#410: The Wants – Five Authors in Need of a Second English Translation

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Last week it was authors whose entire catalogues I’d love to see reprinted; this week I’ll set my sights a little lower: I’d like to see even just one more book by any of the following made available.

So we’re perfectly clear on my intentions, this is not a speculative “Hot damn, how amazing would it be if we found an unknown manuscript by —————–!?” list (a few of us did that already).  These are all authors who have books in existence which are unavailable to me, purely because the manuscripts are yet to leap the language barrier.  Or because I am unable to leap it, I suppose; depends on your perspective.

I have deliberately gone for authors with only a single novel-length English translation to their name (so Rintaro Norizuki — hugely curious though I remain — is not here), and those who we can’t be certain will ever see the inside of an English bookshop ever again (it’s always possible more Noel Vindry is on the way from Locked Room International, right?  Right?!?  Hence his exclusion).  And so, once more alphabetically by surname, I give you…

1. Alice Arisugawa

Alice Arisugawa
So far in English-language circles, the sole experience we have of Alice Arisugawa is The Moai Island Puzzle (1989), available thanks to the efforts of John Pugmire and Ho-Ling Wong under the auspices of Locked Room International.  I think it’s a masterpiece, not just for the extended ratiocination drawn out of a single piece of paper come the end, but also the steady layering of plot, the invention in its dual treasure hunt plots, and the way it keeps a large cast distinct, interesting, and clutter-free while the gleeful murder puzzle unfolds.  In a poll on this very site it scored extremely well for fair-play clewing, too, making Arisugawa something like a quadruple threat where the writing of detective fiction is concerned.  I wouldn’t necessarily expect a follow-up to contain any impossibility — though, as Brad recently noted, that begs the question of who would publish it — I just want to revel more in the creativity and excellence of the man’s plotting and observation of genre fundamentals.

2. Pierre Boileau

Pierre Boileau
Okay, sure, this is something of a cheat: technically there are two books Boileau had a hand in writing currently available in English.  But since he wrote them with Thomas Narcejac I’m going to claim each one counts half for Boileau and therefore makes up a single book.  I also didn’t especially love the one Boileau-Narcejac title I have read, so shouldn’t be that eager for further translations, but Boileau is widely regarded to have written some GAD-era locked room masterpieces and I’m more than willing to assume Narcejac was the one who dragged the narrative down if it will buy me the opportunity to read Le Repos de Bacchus (1938) or Six Crimes sans Assassin (1939).  I’m aware Narcejac also wrote solo impossible crime novels; for some reason — possibly just because they are less discussed and so I know less about them — I do not have quite the same enthusiasm for them just yet…but I’m willing to renege on that if anyone wants to publish a belter.

3. Szu-Yen Lin

Szu-Yen Lin
It’s sill early days, of course — Death in the House of Rain (2006) was only published in English towards the end of 2017 — and so there’s nothing to say we won’t be getting another Lin in English…but we’ve not heard anything either way (right?) and I’m just eager to see it happen.  Not only has Lin shown himself to have a superbly proficient imagination where long-form and short-form impossibilities are concerned, he also constructs his plots with a watch-maker’s precision and enriches some lovely filigree’d touches that really compel themselves to the mind (that triangle of shuttlecocks in ‘The Ghost of the Badminton Court’ is…inspired, and each of the impossible locked-room deaths in House of Rain are brilliantly baffling and originally framed).  And if all that weren’t enough, some of his other books sound superb and I’ll snap up anything else that comes my way.  And he’s alive and not ancient, so we could have a long career of his brilliance ahead of us…

4. Rob Reef

Rob Reef
Reef’s debut novel Stableford on Golf (2010) And-Then-There-Were-Nones its cast on a long-abandoned golf course and takes great delight in killing them whilst a tournament of sorts is played.  Not only is it a nifty and spry homage to the GAD traditional mystery that stops a loooong way short of being lazily hustled into a “cozy” pigeon-holing, it does a great job of making the golf a central part of the plot that unfolds, which too many “specialist context” mysteries fail to do, becoming instruction manuals in which, oh yeah, there’s like a crime or something.  The series is now six-strong, and while I have zero interest in golf I can believe Reef will have found a way to work it into the later books with an inventiveness that warrants more attention.  On top of that, he does suspects and clues well, and I’d jump at the chance to read anything else in this series because of how clearly Reef loves and wishes to pay homage to the GAD staples.

