The Beauty of Crime Fiction Collections

Gallimard Les chefsPicture1

Collection Les Chefs-d’œuvre du roman d’aventures (Librairie Gallimard, 1928- 1934)

 This prestigious “collection” (Publisher Series) predates the influential Série Noire, launched after W.W.2 with the same publisher,  the Librairie Gallimard in Paris.  International bestsellers of the crime genre, comprising Classics of mystery and detection novel (Austin Freeman) ,thrillers (E. Wallace)  and authors representative of the “golden age” of crime fiction (Van Dine) were  published here together with illustrious French heirs to the 19th Century’s Serials (Le Rouge). This is also were the first French translations of Hammett’s Glass Key and the Dain Curse were published.


The collection « Le Masque » (Librairie des Champs-Élysées, 1927-2012)

« Le Masque » (“Mask”) is one of the most successful and longest crime series worldwide, with 2540 titles published. While not  the first series devoted to detective novels in France, it was  a landmark in the publishing industry. Launched in 1927 by Albert Pigasse, founder in 1925 of the Librairie des Champs-Élysées it soon acquired iconic status.  Its first publication was Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Pigasse acquired Christie’s exclusive rights in France. But among other mainstay household authors were Dorothy Sayers, R. Austin Freeman, John Dickson Carr.


Pigasse created an award reserved to novels first published in French, the Prix du roman d’aventure. The aim was to promote the Crime genre  amongst a new generation of French language authors. Amongst the firts winners were the Belgian Stanislas-André Steeman and  the French Pierre Véry.


Also published by Le Masque were Pierre Nord, Boileau-Narcejac, Michel Grisolia and many, many more…


The array of subgenres represented in the collection is wider than might be thought, ranging from Edgar Wallace , Francis Durbridge, Charles Exbrayat, to Reginald Hill, Margaret Millar, Patrick Quentin and Ruth Rendell. More recently Andrea H. Japp. Noir thriller international sensation Pierre Lemaitre published his first novel (Irène, orig. Travail Soigné, Prix Cognac, 2006) in this collection


The Série Blême (Gallimard, 1949-1951)

Blême means pallid, livid, pale. The connotation is bleak. The series was devoted to the genre of the suspense novel.  This is one of the finest series published by former Surrealist Marcel Duhamel, who refered to it as the “Série verte”. It consists of only 22 books, most of them now considered as classics :  William Irish, I married a dead man;  David Goodis, Waltz into Darkness, John Gearon, The Velvet Well; Ernest Bornemann, Tremolo; Curt Siodmak, Donovan’s Brain


The Red Series (Série rouge, Editions Morgan  1947-1951)

With writer Yves Malartic as its general editor, and a distinctive tricolour font on its covers,  this series published mainly  British Crime Fiction. But  it also published Hammett’s “Zig Zags of Treachery” (original publication,  Black Mask, March 1924)



The Yellow Series (Série jaune, Lyon,  Éditions des Remparts, 1959-1960 )

This series tried to replicate in  late 1950’s France the success of the “Giallo” in Italy (Mondadori, Milano). Hence the yellow cover and a number of books translated from the Italian : Franco Enna, La Grande paura,  translated as Dans le pétrin pour une fille (number3, 1959);  Sergio Donati, L’Altra faccia della luna, translated as T’en auras du sang à la une (number 1, 1959) and Il Sepolcro di carta, translated as Coco à gogo, (number 4, 1959),  or Laura Grimaldi’s Attento poliziotto (Bien joué Buster !, 1959 )

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