Welcome to the new site

Well, the material is basically the same, but I’ve switched to a new format based on WordPress, which will theoretically allow more flexibility as I go along (and is, apparently much better suited to viewing on mobile devices.)

I’ve also added a second, shorter, domain name: mylri.com, which will also bring you to this site (lri.com was already taken.)

Astute observers will have noted the presence of a book not translated from the French: The Derek Smith Omnibus, which, incidentally,  got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, followed by a rapturous review from the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-derek-smith-omnibus-by-derek-howe-smith/2014/08/27/f31f1ff0-26da-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html?tid=hpModule_5fb4f58a-8a7a-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e

This reflects a broadening scope of LRI’s mission: we shall be adding out-of-print locked room jewels by English authors as well as translations from other languages than French — for example Swedish– wherever we can negotiate a reasonable royalty deal.

More of this in more detail as we go along. Thank you for your patience.

Soji Shimada

Soji Shimada is credited with the revival of the Golden Age style of mystery writing in Japan:the New Orthodox or Shin Honkaku style.. The publication of his masterpiece The Tokyo Zodiac Murders in 1981 challenged the social school of writing dominant at the time and encouraged a new generation of Golden Age authors. Would that the same had happened here….

Jean-Paul Török

M. Török is a versatile and well-respected figure in French cultural circles. He is a celebrated film critic, radio producer and film director of note, having been nominated for the Golden Palm for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival for La Ligne de Sceaux. In addition to his directorial talents, he also wrote the screenplay for A Bad Son. He is equally well-known in literary circles, his biography of Pierre Benoit, author of l’Atlantide, having been honored by the Académie française.

Paul Halter

Paul Halter was born in Hagenau, Alsace, in 1956. He pursued technical studies before joining the French Marines in the hope of seeing the world. Disappointed with the lack of travel, he left the military and, for a while, sold life insurance while augmenting his income playing the guitar in the local dance orchestra. he gave up life insurance for a job in France Telecom and, upon discovering the writings of John Dickson Carr, gave up the guitar for the pen.

Paul Halter, a Master of Locked Rooms.
Paul Halter’s own website

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: Update

LRI had been planning to re-publish Shimada Soji’s masterpiece in August, but there has been a complication regarding rights and it will not happen, at least for the time being. Further explanations will be forthcoming at the appropriate time, but I can assure readers it was not the result of any disagreement between the author and myself. Our relationship is very amicable and I hope to publish more of his works at a later date.

The Derek Smith Omnibus

Derek Smith (1926-2002) was a reclusive character with poor health but a fertile mind, who turned his hand to writing mystery fiction while in convalescence, after being invalided out of the army in the late 1940’s. His chosen field was locked room mysteries, about which he possessed a truly phenomenal knowledge. He tried both short stories and novels, only one of which ever saw publication in his native land.  But that single exception has earned him a place in the pantheon of locked room authors.

   Whistle Up the Devil (1953) pops up regularly in “Best of” lists, and for good reason. Publisher’s Weekly’s (starred) June 30 review calls it “one of the most intelligent and crafty impossible murder novels of all time.” Lacourbe et al’s 1001 Chambres Closes ranks it among the masterpieces. No locked-room library is complete without a copy.

   Come to Paddington Fair, probably written in the same period, never found a publisher in the English-speaking world. Ironically, it was left to a discerning Japanese collector and reviewer, Hidetoshi Mori, who regarded it as an impossible crime masterpiece, to publish it privately (in English). It involves “a clever murder committed in plain sight on a London stage during a performance” (PW again).   

   Model for Murder (1952) appears to have been Derek’s first novel, specifically written for the Sexton Blake market. Sexton Blake (“the poor man’s Sherlock Holmes’) was the fearless detective hero of over 4,000 stories by more than 200 authors of whom Derek, alas, was not destined to be one. His manuscript was rejected, possibly because it was too cerebral for the intended audience. Nevertheless, it is a well-written story with a solid locked room element.

   The omnibus itself was the result of detective work. Having long admired Derek’s novels (thanks to Bob Adey I had photocopies of Model for Murder and Come to Paddington Fair and owned a copy of Whistle Up the Devil), I decided to try to locate the owner of the rights to see if they would agree to publication by LRI. Bob, who knew Derek better than anyone, had given me the phone number of his one-time solicitor. They were unable to give me any specifics, but steered me in the direction of the UK Probate Registry. Two months after filling out a printed on-line form and forking out the princely sum of 6 GBP (which included mailing to anywhere in the world), I received a copy of Derek’s will in the mail.

   I was stunned to find I knew the owner of the rights: Derek had bequeathed the rights of all his published and unpublished writings  to Douglas G. Greene, well-known to mystery fans as the owner of Crippen & Landru.  Doug, with whom I have been communicating for nearly 10 years, was thunderstruck when I told him. He could not understand why the executors had neglected their basic duty to inform him. After digesting the news, he graciously invited me to publish the stories and I, of course, agreed. Doug suggested publishing all three novels in an omnibus, which turned out to be a smart decision because it allowed us to qualify for reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and two other periodicals. We are both delighted that Derek Smith will get another chance to be read, and I am deeply grateful to Doug for the opportunity.

