Less celebrated than its model (and, in ways, polar opposite), Gallimard’s legendary “Série Noire”, the Fleuve Noir series “Spécial Police” was the most popular of all French crime fiction series. It sold hundreds of millions of books and published a total of 2075 novels. Jean Cocteau was among its admirers. It was, needless to say, largely ignored by critics, academic, literary or otherwise. The books tended to be available at train stations, newsagents, and supermarkets rather than in bookshops. You would not expect to find one in a library. Yet, the series was one of the great matrices of literary imagination in France during the second half of the 20th century. Launched in 1949, it continued to publish until 1987. The majority of its more than 300 authors were either French or francophone, save for one Russian, one (prolific) American, two Germans and a handful of other exceptions. It became an amazing pool of creative talent. How many hundreds more submitted manuscripts? In the twenty-eight years since the series ceased to exist, some of the authors who had been published there have fallen into the most complete obscurity. Very little is known about them, not even their names (many used pseudonyms) or what they did next – or even if they are still alive and writing. Who were and who knew André Goss, Michel Coulmer, Sanz Boto, Mike Cooper and J.M. Valente? Who met Thierry Bataille, and Susan Vialad (or the author publishing under her name), and who remembers them?
André Goss, aka André Gossiaux, Repassez le suaire. Paris, Fleuve Noir, “Spécial Police” n°58 , 1954.
Illustration Michel Gourdon.