The question this post tries to answer visually is twofold, and runs as follows. Is it possible, first, to visualise the denotations and connotations carried in the titles of crime Fiction series ? What are the words most frequently used ? And what are the emotions, atmospheres and tropes suggested already by the titles, on the threshold of the books ? What are the most common elements forming part of the contractual promise contained in a title ? Which ones seem to be recurring the most often? And second, do such patterns vary from series to series, reinforcing their distinctive identities? Can one, after listing the literal meanings of the words most frequently used in their titles, and the emotions associated with them, determine the series’ s profiles ? In practice, is it for example possible to compare the three longest French Crime Fictions series (totaling almost 7000 books between them), based only on the words most used in their titles ? Can one try to “profile” Crime series, on the basis of the terms through which the authors, and the series’ s editors choose to market the books ? And which are the words which are more apt at representing each of the three series? The three following pie charts reflect the frequencies of six heavily connoted and intuitively chosen words for each of the three series.
Bloody noir : the Série Noire (Gallimard, 1945 -)
More Kills, less Crime : Spécial-Police (Fleuve Noir 1949-1987)
More night, more death, less blood : Le Masque (Librairie des Champs-Élysées, 1927-2012).
Can this empiric selection, based on only six words fitting with a common sense of what Crime Fiction is about suffice to give a reasonable picture of each series’ features? Certainly the figures do not contradict perceptions of the differences between these series. More graphic violence in the Série Noire and in Spécial-Police than in Le Masque. But there is more emphasis on the elements of mystery in the latter. By contrast, words one might have expected, because they are historically linked with the development of the genre, like “case”, or “adventure”, are no longer frequently used.