Month: January 2015

Forgetting Cinema


Frédéric Dard. Les Salauds vont en enfer, Presses Pocket, 1963

Novelisations, the transcription in book form of a successful  movie are part of its merchandising. Such books  are not really  meant to survive the cycle of the film’s commercial exploitation. Their sell-by date is short. After that, they tend to simply vanish. They are seldom remembered. Much less conserved. Even their authors are obscure.  The movie casts a long shadow.  The novelisation  is destined for oblivion. It is hardly  a way for a writer to gain status. Nor literary recognition. The 1956  novel by Frédéric Dard Les Salauds vont en enfer (the Wicked go to Hell)  however offers the curious case of a novelisation which has survived much longer than the film to which it owed its existence. Continue reading

Francocentric Fiction

San Antonio Sun

The art of infographics is a kind of visual rhetoric. It is an art of storytelling based on data. The data represented in the picture above (generated using a Raw open app.)  tells two contrasting possible  stories about the San-Antonio series, based on the place where the action is set. One is a story of international expansion and delocalisation of the plot, of multiple contacts with the world. It indicates  a series of adventures scattered  outside from France. The other, on the contrary, emphasizes the centrality of France, as  the radiant matrix of the diegesis. Around it, the other countries travelled by the characters are side scenes and side kicks, satellites, distant archipelagos.

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Where’s the action ?

Secondary Dendogram

 San-Antonio novels, like most thrillers, are usually described as “action-packed”. The action is often international. Moving swiftly between countries gives a sense of  international networks so opaque, of criminal plots so dense, of  ramifications so global that they can not be contained within the confines of  one country only. But the San-Antonio Series are generic hybrids. Depending on the epoch when they were written, and on their plot, they recycle elements of noir, spy novel or the  thriller. The intensity of travels during each adventure in the series can be linked with the genre each one owes predominantly to.   The classification of San-Antonio’s Series by country would not be complete  without a consideration of secondary places of action in each novel. These are represented here  in different ways, in the dendograms circle above and in the table below.  Check the following list for a classification by country

Colours Continue reading

Detective Novel Series in France in the 1930’s and 1940’s

DIXE - L'homme aux yeux jaunes

Gérard Dixe, L’Homme aux yeux jaunes, Nicea, 1945

illustration René Brantonne.

The 1930’s and 1940’s registered an abundance of Crime Fiction series in France. They are treasured today by collectors. Often this interest owes more to their cover art than to the crime stories themselves. This is perhaps unfair, as there are many great stories there. But the cover art is indeed remarkable.  Here are a few  examples from these iconic series.

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Which San-Antonio books should you read (sorted by country) ?


San-Antonio, Bérurier au Sérail, Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1964

In a Series totalling 175 novels, it is understandably difficult to locate, or even to remember, in which country each adventure is set. Even if one discounts some 70 novels where the action is set in France, in many others the characters travel to several foreign countries, rather than just one. This adds to the variety of settings in San-Antonio’s adventures, but  it renders any orientation even more difficult.  To provide such an orientation, the following  list serves as a simplified database. It  links the countries most visited by San-Antonio with the  title of the books in which  each country is  visited. This might come handy especially if you are considering putting a proposal to the San-Antonio International Conference in Belfast in May…   Continue reading

Serpents and Snakes in Crime Fiction : a view from the Database

Prostate cancer deaths fall by a fifth in 20 years

The Database being developed as part of the AHRC funded project Visualising Crime Fiction and in collaboration with the BILIPO will allow to compile comprehensive bibliographies on Crime Fiction. It should enable researchers to find quickly a wealth of reference to primary texts ( mainly international crime novels) dealing with any subject.   For example, snakes. Given the noir genre  historical links with puritanism, its fascination with evil and its continued affinity with a range of  motives and archetypes from the Bible religions,  it is not surprising that an infestation of snakes should be crawling and proliferating in the pages of many novels pertaining to the genre.But how to find them ? And how can one constitute a reliable and representative corpus of international Crime novels representing snakes ? Here is a list  of novels belonging to crime fiction or any of its subgenres and featuring snakes,   playing with their connotations, or using  them as metaphor and  signifier : (for example, there are no snakes in DOA’s Le Serpent aux milles coupures, which refers to the name of an infamous Chinese torture, but there is one on the book’s cover)


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Mapping the Urban Landscape of a Cult Movie : Bullitt’s San-Francisco


Bullitt, the movie with Steve McQueen features a scene often seen as the mother of  filmic car chases. Certainly, cars speeding at full force of their engines, as an ambivalent proxy for escape and death, industrial perfection and doomed individual freedom  are a token of many classic film noirs. There are memorable ones in Fritz Lang, Becker, Jules Dassin, Melville, to name but a few.  Among what sets Bullitt’s chase apart from the preceding ones and makes it so influential for subsequent directors (and striking for us), is certainly the sense of time and location it is embued with. It was filmed in  San Francisco and close surroundings  in the spring of 1968.

Print - copie

Covering so much space through its streets, the movie maps in effect San Francisco. But of course, and this is one of the sources for its fascination now, it is a San Francisco which does no longer exist. Mapping the film, in return, is akin to a cartography of myths,  of places which are essentially, or have become mostly,  imaginary.

The movie is based on Mute Witness, the 1963 novel by Crime Fiction author Robert L. Pike (Robert Lloyd Fish).

Adventures in 35 languages


Books by Frédéric Dard, and notably amongst  them the San-Antonio series, have been published worldwide since the mid 1950’s. Quantitatively, the pie chart above shows huge discrepancies between languages, with  a firm (and predictable) advantage to Romanic languages. Italian, Romanian and Spanish account for more than half of the total translations.  In many respects San-Antonio’s translations  reproduce a pattern well established since the  industrial development of international literary exchanges in the 19th Century. Like Dumas, Féval and others before him,  the stats of San-Antonio’s translations tell a story of  marketability and easy assimilation in Mediterranean and Latin cultures. In Northern Europe, on the other hand, competition is felt much harder. The table below confirms that.   At a qualitative level, one should, in addition, make a further distinction between the works translated. It would then appear that not only is Northern Europe more reticent, it actually  often  positively ignores one important aspect of the oeuvre : the San-Antonio series. The latter’s books are for example neither translated in Finland, nor in Sweden, both countries figures only reflecting translations of the more classic  crime books signed Frédéric Dard.  Continue reading

Previously unseen : Frédéric Dard in Lithuanian


 Frédéric Dard, Geltonojo kambario paslaptis  (Cette mort dont tu parlais, 1957), A. Puzo Redakcija,  Vilnius, 1994

With thanks to Didier Poiret

The picture above is the cover of a book published 20 years ago in Lituania. It had since become virtually invisible. Even the most zealous of San-Antonio collectors will see it here for the first time.  It has resurfaced last week  thanks to the effort of Didier Poiret. The  volume  was published in Vilnius in 1994. It  comprises two French Crime novels pertaining to different stages in the history of the genre.   One is by Gaston Leroux, the other by  Frédéric Dard. The latter is one of the earliest ” Romans de la nuit” published by Frédéric Dard in the Collection “Spécial Police” (Fleuve Noir) Continue reading