San-Antonio is a positive, all-action hero. His novels, a literature of affirmation. And of exclamations. Not of doubts, it would seem. On the face of it, the textual reality might be a bit more complex. And a machine, reading the San-Antonio novels, might challenge some of the beliefs and impressions human readers might form, on their basis of their impressionable reading. There are more questions than exclamations, for one. Of course, the mystery genre entails consubstantially a fair amount of questions. The narrative tension thrives on hypotheses, conjectures, interrogations and all type of questionings. The opposition between two crime fiction subgenres, between, on the one hand, a “hardboiled”, violent, action literature and on the other, a literature of mystery and detection, is not as clear-cut in this respect. Both subgenres are riddled with questions. Maybe, these questions are more existential, or metaphysical in the “hardboiled”, noir genre, and of more logical, speculative or even academic nature in the Mystery genre. But this empirical observation, might still need to be addressed and backed up in a more scientific manner.
In the case of San-Antonio, there seem to be, furthermore, a convergence of both subgenres. San-Antonio, for all is noirish garments and attributes relies more on the Mystery genres that it first seems. And there is no denying an introspective quality, in the best noir tradition, to San-Antonio. Under the surface of bravado, the novels reveal a great amount of self-doubt.
Unlike exclamations and suspension points, which expand dramatically in the first decade of the series, the number of question marks remains rather stable over the same period
Question Marks in early novels by San-Antonio
Réglez-lui son compte ! (1949 ) : 367
Laissez tomber la fille (1950) : 387
Les souris ont la peau tendre (1951) : 273
Mes hommages à la donzelle (1952) : 327
Du plomb dans les tripes (1953) : 411
J’ai peur des mouches (1957) : 233
Le Secret de Polichinelle ( 1958) : 322
Du poulet au menu (1958) : 344
En long, en large et en travers (1959) : 394
La Vérité en salade (1959): 336