One of the books I discovered in Hay-on-Wye was a novel I’d never heard of, by a writer unknown to me. But a glance at the back cover was enough to cause me to buy it. It was a paperback from 1965, a novel by Frederic Valmain called The Jackals (this copy does not disclose the original French title.)
The front cover bears an encomium from James Hadley Chase: ‘A book I can recommend for those who are looking for something new in suspense.’ Now, I’ve never read anything by Chase, and I’m not sure his work would appeal to me, but the back cover account of the plot – a young doctor is seduced by a woman who wants rid of her monstrous husband – suggests a story in the mould of some of the French novelists of suspense who worked at the same time as Valmain, and whom I admire: Boileau and Narcejac, Hubert Monteilhet, and Catherine Arley.
But who was the author? Initial researches have failed to reveal much, though Valmain obviously produced quite a lot of work, and some of it seems to have been filmed or televised. At least one internet site refers to him as a playwright. I consulted that great expert Xavier Lechard, but even Xavier didn’t know anything about Valmain. He told me that there was a belief that Valmain’s name was a pseudonym for a writer called Frederic Dard. But Valmain confounded that theory by giving an interview after Dard’s death. As Xavier said: ‘Valmain, as you can see, is thus a mystery writer in all meanings of the term.’
So do any of my knowledgable readers know anything about Valmain, or his work?