Friday, March 30, 2012

The Blue Dahlia, 1946. Directed by George Marshall; Produced by John Houseman; Written by Raymond Chandler. Cast: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard Da Silva, Doris Bowling. Paramount, USA, 94 min., b/w.

As you know, Raymond Chandler, like many of his time, was busy as a writer, the celluloid industry, however, the only specially prepared script for a film, that was for  "The Blue Dahlia ", directed by George Marshall.
George Marshall was a director rather eclectic film ranged from comic to film westerns, crime movies.
In our case, signs a delightful film, by that strip of film noir in 40s, that respects the canonicity of similar films (the unfaithful woman, the man betrayed the gangster, punch, smoke and alcohol in abundance, and a good offense, and of course the innocent who must prove his innocence against all), but enriches it with the motif strongly felt in those years, the veterans returned home as heroes, and then prevented by circumstances other than back into the everyday world. It almost seems the plot of Rambo: even there, in the first of 4 movies, the theme was the failure to return to work and to normal life of the veteran, rejected by the very people who ought to have a hero's welcome.
Here there are three veterans: Captain Navy aviation, Johnny Morrison, who is the protagonist of the story, his subordinate and his friend Buzz Wanchek, that due to a bullet in the skull suffers from hallucinations, severe headaches, moments of absence and severe amnesia, and their friend George Copeland. Johnny returns home, hoping that his wife Helen is waiting (but in a sense predicting the opposite), and locates her in the middle of a party in his apartment, in a bungalow hotel complex, with friends who he doesn’t know, and he betrays a certain Eddie Harwood, owner of a local, “The Blue Dahlia”.
But it’s not so much to discover that his wife has a lover but that she was the cause of death of their only son, the spring that triggers an argument between the couple, after which, Johnny leaves his wife for ever, that could have killed, together with his pistol, a 45.
It's raining cats and dogs: Johnny comes out of a second and disappears. Located randomly on the street - look at the coincidences - a beautiful blonde who gives him a ride (Joyce Harwood) to turn his wife Helen's lover. But while the two travel by car, someone really wants to kill the wife of Johnny, which is thus suspected to be the perfect murder. At this point he should try in every way to find the murderess of his wife and prove his innocence, the right help Joyce, fell in love with him, and broke with her husband.
At this point, Johnny collides with Eddie and his partner, a scoundrel with whom he has robbed a bank messenger boy killed for nothing: the two are wanted for many years, but they changed their names and now they are protected from any investigation, as long as Johnny does not understand, warned from the back of a photo, taken at the home of his wife, that Eddie is actually the false name behind which lies a murderess: it would seem at this point that the two were involved in 'murder of his wife, but it is not. And so the final will be a confession of the unexpected unexpected, as is the recognition that what seemed a confession (Buzz Wanchek fails to focus on what made the night of the murder, and is prey to terrible memories: Helen tore the petals of a flower one by one, a frightening noise and loud music) really is not.
Of course the film ends with the two main characters Johnny and Joyce greet you but what you say makes you think that a little later will meet again.
The film, beautifully directed and acted, he entered the quintet of eligible candidates for an Oscar for best screenplay in 1946. As for the players, we must especially mention Johnny and Joyce, who was Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, very close-knit pair at the time. At the time, Lake was on the crest of the wave, so that the hairstyle that she had launched (a fringe falling over one eye by hiding it) had infected a lot of the female audience. As that hair had caused many accidents, especially among workers, whose hair was drawn between the gears of the machinery, the government asked Lake to change her hairstyle.
Ladd hand, while being appreciated, especially because of the low-budget movies they always sell a lot, really became famous a few years later with the interpretation of  “Shane” (1953).
The third actor in this poster along with Ladd and Lake, was William Bendix, characterizations of the time, whose role in the film would not seem to be on the same plane as the first two, so why was placed next to them? For the popularity? Bendix is
​​true that some years before he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by Actor in Wake Island (1942) by John Farrow, and had been with Ladd and Lake in “The Glass Key” (1942) from a work by Dashiell Hammett (screenplay by Jonathan Latimer), and then a magnificent interpreter of Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944), a film in half and psychological warfare.
Here she seems to play a role all its own. Indeed, as the film proceeds, a not inconsiderable part focuses on the characterization of the veteran with shrapnel in the brain and prey to strong amnesia and hallucinations, for how he behaves and what he says, at some point it would almost seem to be in films the murderer. In reality, it was learned that Chandler had in fact intended that, the part of the murderer (he had to kill the faithless Helen, because very attached to her husband Johnny), until it was - by American military authorities - refused that a veteran and for more disabled, could be attributed to the characterization of a murderer. So Chandler changed the identity of the murderer. But as the film progresses, I repeat, it seemed to me that this shift had not occurred before the beginning of the film, but along the way: in fact, the drama tends to Buzz, which would be an ideal guilty, and with a strong psychological, until a sharp turn at the end, the less likely it is identified with a motivation of the killers and truly laughable: blackmail. The murderer would have blackmailed for her affair with Eddie, threatening to reveal everything to her husband, but she refused and so, fearing that she revealed all to Eddie, he would kill her; everything now when Helen was left forever by Johnny and she also broke up with Eddie, played by Howard Da Silva
And Raymond Chandler?
Judith Freeman, "The Long Embrace", Random House (2008), says that Chandler had interrupted the wonderful script and he didn’t  know how to continue it and finish it. In fact, become a teetotaler for a cure from too much alcohol that he sent down, he could not break in more, as it were alcohol gasoline engine of his brain. The fact is that he agreed to finish the script in exchange for a crate of bottles of Scotch whiskey, and drank every day, until a few weeks later he managed to finish it and hand it over.
A final curiosity: Raymond Chandler's hostility to on many occasions Classic Mystery, the Twenties and Thirties (Christie, Sayers and especially among the American Van Dine and his followers) and the understanding of the police investigation, preferring realism the imagination, suburban environments to those of the rich bourgeoisie and the aristocracy banking business.
However, in a passage of the film, we see how this intellectual detective story, although in words challenged his colleagues brain more sensitive to the survey, it probably subliminally he copyied the styles. In fact, the photo of his wife that he takes away from the clamp system where there is also that of her dead son, back behind the words: Johnny, of anything happens to me, Harwood Eddie Bauer's name used to be. The New Jersey State Police would like to know. The charge is murder. Helen.” .His wife wrote it because he feared being killed by Eddie. Then she died.  
This message is or is not adying message”, trademark of Ellery Queen?

