Who doesn’t love a list? No-one who matters, that’s who. And since I’ve now read all twenty of the translated short stories of Paul Halter it seems inevitable that I should have my own preferences laid out for everyone to disagree with.
I am reliably informed by the product page on Amazon that I purchased the Kindle edition of The Fourth Door (1987, tr. 1999) — the first Paul Halter novel I ever read — on 19th May 2013. After nearly 6 years, 14 novels, 19 short stories, and 30 blog posts that included a celebration of his 60th birthday I’m going back to the beginning to see where it all began.
With Paul Halter’s debut novel The Fourth Door (1987) being the subject of my 500th post this coming weekend, it’s time to dive into two more of his short stories from the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
“I am going to kill a man” — it must surely be the most famous opening line in the whole firmament of Golden Age detective fiction, and but for Sherlock Holmes and “the” woman I’d suggest the famousest opening line in all detection ever. When Aidan at Mysteries Ahoy! and I realised we were reading this near-contemporaneously, he kindly agreed to delay his review by a week that we might publish our thoughts as simultaneously as possible — I’ve not read his review as I write this, but I will by the time you’re reading it, and I am fascinated to find out how successfully he feels the game is played after that wonderful opening serve.
The detective novel often requests that you, the reader, swallow some fairly difficult concepts in order to fully engage with it — that someone can organically devise the methods of murder and misdirection depicted within, for instance, or that the mechanical solutions sometimes put froward do actually work in the manner described. However, the delightfully creative Norman Berrow, in his werewolf-on-the-prowl novel It Howls at Night (1937), demands of you the greatest degree of forbearance I’ve yet encountered, a hurdle some may struggle to overcome, in requiring you to believe that a man would actually go by the name of ‘Pongo Slazenger’.