#101: Paul Halter Day – I: An Epistle of Paul the Impossible

Paul Halter Day 1

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…

Joyeux anniversaire, M. Halter!

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22 thoughts on “#101: Paul Halter Day – I: An Epistle of Paul the Impossible

  1. Pingback: The Seventh Hypothesis (1991) by Paul Halter. Trans. John Pugmire | crossexaminingcrime

    • Well, this was really more John’s idea than mine. Mine will be up about 4pm, to give everyone a chance to catch up — very chuffed with what people have done so far!

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  2. Thanks for the tribute to Paul Halter. 🙂 I’ve just submitted a review on ‘Invisible Circle’ on Amazon, but it seems that the review has to be approved before it gets published.

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      • I enjoyed your review, JFW (is it John?), more than I liked The Invisible Circle. Two points on which I really agreed with you: the setting was pretty cool and well rendered, and the attempts to shift focus away from the killer boomeranged pretty thoroughly from that person’s first appearance on the scene. I had that one called from the start, and yet it all turned out to be somewhat ridiculous to me! Sounds like I need to try The Seventh Hypothesis and Death Invites You.

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        • Thanks for your comments Brad, and I’m sorry that most of your forays into Halter haven’t been as enjoyable. I definitely encourage you to check out ‘Seventh Hypothesis’ and ‘Death Invites You’ before giving up on Halter.

          BTW, am I right in thinking that you’ll be reading and reviewing Norman Berrow’s ‘Don’t Go out after Dark’ sometime soon? I’m looking forward to hearing what you think – I’ve just finished it.

          P.S. Good guess, and close enough – Jonathan rather than John. 🙂

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        • Jonathan, I’m definitely ordering Death Invites You. Would Seventh Hypothesis be better than Picture From the Past? I feel like I like the latter plot idea more . . .

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        • I’d say it depends on your tolerance for weird narratives. The Seventh Hypothesis is weird, but weird up front — as in, there’s a huge amount of spinning and revelation and reversal — whereas Picture… seems like it’s normal and then gets weirder and weirder and weirder without any explanation until the end, by which point I was in a complete spin…but that totally worked for me.

          I think both will work equally well for your tastes, though I consider Picture… to be the better book. Perhaps, knowing that, you should go for Seventh Hypothesis…

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        • Hi Brad, really glad that ‘Death Invites You’ is on its way. I would have to defer to JJ as I haven’t read ‘Picture from the Past’ – it’s sitting on my shelf, and I agree with you that its synopsis sounds promising. 🙂

          My recommendation would be to read all three: ‘Death Invites You’, ‘Picture from the Past’, and ‘Seventh Hypothesis’. 😀

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    • You’re a star, Bev, thanks for taking the plunge! 7 Wonders is in my estimation the weakest of those so far translated, so if you have interest enough to dig any further you should find something superior, just so you know…

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      • Thanks, JJ (and Santosh, below). I’m not completely put off. I have a lot of respect for folks like you and the Puzzle Doctor, so I’m definitely willing to give Halter’s work another try (or two). I do hate putting out fairly negative reviews for events like this, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do (especially if I want my review records to be accurate). Thanks for putting this together!

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  3. I think this was a charming way to start it all off, JJ, and I am sure you are feeling like a kid at Christmas with all the responses! It gives me a great chance to see what others think. If I’m going to move forward with Halter, it seems that Death Invites You might be the way to go!

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  4. Pingback: #103: Paul Halter Day – III: The Round-Up | The Invisible Event

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