Pietro De Palma

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Steve Fisher : I Wake Up Screaming, 1960 
(2nd version)

Steve Fisher (1912-1980) was a great hard-boiled writer, one of the great writers of the '40s.
Despite, however, that Fisher is known because of his novels hard-boiled, not everyone knows that its beginnings were related to classic mystery : it began to practice his writing career (except for Satan's Angel in 1935) with Murder of the Admiral, 1936 (signed Stephen Gould) followed by Murder of the Pigboat Skipper (alternate title Murder on the S-23), 1937, in which he made his debut a naval officer, whose face was unrecognizable because of an accident.
Steve Fisher  is known for being one of the old friends of Cornell Woolrich.
This novel has had a troubled life: it was published in two different versions. With "I Wake Up Screaming", published in 1941, Steve Fisher made ​​a big jump from Pulp Magazine (such as Black Mask) to the books. Witnessing a great success of the novel, renovated with two films (into the first, 1941, recited Victor Mature and Betty Grable), Fisher thought in 1960 to rewrite the novel. It’s the second, the 60s, that I explore here.
What you notice immediately, is the cut of the novel. How much of cinematic language is in this novel? Very much, in my opinion.
First, the story.
A successful writer one day he sees a girl who does the secretary into the Studios, and he falls in love: she is beautiful, simple, direct. Obviously the first order is the same: to have sex .. and then end up in bed: she doesn’t wish, but he's really good, and then .. but then something else takes over. So he falls in love. Old history. But this time, it is reversed. Usually to go to bed with a woman who dreams of becoming a showgirl, you promise all if.. Here is the opposite. The idea of ​​making a star is later, and Peg put commiment together with three other guys: Craig Lanny, his friend, screenwriter of film series B, Robin Ray, an actor whose career is continuously to the test "by his achievements" when they leave, and Hurt Evans, a director known, but always in the bill, for little pay that they give, and known also because he constantly tries to have sex
with starlets.
Vicky Lynn, the secretary who wants to be an actress, she understood that serves to launch the gossip, that is to tell everyone that Robin Ray fell in love with her, just that this thing gets nervous
Peg, very jealous.
Vicky has a sister, Jill, much like her, and indeed a lot more beautiful. Peg, although in love with Vicky, is sensitive to sex appeal of the sister, but now everything is taken from Vicky. But one day, going to her at six in the afternoon, found dead her in his apartment, killed by a blunt object with which it was shot on the head: not a tear, no blood, just a bruise, but how much is enough to kill her. Only the sister of Vicky believes in the innocence of Peg. The police, however, submitted him to questioning of "fourth degree", but it has not been authorized. So it ends up that those responsible are suspended, he is freed with an apology from the prosecutor. Indeed, now the suspects are focused on the clerk, a stolid type, a doorman who seems to have escaped.
Now that Vicky's gone, it explodes and unspeakable secret love between Peg and Jill. And Vicky? Vicky has somehow forgotten.
From him, from her, but not by Ed Cornell, homicide detective, a tough guy, one of those who have "questioned" Peg and that now was previously suspended: Ed is convinced against all reasonable doubt that Peg is the murderer. From that moment began a manhunt: Ed seeks evidence to condemn Peg to death, Peg does not understand why Ed hates him so much.
The doorman of the building is not. Someone begins to think he's dead, and Peg begins to be suspected, and some are beginning to think that Ed is not completely played. Meanwhile, however, the other three partners in the launch of Peg Vicky had good reason to kill her. Lanny has signed a contract for Vicky and it would serve his wife divorce him. Hunt has signed a bill on the life of Vicky fifty thousand dollars, that would serve all right to raise its meager finances. Robin is suspected because if she had left him, it would be a mortal blow to his career.
