“The Mentor” lost in translation?

Being “The Mentor” set in London, you would think it is written in British English, but it is not. The reason is quite simple. I’m Italian, so the original version of the novel (“Il mentore”), published in Italy in May 2014, is written in Italian. The English version now available on Amazon is published by AmazonCrossing, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, which is an American publisher and took care of the translation. Therefore it’s quite obvious that American English is the language (or, better, the English dialect) it was translated into. Being just the author (and the Italian publisher of the original version) I had no involvement in this choice, because I sold my English translation rights to Amazon Publishing.

I’m aware that a crime thriller written in American English whose main characters are police officers at Scotland Yard may sound weird, especially if the reader is British or is used to read books by British authors. Well, it surely is. Being the author, I wished it wasn’t so, and I really hope there isn’t at least any excessive American slang in it, which would make it a bit less credible. I don’t know for sure, because I haven’t read the entire translated version (but just some passages I was asked to, to clarify some details during the translation’s revision) and probably I wouldn’t completely being able to notice it, because this is not my mother tongue.

Anyway the point is that, even if it’s weird, this is how English-speaking market works.

A bigger issue would be that something was lost or heavily changed during the translation. This is something that does happen all the time in translated books (just like typos in all books), but as long it doesn’t create inconsistencies in the plot, it isn’t so important in the end.

Unfortunately, it happened this time, too. Apparently the main character, Eric Shaw, who in the original version of the book was the chief of a forensics team at Scotland Yard (yes, just one), has become the chief of the entire forensics department in the English version. The detail of his exact job position is explained just once or twice in the book, so apparently something went wrong at that point of the text during the translation, or most probably, after a change done by an editor.
Anyway, the fact Eric was supervising the job of all forensics teams, besides directing his own team, didn’t have any special relevance in this novel. But it will be relevant for the two following books in this trilogy (yes, this is the first book in a trilogy!), because a possible promotion to the ranking of “superintendent” (therefore becoming head of the department) will be mentioned and will be an important plot element in the third book.
Oops!
Hopefully when those books are available in English (I still have to write them in Italian, so it will take time before it happens), readers will have forgotten this detail, or at least they will forgive this little mistake.

Finally I’d like to point out something else regarding the translation of this book.
As written in a note of mine you can find at the beginning of the book, though I have researched about the forensics department of Scotland Yard (the Forensic Science Laboratory) and especially how forensics is managed in United Kingdom (I’ve also attended an online course in Forensics and Criminal Justice by the University of Leicester; I’ll speak about this in one of the next blog posts), I have unilaterally decided to take some (okay, many) artistic licences to adapt reality to the plot I had in mind.
I did it because I’m the author and I’m entitled to do so, and I wanted this part to be kept simple for the readers (in my case, the Italian ones), who want to read a fiction novel and not an essay on London Metropolitan Police forces, because, even if this book is marketed as a mystery/procedural detective story in its English edition (it isn’t so in Italian!), it is actually just a crime thriller involving some police officers as main characters, which is quite a different thing.
In fact, the plot isn’t about find the culprit (50% of the readers understand who they are immediately; what always amazes me is the other 50%, because I thought it was evident) and catch them, but see how the protagonist, a very flawed detective, will deal with the suspect a person he cares for could be a serial killer.  
If you want to make a comparison with a TV series, Dexter would definitely be a better one than CSI.
Anyway this theme will be partly developed in the second book in the trilogy, “Syndrome”.

The Italian cover of “Il mentore”,
showing how the book is focused
on the characters and not on the
police investigation.
But while taking those artistic licences, I tried to keep, as much as possible, some official names for the settings and the job positions of the characters. But again, my book is in Italian, so I had translated those names into Italian.
I do my best to avoid unnecessary foreign words in my books, because I know full well Italians tend not to read them carefully and then forget about them; not to mentions people who don’t speak any good English and wouldn’t understand them at all.
So, for instance, the Murder (or Major) Investigation Team where Detective Miriam Leroux works has become a “Team Investigativo della Omicidi” in Italian or sometimes just “Squadra Omicidi”, which is a very common and short way to mention a team like this in my language. Once the book was translated into English, those names were back-translated and then went through an editing process by American editors.

Does the final version of these names correspond to the original one coming from my researches? Well, no, how could they? Especially considering how complicated the organisation of the London Metropolitan Police is.
Do I care about this? Not particularly, honestly, because my book is more focused on the characters, and then, on forensic science (being a biologist myself, I tried to make it quite credible, yet not too much technical or invasive).

Despite all this, which is quite common in literary translations, I hope you’ll enjoy “The Mentor”, because in a few weeks I’m going to start working on “Syndrome” (original title: Sindrome), and I hope you’ll be interested to learn what the future has in store for Detective Eric Shaw and his colleagues in the second book of the Mentor Trilogy.