Month: May 2015

Art for the Millions : The Signet Books covers

Spillanesignet0699

(Iconographic Source; http://bookscans.com/Publishers/signet/signet.htm)

The New York based publisher, The New American Library was formed in 1948 and soon became the biggest American publisher of paperbacks. Both of its founders, Kurt Enoch and Victor Weybright had experience with the European pioneers of the mass market paperback industry, the British Penguin and the German Albatross, which Enoch had launched  in 1932 and directed. Signet fiction was a particularly successful imprint of The New American Library. The paperback reprints it published included (but were by no means restricted to) a number of classics in the noir genre. The series’ distinctive visual style owed much to the influence of the artist James Avati. Dubbed “The Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers”, often reminding one of Hopper’s bleak style, he drew many of the series’ covers and inspired the other illustrators commissioned by Signet.

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Polizeiruf 110 – The East German Tatort?

Polizeiruf

By Annika Breinig, with thanks to Daniel Magennis

When watching Polizeiruf 110 today, audiences could easily mix it up with the West German Tatort.

These series are broadcast at the same time and on the same channel. They share similar approaches to narrative structure and production, and concentrate on the same themes and motives. There are few signs indicating that this show is the only survivor of German Democratic Republic television, with beloved children’s program Sandmännchen another example.  Although at the beginning the series was meant to be a GDR equivalent of the West German Tatort, it distinguished itself from its model in many ways, not the least of which was its treatment of political issues. Continue reading

Y a-t-il un Français…

Français

Frédéric Dard dit San-Antonio, Y a-t-il un Français dans la boîte à gants ?, Paris, Omnibus, May 2015, ISBN : 9782258116726 .

The two books which have just been published together in the prestigious Omnibus edition are a landmark in the career of France’s most successful crime fiction author. This is where San-Antonio officially meets Frédéric Dard, and where the two faces of the prolific double-author merge. Signed (on their original publication) ‘San-Antonio’, even though the eponymous character of the San-Antonio series does not feature, the books are closer to the dark and despairing atmosphere of the books previously signed ‘Dard’ (the “Romans de la nuit”). Published respectively in 1979 and 1981, one before and one after the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist President of the 5th Republic, their subject matter is politics. Conspicuously however, they don’t contain any of the huge sense of anticipation which Mitterrand’s election triggered in the social discourse at the time. Rather, they reflect the social unrest and atmosphere of scandals and corruption in the final years of the presidency of Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. They tell the story of an ambitious career politician, who hides a terrible secret, the legacy of an unsavoury past, buried in his home. Continue reading

Crime Fiction In Catalan: 2 From the Civil War until Today

Cua

 By Dr Stewart King, Monash University

The development of crime fiction in Catalan from the Civil War until today has been shaped by two major historic events: the Franco regime (1939-1975) and the reestablishment of parliamentary democracy following the dictator’s death in 1975. After the war a series of laws were enacted prohibiting the public use and teaching of Catalan and, during the early 1940s, the publication of books in Catalan. Indeed, in scenes reminiscent of Nazi Germany, books were thrown onto bonfires or pulped. However, from the mid-1940s the regime began to relax some of the restrictions on the use of Catalan, and books started to appear, some in clandestine editions. The effect of such policies on Catalan culture and identity cannot be underestimated. By 1975 only approximately 50 percent of the population could speak Catalan and even fewer could read it. In contrast, the return of democracy has seen the recovery and consolidation of Catalan as a language of communication and cultural production.

Francoist cultural policies shaped in many ways the sort of literature Catalans wrote, as many authors saw it as their duty to defend Catalan as a language of prestige by producing works of high culture. Others, nevertheless, felt that Catalan literature should cater for more diverse tastes by providing books, like crime novels, that catered to the tastes of a readership beyond the well-educated middle class. Of the latter writers, Rafael Tasis and Manuel de Pedrolo stand out.