Peg is suspected for his jealousy. In the past, he said that he would kill Vicky if she had gone with others. Ed who is sexually impotent (they tell Peg his own colleagues), who lives in an old hotel, holed up in a room tanned like a shrine, adorned with photographs, samples of perfume, and various fetishes Vicky gives a hunt frantic to Peg.
Hunting Ed gives Peg, supported by an implacable hatred, has become a source of life, because he noticed how the death of Vicky, has given the opportunity to Peg and Jill love each other, as if Vicky was a burden. It almost seems, at some point in history, that Ed knew Vicky, from before she knew Peg. Not surprisingly, the end of the book, it is said that he had in his wallet an "old and worn picture of Vicky."
Ed wants Peg dead, and patiently builds a castle circumstantial case without escape for him. Until Peg is arrested by police. But before he can be brought to Central, Jill gets into action: knocks Ed with an ornament, while the second policeman was knocked out, and the two flee. So begins a daring escape, a manhunt "by Public Danger No.1", before with Peg handcuffing and Jill careful not to acknowledge it, then Peg free from handcuffs, but always in danger with her, from pensions to pensions, increasingly squalid and dilapidated. Until Peg’s bulb lights up and so he can give a face to murderer. Even predictable.
However, the novel has its specific gravity is not indifferent. Presents portraits, several characters of the time, contains direct allusions to other writers (Horace McCoy), also indirect (for example, Cornell Woolrich). He is physically built taking as a model Cornell Woolrich. As it happens, in fact, the psychopathic cop named Ed Cornell (Cornell Woolrich) has physical features and behavior conferred by his friend. High, all skin and bones, red hair, very pale, "the only man he knew that in those years, wore a bowler hat." The isolation of Cornell Woolrich and his life obsessively devoted to the celebration of his mother, is the isolation of Ed, a character who is alone in a world he does not understand and who does not understand him. And, and that he uses for his purposes (the attorney who must respond to public opinion) .
Eddie is the "doppelganger" of Peg, he is death that haunts him, obsessively, convinced him in the bone him and not others is the murderer; conviction which then takes criminal reliefs, when it is discovered that Ed had already figured out who he was the real murderess, covering, for the purpose of diverting suspicion and instead directing all towards Peg, because he who must die, because he betrayed Vicky.
Ed’s hate towards Peg also has the relief  of "social hate". He is the poor investigator, who loves his work, yet he is poorly paid, he is forced to exhausting shifts, living in a dump,he is sick with TB , and he is also helpless, he is a subject avoided by women, though he does not hate them, but hates mens loved by them, he hates those who are more fortunate; he hates the writer and screenwriter of success, the men who fall in love women they seduce, the men take them to bed, he earns in a week what Ed earns in a month.
In the novel, there is a whole series of platitudes that cinema has given us several times: the detective who is sipping cold nights and to tail a suspect, almost catches pneumonia (for example, how can we forget Gene Hackman in John Frankenheimer’s
The French Connection?), two sisters almost identical, the boyfriend of the dead woman who falls in-law, escape the police in hot pursuit, the officer psychopath.
But the hatred seems also dictated by personal reliefs: Ed surely knew Vicky, he had been secretly in love, perhaps rejected the first time because helpless.
Perhaps this love in the initial draft would have been more visible, maybe you would have thought of mistaken identity between Vicky and Jill, perhaps the same Ed could be the killer , accusing Peg to save himself.
Hypothesis too risky?
What remains is a murderer predictable, too, and a final .. nice but a bit obvious, as if the murderer was only a makeshift, used in a different wording from the original, although perfect in a noir so intense.
And remains the picture at times merciless and hard of the Mecca of cinema and the picture of the golden world where Steve Fisher worked.

