Christian was an amazing man. He produced and directed major movies (notably "Camille Claudel") in France, and in the magic world brought us some of the most inventive magic ever seen. He won the FISM prize for Invention with an act that has yet to be approached in its use of technology in the service of wonder.
Fechner did not throw his money around but used it in the service of fine art. His act was not a rich man's indulgence but a serious exploration of advanced electronics and mechanics used for amazing effects. He published some of the most elegant and elaborate magic books in our art's history (especially his Soirees Fantastiques). As a historian, he was the real deal, as a glance at his Magic of Robert-Houdin books and French conjuring bibliography will show.
The preservation of Robert-Houdin and his story will stand as one of Christian's greatest legacies. He gathered the world's largest collection of Robert-Houdin props and memorabilia, displayed it in his own mini-museum, convinced the family to grant him access to the master's manuscripts and papers, and distilled it into some of the best pages ever written on magic history.
I had the good fortune to work on the translation and editing of his Robert-Houdin series, first his two-volume biography, then the second set on the magic effects of Robert-Houdin.
When I was staying at Kevin James' house years ago, Gaetan Bloom showed me the proofs of the English edition of Fechner's Robert-Houdin biography. I immediately saw trouble. Christian had hired a French non-magician to translate, and inaccuracies abounded. I contacted Fechner to offer my services as editor and re-translator. The result was necessarily a bit awkward since I was repairing an already-written translation, but what an adventure and honor it was.
To seal our contract, I met with Fechner in Paris for a day. He and his driver met me at the airport and his mouth dropped open. He'd been impressed by my edition of The Annals of Conjuring but didn't expect me to be a guy in his thirties with long hair. In the back of his Rolls and then at lunch, we discussed the possibilities of my editing and eventually releasing his English edition through The Miracle Factory.
He told me he was astonished by my rendition of The Annals, which I'd created with Eddie Dawes and Bob Read. It's just totally perfect, he said. I'd only started about a year before in the publishing world and his kind words meant a lot to me.
We visited his headquarters in Boulogne, where he had his collection on display. He showed me the proofs of the biography and the planned subsequent set, then took me to a display on Georges Melies in Paris, giving me a personal guided tour of another of his heroes, also a multitalented movie director/inventive magician.
In the afternoon, we stopped to see the filming of one of his movies. As soon as we stepped onto the outdoor set, assistants brought us two folding chairs and offered us coffee. The movie was eventually a huge hit, and Christian later joked that I should be the good luck charm on all his movies.
I was fairly in awe of Christian and felt extremely lucky to work with him. I am sorry that he never published the English translation I did of his second Robert-Houdin set, not for me but for its information, which would have seriously influenced the wider, non-Francophone magic world's understanding of its own art. This work examines all of Robert-Houdin's ingenious effects, techniques, and stage riggings, and establishes him as one of the prime architects of much of what is now seen onstage in magic shows.
To top off the value of his work, Christian's book also thoroughly researched, explained, and exposed Houdini's pathetic attacks on Robert-Houdin. But for whatever reason, Fechner decided not to release the English version of this second set. As I have said to many inquiring about this lost potential classic, "Fechner works in mysterious ways."
Merci, mon ami, et au revoir!