The Master Speaks

Patrick Ohl's excellent "At the Scene of the Crime" has a two-part interview of French mystery writer Paul Halter, brilliantly translated from Molière's language by Ohl himself; resources on the modern master of the locked-room mystery are scarce online, be it in French or any other language, so the initiative is to be commended. The interview is well worth reading, whatever your familiarity with the author and his work. (I take exception however to his and interviewer Roland Lacourbe's  assessment of Carr's characterization skills and I think he's unfair to Queen and Steeman.) 


Back to the Future

This article by A.O. Scott on nostalgia and the future of film misses the point entirely, in my view.

The parallel with the sound revolution, which proponents of new technologies often use, actually cuts both ways. Films indeed survived the arrival of sound. But it came at a double price, which was accurately forecasted by the doomsayers of the day. The barrier of language - not much of a problem in the silent era; all it took was to translate the intertitles - meant that films were no longer universal.

Also and perhaps even worse, sound made visual flair optional. Silence meant directors had to find visual ways to get their point across - avalanches of intertitles would quickly tire viewers. So well did they come to master their craft that the best later silents eschewed intertitles almost completely. With dialogue taking over as films's driving force, it became possible for films to be made that relied mostly or only on speech and offered little or nothing in the way of visuals. Like it or not, films looking like stage plays or movies of the week with greater budgets are a direct side-effect of the sound revolution. 

This is not to say that new technologies will bring the end of the medium or turn it into garbage - they won't, and neither did sound - but we must remember that progress in one way almost invariably means regress in another. We'll certainly learn to live with that (just like we learnt to live with sound and colour) but whether the benefits will compensate for the costs is anyone's guess. The doomsayers may turn to be wrong on the big picture but they have points and one would like for Mr. Scott and people of his persuasion to admit it rather than just sneering or painting rosy pictures of an idyllic future. 


Enter the Tramp

I'm happy to report that mystery scholar extraordinaire Curtis Evans (arguably the world's leading authority on so-called "Humdrum" writers, and a long-time friend of mine) has now finally entered the blogging arena. His blog is called "The Passing Tramp" (wonderful title!) and while he's no sure how frequently he'll post there I'll surely keep an eye on it - and so should you.  

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