Pietro De Palma

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brown Meggs : Saturday Games, 1974

The author does not say anything to anyone: Brown Meggs. It would appear the name of someone, but no, it is the original name. Megg Brown wrote only that damn little. In fact hehadanother jobworking: he knew well, seems very well, classical music and opera, and was a successful executive at Capitol Records, a famous American record label. One day he made the shot of his life: he managed to win the rights for the marketing of Beatles records in the USA. However he had written a novel, "Saturday Games", this, translated in Italy with the title "Games on Saturday."
We say it right away, so let there be any criticism: it's not a masterpiece, but not far off, or it is. In short, we are dealing with an exceptional work: a few times I found myself before a first film, extraordinary: Gaston Leroux, Philip MacDonald, Ellery Queen. This is another case.
Truly remarkable novel, more thriller yellow, with a spiral structure, and more stories that intertwine with each other and from the way they enter and as they relax in synergy determine the pace, which is initially weak, and it must be because the story is then beginning his narrative, but then becomes increasingly fibrillating.
The novel begins with these two who wake up, each in his own house, naked and sweaty: one is a scientist, the other a cop, but both do not remember anything of what they did the night before. They were both drunk, it said. The police officer must meet with a psychologist, her friend (lover, best), with which food delicious lunches every Saturday and after the succulent lunch, repass .. the Kama Sutra. He would continue to have a report made ​​lunches, love, travel and lots of sex, but she wants to get married while he is attracted. The beauty is that the policeman, Sergeant Anson Frères, the next step to lieutenant, according to all his classmates, the fact that he had lived a long time with his mother, was buckled a reputation as effeminate and coconut mother, while she was quite the opposite, a satyr.
The fact is that on the Saturday, when he would to spend the afternoon with a psychologist to practice sexual positions, and while the other, the scientist, along with two of his colleagues and their boss (part of a team scientists working in a space project) plays tennis like all the Saturday morning , someone call the police because someone is trying to hit with the bow and the arrows a deer, who, wounded, went to hide in the woods. The fact is that, when they begin the research, find the other: in a pink trash bag, a woman looks at the sky, eyes open, fixed. The face is beautiful but it shows already some thirty years, the hair is wet and matted with blood, the body is completely naked, was killed by at least six hours, breaking through the skull with a blunt blow. From here begins the story. And the rhythm picks up.
Each time the gap was on the tennis court where the four play. It soon becomes clear that the deal is, and that at least knew that the slain: it was actually one of the three from which her ​​husband was about to divorce. The others try to remember, and between a ball and another exchange of impressions: Vinnie, and Neil Howard. Not with their leader Baron, but only among themselves. Why talk about what happened the night before, and he must not know. In short, something happened that connected or not connected to the death of the girl, must not become aware of their leader. He, the cuckolded husband, suspects that one of the other three is the current lover of his wife, a woman who has sex with the same frequency as an actress in a porn film in which the piles are interchangeable. In short we have: three scientists who have done something that has to do with the death of the girl, the husband of this was going to divorce her for infidelity of the woman manifests, a policeman whose sport is to have sex with a psychologist, a doctor legal rather than put the full stops, opens up other disquieting prospects. Meanwhile the investigation continues.
