Original Title: The Caves of Etretat
Series: The Caves of Etretat #1
Author: Matt Chatelain
Published Date: December 15th 2011
Genre: Thriller, Adventure
In 2007, Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne is suddenly thrust into a quest for answers, when his parents are found brutally murdered, their bodies cut up and shaped into the letters H.N. Finding a note inside his father's copy of 'The Hollow Needle', by Maurice Leblanc, Sirenne is determined to uncover the roots of his long-forgotten family secret.
He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of the 'Hollow Needle'. Falling in love with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, he deals with puzzles, theories, codes and historical mysteries, leading him to believe that Leblanc held a secret war against Adolf Hitler, fighting for the control of an incredible complex of caves hidden in Etretat's chalk cliffs.
'THE CAVES OF ETRETAT' is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.
Entering my room, I approached the small shelf above my bed. I scanned the titles, finding the book easily, to my relief. Removing it from the shelf, I opened it from the back, finding my father’s original note, an old piece of Vellum paper. The tape holding it in place had dried out and yellowed, the glue having become crusty over time. I wondered why my father had done that, knowing we held the same reverence for books.
The thought slipped away when I read the note he had written so long ago:
On the occasion of your ninth birthday, I give you the same book my father gave to me when I was nine. It’s a wonderful story but it is also so much more.
It is the beginning...
The beginning and the end,
Follow the circle, it bends.
The end and the beginning
The answer in the connecting
A real story ends near Etretat
Lost until Paul infers new ideas subtly
You ought understand responsibility,
Necessarily after moiling Etretat
When I had read this note at age nine, I had not grasped my father’s true intent. Today, it seemed obvious that he was signalling the start of a hunt. Something was going on in the town of Etretat and it was connected with this book.
WHEN DID ALL THIS START?
- A brief article about writing 'The Caves of Etretat' by Matt Chatelain
When did all this start? I've been trying to figure it out. I was hoping you could help me. It was just supposed to be a simple book, you see. One simple book. Was that too much to ask? I was a fledgling author, nothing published to my name. I didn't need to be straddled with a heavy historical mystery. I didn't want to deal with issues of world-wide concern. I wasn't looking for a four-book epic adventure series that would take six years to write.
All I wanted to do was write a book around Etretat. Well, not just Etretat. It also had to be about Maurice Leblanc, because he wrote my favorite books, the exploits of Arsene Lupin, gentleman-thief. Lupin was a likeable rogue, created more than a hundred years ago as a counter to Sherlock Holmes across the Channel. Etretat was his home.
It was all Etretat's fault, I think. That's where it started. When I did the research. The damnable research. There was no getting away from it. After all, my facts had to be right, didn't they? I couldn't present lies in my fiction, now could I? How would people believe me, if my fiction was full of unverified facts? So, you see, I didn't have any choice. It wasn't my fault. Any other author would have done the same.
I'd come across Arsene Lupin as a kid. I'd loved his stories, thinking they were fun adventures, solving fantastic mysteries and always skirting the law, even better than Sherlock Holmes from Conan Doyle, my previous favorite. Who knew Leblanc was tricking us all. He was hiding codes in his books. In all of them. Every one. Count them yourself, if you don't believe me. You'll find more than fourteen hundred. Of course, it'll probably take you a bunch of years to ferret them all out.
Don't worry. That's not what my years were spent doing. No, that's some poor schmuck who got caught by the mystery, same as me. It was luck I found his book. Well, what passes for luck these days. I don't much believe in luck anymore. Or coincidences. Neither of them fool me. I know nothing happens by chance. It's all planted, prepared for those who go looking for the Answers.
So Leblanc was hiding codes in his books. He wasn't alone. Jules Vernes was out there doing it too, both of them writing out a map. If you were clever enough, or trapped in it, like me, then you'd figure out that the map was sending you directly to Rennes-le-Chateau. That's right. The center of the Da Vinci Code thing, or rather, the center of the Holy Blood and Holy Grail thing. That's the book that came before all the others.
It's the one that exposed the mystery of the two small pieces of paper, found by that priest, Sauniere. It exposed the 'Prieure de Sion'. Or would have, if those pieces of paper hadn't been fakes. That's right. You heard me. Fakes, total fakes. I can't explain it here. Heck, I can't even explain it in The Caves of Etretat. No, you have to wait until book two for that.
