Interview de Paul Halter à la BBC

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Interview de Paul Halter à la BBC

Message  RipperReed le Sam 24 Fév 2018 - 7:19

Ci joint la transcription d'une interview que Paul Halter a donnée à la BBC en 2012 dans le cadre d'une émission traitant du mystère en chambres closes:



Miles Jupp interview: Paul Halter’s complete questions and answers April 19. 2012
Paul, British audiences might be used to French TV murder mysteries like Spiral (Engrenages) or think about police procedurals like the work of Simenon. You are pursuing a very different line—can you remember the first Locked Room Mystery you read?
Yes, it was the famous Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – which was also John Dickson Carr’s favourite, I believe, and I agree with him. It’s pretty well the archetype of the genre, with a whole series of twists and turns, all cleverly orchestrated. But, at the time, I don’t think I was really ready to appreciate that kind of puzzle plot. That didn’t happen until much later, when I discovered John Dickson Carr.
You are French and yet most of your novels are set in Britain—why is that?
I get asked that quite often, and I admit it’s always a little difficult to explain. It’s more a question of instinct than anything. First of all, I have to feel comfortable with my stories before I can write them. John Dickson Carr said that London was the best possible setting for a mystery novel, and I agree. Besides, my whole imaginary world is based in London or England, probably because of all the Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes stories I devoured when I was growing up. And there were also the films: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 23 Paces to Baker Street, Gaslight, and many others, not forgetting Jack the Ripper who gave the British capital its indelible bloody imprint. These impressions are at the root of my fictitious world and it would be very hard for me to break free. For example, I could never write a socio-political crime novel set in today’s Paris. That kind of setting doesn’t interest me at all.
 Introduce your detectives
I have two principal detectives. First of all, Dr.Alan Twist, who solved my first puzzle: La Malédiction de Barberousse (Barbarossa’s Curse). The original version featured Dr. Fell, one of John Dickson Carr’s series detectives, but I soon discovered that wasn’t possible. So Dr. Fell became Dr. Twist, his physical opposite: several inches taller and considerably more than seventy pound lighter. Twist is tall and very thin, but with a gargantuan appetite. He’s discreet and amiable with exceptional gifts of deduction. He’s not particularly original, but I like him: he’s an agreeable literary companion. What makes him tick is his relationship with his foil, Inspector Archibald Hurst, the classic slow-witted flatfoot. He’s burly, ruddy, and irascible, especially when confronted by mysterious crimes, yet, for some inexplicable reason, the most baffling puzzles always seem to end up in his lap. He has an infallible instinct for blind alleys. I have to admit, between you and me, that I frequently use him to lead my readers up the garden path. And he also allows me to add the occasional dash of humour to these grim stories.
My second series detective is Owen Burns, who was directly inspired by Oscar Wilde. At the time I introduced him in Le Roi du Desordre (The Lord of Misrule)—one of only a handful of my novels available in English, thanks to the efforts of my friend, John Pugmire—nobody had thought of Wilde as a detective, which astonished me because he had all the makings: eccentric, self-centred, ironic, revelling in paradox, and very demanding in matters of art. Owen Burns will freely admit that there is nothing more beautiful than a perfect crime and will only cross swords with criminals who can give him a challenge. It’s a pleasure for me to write about him, because the dialogue writes itself. I use him for the most extravagant, the most impossible crimes, which is what I love to do, as you can probably tell
Tell us about your love of Carr and Christie—when did you first read them? What is the devotion about?
I remember very clearly the first Agatha Christie I read, when I was twelve. It was The Sittaford Mystery, which had an impossible crime in it. It wasn’t her best story, but the solution fascinated me. It was the same for Murder in Mesopotamia. By the way, I can remember every detail of most of her books, which impressed me as much for their ingenuity as for their British atmosphere. When I went to England for the first time, when I was twenty, I felt I already knew the country.
I discovered John Dickson Carr much later, for the simple reason his books were very rare in France. I was twenty-four or twenty-five years old. Reading He Who Whispers was a revelation. The quality of the story was very impressive, but what really excited me was that the author’s biography said he had written over seventy stories just like that one! From then on, I only had one objective: to acquire them all. That was easier said than done, because most of them hadn’t even been translated then. Now they’re all available, thank goodness.
Anyway, reading Carr made me realise that the “impossible crime” was my favourite form of literature. Because that genre wasn’t much in vogue in the mid-eighties, I decided to make it my personal crusade, and Barbarossa’s Curse was the result. Having won a regional prize at my first attempt, I wrote a second book, La Quatrieme Porte (The Fourth Door) which won the Prix Cognac the following year (1987). At that point I understood that crime—at least for me—did pay. 
So, are you an Anglophile?
Oh, yes, without a doubt. And I’m now at an age where there’s no hope of a cure. They say that great passions wane over time, but not that for the perfect crime. Don’t they also say that when one is tired of London, one is tired of life? That being so, I’m afraid that vast swathes of our capital of crime have been destroyed by the ravages of modernism which, according to Price Charles, has done more damage than all of Goering’s bombs. The legendary district of Whitechapel is only a shadow of its former self. What a tragedy! I dream of finding a time machine one day. My first instinct would be to point the joystick to August 31, 1888, in the direction of Buck’s Row, the time and the place of Jack the Ripper’s first crime. I would pursue the sadistic murderer back to his lair and finally unmask him! (At this point there was an impromptu discussion about Jack. See*)
In your youth you pursued technical studies. Is it the technical challenge of the locked room mystery that you find appealing?
Yes and no. Yes, because the challenge of finding a new trick is always exhilarating. But that’s only a tool to work with. The priority of the story still lies with the narrative, the atmospheric build-up, the mystifying situations so wonderfully developed by the late John Dickson Carr. I never start a story unless I feel comfortable with the setting and the atmosphere. That’s what’s important. How can a writer seduce his readers if he doesn’t fully feel for his own story? It’s inconceivable to me.
On the other hand, to write a story which is nothing but a fantasy would not satisfy me either. It would be too easy. The word “impossible” would lose all its magic. I know know there’s something a little bizarre about the approach: you want the reader to believe in the impossible and the marvellous for 250 pages, and then destroy that impression in the last chapter. I know there’s something paradoxical about all that, which escapes me for the moment. I’ll have to think about it.  
You’ve written about 30 novels do the solutions get more tricky as you go on? Are you using up the obvious solutions?
It’s obvious that the scope of solutions for this kind of mystery is becoming more and more restricted, and the challenge more and more arduous. On top of that, one’s readers become accustomed to the displays of virtuosity and demand more and more. To put it more simply, it’s difficult for an author to keep re-inventing himself, particularly in a field which is specific and therefore limited. But, curiously enough, I always have the feeling there’ll be a new idea to be found. Besides, for me, the simple declaration that something is impossible is the best stimulant there is. 
*Impromptu discussion about Jack the Ripper:
Miles asked if Paul thought the mystery had been solved and he cited a recent work (whose authors’ names I didn’t catch) claiming Jack turned out to be a just a mentally sick homeless person. I observed that was something of a let-down and Miles said the theory about the Duke of Clarence was far more titillating.

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Date d'inscription : 31/01/2013

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