Thursday 22 August 2019

Chantecoq Rides Again!

Yes, I now own a 1916 newspaper supplement.
Developments! At last!

Long-time readers may recall that I once translated and self-published two early 20th Century French pulp novels by the prolific Arthur Bernède, under the titles Chantecoq & The Aubry Affair, and Chantecoq & The Père-Lachaise Ghost.

Chantecoq is a half-forgotten hero of French pulp fiction, but he had many popular adventures spanning two decades, from the eve of the First World War right through to the early 1930s. He started life as a secret agent, before becoming known as a private investigator. Though amusingly he's always described as a detective even in his wartime adventures, as the French didn't like to admit that their nation would ever resort to espionage. Even though it's a French word.

The books represent a halfway house between 19th Century sensibilities, and 20th Century pulp adventure. Telephones, electric buzzers, aeroplanes, and cars are all portrayed as the trappings of a cutting-edge techno-thriller. And I suppose they were. In the earliest books, all the characters are incredibly, melodramatically, nationalistic, but with the innocence that comes of having been written before two world wars: Franco-Prussian rivalry seems barely as serious as the Britpop feud between Blur and Oasis.

As the years roll on, Chantecoq's skills as a master of disguise are boosted by a taste for gadgets and his the growing capabilities of his irrepressible assistant, Météor. Oddly, the strong female characters of the wartime books become increasingly downgraded to cookie cutter femme fatales and trophy wives in the 1920s, but at the same time the rampant nationalism is toned down. A bit.

Now, I've spent the last eight months not just neglecting this blog, but translating seven more Chantecoq novels. Yes, seven. And also liaising with a fellow translator and author who has translated the most famous Chantecoq story of all: Belphégor.

In the next couple of months, all eight of these books will be self-published and coming to a Kindle near you. Seven haven't been reprinted since 1929. Six have never before been translated into English.

Get ready. Chantecoq is coming.

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