If I ran one of those clickbait-style websites, I would have been teasing this for at least a week now as the tautology of a ‘world exclusive never-before-seen Paul Halter translation’. I mean, it is exactly that, but that’s not the point.
In order to help with the acknowledgement of Paul Halter’s 60th birthday, John Pugmire — perhaps better known under his stage name of Locked Room International — has, with M. Halter’s blessing, sent me a copy of the letter he received from Halter when mutual friend Roland Lacourbe first showed Halter the English translation John had done of his debut novel, The Fourth Door. Lacourbe is, of course, the acknowledged overlord of the French impossible crime scene and compiler of the encyclopaedic reference 1001 Chambres Closes, the French equivalent of Robert Adey’s English language rundown of all things fictional and impossible, Locked Room Murders.
John has also kindly supplied an English translation, and both can be viewed by clicking the images below.
I love how Halter’s admiration for Carr, and his interest in the case of Jack the Ripper, are so acute that he’ll take a flying leap at the language barrier in order to enjoy them both in English. Given Halter’s fixation with impossible crimes and the evident Anglophilia of his novels, comparison between his own output and that of Carr are unavoidable, but it’s wonderful to see that he clearly has a great love of Carr’s work (one of these days I really must get my French up to scratch and pay him the same compliment).
I also love how it’s clear at this stage that there’s really no sense of quite what’s going to happen next, showing just how thoroughly this entire enterprise has been born of enthusiasm for this type of book and the desire to get them read by other enthusiasts. Those of you aware of the efforts John underwent to get Halter published in English will be aware that he tried the traditional route of offering the book to established publishers before opting to set up his own imprint, but it’s interesting to note that the letter is from 1999 and the first of John’s novel translations — The Lord of Misrule — wasn’t published until 2010 (Wildside Press published the short story collection The Night of the Wolf in 2006, of course, containing translation by John and the aforementioned Bob Adey, but opted out of the novels as it’s rather outside their purview). Obviously we know that it all worked out eventually — there are 11 novels and a short story collection available in English from LRI now, with more on the way — but it’s interesting to reflect on how difficult it must have been to get books out to an audience at the end of the last century and how quickly that has been reversed these days.
For those of you curious about the other titles mentioned herein, Le Mystere de l’allee des anges (The Mystery of Angel Alley) has yet to be published in English — anyone read it in French, or perhaps an Italian translation? — but Meutre a Cognac was published in the short story collection The Night of the Wolf under the English title of ‘Murder in Cognac’ if you want to check that out. And, I mean, an impossible murder at the top of an inaccessible tower? Who could pass that up?
I’m immensely grateful to John for supplying these, and could think of no more fitting start to Paul Halter Day. Come back later in the day for my own thoughts on Halter’s oeuvre, and be sure to check back this evening for the round-up of anyone else who is kind enough to get involved…