Month: August 2015

French Authors in the Serie Negra Policial-Misterio

arsenio lupin

The paperback Series  Colección Serie Negra Policial-Misterio (Black Series,  Police Mystery) was published in Barcelona by a consortium of publishers (Barral, Tusquets, Península & Laia) between 1972 and 1976. It consisted of 60 classics of crime fiction, from, among others Poe, McCoy, Chandler, and Ruth Rendell. While American crime fiction is very well represented, and English writers a little less so, it is interesting to note that French authors actually form majority in the series. They range from Balzac, to Gaboriau, to Manchette (La Lunática en el Castillo), Klotz, Kassak and Raf Vallet.


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“Death Wears Yellow Garters” : Chandler on good and bad Detective stories


(Raymond Chandler, Trouble Is My Business, Pocket Books 823, 1951 : Cover Art by Herman Geisen)

Compiling a list of chandlerisms is possibly not the most reverent way to assess how the golden age of Crime Fiction was perceived outside from the self-selected happy few of members in the famous “Detection club”. But it is certainly a fun way to start.  Here are a few excerpts from Chandler’s seminal essay (1950) : “The Simple art of murder”.

Every detective story writer makes mistakes, and none will ever know as much as he should. Conan Doyle made mistakes which completely invalidated some of his stories, but he was a pioneer, and Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue.

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Advertising Peter Cheyney


(With thanks to Didier Poiret)

After Edgard Wallace, and second perhaps only to Simenon, Peter Cheyney (1896-1951) was the great writer businessman of his age. The blurb below gives an example of how he was advertised in France  at the height of his fame.


(Click to enlarge)

Peter Cheyney. Duel dans l’ombre [Dark duet..], adaptated by Michel Arnaud,  Paris, les Presses de la Cité, 1950,   Un mystère,  72

One more Whisky


Peter Cheyney,  Un whisky de plus [Another little drink],  Paris, Presses de la Cité, Paris,1947

(Collection Didier Poiret)

Peter Cheyney, the first author published in the Série Noire, was, more than any other at this early stage of the noir genre, responsible for disseminating the equation:  Noir = Violence + Alcohol. His hard-hitting protagonists used to hit the bottle just as savagely as the villains they encountered. Cheyney is often considered to have made the consumption of whisky fashionable in post-war France. Continue reading

Dark street


(Courtesy of Didier Poiret)

Peter Cheyney. Ombres dans la rue [Dark street], Translation Serge Denis,  Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1949 (Un mystère, 79)

As the blurb below indicates, 3 million books by Peter Cheyney were sold every year, not including translations. In France, and in many European countries, he was one of the post-war biggest sellers. While Cheyney was the first author published in the Série Noire, lending the latter some of its tone and humour, it is in the series’ major competitor, the Presses de la Cité’s, “Un mystère” series that his books had the most alluring covers.

A Conversation with Karim Miské


(Dominique Jeannerod & Daniel Magennis, 9 June 2015)

French author and documentary filmmaker, Karim Miské recently came to Belfast as part of the Belfast Book Festival, to read and answer questions about his debut novel Arab Jazz (winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and  the English PEN award for writers in translation). We managed to detain him long enough to put some questions of our own to him. Continue reading