(Images from Didier Poiret’s collections)
Peter Cheyney (1896-1951) was the first author published in the Série Noire, in 1945. Marcel Duhamel, the series’ director had translated two of his books during the war. His success in France got the Series off to a good start and many more of his novels were published as part of it. Nonetheless, the Série Noire fetishized noir novels and did not publish short stories. This is why the collection No ordinary Cheyney, translated as Du pas banal, by Jean Weil (Paris, 1949) was published with a different publisher, the newly created “Presses de la cité”, which was soon to become an arch-rival for Gallimard’s Série Noire. Duhamel’s dilemma was to either sacrifice his ideas for the series, and risk disorienting his readers; or strengthen a dynamic competitor with an author who was the international best seller of the time. That Duhamel chose the principles and the series’ unity might explain how he succedded in creating and maintaining such a distinctive and long lasting identity.