*Yes, I know it says Locked Room International, but that doesn’t preclude British writers. I’m looking at another one for 2015…

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders: Personally Dedicated Copies

In February 1936, Heikichi Umezawa, a demented artist, is found dead inside his studio, barred from the inside. Paintings with Zodiac themes are stacked against the walls and a letter from him, filled with alchemy and astrology references, is found in a drawer. In it, he details his plan to slaughter his six nieces and daughters and create Azoth, the perfect woman, from body parts removed from each of them. Fortunately, it appears that he was murdered before he could execute his insane plan….

… But, in the weeks following his death, his stepdaughter is raped and murdered and the police begin to discover the corpses of the six Umezawa women buried all over Japan, each apparently poisoned by a different alchemic element and each missing a vital body part. A Japanese Dr. Frankenstein seems to have carried out Heikichi’s mad project, yet Azoth herself is never found and the killer is never unmasked, despite the outpouring of theories provoked by the nationwide revulsion to the crimes. On the surface, they were the fruit of a diseased mind, a serial killer, but were they really…?

In 1979, a young fortune-teller, astrologer and amateur detective, Kyoshi Mitarai, takes a rash bet that he can solve in one week a mystery that has eluded all efforts over more than forty years. He succeeds and unmasks the diabolical killer and the extraordinarily clever plot, featuring possibly the finest red herring in all detective fiction.

Despite its magical and horrific overtones, this is a work of classical detection and a locked room mystery. It launched a revival of the Golden Age style (honkaku) in Japan (and, incidentally, introduced the serial killer theme one year before Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon.)

LRI is privileged to republish “TTZM.” Take advantage of this unique opportunity to acquire a personalized signed copy of this acknowledged masterpiece, dedicated to whomever you wish: contact me at pugmire1@yahoo.com before June 15.

The Invisible Circle

LRI continues its Spring Offensive with the second of the four books promised: Paul Halter’s The Invisible Circle. You can think of it as The Knights of the Round Table meet The Ten Little Indians….

Seven people receive invitations to a ‘singular experience’ during a weekend in Cornwall in a castle reputedly built on the site of King Arthur’s, and situated on an island tenuously connected to the mainland. The sinister host announces that a murder will be committed that night, shows them a sword embedded in a stone (which none of them is able to pull out) and a golden chalice which he claims is the Holy Grail sought by the Knights of the Round Table. 

Thus begins a nightmarish series of events including impossible murders, the disappearance of the Grail, and communication with the mainland cut off. Has the vengeful king indeed returned? And is there any connection to the recent release of the host’s homicidal half-brother? The plot, one of Paul Halter’s most convoluted, is great fun.

As is our wont, Paul and I conversed almost weekly on the text, because I needed to understand the layout of the island, which is crucial to the plot. Eventually, in desperation, the maestro sent me a hand-drawn sketch
 which I will include in every order of a signed and lettered (S&L) copy.

Now on to the Derek Smith Omnibus and The Tokyo Zodiac Murders
….

The Killing Needle

In 1887, a British author named Arthur Conan Doyle published a book about a drug-taking, misanthropic private detective with a gift for observation and logical deduction and who was knowledgeable about the chemical and forensic science of the period. He was a master of disguise and his audacious exploits were narrated by his friend and confidant, a doctor. The detective’s name was Sherlock Holmes. He played the violin.
In 1871, a young French author named Henry Cauvin published a book about a drug-taking, misanthropic private detective with a gift for observation and logical deduction and who was knowledgeable about the chemical and forensic science of the period. He was a master of disguise and his audacious exploits were narrated by his friend and confidant, a doctor. The detective’s name was Maximilien Heller. He did not play the violin.
Arthur Conan Doyle found international fame and Sherlock Holmes achieved immortality: his name became synonymous with masterful detection and is known by every schoolchild in the world. Henry Cauvin wrote ten more books that nobody read and ended up as the treasurer of a small French department. Maximilien Heller passed into oblivion. Was it because Doyle wrote in English and Cauvin in French? French was vying with English at the time as the most spoken civilized language. Was it because detective stories were staring to be serialized in England just as Holmes arrived? They had been serialized in France long before: Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo came out in 1844. Was it because Holmes played the violin and Heller did not? Probably not. Was it because The Killing Needle (as Cauvin’s book was later called) was just not that great a book? I actually think it’s a very well written book, almost as exciting as Robert Louis Stevenson’s best, but read it for yourself. It has been favorably reviewed by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July 2014 issue) and Publisher’s Weekly (April 14 issue) Why is LRI publishing it? Because it is a historic milestone: very probably the first instance of a locked room method that became classic, and the subject of debate by John Dickson Carr and Clayton Rawson.