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by Bamber Gascoigne

Mauri Sariola (1924-1985) - wrote also as Esko Laukko


Finnish mystery writer, who gained international fame with his inspector Susikoski stories. Among Sariola's best mystery novels were Leivätön pöytä on katettu (1958), Susikoski ottaa omansa (1959), Minä, Olavi Suskoski (1963), and Susikosken vaikein juttu (1967). Sariola received the French literary prize Prix du Roman d'Aventures for his novel The Helsinki Affair (1961, Lavean tien laki), his most popular novel, which in Finland sold some 100,000 copies. The protagonist is a young lawyer, Matti Viima, who has an attractive secretary but not too busy in his office. He starts to investigate a case, in which his client has received threatening letters. The search of the blackmailer turns into a murder hunt. Finally Viima unmasks the offenders – his secretary and his client's friend Sistonen – in his capacity as Counsel for the Defence at the Helsinki Criminal Court.

"Sistonen was broad-shouldered, but not very tall  a feature which must go against him, I thought. I was about his height myself, though leaner. I had never liked big men: they were usually bumptious and smug, amd apt to throw their weight about. But as I looked at my secretary's legs with their powerful calves and slender ankles, and the way she walked with light, rhythmic steps and head held high, I suddenly wished that I were a good bit taller." (from The Helsinki Affair)

Mauri Sariola was born in Hattula, the son of Armas Sariola and Anna Lyydia Kustaantytär. Mauri was the youngest of three children. His father was educated as a teacher, like several other members of the family; he died in 1940. Sariola's older brother Lauri died of drowning in 1935. From his childhood home Sariola inherited his patriotic spirit and conservative attitudes, which he later incorporated into his books. Continuing the family tradition for a brief stint in the early 1950s, Sariola also worked as a teacher in a small village school.

Sariolan graduated from the Toijala upper secondary school in 1943. During the Continuation War, he served under General Ruben Lagus in Äänislinna as a radio officer and participated in combats against the German Army in Lapland before the war ended in 1945. Sariola's experience of combat was brief, but for the rest of his life he called himself a veteran of Lagus' Tank Division. 

In 1945 Sariola entered the University of Helsinki, where he studied law for some years. To the disappointment of his family, he never graduated. Before abandoning his studies, Sariola had several jobs. He worked at a law firm (1947-48), in a bank (1949-59), taught in elementary schools, and wrote for Apu and other magazines and the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. While in Kittlä in 1952 Sariola composed his first mystery novel, but burned the manuscript. After a brief stint in Helsinki, Sariola went to Pudasjärvi, where he worked as a teacher for nine months under forged papers, drinking occasionally on his free time. Sariola's  pedagogical methods were original but he was loved by his pupils.

Sariola returned in 1955 to Helsinki. Between the years 1956 and 1966 he was a crime reporter at Helsingin Sanomat, and then became a freelance writer. According to one of the several stories dealing with Sariola, the author had read M.M. Kaye's novel Kuolema kulki Kyproksella (Death Walks in Cyprus) and decided to show that he can write a better book. However, M.M. Kaye's works were translated into Finnish after Sariola's debut.

His first book, Laukausten hinta (1956, The Price of Shots), Sariola finished while working on a road construction project. It was followed by Rotat pois laivasta! (1956). Critics hailed him as the successor of Vilho Helanen (1899-1952), who had made his breakthrough as a mystery writer a decade earlier. The book was filmed in 1959 under the title Kolmas laukaus. Part of the film was shot in Morocco. Ismo Kallio played the inspector Olavi Susikoski, perhaps the best known police character in Finnish literature after Mika Waltari's inspector Palmu. In the story Susikoski solves the murder of an agronomist. Totuus on armoton (1960), about two lawyers, was filmed in 1963, but did not gain much success. It was directed by Valentin Vaala, who had made 43 feature films and failed in his last effort. Susikoski virittää ansan (1970) was adapted into screen under the name Tuntematon ystävä (1978. An Unknown Friend) by the director Lars G. Thelestam. Åke Lindman played Susikoski, and the Finnish Miss Universum 1975, Anne Pohtamo, had a small role as Susikoski's girl friend. The Estonian-Polish actor Bruno O'Ya and the British actress Kate O'Mara were a murdering husband and wife team. Although the reviews were mixed and the film failed at the box office, the production company Filmi-Jatta announced plans to make a sequel entitled Vaarallinen risteily. This movie was never made.

