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||Marton Taiga (1907-1969) - Real name: Martti Erik Hjalmar Löfberg. - Pseudonyms: M. Levä, L. Martin, Margot Lagarto, Erkki Ruoste, Bones, Ali-Baba, Asinus Minor, Maija Laurinmaa, etc.|
Prolific Finnish pulp writer, who published over 50 books from mystery novels to science fiction - there was hardly any type of story he could't produce. Martti Löfberg's works were highly popular before and after World War II, but nowadays they are not so widely read. However, Finland's largest publishig house WSOY printed again in the traditional mystery series SaPo two selections of Löfberg's short stories (1987, 1991) about inspector Kairala.
"Kirveellä tapettu taas oli muuan siirtomaatavarakauppias, joka kellarivarastossaan oli pitänyt jonkinmoita inventaariota. Murhaaja oli tunkeutunut sinne ja tehnyt tekonsa kirveellä, joka myöhemmin löytyi erään kellarikäytävän sopukasta. Murhan tehtyään hän oli ahnaasti syönyt päärynöitä, omenia, luumuja, banaaneja ja yhtä ja toista muuta. Päärynänjätteistä saattoi esimerkiksi päätellä, että hän oli vain kerran tai pari haukannut mehukkaasta, kolmanneskilon painoisesta hedelmästä ja sitten heittänyt loput permannolle tarttuen johonkin muuhun." (from 'Joulu, Kairala ja kuristaja', in Yllätyslukemisto 12/1938)
Martti Erik Hjalmar Löfberg (Marton Taiga) was born in Helsinki, the son of Adolf Hjalmar Gregorius Löfberg and Elin Johansson. His father owned a sport shop, which sold bicycles imported from Chemnitz, Germany. Löfberg was educated at Juankoski secondary school. In the 1920s in Helsinki, he became friends with Aarne Haapakoski, later better known under the pseudonym Outsider, with whom he sat in restaurants.
Löfberg started to write in Germany, where he was sent in 1928 to learn everything about bicycles. After his father died, the sport shop went in bankrupt. When the Great Depression hit in Finland, Löfberg's found a new career by selling his first short story to the magazine Lukemisia kaikille, which ordered one hundred stories more. Löfberg became a full-time writer, contributing a number of popular magazines.
In addition to Lukemista kaikille, published by Ilmarinen Oy and edited by Viljo Niukkanen, Löfberg wrote from 1928 to 1938 stories for the magazines Jännityslukemisto, Seikkailukertomuksia and Yllätyslukemisto. The magazines continued until the emergence of television in the 1950s.
In 1936 Löfberg married Eva Sofia Hirvonen. His first book, Mustan lipun ritarit (1937) was influenced by Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River books. In this work, the central character was colonel Korte, but more popular was his Inspector William J. Kairala, the hero of about 100 stories, who had much in common with Mika Waltari's Inspector Palmu and Outsider's Klaus Karma. Löfberg wrote the stories under the pseudonym M. Levä. Possibly he also participated in the Nordic mystery novel competition of 1938, which Waltari won with the novel Who Killed Mrs Skrof?
Kairala was a big, good-humored, hard-working policeman. Like Waltari's popular hero Inspector Palmu, Kairala is a bachelor. "In my own way I'm a fine man, but I'm so damn fat." Kairala, a member of the Helsinki police force, do not have much illusions about the human character. He supports death penalty, but he is ready ignore minor crimes, including distribution of illegal alcoholic beverages during the Prohibition, until the smugglers start to use his own peaceful strip of beach. Then he must act, and Kairala beats the crooks and arrests them - in this order. Following the conventions of the genre at that time, many of the stories portray evil-intentioned foreigners and show prejudicial attitudes towards minority groups. In 'Kairala on raivostunut' (1939) a Jewish doctor cuts a dog without using anesthesia. The first collection of Kairala stories, Komisario William J. Kairala, mestarisalapoliisi, came out in 1938.
"Mutta heidän palkkansa oli kovin pieni, ja vaikka heillä oli korttirekisteri neljästäkymmenestä pitäjän suurimmasta viinankuljetajasta, he istuivat etupäässä kädet ristissä. Tämä ei tarkoita sitä että he olisivat ottaneet vastaan lahjuksia, sillä tosiseikka on, että kaikista väitteistä huolimatta maamme poliisikunta on kohtalaisen rehellistä väkeä. He vain tiesivät ja tunsivat toivottoman asemansa ja avuttomuutensa leikissä. Heidän ei kannattanut sekaantua siihen, sillä ihmishenki on toki melko arvokas. Nimittäin poliisin henki." (from 'Kairalan viikonloppuja', in Seikkailukertomuksia 32/1939)
In the 1930s Löfberg also tried his hand at science fiction, in
which he used the theme of time travel. In 'Osiriksen sormus' (1934,
The Ring of Osiris) the reader was transported from the 1930s to the
age of Akhenaton, who lived in the 14th B.B. and whose character also
inspired Mika Waltari in his novel Sinuhe (1945). 'Viiden
minuutin ikuisuus' (1936, Etenity of Five Minutes) also used the
formula of time travel. The story was published in two parts in Lukemista kaikille and appeared in book form in 1945. Lukemista kaikille was very popular magazine, which also published works by Outsider and Kari Suomalainen's comics based on Zachris Topelius's novel Välskärin kertomuksia in 1949.
'Maailma, joka kerran oli' (1937) was a story about the end of the world set in the year 1987. Löfberg's science fiction stories were often based on the apocalyptic view that after the destruction of everything humankind starts all over again. Löfberg was pessimistic - he did not believe in peaceful evolution. In Kahdeksan taivaallista miestä (1986) a group of astronauts return to earth on the year 2176. Most of the humanity has been destroyed. The astronauts settle in Finland which is attacked by warlike Chinese from the East. The wheel of evolution has again rolled backwards.
Löfberg avoided publicity, although he was among the most popular writers in Finland in the 1930s and '40s. The Ikkuna magazine mentions in 1940, that Löfberg had on that year 500 000 readers in a week. During the Winter War and Continuation War, he served as a sergeant-major in the Army. From 1943 to 1944 he published crime fiction and adventure novels, several of which were revised from his short stories. Valehtelin sinulle, Zorilla (1944) depicted Paraguay's war against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and was a dispirited story of a small nation fighting for its survival - parallelly to Finland's situation against the Soviet aggression in the World War II.
After the war Löfberg continued with his Porkkana (Carrot) series. Its protagonist was the newspaper boy Kid Barrow. During the story, Kid grows up into adulthood, marries and has a son, who continues his father's adventures. Porkkana books were reprinted in the 1970s. Löfberg's other later works include the mystery novel Kuka murhasi konsulin? (1951), whose author remained a secret for a long time. However, it do not belong among the author's best achievements. Löfberg died on February 24, 1969, in Järvenpää.
For further reading: 'Malja Marton Taigalle' by Paula Arvas, in Ruumiinkulttuuri 1 (2007); 'Tuo mainio marisija' by Kalevi Haiko, foreword to Marton Taiga's Komisario Kairalan tutkimuksia (1987); Pidättekö dekkareista by Kai Ekholm and Jukka Parkkinen (1985); Hornanlinnan perilliset by Timo Kukkola (1980) - Note: Inspector William J. Kairala's coctail: 1/s Northern Isles, 1/4 Bordeaux Beau, 1/4 Médoc