5. Soji Shimada

Soji Shimada
For someone who has exerted the influence he has over the re-rise of the puzzle plot, essentially kicking off the wholesale resurgence of the Western-style mystery in Japan and surrounds, it staggers me that Shimada has to date merely one novel and a handful of short stories in English.  No, I did not unabashedly love The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (1981), but that’s at least partly due to the awkward translation, however the grand guignol elements of the plot mix effortlessly with a solution that, personally, floored me.  ‘The Locked House of Pythagoras’ (2013) is all manner of insane, but wonderfully inventive with it, and ‘The Running Dead’ (1985) comes from the earlier stage of Shimada’s career and hints at much in the way of imaginative impossible wonders.  All we can do is wait, cross our fingers, and hope, but it’s a Carr-size scandal that someone with this much prestige, influence, and quality is as untranslated as Shimada is.

~

How about you, dear reader?  You don’t get to pick which book, but are there any authors who you’ve enjoyed so much that you’re desperate to see simply anything else they’ve written made available?  I’ve stuck with translations because it helps narrow the list down, but you should not feel obliged to stick to my criteria — pick your own and go for it…

29 thoughts on “#410: The Wants – Five Authors in Need of a Second English Translation

    • Good call. I’d be interested in reading more Durling if only because the story of his in The Realm of the Impossible — from memory I believe it’s called ‘Deadfall’ — is so odd that I honestly don’t know what to make of the man and his plotting.

  1. I like your choice 😉 and would love to read more from Alice Arisugawa and Szu-Yen Lin. I do miss Yukito Ayatsuji on your shortlist. “The Decagon House Murders” impressed me very much…

    • Actually, Ayatsuji’s hit horror-mystery “Another” was released before “The Decagon House Murders”, so there’s already more than one of his books out there 😉 It’s a supernatural horror mystery about a curse placed on a high school class. The students are killed one by one in horrible freak accidents (a scene could basically start with a student dropping his book on the floor and it ending with the house blowing up through a series of extremely unlikely and unlucky happenings that would even surprise Rube Goldberg ) and the only way to stop the curse is to figure out which person actually doesn’t belong in the class (as they’re part of the curse, unknown to themselves).

      • Ah, dammit! Well, it’s out of genre so I’m going to pretend you didn’t tell me this. LA LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAA 🙂

          • There were five Final Destination movies? Good grief. The series undoubtedly peaked with the “death by exploding fence” in the second. How did they wrangle three more out of that?

            Actually, what am I saying? Of course there were three more. And probably a TV series.

    • Yup, agreed, Ayatsuji did a great job with that one and it would be wonderful to see more; as ever, Ho-Ling will taunt us with the possibiltities, I’m sure…!

  2. Reportedly, Vertigo is planning to publish Soji Shimada’s Murder in the Crooked Mansion in 2019. You can find more information about it in comment-section of Ho-Ling’s post on maps, floor plans and diagrams, which you can read here.

  3. I have a feeling I simply don’t know the existence of some authors from other lands who write exactly what i want to read. Arisugawa and Lin are definite must-translates on my list! There was a Swedish woman whose name I’ve forgotten – Christian, help me! – who actually wrote classic style mysteries, a few of which were translated. I have the TV series based on some of her tales, but I’m too lazy and jet-lagged to get out of bed and go upstairs to seek it out. Not very helpful, I’m afraid.

    • I wonder if you could be thinking of Maria Lang, though the English Wikipedia page on her doesn’t seem to indicate that any of her novels have been translated into English. Amazon does give me three hits when I search for her name.

      She does fit your criteria otherwise – she’s one of the big 4 of Swedish GA mystery fiction, and during the last ten years there’s been several TV adaptations of her novels.

      • Whew, thanks! That’s exactly who I meant. I have a one-season TV program that I really liked. I haven’t read any of her stuff, though.

      • Three of Lang’s novels were published in English: Death Awaits Thee (1967), A Wreath for the Bride (1968), and No More Murders (1969) all by Hodder & Stoughton. In 2014 all three were released in the UK by Mulholland Books (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, of course) as digital books only.

  4. As for Arisugawa’s Student Alice series, I think only the most recent novel, The Castle of the Queendom, features another impossible situation, though that one is rather long. Arisugawa has another series called the Writer Alice series*, which too has a few impossible mysteries, though it has to be said that The Moai Island Puzzle is really one of Arisugawa’s best, if not the best, that he has written, so most of his other books are usually less impressive in comparison, even if they’re good 😛

    * The Alice in the Writer Alice series is in his thirties, and is in-universe the writer of such mysteries as The Moai Island Puzzle, starring a student who shares the same name. The Alice in the Student Alice series is an aspiring writer who in-universe has written mysteries about a writer called Alice and his criminologist friend. Inception at its best.

    As for Shimada, the English publication of “Murder in the Crooked Mansion” (second book in the Mitarai series) has been officially announced,, as per the comment tree in my post on floorplans last week (http://ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-quest-of-missing-map.html). So now we wait!