Meggs1.jpgAnd among the volees, the loops of four straight and on the tennis court, small fragments of a shocking truth to be inserted in their place, and while Neil and Howard slowly remember what they did with Emjay, the woman who simply has an industrial quantity of sex with anyone she likes, a cleaning lady who is tidying up in the neighborhood of the most beautiful villa with pool, discovers a blood-stained carpet and parquet, underwear in the bathroom , while the guy who takes care of the pool, discovers blood stains, a pool of vomit and other amenities. In short .. it's easy to connect the place with the death of the wife of the scientist. Meanwhile, the investigation becomes tight, increasingly tight, and when the pace is hot and new details emerge, it is always the game of tennis that brings attention to the four suspects, their errors at the net, strange for four types hard courts even if they do once a week, and their long game is intertwined with the uncertain relationship based on sex of the officer and psychologist, on investigations of Anson and Yee (another policeman, China), on those of Yee Martinez (another policeman again). Truth that speaks of bottles of gin, a lot of marijuana smoke, a party of four people, three men and a woman in a villa with swimming pool, three men and a woman naked, marijuana, alcohol and lots of sex: all three are responsible? Or just one? Or are they innocent? It was a sexual murder? Or a tragic fate?
It all comes down to an extraordinary final where the killer is the least suspected . And I must say, thing that always I remark when I speak of novels which I consider extraordinary, Brown leads the reader by the nose (including myself and I am not used to be brought him by the nose) before putting the clues, which of course does not reveal the scope but in the end, and only at the end of the last pages, reveals the shocking truth. The novel is linked in some way with the proceedings, later used by Paul Halter, in his masterpiece, Le brouillard rouge,another novelin which the bloodis the master.
A  classic mystery, normally, has very little blood, because the victim's death should not impress the reader. Besides, despite a detective novel should build a prince of an offense and the offense is the crime, it is hardly ever truculent, almost never the author depicts the blood, and if it does only accennadovi. But here is different aspects of death and the feast that precedes all of their own, even revolting. Yet even this is a classic yellow, which moves but with modern rhythms.
All that blood made ​​me think of another novel uin which the blood is a sort of leitmotif: Le brouillard rouge, by Paul Halter. If we have the two as well as in blood, a sort of commonality in the fact that the blood is at the beginning and end of the novel, and that the two crimes hide a clear sexual drive, aggression. But here the similarities end: Halter's novel, blood, painted on the walls, linking the end of the beginning, like Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino, in a clear, while in the novel by Brown Meggs it is hidden, it only understands at the end. Furthermore, whereas in the crime is premeditated Halter (the Ripper kills his victim, choosing among many) in the novel, death is only the consequence of resistance to a request set, for asexual assault which the victimwas notsubjected threateningto report himto the police. There are revolting details in this mystery, classic repeat: vomiting, traces of semen, blood, much blood, much to the shoes get dirty. And here there's really a lot of blood. .. But only the same person. And there's plenty of sex, and scenes are very intense, but .. there isn't a shred of vulgarity or of terms and hard shots. Instead there is a lot of sophistication and ingeniousness. And also culinary and artistic reflections.
Everything found in a novel in the midst of so many in the bulk, and paid very little
Oh, I forgot one thing is not a minor: in 1975, Saturday Games was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for his first novel.
Not a small thing.
But one thing  I don’t  understand: why other publishers in recent times have not been aware of this excellent novel and have not repeated. Instead, the depressing thing is that too often we read things, which frankly no one would feel the need.
 Pietro De Palma

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Georgette Heyer : The Unfinished Clue (1934)