A very prolific writer, Sariola occupied a central place in the Finnish mystery scene for decades. In 1966 he published five books. Two of them appeared under the pseudonym Esko Laukko, starting from Tohtori Viitasen tapaus. The title of the 1971 Laukko novel, Mene toiselle tähdelle rakastamaan, was taken from Katri Vala's poem 'Ylösnousemus' (Resurrection) in Sininen ovi (1926): "Mene toiselle tähdelle rakastamaan, / on hautani vierelläs!"

Sariola used the pen name Esko Laukko in nine novels – many of them were better received than his own works. Especially Sen yli käy vain tuuli viheltäin (1969) was noted for its skillful plot. However, the story was a plagiarism from Bill S. Ballinger's classical The Tooth and the Nail (1955). After the pseudonym was revealed, Sariola claimed that Laukko was his wife Tuula Sariola. Mauri Sariola died from complications after a gallstone operation in Helsinki on August 9, 1985. He was buried in the family grave in Hattula. Sariola wrote nearly 80 books, most of which were published by Gummerus. Some of them were put together from his serialized short stories.

Several of his books Sariola wrote in Sammatti, where he had a summer house. He was a natural story-teller and a bohemian, who had a a taste for gambling, drinking and sending telegrams in the middle of the night. His style was fluid, plots fast-paced, but characters too often cursory sketched. As for his ability to churn out one book after another that would be a best seller, he had only a few rivals. Sariola published over 30 crime novels, several historical novels, war novels, non-fiction, short stories, television scripts, radio plays, memoirs, and translated works from such authors as Erle Stanley Gardner, Quentin Patrick and Ian Fleming. His books were translated into Swedish, French, Russia, German, English, Norwegian, and Estonian. In 1969 Sariola went to France to receive the Prix du roman d'Aventures for Laven tien laki (The Helsinki Affair), a Matti Viima story. The ceremony was held at the Château de Cheverny. Visibly overweight, dressed in a dark suit, and wearing his hair parted in the middle, he looked nothing like Inspector Olavi Susikoski, his best-known character.

As a mystery writer Sariola carried further the Finnish detective story tradition of Outsider and Marton Taiga, but added to it international flavour and topicality. Inspector Olavi Susikoski was the hero of more than 30 novels, and Matti Viima, a lawyer, the central character in five novels, of which Punaisen kukon laulu (1963) was translated into English as The Torvik Affair. In Pyykki on pantu ja pysyy (1965) Viima met Susikoski.

Although Sariola had served in the army during the war, he never was especially interested in the subject like Niilo Lauttamus, but anyhow published some war novels. Aamu Heinjoen tiellä (1966) was based on true events. The protagonist is a young soldier, who destroys with his antitank gun ten tanks before dying. The soldier, Kauko Tuomala, was awarded posthumously the Mannerheim Cross for bravery. Sariola used a real life model for the character, as in Kolmannen valtakunnan kuningatar (1972), which told of Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka. Sariola had read Kempka's book, Ich habe Adolf Hitler verbrantt, and also met him in Freiburg. When critics have considered Aamu Heinjoen tiellä one of Sariola's best war novels, the latter arose much controversy, because it gave somewhat positive picture of Hitler and Eva Braun, the dictator's longtime mistress. The critic Pekka Tarkka wrote that the book openly admires a person, who is seen as the embodiment of destructive lust for power, irrational racial theories, and mad violence. In 1971 Veikko Huovinen had published a satirical novel about mass hysteria, dictators, and Hitler, entitled Veitikka. He was afraid that his novel would be considered a similar kind of questionable entertainment as Sariola's work.

Sariola also wrote three novels about soldiers, who were rewarded the Mannerheim Cross for excellent heroism. The trilogy Talvisodan vänrikki (1979), Jatkosodan kapteeni (1980), and Jälleenrakennettu maa (1981) covered the Winter War (1939-40), the Continuation War (1941-44) and post-war period of reconstruction. Armeija piikkilankojen takana dealt with Finnish prisoners of war.

Sariola did not gain the acceptance of the cultural elite, who considered his works unfashionably conservative and carelessly composed, perhaps with the exception of Pentti Saarikoski, who visited him in the late 1960s at his summer house in Sammatti. They drank heavily together. Sariola mentions in his diary, that Saarikoski saw an UFO, a bright circular light with a dark hole in the center; it disappeared behind the wood. (Mauri Sariola: Rahasta, rakkaudesta, epätoivosta by Ritva Sarkola, 2017, pp. 119-128)

Having a good memory, Sariola exhibited a good eye for detail. His observations about clothes, furnishings, restaurants, drinks, food, and on the other had sexual morals give a vivid picture of the Finnish way of life from the 1950s to mid-1980s. According to some sources, Sariola's Isänmaan parturit (1958), a story about political horse trades, angered President Urho Kekkonen, and the author had to wait in the reserve for his promotion to lieutenant for a long time. Eventually Sariola got his long awaited promotion after Mauno Koivosto was elected president of Finland in 1982 – during the Continuation War Koivisto had served under Lauri Törni (later Larry Thorne) in the Törni Detachment.

