Heralding the hero, placing the product

Strategies of Self-advertising abound in the San-Antonio Series. There are many visual and textual ways in which the eponymous hero is announced, and promoted. This  integration of the product-name works especially as San-Antonio, the author, doubles as San-Antonio, the character. It is as if Chandler novels were signed Marlowe, or Spillane’s, Mike Hammer. As a result, the cover can be the site of a repetition, the repeated name promoting both an author and a text. Like for  a commercial advertisement, there is no fear of echoes and  redundancy of the message. On the contrary, the reiteration of the name reinforces its capacity to influence.

Polka Gones Beru

 Even before the name functioned  as an acknowledgement of the author, it created a product identity and  established  the series.  On the earlier covers reproduced below, the absence of an auctorial name is conspicuous.  The name is in the title, an on the red advertisement banner painted on the cover. It is not an author’s name. “Commissaire San-Antonio”,  is  a serial name (the author, obviously, is not really a police superintendant). At the same time, the inclusion of the name in the title reinstate  a modicum of auctorial presence too.

Y a bon


All the while, inside the books, a struggle for life is taking place. Character and author strive to make an impression.  The name San-Antonio is mentioned  liberally in the action. The ambivalence of its signification is more obvious here, the author showing, only thinly veiled, under the character.

Here is a count of occurrences of the name San-Antonio in early novels in the series

Réglez-lui son compte ! (1949 )  : 64

Laissez tomber la fille (1950) : 38

Mes hommages à la donzelle (1952) : 23

Du plomb dans les tripes (1953) :  19

J’ai peur des mouches (1957) : 19

Le Secret de Polichinelle ( 1958) :  34

Du poulet au menu (1958) : 21

Tu vas trinquer San-Antonio (1958) : 16

En long, en large et en travers (1959) : 22

La Vérité en salade  (1959):  16

Sana Sana1

It is not  difficult to recognise  here a rapid diminishing of mention of the hero’s name between the first adventures. This has to be relativized by the corresponding diminution in length, th second text being more than 20 000 words shorter than the second. So the decrease is less dramatic than suggested here. But there is a  general trend of diminishing mentions of the name, as the series progresses. As the name  San-Antonio takes increasingly more space on the covers (multiplication of titles mentioning him, augmentation of the size of the letters, apparition of the author’s name on the highest part of the covers), there seem to be less need to emphasize his existence and identity within the books.

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