The novel is a typical example of the British mystery, the mystery that I call simply "at the manner of Agatha Christie": pastries, charity parties, concerts, galas, conversations lovable or not, envy, jealousy, repressed hatred, blackmail, heritage and so on .. and of course a nice murder. That in everyday reality it never is. Indeed, seeing a person in flesh and bones dead, murdered, always makes sense, but, to attend a murder of paper, emulate the detective in the logical reconstruction of the event and contribute to solving the case, arguing that it is vital, is other thing . Now, the British mystery, usually looks like this, and the blood is almost entirely absent, so little it lingers on the dead. Rather, the novel has always focused on the rest.
However this is not a novel of Agatha Christie: in her novels there is more malice, cynicism, meanness, and often the murderers kill
planning the murder, premeditating it or otherwise being in a favorable condition by enforcing the conditions because it is very difficult (but not impossible, otherwise Poirot or Miss Marple, what they would be doing?) be discovered, here, or at least in novels of this writer, all the wickedness of Christie's.
Georgette Heyer is famous at home as in the historical narrative as in the detective fiction: an extraordinarily good writer.
The mystery of Heyer, was designed in such a way that reflected his conception of order and respect for the rules, not only at the romance but also in the society : social groups small, closed, in which the various roles are fixed and rigid, as if whenever you were to recite a script whose background was, if not equal, at least strangely similar in concept.
So when I approached the Heyer novels, I confess, I've been very cautious: they have got a very strong psychological characterization, and the clues are found, if sought, into  conversations invariably turn: so you have to put up with all dialogues, all right, no skipping, when reading a mystery novel, and generally paying attention to other scenarios here, one must be very careful. And then, Heyer's novels, in my humble opinion, although interesting they are also very demanding, in the mere reading.
This is not our case: The Unfinished Clue (1934), the third list of Heyer mystery after Footsteps in the Dark (1932) and Why Shoot a Butler (1933), is for me a delightful little masterpiece. The novel is both very light and it has extraordinary capacity for introspection, dialogues that seem unnecessary, if not contained, appropriately screened, important clues, which in turn can only identify the hound. In our case, he is the Scotland Yard Inspector Harding, called into question after the murder of an old retired military officer, the rude, grumpy and even despotic General Sir Arthur Billington-Smith. The General was found in his study, stabbed by a knife, but it seems that in the moments immediately preceding the death, have tried to write something, a syllable, in this case, "LA", but that probably meant nothing more: a name perhaps?
At the time there were several people in his country mansion, “The Grange”, and many felt something against him: his son Geoffrey, son of first marriage, disowned by its union with Lola, a dancer of Mexican local second 'order; his nephew, Captain Francis Billington-Smith, so amoral, cynical, and desirous of its assets; Lola, Geoffrey’s ruin, and fierce opponent of the way to see things of General;  the General’s cousin, the indecipherable Stephen Guest, failure in love, even though for two years from Lady Smith Billington, to the provocative Camilla Halliday, a guest with her husband and stolid Emily Chudleigh, devoted wife of the Vicar Chudleigh Hilary, proud opponent of the moral standards of the General and divorce. So quite a large group of potential murderers. Among them could be Therese E. Lamb, first Lady Billington-Smith, and mother of Geoffrey.
What must be said, and that happens regularly in this novel, it is that the murderer or murderess, in short who kills, he/she does not premeditated the murder, but because it happens any accident that drives the action, the lack of which would mean the salvation of the victim. What then isn’t told that the victim really is victim, how it isn’t said that the murderer really is the personification of evil in its various shades (greed, avarice, sloth, jealousy, envy, etc.etc.). As in many other novels. So, in this novel, as well as in other Heyer’s novels, nothing is safe.
As if the motive is uncertain, imagine how difficult it is to identify the liar
”! The murderer frankly, I think in this context he would be saved if he didn’t chose to save an innocent.
To be honest, the plot of the novel is based on time and.. on the hedges that surround the road: the clue is connected with the time and place where he says he saw the innocent. I must admit that the outcome of Heyer something that is astonishing: a stroke of genius. I say no more: I will not take away the pleasure of reading this wonderful novel
The Inspector must unravel a skein unusually intricate, and in the meantime that brilliantly solves the case (but the murderer/murederess, who is a credible character, in the round he/she will have time to commit suicide "classically" with cyanide of potassium), falls in love, reciprocated, even the young sister of the general, Dinah Fawcett.
Moreover, by Georgette Heyer what it would be expected at the end if not a love story?

