Today it is my great pleasure to have a stop on the blog tour by Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen and published by Orenda Books. Antti is a great author and although I couldn’t fit in reading the book for my stop I’m delighted to have a guest post by him about writing funny crime. And that is something that he does well, the last book that I read of his, The Man Who Died, was really rather gruesome but also very funny.
WRITING FUNNY CRIME, OR: WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE MARX BROTHERS WHEN I WAS SEVEN
I suppose something similar had already happened even earlier, but I do remember an afternoon in the late 1970s when I was watching television with my father in the northern suburb of Maunula in Helsinki, Finland, when something indeed clicked.
It was an old film, I could tell that by the crackling sound and the black and white picture that sometimes jumped a bit, or omitted a fraction of a second of screen time so the actors’ movements seemed suddenly quite angular. But all of that didn’t matter. I instantly knew it was a good one and right up my alley. My father laughed, I laughed. We probably laughed at different things, or at the same things for different reasons, but that’s just how it goes when one of you is seven and the other is 39. And after seeing that first one, I wanted to see more of those crazy Marx Brothers.
What does this have to with crime writing? Well, the Marx Brothers came to mind again a few years ago when I was at a certain kind of crossroads with my writing. After five very serious, very dark crime novels I needed a change. I believe what I needed to do was bring more of myself into my writing. What I now see I was missing in my writing was my other artistic love besides noir literature: comedy. As I was re-watching old comedies (that probably have more to do with my getting into this writing game in the first place than I am even giving credit for) I realized just how good those old Marx Brothers films were. Or, more precisely, how good their writers were and how much in fact I had learned that Sunday afternoon in 1979.
I watched the films and then read parts of the scripts (Monkey Business, Duck Soup, A Day at the Races) and found them even more anarchic, more absurd, more brilliant than the films. With the films, especially as Groucho or Chico launch into their tirades, everything flies and wizzes past you in nonsensical speed. (An argument could be made that it is nonsensical in any speed, but we’ll skip that.) In reading the scripts, I fully realized that each scene, each exchange was used to the max, so to speak.
To be honest, I never modeled any story or book after the Marx Brothers or even consider them a direct influence. But I do suppose I have tried to learn a thing or two about the optimal use of dialogue, the delightful power of the absurd, and just some perfectly timed silliness. (Of course, the Marx Brothers also tackled more serious issues like, for example, tyranny and dictatorship and war in Duck Soup. In their own way, it must be said.)
And, most importantly, I think, what happened that day long time ago was that a lamp got lit. My goodness, it’s great to laugh at crazy silly anarchic well-done stuff, and how it lifts the spirits and how it lightens the heart. I don’t know. At seven, I probably survived without analyzing the mental health effects of comedic entertainment. It was just enough to laugh and have a good time. (Which actually doesn’t sound too bad on this particular middle-aged grey day.) Anyway, I have the Marx Brothers to thank for something, certainly. And it’s just so nice to know there is writing and film that has stuff like this randomly selected (just by opening the script book) piece of dialogue:
GROUCHO: You’re just the man I wanted to see. If I could show you how to save 20 per cent, would you be interested? Of course you would. In the first place, your overhead is too high and your brow is too low. Interested already, aren’t you?
GROUCHO: Now, just wait till I get through.
HELTON: I haven’t got time.
GROUCHO: Now, there are two fellas trying to attack you, aren’t there? And there are two fellas trying to defend you.
GROUCHO: Now that’s 50 per cent waste. Now why can’t you be attacked by your own bodyguards? Your life will be saved and that’s… that’s 100 per cent waste. Now what have you got? You’ve still got me and I’ll attack you for nothing.
Come to think of it, doesn’t that sound like the beginning of a certain kind of crime story?
Fargo meets Baywatch in a darkly funny thriller by the critically acclaimed author of The Man Who Died Multi-platform, buzz-building marketing & publicity campaign Bestselling Finnish crime novel of 2017 Challenges the Scandinavian crime-fiction genre formula Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear … Sun Protection Factor 100 Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and the darkest noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a wicked black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives … from the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’.
About The Author:
Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.