A Phantom Library

British paperback publisher Sphere Books, founded  in London in 1961 ambitiously undertook in 1968 the publication of the San-Antonio series. By that time, 70 novels pertaining to this Series had already been published in their original French.  Their titles are listed, together with an English translation in the frontmatter pages of the Sphere books. The reader’s curiosity was triggered, but never satisfied.   Only a few of the corresponding texts were to be translated.  Titles such as San-Antonio in the groove or Action all the way and Swim or sink, San-Antonio never were. Sphere only published seven San-Antonio, and gave up on the project by the end of 1969. What remains are titles without books, a library left incomplete. A vacant lot of titles, a literary ghost estate.

aphoto (1)


Fittingly, Sphere Books supplemented this phantom bibliography, and indeed preceded it, as a preface of sorts, with a phantom biography of the character :

Bio photo(San-Antonio, The Strangler   (La Fin des haricots, 1961),  Translation Cyril Buhler,    Sphere,    London,    1969)

This short text, with all its clichés (and certainly thanks to them) paints an interesting portrait of a literary figure, which is a heir as much to the roman-feuilleton as to the hardboiled novel.  Yet, such a portrait seems very difficult to find in any of the French books and raises questions about who authored it.

Maybe more to the point,  a short text in an earlier publication (San-Antonio, Tough Justice, 1967) had introduced the series not by focusing on its generic (and, frankly, a bit shallow) main character, but on the main quality of the series itself : its huge sales figures in France, and the great marketability this might have  allowed to hope for in England. Such hope certainly is evident in the text below, albeit the claim that this was the first San-Antonio published in English is inaccurate.  This was  merely the first launched by this publisher.



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