From 1970 Sariola was married to Tuula Sariola (original surname Korpela). From his first marriage to Anja Karjalainen Sariola had three children. Under Tuula Sariola's name, the Susikoski series was continued in Susikosken paluu (1992), Susikoski Orilammella (1994) etc. The love novel Ampiaispesä (1997) depicted her relationship with the author, who was noted for his patriotism, bohemian lifestyle, and generosity. In Juni 2006 it was revealed that all of Tuula Sariola's 16 books were ghost written by her friend, the journalist Ritva Sarkola. The cooperative CrimeTime announced in 2014 that it plans to release electronic editions of 44 of Sariola's books.

For further reading: Hornanlinnan perilliset by Timo Kukkola (1980); Kirjailijatar ja hänen miehensä by Eila Pennanen (1982); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 6, ed. by Kari Uusitalo (1991); Suomalaisia rikoskrjailijoita by Timo Kukkola (1998; 2. enl. ed.); Mauri Sariola -bibliografia 1956-1998 by Simo Sjöblom (1999); Suomen kansallisfilmografia 8, ed. by Kari Uusitalo (1999); Mauri Sariola: Aika velikulta by Ritva Sarkola & Raimo Jokisalmi (2005); Ensimmäiset kymmenen vuotta: katsaus Mauri Sariola -seura ry:n taipaleeseen 1995-2005, ed. by Seppo Simola (2007); Mauri Sariola ja maksetut viulut: elämäkertaromaani by Ritva Sarkola (2007); Ystäväni Mauri Sariola: epäromaani by Seppo Porvali (2007); Mauri Sariola -seura ry:n vuosikokousten Sariola-aiheisten tietokilpailujen kysymykset ja vastaukset vuosilta 1997-2008 by Kari Piitulainen (2008); Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime Fiction by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (2016); Mauri Sariola: Rahasta, rakkaudesta, epätoivosta by Ritva Sarkola (2017) - Mauri Sariola Association: founded in 1995, Ampiaiskesä (magazine published by Mauri Sariola Association, ed. by Raimo Jokisalmi)    

Selected works:

