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|
|Waltz Into Darkness||1947|
|Emily Will Know||1949|
|Flight of an Angel||1946|
|Composition for Four Hands||1949|
|Deadline at Dawn||1944|
|She Walks Alone||1948|
|The Bleeding House||1949|
|The Three Roads||1948|
|The Room’s Upstairs||1949|
|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
3/ Examples of visual transformations
Curt Siodmak, Donovan’s Brain, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943 (first serialized in Black Mask , September — November 1942).
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)
The same book, in the Série Blême: