Monday, March 17, 2008

New Title from Serpent's Tail

The July-December 2008 catalogue from Serpent's Tail lists a new title in translation from the late Manuel Vazquez Montalban. The second in his long running Pepe Carvalho series, Tattoo, originally published in 1974, will be published in English in August.
Pepe Carvalho, ex-cop, ex-marxist and constant gourmet, is working as a private detective in Barcelona, when a body is pulled out of the sea, its face so badly destroyed that the only way of identifying it is through a tattoo that says: 'Born to raise hell in hell'. A local hairdresser hires Carvalho to find out who the man is. Meanwhile, the Barcelona police make a connection between the murder and local drug dealers and prostitutes, and they begin raiding bars and brothels.A lead on the identity of the murdered man brings Carvalho to Amsterdam, where he gets entangled with a drug gang. As the pace accelerates, Carvalho realises that this is no straightforward John Doe case.
In an interview (undated) with the Australian journal SCAN, Serpent's Tail publisher, Peter Ayrton, confirmed his commitment to publishing more Montalban:
SCAN: One wonderful crime writer you have translated is Manuel Montalban who sadly died in a Thai airport while changing planes on his way back to Europe after a recent visit to Australia and New Zealand. You've published several of his books, most recently The Buenos Aires Quartet, in which Pepe heads off to Argentina. There are several other books in that series still not translated, from the first to the last. Do you have plans to bring out more?

PA: It's great really that we are slowly establishing the Pepe series and actually selling Montalban's books. It's a long process. Word of mouth helps when people talk to their friends and everything, and it's been helped by having some of the books published by Duffy and Snellgrove. It helps here to have an Australian publisher, I should think. And what a great character Pepe is! Montalban loved food, sex and radical politics, so he had his priorities in life right! And these are only his crime novels we're discussing; he wrote other novels, non-fiction books and had a weekly column for El Pais. His literary production was phenomenal. Yes, we'll be doing the first one in the Pepe series, I Killed Kennedy, and at least two others, The Man of My Life, and Tattoos, at the rate of one a year. The remaining books in the series are uneven but those three are very good.
As well as the fact that The Man of My Life came out in 2005, the following comments make the interview seem a bit dated, given the current enthusiasm for crime in translation:
SCAN: In the past you have said that it's a hard-sell to persuade people to read crime novels in translation; why is that?

PA: There are particular problems about crime in translation; a lot of crime books have a lot of street slang and that's always a serious problem for the translator. In a way it's easier to translate literary fiction than it is genre fiction. The other problem is that there are so many good American and British crime writers that the market isn't desperately crying out for translated works.
Read the whole interview here.

Update: Read the Euro Crime review of Tattoo.

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