  • Laukausten hinta: salapoliisiromaani, 1956
  • Rotat pois laivasta!: poliisiromaani, 1956
    - Sur un lac finlandais (trad. par Gabriel de Bridiers, 1974)
    - film: Kolmas laukaus (1959), prod. Filmistudio, dir. Yrjö Norta, screenplay Yrjö Norta, starring Ismo Kallio as Susikoski, Antero Karres, Mirja Karisto, Severi Seppänen, Anita Sohlberg. "Komisario Susikoskea  Ismo Kallio  oli turha mainostaa, hän ei ainakaan tällaisena valjusti ohjattuna voi kohota ihmiseksi, jolla olisi tietty persoonallisuus." ("I.L.-s" in Suomen Sosialidemokraatti)
  • Joka tuuleen kylvää...: ylioppilasromaani, 1957
  • Revontulet eivät kerro: poliisiromaani, 1957
    - Norrskenet vittnar inte (till svenska av Ann-Mari Grönvik, 1958)
  • Leivätön pöytä on katettu: poliisiromaani, 1958
  • Isänmaan parturit: romaani, 1958
  • Ei loitsun eikä rukous: romaani, 1959
  • translator: Vaaralliset valokuvat by Erle Stanley Gardner, 1959 (original title: The Case of the Calendar Girl)
  • translator: Portaat pimeässä by Quentin Patrick, 1959 (original title: Suspicious Circumstances)
  • translator: Syyllisyyden varjo by Quentin Patrick, 1959 (original title: Shadow of Guilt)
  • Suskikoski ottaa omansa: poliisiromaani, 1959
  • Kohtalokas itämerenristeily: poliisiromaani, 1959
    - Ödesdiger östersjökryssning (övers. av Tor Bränn, 1960)
  • Totuus on armoton: romaani, 1960
    - film 1963, dir. Valentin Vaala, screenplay Juha Nevalainen, starring Sauli Seppälä, Salme Karppinen, Lauri-Juhani Ruuskanen, and Ritva Vepsä
  • Lavean tien laki: oikeudenkäyntiromaani, 1961
    - Laia tee seadus (Tõlk. H. Ingelman, 1967; Harald Lepik, 1973)
    - Un printemps finlandis (trad. par Jean-André Rey, 1969)
    - The Helsinki affair (translated by Alan Blair, 1970)
    - Fallgropen (till svenska av Tor Bränn, 1972)
    - Der Mord an dem Millionär (deutsche Ubers. von Willy Thaler, 1975)
    - Pularka (tlumaczyla Elvi Maranyi, 1979)
    - TV mini-series 1963, prod. Suomen Televisio, dir. Mauno Hyvönen, teleplay Mauri Sariola, starring Matti Oravisto as Matti Viima, Mai-Brit Heljo, Kauko Kokkonen, Martto Tschokkinen, Asta Backman 
  • Sumua Susikosken yllä: poliisiromaani, 1961
    - Le soleil de minuit (Texte français de Jean-André Rey, 1969)
  • translator: Rakas vaimoni Maureen by Quentin Patrick, 1961 (original title: The Green-eyed Monster)
  • Maailman pitkä sivu: romaani, 1961
  • Punainen laituri: romaani, 1962
  • Hurjan pojan koti: oikeudenkäyntiromaani, 1962
  • Minä, Olavi Susikoski: poliisiromaani, 1963
  • Pitkä matka Liverpooliin: romaani, 1963
  • Punaisen kukon laulu: oikeudenkäyntiromaani, 1963
    - Skuggan (till svenska av Liv Enckell, 1976)
    - Une Finlandaise au coeur chaud (texte français de Jean-André Rey, 1972)
    - The Torvick Affair (translated by Alan Blair, 1972)
    - Giftige Blüten (deutsche Ubers. von Willy Thaler, 1977)
  • Aina roiskuu kun rapataan, 1964
  • Viiman pitkä siima: asianajajaromaani, 1964
  • Niin syvä on kuin pitkäkin: poliisiromaani, 1965
  • Pyykki on pantu ja pysyy: poliisiromaani, 1965
  • Vetämätön värisuora: romaani, 1965
  • Susikoski, 1966 (TV series; teleplays)
    - dir. Raiku Kemppi, starring Heikki Savolainen as Susikoski: Hätävarjelus, Vipu viisaallekin, Ken etsii hän löytävä on, Poliisi ja poikamies, Vakain tuumin ja harkiten, Kätköilläkävijä
  • Elomme merta laiva purjehtii: tarina risteilyltä, 1966
  • Ukkotuomarin viimeinen juttu: jännitysromaani, 1966
  • Aamu Heinjoen tiellä: romaani, 1966
  • translator: 007 rakastettuni by Ian Fleming, 1966 (original title: The Spy Who Loved Me)
  • Herrasmiesten oikotie, 1966 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Tohtori Viitasen tapaus, 1966 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Keltainen kummitus, 1967 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Onnensoturit: romaani, 1967
  • Budapestin uni: jännitysromaani, 1967
  • Susikosken vaikein juttu: poliisiromaani, 1967
  • translator: Suurlähettiläs by Morris L. West, 1967 (original title: The Ambassador)
  • translator: Kuumaa kultaa by John Harris, 1968 (original title: The Old Trade of Killing)
  • Marskin ritarit, 1968
  • Ampiaiskesä: romaani, 1968
  • Sumusta nousee risti, 1968
  • Älä kaikista ruusuista huoli: jännitysromaani, 1968
  • Insinööri Forssin tapaus, 1968 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Sen yli käy vain tuuli viheltäin, 1969 (as Esko Laukko; plagiarism; see Bill S. Ballinger's novel The Tooth and the Nail from 1955)
  • Näin tekivät ritarit, 1969
  • Susikosken elämän kevät: poliisiromaani, 1969
    - Un Noël finlandais (texte francais de Jean-André Rey, 1971)
  • Napapiirin prinsessa: jännitysromaani, 1970
  • Susikoski virittää ansan: poliisiromaani, 1970