Pietro De Palma

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Debut of Paul Halter : La Malédiction de Barberousse

"Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

When, in 1985, Paul Halter wrote La Malédiction de Barberousse, anyone didn’t know him, at least as a writer of detective novels. But he wanted to emerge. I imagine he liked to think that as he had loved Carr, Christie and Rawson, so other people could fall in love with his novels. So I suppose well that he well thought to be known without resorting to friendships that may not have had at that time, it was necessary to win a competition, no matter how big, too small, a local contest, but sufficiently large to make it known in a circle of admirers. And so he joined the "Prix de la Société des écrivains d'Alsace et de Lorraine" in 1986. And he won. From there he began his career, which then had a surge when the year after he won with "La Quatrième Porte" the "Prix du Festival de Cognac" and two years later with "Le Brouillard Rouge" the all-important "Grand Prix du Roman d'Aventures ". So, in 1988, it could be said he came to success, which never left him. Since then he has written many novels in their field, you can basically recognize two well-defined series, related to the characters of Owen Burns (5 novels) and especially Dr. Alan Twist (plus or minus twenty, to date), and even some novels without recurring character. It 'was translated mainly in Italy and Japan, and elsewhere.
If there is one thing that strikes the eye immediately is that Halter's fame is linked to the novels that have as their protagonist Alan Twist. They are the novels in which he has ever competed, that sub-genre of whodunnit that purists call "Locked Room", which from the beginning he has given his best energies. So, to put it short, you are almost sure to read a good novel like that, only if there is Dr. Twist, then ensures that, in most cases, the installation of a nice room closed, to the delight of all estimators.
The fact is that, mainly, Halter in turn has always professed admirer of Carr, Christie (and also Rawson). And so it happens (and it happened in the past) that several times he has cited his favorite authors. I think so. In the past I have voiced this position several times to Igor Longo, I have treated for many years, and that is his Italian translator, and his friend more than a simple decantation of expedients invented by others, seemed to me to always the custom of a perfect tribute to his myths. For this, read a novel by Paul Halter, if it is a pleasure for the enthusiast, becomes a pleasure for the critic who can recognize the many influences masked. In other words, the mere reading of a novel, becomes, in the case of Halter, a meta-reading.
However, a question that leaps to the eye even more is this: why Halter tied to its success to Twist?
Good question!
In the Italian case (I do not know whether it can apply elsewhere), the success was mainly due all'anglofilia surname. Italy has been particularly receptive from the beginning of the Anglo-Saxon police culture, and even when I was massively translated French authors, these states are relegated to a niche, so that the issues which I refer, are becoming a rare commodity. Beyond collecting, Italy has loved from the beginning all the leading exponents of Anglo-Saxon rather than tolerated Alps. So it ended up that if the character's name from the author calls a primary hard by France, success is relative, whereas in the case calls the Anglo-Saxon origin, it has the opposite. In our case, then, even the author's name can lead into error, because, essentially French, Alsatian is actually Halter. And so, even for a coincidence of fortuitous (or desired: Halter has not taken a pseudonym), the writer Alsatian became the idol of many.
But the success of the novels that Dr. Twist as a main character, is also due to other reasons. First of all ... having chosen "her shoulder", a character like the Inspector Archibald Hurst, inventory that Halter is a bit of romance 'as the Inspector of the CID Hadley by Carr, a policeman, whose misfortune is that to encounter more cases that have neither head nor tail, and which seem to belong to the supernatural and the impossible. Luckily the bad luck is offset by the good fortune to know precisely how a criminologist Dr. Twist, who, like Fell or Merrivale Carr, has the advantage of being able to solve the mysteries just as impossibly intricate. Moreover, the pair of investigators, from the time of Conan Doyle, is synonymous with success, what would Holmes without Watson? Or Hercule Poirot without the naive and hopelessly romantic Cap Hastings? Philo Vance without Markham ? O Queen without Ellery Queen Richard? Or Drury Lane without Thumm? Without doubt, the novels of these authors that there are almost always more expensive than the figure in which the character of the foreground and his shoulder.
So he tied Halter Twist, at some point in his literary parable, when it became independent from the contests in which it participated, with his entourage. I do not think one case, in fact, that the first three novels, those with whom he had participated in the three competitions of 1986-1987 and 1988, showing Twist, two robes a little 'different: the first ever, La Malediction de Barberousse , which is curiously not be the first to be published, but is only in 1995, Twist has already presented as a criminologist, while in the second novel to be presented in corcorso "La Quatrième Porte," which then will be the first to be published, Twist is still presented as an ex-Inspector of Scotland Yard. In essence then, the very first of his novels is set in an indefinite, if not later, when packs his second novel, in which, having become aware of the success of Twist, in a sense it anticipates the previous adventure.
