Circulation

“Delicate Infractions”: Innovations, Expansions, and Revolutions in the Crime Genre (CFP)

International Crime Genre Research Group: 8th Biennial Conference

 

Death and the compass

“Delicate Infractions”: Innovations, Expansions, and Revolutions in the Crime Genre

Friday 14 – Saturday 15 June2019

Maynooth University, Ireland

The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges famously remarked that the detective genre “thrives on the continual and delicate infraction of its rules”. Taking this as a point of departure, the 8th Biennial conference of the International Crime Fiction Research Group will aim to bring together researchers with a shared interest in exploring how the genre has changed and continues to change by way of such delicate infractions, but also occasionally by way of full-blown transgression and definitive ruptures.

Under the broad title of “Delicate Infractions”, we invite proposals related to the following areas:

Systemic troubles reflected in the crime genre

  • The crime genre in the age of Black Lives Matter, Trump and resurgent far-right ideology.
  • The representation and promotion of radical politics in crime narrative.
  • Genre responses to the refugee crisis in Europe and beyond.
  • How can or should the genre reckon with the ‘slow violence’ of pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, and ecocide?

Formal re-configurations of the crime genre:

  • Re-imaginings and re-workings of the tropes of crime.
  • Re-configurations of the archetypal detective/criminal/victim triad.
  • Challenges to the gendered and racialized assumptions of conventional crime narratives.
  • Crime, Modernism, and/or Postmodernism (and beyond).
  • Crime, Surrealism, and the Avant-Garde.
  • Hybrids and intersections with other genres.

Changing technologies and how they influence crime, crime detection, and crime writing

  • The technological pre-conditions for the emergence of the genre.
  • Historic changes or ruptures wrought on the genre since its inception by technological innovations in transport, communications, and weaponry.
  • Cyberspace, Artificial Intelligence, and the elaboration of new kinds of crime and new modes of investigation.
  • Digital Humanities, Big Data, Digital Gazetteers, Crowd Sourcing; New technologies for Crime Fiction Studies.
  • Apps, Immersive Narratives and technology-supported Crime Fiction Tourism.
  • The place of YouTube, Social Media, podcasting, and other online platforms in the publication of crime narrative.
  • New technologies and new experiences of reading Crime Fiction.

As in previous years, we also welcome submissions that do not fall neatly within the above categories (or that expand them), and we are open to research questions that are themselves ‘infractional’ in respect of the critical paradigms that have grown around crime genre scholarship.

Submissions can be centred on crime fiction and/or film, but we also welcome submissions relating to true crime and that analyse other forms of media, as well as examinations of relevant topics within fields such as history, criminology, anthropology etc. Our guiding objective since our first conference in 2005 is to bring together scholars from a diverse range of areas with a view to highlighting and exploring the points of convergence (and divergence) that emerge.

Organising Committee Chair Dr David Conlon (MU). Committee members Dr Dominique Jeannerod (QUB); Dr Kate Quinn (NUIG); Dr Marieke Krajenbrink (UL).

Please send your abstracts to one of the following by November 29th 2018:

david.conlon@mu.ie

d.jeannerod@qub.ac.uk

kate.quinn@nuigalway.ie

marieke.krajenbrink@ul.ie

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Crime fiction series published in 20th century Romania

 

 

Bianca Alecu, University of Bucharest

 bianca.maria.alecu@gmail.com

 

Romania belongs no doubt to  countries that are not considered the founders of the  crime genre, but where the crime fiction phenomena is still an enigma, both in its contemporary and past shapes. Unlike better known areas of Crime Fiction production, such as France, North America or  Britain, the beginnings of  the Romanian crime fiction scene are still somewhat obscure, and  remain challenging to track down. Over the decades, there have been numerous more or less successful attempts at publishing popular fiction series including detective novels. From these attempts, eventually, crime fiction series would be developed, especially during the communist regime. This article will tackle both the historical backdrop of these series and elements of book cover design, since their connection is symbolic: “when a text is published and the book is designed and printed, it becomes a physical manifestation not just of the ideas of the author, but of the cultural ideals and aesthetics of a distinct historical moment” (Drew and Sternberger, 2005, p. 8, apud Gallagher, Patrick).

