04/08/2014

A Halter skeptic speaks out

One of the last remaining readers of this blog (a courageous species if there ever was one) wrote me yesterday to get some news and commented on some of my old posts, including those about Paul Halter of whom he is decidedly not a fan. I share his thoughts with his permission:

"While pointing out his limitations, I think you're way too generous to [Halter] - the whole mystery community is. I'm so tired to see him branded the new John Dickson Carr and the Great White Hope of the puzzle story. His first two books were good, if flawed, but it's gone all downhill ever since. Carr had his share of clunkers (mostly in his late career) but he could write and do character (when he wanted to) and he was able to conjure up an atmosphere. Also, his England if folkloric at times was real - hey, he spent three decades there! Halter doesn't deliver on any of those things, he doesn't even try. His writing is sloppy and clichéd, his characters are not even sketches and it's obvious his knowledge of English culture and mores is fourth-hand. He's all about plot, which wouldn't be so bad if he could come up with good ones, but most of them are implausible and incoherent, not to mention filled with logical and factual errors (I remember a story where a knife that had spent several hours underwater still had the murderer's fingerprints on it!) Also his obsessions are very tiresome and often imposed on the story with no purpose. What he writes is not even bad detective fiction, it's bad altogether, on the level of what you read on Fanfiction.net. Why then has he such a huge following? That is, I think, because fans of orthodox detective stories (I am one) are so desperate for someone to rescue their favorite genre from oblivion that they will embrace anyone practicing it, no matter how actually gifted they are. The same thing happened to traditional pop and in both cases it plays into the hands of detractors of the genre who are all too happy to point out how corny and outdated its practicioners are. Do you believe that it's only because of bigotry that Halter has never won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and will likely never be nominated for an Edgar - and has to resort to self-publishing to get his work published? I honestly believe in the greatness of the traditional detective story and that it is still able to produce quality work but Paul Halter is not the man. Not at all."


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