Don't worry, it's not like Book One is filler or something. No way. It's a rollercoaster ride, is what it is. My rollercoaster ride, the one I've been on, since I found the information, that first night. The tunnels. Etretat is a touristic town, you see, nestled between two huge chalk cliffs, on the English Channel. I didn't even know the place was real. but it's real, all right, and it's got a three hundred foot needle of rock sticking out of the channel waters. You've seen it already, it's the main symbol on my cover.
Leblanc with the codes wrote a book about it, 'The Hollow Needle.' It's his best book. He reveals how the needle was hollow, used as a repository for treasure by Kings and Queens of France. He was lying. It was all subterfuge. He was drawing your attention away from the prize.
The cliffs. And the tunnels. Never forget the tunnels.
So, in answer to your question, Research is at fault. It's where it all started, my obsession with Etretat and those ancient tunnels. I couldn't let it go. Weirdest thing yet, another 'coincidence', my simple story had not only linked into a real historical mystery, it had linked to an earlier, failed attempt at a book, 'The Greyman'. I hadn't had the skills back then to produce the book my vision required. I'd wanted to express certain spiritual beliefs in an action format, that the world was an illusion.
That's how the series came about. A single, supposedly innocent, little book, connected to deep, historical mysteries, connected to the ultimate questions a person could have about life, the universe and everything.
All the fault of research. I hardly had anything to do with it. I was just the guy who happened to be there, writing it all down.
I haven't told anyone else about this so far, so pay attention. Book One is not what it seems. No matter what you think book one is about, the story you read, the things that happened, why they happened, it's not. I wrote something else into it, something hidden, Sirenne's real adventure. If you haven't read 'The Caves of Etretat' yet, don't be fooled by the bobsled action pace, by all the twists, the theories, the puzzles, the codes, and especially, not the tunnels. Try to look past all that, and see the real story.
Then get ready, cause Book One, rollercoaster though it may be, is nothing compared to what's coming in the series. I can't tell you anymore about that. You'll have to do your own research. Yes, that's right, do your own research... and then, you'll see. You'll understand what happened to me.
Or you can just read my books and save yourself all that time.
Because, I didn't just start it, I finished it. Took me six years and it changed my life. Have you ever read a series where the ending falls flat, where all that big buildup leads to a hot air balloon, impressive on the outside but empty on the inside? This is not one of those series. I hate those series. Book One is a sleeper. I call it fuzzy. It does not really let you anticipate where the rest is going. Each book builds in scope and pace, leading to 'The Greyman', the ending beyond all endings, bringing you right back to book one. Reading the series reveals the hidden layers and book one stops being fuzzy, becoming book five.
Sirenne, even though he didn't know it, was looking for answers to mankind's deepest questions. Why are we here? Is the universe real? What is it all about? He was looking for me, living in his fiction world, going where I could not go. He went there, he hung around for a while, and came back, with pictures, to tell us all about it.
You can read more on my website, in a slightly more serious twenty-five hundred word bio-essay on writing the series. While you're there, check out the link to an online free copy of 'The Hollow Needle' by Leblanc (central to my story. The title of book two 'The Four Books of Etretat' refer to four extremely special copies of 'the Hollow Needle'), or listen to two audio excerpts from the series. If you prefer, sign up for my free monthly draw for signed copies of my book. Thanks for reading this article.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Ottawa, fifty-two years ago, I have been the owner of a used bookstore I opened in Ontario, since 1990. I have been writing since I was ten. Beginning with poetry, I quickly moved on to short stories and non-fiction pieces. I stayed in that format for many years, eventually self-publishing a franchise manual (How to Open Your Own Used Bookstore), as well as a variety of booklets, such as 'How to Save Money at Home', 'Build a Greenhouse with Style' and the ten booklet series of Eddy Brock, Brockville Detective.
Having semi-retired from the bookstore, I embarked on the project of writing my first serious novel, which I expanded to a four book series after discovering an incredible mystery hidden within Maurice Leblanc's books.
My interests are eclectic. I like Quantum Physics, Cosmology, history, archaeology, science in general, mechanics, free power, recycling and re-use. I'm a good handyman and can usually fix just about anything. I'm good with computers. I love movies, both good and bad, preferring action and war movies. I can draw and paint fairly well but am so obsessed with perspective and light that I cannot think of much else. I am too detail oriented. Takes too long to finish anything.
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