Big Data

Punctuating Crime Fiction: a Comparison of 6886 Titles

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 (Total number  of titles with exclamation marks, by series)

The following pie charts represent the  varied use of three types of punctuation signs in the titles of  all the novels published in the three longest series of Crime Fiction in France : Le Masque (Librairie des Champs-Elysées), La Série Noire (Gallimard), and Spécial-Police (Fleuve Noir).  While the amount of books published in all three series is roughly comparable (all three series have published more than 2000 books each), there are manifest discrepancies in their use of punctuation marks. Continue reading

Symposium : Towards a Digital Atlas of European Crime Fiction? (British Library Conference Centre, April 10, 2015)

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In the last decades the astonishing speed in the global circulation of cultural works and the unprecedented opportunities to gather and analyse large amount of data through electronic resources have opened up new possibilities for researchers in all disciplines. At the same time, the spatial turn in the Humanities has prompted scholars to consider the benefits of using maps and graphs to investigate the transnational history of cultural phenomena. However, while scholars working on quite traditional literary subjects have been quick to discuss and carry out the provocative claims made by Franco Moretti in The Atlas of the European Novel (1998), an ideal case study for such an approach, i.e. popular fiction, had been largely neglected.

The AHRC-funded project Visualising European Crime Fiction: New Digital Tools and Approaches to the Study of the Transnational Popular Culture has represented a first attempt to adopt this approach in the field of crime fiction studies, starting to collect data from different sources and exploring the uses of an online database and various visualisation tools. This exploratory project in partnership with the Paris-based BILIPO aimed at testing a number of strategies and possibilities in order to envision a larger, longer-term initiative to conduct extensive studies on the transnational circulation of popular fiction at the European level.  Researchers from a group of universities in the UK, France, Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have collaborated to create sample datasets, the prototype database and a series of visualisations. Continue reading

Georges Simenon in Penguin

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A simple wordcloud, when it displays hierarchically structured information, can tell instantly something both very significant and  onerous to establish otherwise.  One would have to browse through hundreds of bibliographical data and to sort them, before being able to discover what the cloud above suggests simply and immediatly.

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The author who published the most books in the Penguin Crime Club,  the famous British pocketbooks publisher’s subseries devoted to the classics of crime fiction, is actually not  Agatha Christie, nor a member of the detection club,  nor any  British author. Neither is it one of the prolific American masters, such as Ellery Queen, or Erle Stanley Gardner. It is actually Georges Simenon, with 48 books published under the universally recognised green cover.

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Continue reading

Visualising a collection of 2075 books : The “Spécial-Police” authors

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The picture above is based on the total of books published by each of the authors who contributed to the legendary “Spécial Police” Series. Launched in 1949 it helped turning its publishing house, Fleuve Noir, into France’s most successful popular literature publisher. When it stopped, in 1987 it  had published  generations of new authors. The biggest names on the words representation above are the biggest contributors. Georges J. Arnaud, Mario Ropp (aka Maïa Devillers), Peter Randa (aka André Duquesne),  Adam Saint Moore (aka Jacques Douyau)  and of course San-Antonio (aka Frédéric Dard) feature here prominently.  But many important names in the history of French Noir, as well as those of well-liked, prolific authors can be found here too.  André Helena, Léo Malet, Serge Laforest,  Jean Mazarin, Roger Vilard,  M.G. Braun (aka Maurice-Gabriel Brault), André Lay  and many more.

Question Marks over Crime Fiction

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(With thanks to Philippe Aurousseau, & Courtesy of Oncle-Archibald.blogspot.fr)

Aptly and obviously for a genre identified with the resolution of an enigma, Detective novels have often been marketed  with big interrogation marks on their covers.  One of the earliest Crime Fiction Series, Ferenczi’s  booklets “Le petit roman policier”  was recognizable for the question mark adorning its covers designed by Gil Baer.

