Month: May 2015

“Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking” – The Rialto Film Series


   By Annika Breinig

Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace,” are probably the first words that come to German minds, when they hear the name of the British author. Those lines introduce each film in a series based on Wallace’s books that was produced from the 1950s until the 1970s and televised throughout Germany. Thanks to the enduring popularity of these films among German audiences, the author enjoys a more prominent place in the cultural memory of Germany than in that of his home country. Unfortunately, Edgar Wallace himself never experienced the huge impact and success the movie adaptations achieved, since he died in 1932 Continue reading

San-Antonio’s International Connections

San-Antonio Belfast pics Finland Daniel Panel 5

The San-Antonio International conference took place last week end  at Queen’s University, Belfast, under the aegis of the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities and the School of Modern Languages. It gathered specialists, scholars, collectors and members of the public from around the world. They came to discuss (in French, mostly) the immense body of work left by one of France’s most famous popular writers, Frédéric Dard, aka San-Antonio.  Joséphine Dard, his daugther, attended the conference and took part in the discussions. People came together who don’t normally get to talk together.  Genuinely multidisciplinary, the conference relied on  expertise from various fields (from American Studies to Linguistics, from Cultural History to Literature studies),   on  public and private collections, and on new digital tools.  The multiplicity of approaches and expertise allowed to  tackle precise research questions on a defined and contained (if vast) corpus of texts Continue reading

Disposable Thrills


Nothing ever is permanent, and neither are books of crime fiction. Of course. One could argue that their obsolescence and expiration are programmed from the moment they are published. Or even, in many cases, written.  One thing is to understand notionally  that the lifespan of books of crime fiction is short. Quite another is to see containers for thrillers, in a recycling site  designed for  household waste. The size and amount of containers for discarded books is  intriguing. Apparently, on this evidence, people are at the moment getting  rid of more than twice as many books as clothes.  Did they have twice as many in the first place? Are these books being replaced by other books on vacated shelves?

 Our AHRC  project  Visualising European Crime Fiction, with its historical dimension, might have  a wider societal significance than we measure. Maybe one could read in it, as  a cultural subtext,  an anxiety to recover physical traces of old popular books and series, before they are  wiped off our horizons.

Murder must advertise ! The Victor Gollancz Crime Series and consuming culture


Dorothy L. Sayers, Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror, Second series, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1931 (7th printing 1949)

Starting in 1928, Left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz devised some of the most eye-catching covers for the books  it published.  Their vibrant yellow colour stood out on the bookstalls. Gollancz had a special  paper shipped from Germany to produce dust wrappers whose yellow would not fade (although it is obvious from the pictures here  that it eventually did). Amongst these were a good number of Crime Fiction books, including those of Dorothy Sayers, who had herself worked in the advertising industry. The title of her novel Murder must advertise  worked  both as a description (it is set in the world of advertising) and as a commentary on the aggressive commercial signal sent by the conditioning of her books. Fittingly, the Sex Pistols would later use the same colours as the Gollancz publications for the packaging of their own attack on consumer culture.

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The Executioner’s Tears in Russia

Le bourreau pleure 3

With thanks to Didier Poiret

Frédéric Dard’s noir novel  titled The Executioner’s Tears (Le Bourreau pleure,1956) won the 1957 Grand prix de littérature policière. It was translated in post communist Russia and was published almost simultaneously three times, a sign of the enthusiasm, dynamism, and anarchy of the translated books market in Russia in the early 1990s. Continue reading

A Russian Translation

Passez-moi la Joconde 1 Passez-moi la Joconde 4

San-Antonio, Passez-moi la Joconde, In Detektiv Francii, 7, Moscow, Renaissance, 1993

With thanks to Didier Poiret

Passez-moi la Joconde, one of the earliest novels by San-Antonio (1954) formed part of an anthology of French Detective fiction published in Russia. The anthology contains five novels. San-Antonio’s is the last one. There is no sense of chronology, nor apparent attention paid to genre distinctions or any other criteria of classification. It would be an interesting question for a quizz to try and guess what the five (or six) French authors (see below) have in common: Boileau-Narcejac ; Didier Daeninckx; Vernon Sullivan (aka Boris Vian); Paul Andreotta; San-Antonio

Passez-moi la Joconde, one of the earliest novels by San-Antonio (1954) formed part of an anthology of French Detective fiction published in Russia. The anthology contains five novels.(1) San-Antonio’s is the last one. The collection entirely lacks a sense of chronology’, nor does there seem to have been any attention paid to genre distinctions or any other criteria of classification. It would be an interesting question for a quiz(4) to try and guess what the following five (or six) French authors (see below)(5) have in common: Boileau-Narcejac ; Didier Daeninckx; Vernon Sullivan (aka Boris Vian); Paul Andreotta; San-Antonio.

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Yellow Cover Series in Argentina: Editorial Tor (Buenos Aires)


Georges Simenon, Maigret in Nueva York,  Buenos Aires,  Editorial TOR, Serie Amarilla. Policial, aventura y misterio, 1952

In the 1940s and 50s, the Argentinian publisher Editorial Tor brought out a large number of international crime fiction books under a distinctive yellow cover. Printed in 12x17cm paperback format, these books acknowledged both  the standardisation of Crime Fiction books and the canonisation of an international group of authors, from Doyle and Leblanc, to Sax Rohmer and Simenon as the most representative of the genre and its subgenres Continue reading

Wisecrack and playful observations : 3000 Aphorisms by San-Antonio


Dico Dard, selected by Pierre Chalmin, Fleuve Editions, 2015

 Crime literature is judgemental. About crime and evil, of course. But also about places, people, times and the weather. Colourful metaphors and flippant comments have long formed part of the Noir stylistic horizon. Noir was recognised as a style before it was theorised as a genre.  Chandler and his Chandlerisms, and Peter Cheyney and his far-fetched simile have contributed to enrich crime fiction with lively dialogues, and memorable pronouncements. 

For an author like Frédéric Dard, who devoted  more than 40 000 pages to telling the adventures of a fictional character, the  legendary Commissaire San-Antonio from the Paris Police,  aphorisms are strategic instances. Their laconism and directness contrasts with the profusion of the surrounding text. They emerge from the convoluted detective plot as referential anchors. They impress their own rhythm  to the narration.  They create a mood, and a mode which influence the reading.  Their distance, humour, self deprecation, terseness and provocation are all essential part of the  reading experience.  Continue reading