    film: Tuntematon ystävä (1978), prod. Filmi-Jatta, dir. Lars G. Thelestam, screenplay Matti-Juhani Karila, Ismo Sajakorpi. Lars G. Thelestam, starring Åke Lindman as Olavi Susikoski, Kate O'Mara, Bruno O'Ya, Anne Pohtamo. "Se on tyhjänpäiväinen ja huonosti tehty elokuva, jonka pahin vika on heti käsikirjoituksessa." (Markku Tuuli in Katso)
  • Armeija piikkilankojen takana: Suomalaisten kokemuksia neuvostoliittolaisten ja saksalaisten sotavankeina, 1970
  • Taivas kuin kerjäläisnuttu, 1970 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Kolmen valtakunnan vainaja: jännitysromaani, 1971
    - Qui a tué commissaire Wolf? (trad. du finlandais par Gabriel de Bridiers, 1975)
  • Mene toiselle tähdelle rakastamaan, 1971 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Näin lentää outo lintu: jännitysromaani, 1971
  • Surmansyöksy Caprilla, 1972 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Viimeksi poistuu kapteeni, 1972
    - Week-end finlandais (trad. de Maxime Barriére, 1976)
  • Kolmannen valtakunnan kuningatar: romaani, 1972
  • Surma surutalossa: Suskoski-romaani, 1973
  • Ja sitten oli kohiseva koski: romaani, 1973
  • Kuolemanlotossa kuusi oikein, 1974 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Susikosken ajojahti: poliisiromaani, 1974
  • Enkeli lumessa: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1975
  • Koltan uni: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1975
  • Taivas yksin tietää: romaani, 1975
  • Suruton Sariola: kirjailijan muistikuvia, 1976
  • Karoliinin kuolinkello: jännitysromaani, 1976
  • Suomalainen ratsastaja: historiallinen romaani, 1977 (note: Santeri Ivalo's book about Kustaa Mauri Armfelt appeared in 1900)
  • Onko teillä ruiskukkia?: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1977
  • Seidan silmä: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1978
  • Sininen lyhty: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1978
  • Suomalainen kavaljeeri: historiallinen romaani, 1978 (note: Kustaa Mauri Armfelt's adventures continue)
  • Susikosken omatunto: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1979
  • Susikoski ahtojäissä: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1979
  • Talvisodan vänrikki, 1979
  • Jatkosodan kapteeni, 1980
  • Petroskoin keltainen kissa: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1980
  • Hän käveli ovesta ulos, 1980 (kokoelmassa Sir Alfred Hitchcockin valitut jännärit, toim. Kari Lindgren)
  • Susikoski päiväntasaajalla: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1980
  • Ison kalan katiska: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1981
  • Jälleenrakennettu maa, 1981
  • Pieni anoo iso sanoo: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1981
  • Kutsukaa rikostarkastaja Susikoski!, 1981
  • Elämän makeus, 1982
  • Susikosken tulikoe: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1982
  • Kutsuvieraana kuolema, 1982
  • Rommelin poikien hauta, 1982
  • Susikoski sulhaspoikana: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1982
  • Marita Eisenin tapaus, 1983
  • Ne viulut vasta maksoi: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1983
  • Susikosken kuuma loma, 1983
  • Viimeiset ritarit, 1983
  • Kalliit katkerat muistot, 1984
  • Kolmen naisen talo: rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 1984
  • Susikoski puuttuun peliin, 1984
  • Susikosken palapeli, 1985
  • Nuoruuden komentosilta: romaani, 1985
  • Mauri Sariolan päiväkirja: parempi kertarutina kuin ainainen kitinä, 1986 (edited by Reijo Ikävalko)
  • Mauri Sariolan päiväkirja: 1970-1985: hyvästi, Sammatin kuu, 1987 (edited by Reijo Ikävalko)
  • Viides vieras, 1988
  • Susikoski, rikostarkastaja, 1988
  • Laulujen lunnaat, 1990
  • Susikoski Suomesta, 2000
  • Susikoski ratkaisee, 2001 (includes the novels Minä, Olavi Susikoski; Pyykki on pantu ja pysyy; Sininen lyhty; Ison kalan katiska)
  • Simo Hurtta ja kultainen pikari, 2002
  • Seitsemän kertaa Susikoski, 2003
  • Kutsutaan Susikoski, 2005 (includes the novels Rotat pois laivasta; Leivätön pöytä on katettu; Aina roiskuu kun rapataan; Koltan uni)
  • Susikoski ja Lentävä hollantilainen, 2007 (contains the stories Kuka vei vaimoni by Esko Laukko; Vanhan kultakellon arvoitus; Susikoski ja Lentävä hollantilainen; Nikkelivaippa)
  • Rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia, 2010 (Laukausten hinta; Rotat pois laivasta; Revontulet eivät kerro)
  • Rikostarkastaja Susikosken tutkimuksia. 2, 2012 (Leivätön pöytä on katettu; Susikoski ottaa omansa; Kohtalokas Itämeren-risteily)
  • Tohtori Viitasen tapaus; Kuolemanlotossa kuusi oikein, 2014 (as Esko Laukko)
  • Laulu seis, sanoi Susikoski: Mauri Sariolan novelleja, 2014 (edited by Matti Nummenpää)

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