Take the case of "La malediction de Barberousse".
The story unfolds in Alsace, Huguenau, the city where the same Halter was born.
The story starts off in 1948 with a letter from his brother Etienne Jean Martin, remembers where the murder took place in impossible circumstances, sixteen years before, in 1932, Eva Muller, a German girl, the one that call a girl of easy virtue, who soon became the muse of erotic fantasies of three children: Jean, Etienne, and François. Instead, Marie Biechy had never born.Together with the sister of Francois, Marie Biechy, five had gathered in the ruins of the castle Huguenau to play. The ruins of the castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, who had lived before leaving for the Crusade. The father of Jean and Etienne had conjured them not to go there anymore, and still had begged them to hear what he had to tell the Commissioner Sutter, a policeman with the hobby of ethnic and historical research, which had done extensive research on the Barbarossa in their region: there was an old legend that anyone who had offended the memory of Alsace Barbarossa or places dear to him, incurred the wrath. And in fact there had been several centuries in a series of deaths incomprehensible: all had one thing in common. The victims were killed by a sword.
The next day the Commissioner Sutter tells them about the various suspicious deaths, through the centuries: the bailiff dead in his room locked from the inside at the time of Frederick II; Sublon a soldier at the time of the Dutch War in 1675, which wasfound dead with severed hands and a sword planted in the back on a street surrounded by flames, with no possibility of escape, but even without that others outside of the farmers who wanted to kill him, I could do; a foolish German during the occupation of'Alsace, after insulting the residents and the town, and a friend had been hunted by villagers who wanted to make him pay for: not to be taken was hoisted on the roof of the bridge over the river, where nobody could get him down but, while watching the two outputs of the bridge, no one was able to prevent the German was killed with a sword.
After two weeks of the story had taken place the crime in impossible circumstances.
The ruined building was an old square tower, with a single old wooden door that duceva intro to a vestibule that communicated by means of a ladder with one room upstairs.
Eva Muller had decided to dispel superstition and was closed to the inside of the tower. When friends went to see her, they found in the tower, locked from the inside, dead, curled up, his eyes gouged out and mortal wounds in his back caused by a sword.
The crime there is no explanation.
As there would be no explanation for the death of the father of Jean and Etienne, took place in impossible circumstances, unless they are accused of the death Etienne. But Alan Twist, addresses the death of Mr. Martin as well as Eva Muller, happened sixteen years ago.
This is the debut Halter in fiction, but already we can identify the aspects that will become distinctive of his later novels: the madness(remember for example the Red Mist), gruesome detail, theboyhood. Also already exists that is the main feature of his literary style: create a unique atmosphere, assembling local history,landscape features and sites of historical and architectural legends.Here, although the atmosphere you breathe, is still immature, as the best is the final explanation: you can hear everything that is a first novel.
First, to create the legend of Barbarossa, Halter uses a series ofcircumstances derived from many works of other writers: for example The soldier killed in the street, is clearly derived from Chesterton, as well as the German killed on the roof deck cites "The second problem of the covered bridge" by Hoch; Carr goes back to the place of the murder, a tower (He Who Whispers or The Case of the Constant Suicides) and draws from that, by varying the contrary by The House in Goblin Wood brought the theme of the corpse in the house rather than the opposite; from The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Evil under the Sun (the victim that gets along with his murderess wanting to play ajoke to others, not knowing that the victim will be her), Christie's,however, draws inspiration for the solution. In this first novel, alreadywe see another of the characters Halter: the challenge of the impossible, and even himself.
Halter sometimes staged at the edge of the impossibility of creating, managing to satisfy them fully. But this does not always happen though. This is one of these cases: if he had created a situation where the pin had been the tower, the solution should have been magnificent: a girl killed by a sword in his back and his eyes gouged out, in a room in a tower, with the only door guarded by a model and a painter, and with the window, the one that on a wall overlooking the river, for the most slippery because it is covered with moss. The trouble is that he tried to do too much. So the action’s hub isn’t the tower, but a crime happened elsewhere and then set in the tower: the fact that a boy of fourteen years may bring a corpse in a backpack on his shoulders, and dragging it through the woods until the mail room on the first floor of the tower seems to me far-fetched. And certainly not something that a guy can accomplish successfully, unless he is Hulk.
For Halter, then, the dialogue of love don’t interest: so, he seems  obvious.
In short, an excellent debut novel, but certainly not a masterpiece as other Paul Halter’s novels.

Pietro De Palma