Re-order, re-arrange, re-package: the creation of a distinctive Series’s identity.

cauchemar emily (1) manoir     

Gallimard’s ill-fated Série Blême  (1949-1951) is one of the most elegant and attractive Series of Crime Fiction. It is also one of the most  prestigious, and appealing, literarily.  It shows the dedication of the Series’ general editor, in his role as a selector of texts.  Publishing a series is an act of mediation. It involves mediating between authors (carefully chosen on the basis of a set  of objective and subjective criteria) and readers, whose taste the series seeks to educate. In this case, Marcel Duhamel (also the editor of the Série Noire)  was committed to  highlight through this series a literary evolution he saw  within the noir genre.  The evolution from the early Black Mask “hardboiled” stories, driven by the action, to a more subjective, introspective and psychological thriller, the novel of suspense. The series, with its bleak name  and  negatively connoted (albeit beautiful) green colours is dedicated to showing  this evolution which  he had noticed with perspicacity. At least this is the case for its  first 16 volumes (Stanley Gardner does not really fit, and was put there for commercial reasons mainly, and certainly  it was against Duhamel’s wish to publish four novels of his). Once the harmony the Series tried to maintain (and which the uniformity of the covers reinforced) was disrupted, it quickly fell apart.

In order to reflect on the process  of harmonisation meant by the creation of a series, this posts shows:

1/The original titles and  dates of original publication of the novels included in the series.

2/ The American (and English) covers , in their abundance of varieties, as compared to the morbid-beautiful uniformity of the French ones.  The comparison between  diversity and harmony, helps to reflect on what is gained and what is lost in the process of  the serialization.

3/Examples of further visual transformations

Original titles and dates of publication of the books presented in the Série Blême in French translation

I Married a Dead Man 1948
The Velvet Well 1946
Dark Passage 1946
Waltz Into Darkness 1947
Emily Will Know 1949
Donovan’s Brain 1942
Flight of an Angel 1946
Composition for  Four Hands 1949
Deadline at Dawn 1944
She Walks Alone 1948
The Bleeding House 1949
Nightfall 1947
The Accomplice 1947
The Three Roads 1948
The Room’s Upstairs 1949
Tremolo 1948
The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat 1935
The Case of the Sulky Girl 1933
They won’t Believe Me 1947
The Case of the Howling Dog 1934

2/The  diversity  of the books  selected, in their original  appearance

IrishIM Chute gearon 2


waltzDonovan composition




3/ Examples of  visual transformations


Curt Siodmak, Donovan’s Brain, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943 (first serialized in Black Mask , September — November 1942).

siodmak (2)


 The Poster of the film adaptation  by Felix Feist (United Artists, 1953)


Deadline at Dawn  Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1944

The Bleeding House (Del, Avon)

-bleeding-house lawence ace  lawrence avon

The same book, in the Série Blême:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s