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Later, two well-known French Crime Fiction series at least were named “The Question Mark”.

1/ The Editions Pierre Laffitte’s series “Le Point d’interrogation” was published in Paris from 1932 and until 1937. This series was devoted almost entirely to Gaston Leroux and Maurice Leblanc.

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2/ The Hachette Series “Le Point d’Interrogation”  was published between 1951 and 1965.

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Countless more  series and stand alone crime fiction books used visual references to question marks. If you know about such series or book covers from your own countries and in any languages, please let us know about them !

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Death-driven Series : a quick comparison

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The three leading series of Crime Fiction  which were launched  in France after the war are :  “La Série Noire” (Gallimard, 1945-) ; “Un Mystère” (Presses de la Cité, 1949-1972) and “Spécial-Police” (Fleuve Noir,1949-1987).  This post sets out to compare them  visually, on the basis of their most frequently recurring title words. No translation needed.  (I think ?)

The following representation is based on the most frequent words in  the titles of all the books published in each series. The size of the words represented here is proportional to their total amount of occurrences in the titles.

Série Noire, Paris,  Gallimard, 2743 Titles (between 1945- and 2005)

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Un Mystère, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 769 titles (first serie :1949-1966 )

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Spécial-Police, Paris, Fleuve Noir, 2075 titles (1949-1987)

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Profiling Crime Fiction Series

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The question this post  tries to  answer visually is twofold, and runs  as follows.  Is it possible, first,  to visualise the denotations and connotations carried in the  titles of crime Fiction series ? What are the words most frequently used ? And what are the emotions, atmospheres and tropes suggested already by the titles, on the threshold of the books ?  What are the most common elements forming part of the contractual promise contained in a title ?  Which ones seem to be recurring the most often? And second, do such patterns vary from series to series, reinforcing their distinctive identities?  Can one, after  listing  the literal meanings of the words most frequently used in their titles,  and the emotions associated with them,  determine the series’ s profiles ? In practice,  is it for example  possible to compare the three longest French Crime Fictions series (totaling almost 7000 books between them),  based only on the words most used in their titles ? Can one try to “profile” Crime series, on the basis  of the terms  through which the authors, and the series’ s editors choose to market the books ?  And which are the words which are more apt at representing each of the three series? The  three following pie charts reflect the frequencies of  six  heavily connoted and intuitively chosen words for each of the three series. Continue reading

Death-driven Series

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The truth of French Crime Fiction series is death. Not Detection or investigation, not mystery, and not Police. What the series are about really, is death. Or at least, this is what data visualization suggests, based on the titles of one the most successful of these Series.  The three graphs presented here represent the top most frequently used words in the 2075 titles published in the  Fleuve Noir Spécial-Police Series, between 1949 and 1987.

The 13 most frequent words have been translated in the circle chart above. The Worcloud below, generated with Voyant, and the word -trends graph below, are based on the same source.  They present the same words, albeit with  some  more of the words most used in the titles (below),  and in their original French.

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Names & Places of Irish Noir

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This is a word cloud story of Irish Noir. It is based on a corpus of 280 novels published between 1994 and 2015. The story told by the data represented here details a population of authors, ordered by the respective size of their outputs.  This word cloud indicates  the most productive authors; it suggests that the label “Irish Noir” designates a relatively small, but significant group of writers.

The next representation is based on these authors’ s places of birth.

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In contrast to the previous one, and to where the action of Irish noir series are set (Jack Taylor’s Galway, Ben Devlin’s Strabane-Lifford Borderlands, Sean Duffy’s Carrickfergus, Ed Loy’s Dublin…), the third cloud here reflects  the place of publication of their books. It shows that Irish Noir is actually made in Britain. And to a lesser extent in America. But it also indicates an emergence, of a number of publication places in Ireland : in Dublin, but as well in county Kerry, with Dingle as the headquarters  of a publishing house actively engaged in  the Irish noir phenomenon (Brandon).

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