Early French Crime Fiction in America


FantomasusPierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, Fantômas , Marcel Brentano’s, 1915

The Circulation of French language crime fiction in America starts with  Gaboriau, and before him Vidocq (whose Memoirs, first published in Paris 1828-1829 by Tenon, Libraire-Editeur, owe much to fiction, and in turn would influence Balzac and most of 19th Century writing on crime, and early crime novels). It is in America that Gaboriau’s L’affaire Lerouge, his first detective novel, published in Paris in 1866, first appeared  in English translation (in the 1873  Boston Edition reproduced below). This novel introduced Parisian detective Monsieur Lecoq, who was both an heir to Vidocq (as the name tells us) and a precursor of Sherlock Holmes. Le Crime d’Orcival (1867) the next novel featuring Lecoq had allegedly already been translated in New York, by Hoyt and Williams in 1872 (Harper’s Magazine, April 1872, 781). Building on the popularity of this new type of novel based on crime, clues and deductions, illustrated by Gaboriau, other French crime novels were translated in America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Successes in the US by, not only Leblanc, but also Souvestre & Alain, Leroux and Renard, thus predate Simenon’s.


Emile  Gaboriau, The Widow Lerouge, Boston, Estes & Lauriat, 1873



Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, Fantômas , Marcel Brentano’s, 1915, first printing


Gaston Leroux, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, Brentano’s, 1909


Maurice Renard, The Hands of Orlac,  E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1929


Georges Simenon, Crime of Inspector Maigret, Covici-Friede Publishers, 1932


Georges Simenon, The Death of Monsieur Gallet, Covici-Friede Publishers, 1932

redeureGeorges Simenon,  Maigret Keeps a Rendezvous, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1941, first printing


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