, though it takes a considerable amount of time. Writing this kind of stuff is practicing my craft, practicing how to narrate a story, construct the dialogue, keep the story moving. In the gone days of pulp and paperback publishing you could do this for money, now you have to self-publish or rely on your friends' micropublishing outfits, like in this case. Tuomas Saloranta does a good work with his Kuoriaiskirjat, and I've already agreed on doing another book - a small anthology - for him. Here's hoping someone finds reading Viimeinen bjarmialainen as much fun as I had writing the story!
I don't have the time to read all the books I don't find necessary to read. I've already read six or seven books by Dennis Phillips (1924–2006) who wrote under many aliases. His Peter Chambers (sic) books are light-fare private eye novels and his Philip Daniels books are mediocre thrillers. I noticed I hadn't read Murder Forestalled (1960) that came under his Peter Chester by-line. I found a small description of the book's plot at Amazon and decided to help future historians by blogging it. These kind of descriptions are hard to come by on forgotten British crime fiction. The Thrilling Detective site has an entry for Mark Preston who was "Peter Chambers's" private eye hero, but not for Johnny Preston who featured in "Peter Chester's" books.
I don't seem to be able to find the original cover, so here's the Finnish paperback cover (which is by Robert McGinnis and from altogether different book).
So, here you go: "Barbara Porter came into private eye Johnny Preston's office because she was in trouble. She was being blackmailed and some crook was demanding a thousand dollars from her...money she just didn't have. She wanted Preston to get rid of the blackmailer...but when she told him the crook's name was Jack Mahoney, he knew someone had already attempted the job. As Mahoney lay dying in hospital another mobster came in and finshed him off. And with the blackmailer well and truly dead, Preston found himself right back on the case again."
And oh, by the way, don't mix this Peter Chester with the convicted murderer. Nice to see some traffic here, though!