Blutsfeinde was my first foreign sale. The first thing that I noticed was that the contract, which I was supposed to sign, was in German. My very excellent agent, Nancy Yost, assured me that everything was fine and I should sign it, so I did. The second thing I noticed was that the German publisher had changed the title, and why not? I had never really thought about it, but the phrase “bad blood” is an idiom, whose meaning in English is a feud, rancor, enmity, ill-feeling. Now in the case of the first Vicky Lucci mystery it did mean that, as an idiom, but also was a factual assessment of an ongoing hospital issue. But not all languages have the same idioms, and in German the phrase “bad blood” would just mean...blood that is not good. “Blutsfeinde,” however, means “blood enemies,” so that works. Plus, just look at that cover. Really ominous!
A good friend of mine who claimed to know such things told me that, if I went to Germany to collect my advance money (or not just Germany, but whatever country), then I would not owe taxes on the advance money in the United States. Alas, this turned out to be not true, at all, but I kind of wish I had gone to Germany anyway.
Bloedfactor means what it
sounds like: “blood factor.” Interestingly enough, there are
whole paragraphs of this Dutch translation that, like this
phrase, mean what they sound like, and I can read them. It
doesn’t last long, then it reverts to another Indo-European
Germanic language I can’t read. While I studied German
(long, long ago) and somehow retained enough to at least
realize that the German rendition of my work had been
faithfully translated, I had to read, or try to read,
several pages in this one, before landing on that paragraph
that was similar enough to English and what I know of German
that I knew this was a translation of “Bad Blood.” But see
the book below where I explain some of my confusion.
My first two books were published in Dutch at the same
time, and the names of both of them were
changed. Kwaad Bloed translates
to “Evil Blood,” so at first I thought this was the
translation of “Bad Blood.” However, the presence of an
angry black cat on the cover made me wonder, because there
is no cat, black or otherwise, in “Bad Blood.” But one
plays a large part in “Bad Luck.” Again, reading through it,
or I guess I should say paging through it, looking for the
odd paragraph with English cognates, as explained above, I
realized that in fact, this one is the one written in
English as “Bad Luck.” So the spitting cat is on the right
cover! I can’t believe that cat would ever be on the wrong
Smrtici Krev = “Deadly Blood,” in Czech. I guess pretty much no other language than English has the phrase “bad blood” meaning “rancor” or “feud” or “enmity,” but, as there is actual bad blood in the book, and it’s deadly, “Deadly Blood” works for me!
One fun part of this book for me was looking at how they translated the names of people I thanked in my acknowledgments. It looked like whoever did it changed the ending to a feminine one, if they could determine that the name was feminine, and gave a masculine ending to names that were masculine. But some of the people I thanked had names that were not so clear! Those, the translator left alone, as well as the name that was pretty strictly Spanish.
It was hard going finding out what Bad Luck had been translated to, in Czech. Yeah, I googled it. The first thing that came up was “naughty mula.” Okayeee.... But in that case Google had asked me if I meant “ztracena mula” and ignored the fact that no, I didn’t. Then I tried translating the words separately. Zatracena=damn. Okay there. But Smula=crumb. Maybe because I didn’t have the little circle over the U? I don’t actually know how to get that little circle into the Google search bar. Without the diacritical mark, “smula” apparently means “crumb.”
So here’s what finally happened. I noticed that, along with Zatracená Smůla by Suzanne Proulx, there was a “Zatracená Smůla” by Donald Westlake. Donald Westlake! I went to that site. Then I translated it. I tried to figure out which Donald Westlake book it was, and my guess was probably not correct. Once translated, it turned out to be a Dortmunder book, or possibly a couple of Dortmunder stories and a novella, or something like that. And it was translated as “Damn bad luck.” That’s fitting, plus I am so pleased to have a book that’s named the same thing as a Donald Westlake Dortmunder book.