Book covers

Arsène Lupin Versus Holmlock Shears


Arsène Lupin Versus Holmlock Shears (Translation :  Alexander Teixeira De Mattos), LondonGrant Richards Ltd., 1910 (fac simile)

Arsène Lupin was conceived as an anti-Sherlock Holmes. Both characters rely on their intellect, but, in Leblanc’s stories the gentleman -burglar trumps the maverick detective. Leblanc’s Holmes (or rather, Sholmes)  is both an homage to Doyle’s character and a deliberate parody. This is evident in one of the first Lupin short stories, ironically titled “Herlock Sholmes arrives too late”. This parodic intention is reflected in both the American and the English titles of two collections of short stories : Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes,  in the 1910 American translation by George Morehead), and in the  above  English translation by Alexander Teixeira De Mattos : Arsène Lupin Versus Holmlock Shears, which chose a slightly different, but no less obviously parodic, name.

AL Hol


The original first English edition (LondonGrant Richards Ltd., 1909)

Noir writer in the Shadows: Carroll John Daly


The Man in the Shadows, Grosset & Dunlap, 1928 (1930s reprint)

Carroll John Daly is the inventor of noir, having written a series of hardboiled stories even before Dashiell Hammett. He created the first  Black Mask P.I, Race Williams, before Hammett’s Continental Op (both character debuted in 1923). He was the most popular pulp magazine author and it was said that the sole mention of his name on their covers meant a 15% increase in sales. After the war, Mickey Spillane, whose success with Mike Hammer far surpassed Daly’s, would acknowledge his debt to him; Daly’s was “the first and only style of writing” that influenced him in any way. Despite all this, Daly is now largely forgotten. His books were rarely translated, and are no longer read. Yet, his output was not contained to writing stories for pulp magazines, with 11 hardback crime novels published between 1926 and 1937. Continue reading

Hardback Noir



Raymond Chandler, Spanish Blood, The World Publishing Company Tower Mystery, 1946

It is well known that hardboiled stories, which we would now describe as noir, first appeared in 1920s pulps magazines. And that, from the early 1940s, noir novels were circulated as paperback reprints or, in many cases, paperback originals. This belies the fact that the influential, early hardboiled novels were published as hardbacks, complete with polished dust jackets. This benefited especially hardboiled writers of the 1930s, before the triumph of paperbacks. But even after that, noir authors whose books had been published as hardbacks tended to find an easier way into the modern canon of noir literature. While paperback warranted circulation (as the case of Spillane made clear), hardback still anchored conservation, and hence institutionalisation.


W. R. Burnett, Little Caesar, Lincoln MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1929 Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

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.