Selecta

Tasis was the first Catalan to write crime fiction after the war, publishing a trilogy of novels set in pre-war Barcelona: La Bíblia valenciana [The Valencian Bible] (1955), És hora de plegar [Quitting Time] (1956) and Un Crim al Paralelo [Crime on Paralelo Avenue] (1960), although the latter was actually written in Paris in 1944 where Tasis resided in exile until 1948 Continue reading

Inter-Police

Blondes

Published in Paris by Presses Internationales, the Inter-Police series is rather underrated. It is certainly not considered one of the great crime fiction series in France, and is nowadays largely forgotten. Nevertheless, it published some 115 novels of international crime fiction between 1959 and 1965. Many of them would have actually deserved to be included in the much more prestigious “Série Noire” or “Un Mystère” series. Inter-Police featured a number of renowned international authors, starting brightly with Scerbanenco and McBain (as Evan Hunter, with Don’t Crowd Me, 1953), translated as Alerte aux baigneurs ! (no 3, 1959).

Meroy POL Int Kane

The first book in the series was Visa pour la morgue (Green Light for Death) by famous American Pulp Magazine writer Frank Kane (1912-1968) Continue reading

The Executioner’s Tears in Ukraine

LeBourreauPleure  Frédéric Dard, Le Bourreau pleure, in Cherchez la Femme, Raidyga, Kiev, 1993

(With thanks to Didier Poiret)

Translated and published anarchically  in post-communist Russia, Frédéric Dard’s award winning novel Le Bourreau Pleure was published in Ukraine, too (and in Ukrainian), after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Here it formed part of a thematic collection of four international crime fiction novels, published within the same volume. The general title is international French: “cherchez la femme” and does not give much away. Unlike what was the case in Russia, in the Renaissance edition of French Crime Fiction classics  (Moscow, 1993), Dard is here the only French author. He features with three of the most prolific, and bestselling authors in Crime Fiction, indeed, three of the biggest names in the trade internationally: Carter Brown, who reputedly sold 120 million books; the king of the thriller, James Hadley Chase, and John D MacDonald. This encounter under an Ukrainian cover sums up both the deterritorializing effect of Crime fiction, and the American tropism they reflect. Three out of four authors are pseudo-American, and the fourth is American. One author was born in England, but lived in Australia and wrote stories set in America (Brown); One was English writer influenced by 1930’s American Pulp Magazines (Chase); and the third, a French Author publishing, under the name of a town in Texas, stories largely set in Paris (San-Antonio). And as for the American (MacDonald), his most famous character is a drifter, living on a boat Continue reading

Crime Fiction in Catalan: 1 The Origins

 

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Dr Stewart King, Monash University

The Catalan capital Barcelona is indisputably the crime fiction centre of Spain. Anglophone readers will no doubt be familiar with Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Carvalho novels, a series of over twenty novels and short story collections published between 1974 and 2004 that charted Spain’s transition from a dictatorship to a democracy and beyond. A city’s or a country’s crime fiction credentials, however, do not rest on one writer alone. Other writers who may be familiar to anglophone readers are Eduardo Mendoza, Andreu Martín, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Toni Hill, Teresa Solana, and Marc Pastor, among others. While these authors hail from or live in Barcelona, only Martín, Solana, and Pastor write in Catalan. Although less well known to English readers, there is nevertheless a strong, albeit at times uneven, tradition of crime fiction writing in Catalan.

Solanas

The development of Catalan crime fiction has been shaped as much by politics as by literary concerns Continue reading

Two Shilling Yellowjackets

Creasey Hodder 1954

John Creasey, Inspector West Cries Wolf, Hodder & Stoughton, 1954

Hodder & Stoughton original Yellow Jacket series were published in England from 1926 until 1939. A second series was launched in 1949. Each book cost 2 shillings. The covers remained yellow until 1957, when the series gave way to Hodder Pocket books.  Uber-prolific English author John Creasey  (1908 – 1973) published there some of the six hundred novels he is credited with (under twenty-eight pseudonyms). Hodder & Stoughton published  notably   books with his Inspector Roger West , and his eccentric,  aristocratic,  “Saint”- like character, the “Toff”, a sort of later days Arsène Lupin.  The Toff was created in 1938.  Charteris’s The Saint was also published and republished in the same series, as were many successes from the first,  interwar series : Wallace,  Oppenheim and Sapper amongst many others. Or  Patricia Wentworth, with her upper-class compatible, governess-detective, Miss Silver.  The yellow covers signal classicism, in the detective novel or the thriller traditions.