    • I echo the wish that Pierre Boileau’s “Six Crimes” gets translated and printed. Also, I’ve heard great things about Stanislas-André Steeman’s novel, “Murderer Lives at #21”. 🧐

      More novels by Paul Halter will also be welcome… Even though LRI has wonderfully brought to us many translations, I gather that there are quite a few titles hitherto untouched. I seem to recall some mention that there is a new translation on its way? 😬

      Excited to hear that there is an English translation of Shimada’s “Slanted Mansion” in the pipeline! 🤩

      • I second the request for more Halter. Yeah, there are a decent number of them already, but they are such a guilty pleasure that I desperately need more. Just think – a year ago The Madman’s Room wasn’t published in English yet. What a crime! Think of how many more of his books of that quality are waiting to be translated.

        • It’s intersting to think just how little I know about the remaining Halter books, given how much of a fan I am. I know not a thing — and I’m oerfectly fine with this, by the way, as I like going into something pretty blank on details — about the forthcoming The Man Who Loved Clouds (great title), nor anything else that might be in the pipeline. I understand from…somewhere(?) that Le Tigre Borgne is especially good, but I dont know what it’s about, and that’s pretty much it. In a way, this makes each new translation almost like a completely new book, since I’ve no preconceptions of which titles I’m more eager to read.

          • Ah thanks for letting us know about the next Halter title! Doesn’t look like it’s from the first row, but still should be tremendous fun!

            Also a grandpa Kindaichi story by Yokomizo would be great. The one with the locked room ( and no footprints ) sounds amazing

            • I second the Yokomizo (locked room) suggestion and have been hoping for a translation of that one ever since reading The Inugami Clan.

              Shichiri Nakayama is another Japanese writer who deserves a second translation, because Nocturne of Remembrance was an interesting crime novel to say the least.

            • Just saw your post on the Roscoe short stories and — lo and behold — the comment I left vanished into the ether. However, they sound great!

      • Hey, we’re all eager for the new Halter translation — well, okay, not all of us — and it’ll be interesting to see how many we get (the precise copyright situation is beyond my understanding, but I believe there are limits on the ones he’s allowed to have translated). Hopefully a drying of the Halter Well is a while off yet.

        The Steemamn is a good call, especially as someone found an old tranlsation of one of his on the GAD Facebook group recently. I toyed with putting him on this list, but since I’ve not read anything by him it seemed a little previous. But, yeah, him and Pierre Very and…well, don’t get me started 😀

    • Haha, that does sound like he’ll get to his last book and do a pull back to revela that you, the reader, were the true author all along. Or maybe he just needs help coming up with names for his main characters…

      Wonderful news about Crooked Mansion, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I want to read more Shimada. I don’t need it to be impossible, I just want to see what else the guy has done, so perhaps this might be a chance to get even more translated. People of the internet, we must all buy 4 or 5 copes of Murder in the Crooked mansion upon release, and the upsurge in demand will result in a third translation being rushed out in 2031. We can do this, people!

    • I should say, too, I’d love to join in the comments on that post, it’s a great tiopic with some awesome points being raised, but I’m yet again having trouble with Blogspot allowing me to comment — I posted on TomCat’s review of 8 Mansion Murders, and that posted, but when I replied to his reply it disappeared into the interwebs. Most vexing!

  5. There are several Dutch authors TomCat has written about I wish were translated into English. There are Austrian and German writers from the Golden Age I would be interested in reading also. The only Japanese books I’d like to read are the Kindaichi series. While JJ says there are only two books currently available by Boileau-Narcejac there are in fact eleven books that have been translated into English and all of them can be found in used bookstores if you are an assiduous hunter.

  6. My favorite B-N books that are available in English translations are HEART TO HEART and THE PRISONER. Neither is a true detective novel, but they’re the closest to being the most satisfying as crime novels. Both remind me of Ruth Rendell’s non-Wexford books and her work as Barbara Vine. HEART TO HEART makes ingenious use of sound and music as a form of haunting. THE PRISONER is a book I’ve been toying with turning into a play for a long time now. One other book translated into English is in fact a detective novel, and an impossible crime book as well — THE TUBE — but it’s *very* hard to find. I came close to getting a copy once, but foolishly I wasted a few days to make up my mind because the price was so high. Then when I gave in to temptation and was ready to throw caution and my money to the wind, I was too late. Someone had already bought it! So I’ve not read THE TUBE yet and can’t tell you if it lives up to level of the other two books I so admire and enjoyed tremendously.

    • Once again, I really appreciate your insight here, John. The Tube is another one on the Lacourbe list, but I somehow overlooked its having a translation already listed (probably because, as you say, it’s so damn rare!). Perhaps Pushkin Vertigo have more B-N reprints planned, eh? We can but hope…

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