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Rufus King, Holiday Homicide (Dell 22)
Dell books paperback comprised different populargenres, from the Western to the adventure and the sentimental novel. But half or more of them were crime fiction. The maps on their backs merges visually all these genres. After all, the four of them can, to an extent, rely diegetically, figuratively or at least metaphorically on sketches and raw drawings (Treasure island map, carte du tendre, maps of a crime scene or croquis for a heist). More than 250 Dell Books Mapbacks were actually Crime scenes. Crime Scenes without crime, without traces of violence, and almost always without people. A pure material and geographical world. Put all together, they display a great sense of continuity, attributable to the unity of style and colours in the work of artist Ruth Belew (who, according to Gary Lovisi, drew more than 150 of them). The wild, unruly, imaginary space of Crime Fiction looks here tamed, domesticated. Pleasant, harmonious, and perfectly defined squares look like the parts of a puzzle. A puzzle reassuring both in its nature as a game, and for its apparent completeness (although it would be interesting to inspect the spaces, states, counties and countries which are not represented). Continue reading
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With thanks to Benoit Tadié
The crime scene map is a feature commonly associated with 1920’s Crime Fiction. Detective novels of the Golden Age tended to favour the spatial representation of the mystery to be solved. The maps appended to the novels were data visualisations, as they presented the plot in one easy (and appealing) overview. Typically, a locked room mystery, or a secluded place mystery (remote manor, island, lighthouse…) could handily be mapped on one page. Such cartographic paratexts not only accompanied the novel, but often preceding it, they led into it. They were printed in the first pages of the volume, and at times on the cover itself, inviting the reader to a symbolic and cognitive journey. They helped visualize the information relevant to the solution of the case presented in the book. But at the same time, as they established a sense of location, they dematerialized it into a projection, and an abstraction. They became thus metaphors of the detective novel as an intellectual construct. Imaginary, simplified spaces, stages for schematic problems, disconnected from referential realities. This view was further corroborated by Chandler’s dichotomy, distinguishing between the realistic, gritty, hard-boiled genre, which he and Hammett represented, and the delicate, but ultimately insubstantial, de-realized Mystery genre incarnated by Christie, Carr, Sayers and co. Associated with golden age detective fiction, maps would then paradoxically seem, from this point of view too, to indicate less referential substance, rather than more. Continue reading
The “Colecção Vampiro”, published from 1947 by Editora Livros do Brasil, in Lisbon, was one of the very fist series of Crime Fiction paperbacks in Portuguese. It was certainly the most popular. The “Masters of detective fiction” published there showed a large emphasis on English and American authors. The notoriety of the authors seemed of rather more importance than a clear definition of the sub-genre of crime Fiction the books pertained to. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers appeared alongside Hammett and Chandler; Wallace with Simenon; Van Dine with Ellery Queen. The latter, and the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner were the most represented. While a close contemporary of Gallimard’s “Série Noire” (created in 1945) Vampiro was editorially much closer to Le Masque (Librarie des Champs Elysées, 1927). Vampiro favoured novels of deduction and investigation over hardboiled noir. Continue reading
Simon Templar, aka “The Saint”, the character created in 1928 by Leslie Charteris (British author Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin, 1907-1983) soon became immensely popular. His adventures were published by Hodder & Stoughton, under the famous yellow jackets. They spread to continental Europe in the early thirties. They were so popular in France at the time, that translations were not enough. To meet the demand of the public, apocryphal stories of “Le Saint” were written directly in French (by translators Edmond and Madeleine Michel- Tyl ) . After the war his popularity would be supported by film and television adaptations. Again, there would be in France, alongside the official, international production, domestic films with the Saint played by famous French actors : Félix Marten (in Le Saint mène la danse by Jacques Nahum, 1959 ) and Jean Marais ( Le Saint prend l’affût, Christian-Jaque, 1966) Continue reading
The Club del Misterio Series (early to mid-1980’s) predates the Etiqueta Negra Series (mid- 1980’s to mid-1990). Both Series are devoted to Crime Fiction. Both have appeared post-Franco, and in a cultural context profoundly changed by the Movida. Both have published around 150 books of international Crime Fiction, the majority of them considered classics of the genre. While Etiqueta Negra is a series launched by a Madrid publisher, Jucar, Club del Misterio belongs to a Barcelona-based publisher, Bruguera.
But the most striking difference is their respective scope. The Madrid publisher puts the emphasis on selection and distinction. There are fewer authors, representing fewer countries, and a distinctive branch within the crime genre, the noir novel. On the contrary, the Barcelona series favours diversity : different subgenres, different authors, different countries. It is remarkable that the author most published in this series is Italian (Scerbanenco). Rather than American (or Spanish as is at the time the pattern elsewhere, when only local authors seem capable of resisting the American -and to an extent English- dominance). Continue reading
Edgar Wallace (Greenwich, 1875- Beverly Hills, 1932) is probably one of the crime authors whose academic reappraisal stands to gain the most from the shift in methods and objects advocated in this blog. A sort of consensus has hitherto prevailed, consigning his books (famously written over amazingly brief, but sustained, periods of concentration) in the category of hastily churned out yarns. Successful, but ultimately forgettable. Mass market products of their time, which have now become less appealing, and promise little reward to the modern reader. This is certainly very unfair. One needs only to consider his books’ capacity to thrill all across the world to be inclined to revise such judgement. Or to reflect on the number of adaptations to the screen (more than 150, making him one of the world leading authors) his novels have received Continue reading
A direct predecessor of “Le Masque”‘s and “Giallo” Mondadori’s distinctive yellow covers, Hodder & Stoughton’s “Yellow jackets” series published crime fiction, from 1926 and throughout the 1930’s. Crime thrillers by popular authors such as Edgar Wallace and John Buchan were published there . So were, from 1928, those by Leslie Charteris: this is where all fifty novels in “The Saint” series were published.
Making the link between the original 19th Century railway Library “Yellowbacks” and the fad for giallo (yellow becoming -before noir, the colour of crime fiction) all over Europe, this series of bestsellers anticipate crime fiction paperbacks. While this particular series found an end in the late 1930.s, a new yellow Series was launched in 1949 with the same publisher. Continue reading