At the beginning of the past century, the Kingdom of Romania experienced one of its most significant moments of cultural and economical growth.  Its literary scene was heavily influenced by the French fin-de-siècle. At the end of World War I, Romania gained the territories of Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina and Bessarabia,  unifying all of the Romanian-speaking provinces. Only northern Transylvania was retained after the Second World War. Soon after, Romania became a socialist republic under a Stalinist type of communist totalitarianism that ended in December 1989, with the execution of the dictator.

Aventura  Fig 1

 

Interwar popular fiction series.

In the first half of the century, more precisely in the 1930s-1940s, popular fiction started to garner more commercial success. One example of this is the Aventura[1] (eng. “adventure”) series, published between 1937-1941 by Adevărul Publishing House and sold with their newspaper, Adevărul (eng. “truth”). Newspapers and books would be sold together at a reasonable, fixed price. The readership knew what to expect from the motto of the series: “Romane de Acțiune și Pasiune” (eng. “Novels of Action and Passion” – Fig. 1).

Each 15th of the month a new such novel would be published, that usually followed the conventions of popular fiction. The total number of books in this series is 50. Out of these, only around 8 are written by non-French authors (British or American: H. Melville, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London). Crime or mystery novels were included in this series, but they were only occasional features, since the main focus of the series was „adventure”, which usually meant discovery-scenarios with unexpected turns in exotic scenery.

insula vampirilor

Fig. 2. A special Christmas edition of the newspaper, from 1939

The cover design of the series is typical for rather cheap paperbacks, using the strategy of illustrating a pivotal point of the narrative (Fig. 2), while the background color is a paper-yellow, the nuance of which is difficult to tell because of the age of  the books that survived (Fig. 3). The font of the titles varies with the content of the books and cover illustrations, while the title of the series and the motto are placed in the top central part of the cover. Another recurrent element of the cover is the price (8 Lei, top left corner), which was then a typical strategy for selling popular fiction (Fayard 65 centimesDime novels, Penny Dreadfuls...).

 

 

  Fig 3      8lei

 

Fig.4

BELLU

Another series published in the same period was dedicated to crime fiction, as the name reveals: Romanul captivant polițist (eng. Thrilling detective novels). It was published by Ig. Hertz Publishing House, one of the most prestigious publishing houses of  interbellum Bucharest. It also published another series of popular fiction called „Colecția celor 15 lei” (i.e. The 15 lei series, i.e costing twice the price of the cheap adventura 8 lei series[1]). There is some uncertainty regarding these two collections, as it is possible they might have merged into one at some point in the 1930s. One of the first Romanian crime fiction novel was published in 1935 in the former series: „Cazul doamnei Predescu” (eng. The case of Mrs. Predescu, Fig. 4) by Petre Belu. The second edition sold between 31.000-45.000 copies.[1]

Unfortunately, a lot of the books published in the interwar period ended up in the great „recycling” projects of early communism. Both what was considered to be major and minor literature was liable to be  „cleaned” and censored, including popular fiction, crime and romance series that could be found in the bookshelves of the bourgeoisie. These books, and especially those which were taken by hundreds and thousands to the „recycling” furnace are now very rare, and can seldom be found, even in the archives of national libraries.

Crime fiction series under the communist regime.

During the communism area, another Aventura series was published by Tineretului (1967-1969) and Albatros (1969-1985) publishing houses. There is no recognizible connection with the interwar series, neither in terms of book cover design, nor content. Both international and Romanian authors were published in this series, which was a collection on its own and not a periodical magazine as before. The first and last books published in this collection belong to a renowned Romanian crime fiction author, Leonida Neamțu. In terms of book cover design, the first version of the series as published by Tineretului proposed a white handwritten silhouette of the letter „a” (from Aventura) against various bold, solid background colors (Fig.5). Inside the „a” the information about the book was written in a constant, minimalist font, in bold (the title) or underlined (the author). This contributed to the overall homogeneous aspect of the series, the design of which was very modern and forward-thinking for the time. After the series was transferred to Albatros (Fig.6), the design of the series was changed to a more varied one, containing both the classical „a” in the top left corner and thematic illustrations. Keeping the small version of the previous design is both an economical and symbolic decision, since the series were very popular with the public and this was the way of keeping the readership throughout the transition of the editorial project.

