Month: July 2015

A Crime classic a day (10)

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Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, Pocket Books, 212,  New York, 1943

Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely was published by A. Knopf in 1940. It opens, memorably, with Philip Marlowe following released convict Moose Malloy into  Florian’s nightclub and searching for for  showgirl Velma Valento. Chandler without doubt the most gifted author in the noir genre and Farewell, My Lovely is one of his very best novels.

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First edition (New York, Knopf, 1940)

American Penguin Crime Fiction

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The Penguin operation in America was started in 1939, four years after the successful launch of Penguin in Britain. The collection retained the green colour code for crime Fiction books which had characterised the British covers since the 1935 publication of Penguin no. 5 (the first crime published in the collection,  Dorothy L Sayers’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club). But the American market was not prepared for the sobriety of the non illustrated British covers. The  illustrations make the American covers instantly recognisable. Continue reading

A Crime Classic a Day (8)

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Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, New York, Pocket Books, 1941

The  first ten Nero Wolfe books were published by Farrar & Rinehart, a New York publishing company founded in 1929. Fer-de-Lance, published in 1934, was the first of the ten. It was published in abridged form in  The American Magazine,  in November 1934. By 1941, Howard Haycraft, writing in Murder for Pleasure, considered it to be one of the most influential Mysteries.

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Dust jacket of the first edition  (hardback) ,  Farrar & Rinehart, 1934

 

French Sleaze

 

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Bastille Day (today) seems an appropriate enough occasion to reflect on the use of a French context in US and UK paperback fiction from the golden era of crime fiction (1940s and 1950s). Far from the fireworks, musette music and petit bal du quatorze juillet, one can reflect on the often pejorative French stereotypes on which a large amount of postwar US and British publications were based. This is an opportunity to remember the importance at that time of a parallel subgenre of crime fiction, which is usually described as sleaze. Here are a few examples from US and British paperbacks, highlighting how apt the qualification is.

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Some works by the likes of Pierre Flammêche and Paul Rénin deserve a special mention, for their great contribution to sleaze. Both were British authors of French sleaze. Paul Rénin was the penname used by Richard Goyne (1902-1957) to publish stories in “girls’ magazines”; Elsewhere he used the pseudonyms of John Courage, Aileen Grey, Scarlet Grey, Kitty Lorraine and Richard Standish. Pierre Flammêche’s real name was George Dawson. Also noteworthy are the works of Jules-Jean Morac.

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Jules-Jean Morac, Bertrand and the Blondes (Vintage Paperback), New York: Leisure Library no. 12, 1952.

Further reading :   Steve Holland, Mushroom Jungle: History of Postwar Paperback Publishing, Zardoz Books,  1993

A Crime classic a day (4)

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Georges Simenon, The Saint-Fiacre Affair, Pocket Books, 1942

L’Affaire Saint-Fiacre is one of the earliest of Simenon’s  75 well known Commissaire  Maigret novels (and 28 short stories). The investigation brings Maigret back to the village of his birth. Memories  come back to him  with all the vividness and rich textures of those of Proust. Maigret savoured the sensations of his youth again: the cold, stinging eyes, frozen fingertips, an aftertaste of coffee. Then, stepping inside the church, a blast of heat, soft light; the smell of candles and incense.

Alternative English language titles are  Maigret Goes Home and  Maigret on Home Ground.

The novel was adapted in 1959 to the screen by Jean Delannoy, with Jean Gabin.