editura

Fig. 5. Colorful and minimalistic book cover design of the series as it was first published by Editura Tineretului

Albatros

Fig. 6. Book cover design of the  series continued by Albatros

The most successful and renowned crime fiction series of the communist period (and may still be well-known to this day) is Enigma, published by Univers Publishing House from 1969 to 1990. During the 1990s some titles were republished in a new series called Enigma Z,  with new cover design. This series never matched the fame and readership acclaim of the original one. The covers of some of the most famous titles of the communist Enigma can be viewed at https://archive.org/details/ColectiaEnigma-EdituraUnivers. As crime and spy novels began as yellow paper-backs in most European countries, yellow and bright colors (orange, green) remained one of the visual ways to inform the reader, even unconsciously, about the nature of the contents of the book. This can be seen in the cover design of the previous series, but it is fully-fledged in Enigma (Fig.7). Some of the graphic elements of the cover are similar to Albatros’ Aventura series, namely the collage-like illustration and the colorful background of the title box. However, one of the things that set apart the design of this series is the changing of the font of the title according to some symbolic connotations of the contents of the book (or even according to the length and phonetics of the title). The most recurrent color is, by far, yellow, followed closely by orange, mustard, green and pink. An anthology of crime fiction short stories was also published in this series, in two volumes that can be seen in the top right picture below. The design of these is distinct from the rest of the series, while in keeping with the overall ratio and aspect of the covers (square lines, central illustration, title box in the lower half of the cover).

enigma1 enigma2

 

 

enigma

Fig. 7 Enigma

This collection was among the lengthiest ones, counting 89 titles, 15 of them published in 1969, the numbers decreasing rapidly. From 1974 to 1978 only 5 volumes were published in a year. During he last years (1987-1990), only one volume was published per year. Only international authors were published, out of which the most numerous ones were soviet authors, particularly during the 1972-1980 period (approximately). Most of the titles were of world-renowned crime fiction writers, mostly British (Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley, Eric Ambler, Michael Sinclaire), American (Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Edgar Wallace, Leslie Charteris, John Ball), French (Gaston Leroux, San-Antonio, Georges Simenon, Maurice Leblanc, Sébastien Japrisot, , Emile Gaboriau) and others. There is no distinguishable correspondence between the background colors and the nationality of the author or the fictional contents of the books. Neither is there a recurrent, constant pattern of the colors, the order of which is hazardous, yellow and orange accounting for more than a third of the covers.

The case of Soviet writers.

The first volume of soviet crime fiction published there was only the 31st of the series, in 1972, three years after the collection started. It was written by Dmitri Tarasenkov and called “Omul din gang” (The man in the gallery). All the volumes published subsequently in 1972 were written by Soviet writers, as follows: Iulian Semionov, E. Braghinski, Joe Alex, K. Kwasniewski. The last two are the pen-names of the Polish translator and writer Maciej Słomczyński. This period corresponds to a wave of censorship and sovietization of the whole book industry, as well as the literary products themselves. Eugen Negrici identifies four distinct chronological attitudes towards literature during communism, that are especially prevalent in the writing, commercializing and reading of prose: stalinism (’48-’53), formal destalinisation (’53-’64), relative liberalization (’64-’71) and communist nationalism and re-indoctrination (’71-’89). As Soviet crime fiction authors were prevalent in 1972 and the years that followed, featuring constantly alongside to more household non-soviet, occidental names in the genre (Bogomil Rainov is published next to Michael Innes or Dashiell Hammet, in 1973), one can assume that this was a consequence of the reinforcement of ideology after a short period of ease. However, the preparations for this began early in the 1960s, when there was a “search for artistic vehicles to carry emancipatory messages to the masses”, as Caius Dobrescu points out. Moreover, there are similarities between this and the Soviet exploitation of different popular genres as means of propaganda as early as the Avant Garde artistic and literary phenomena.

Some of the Soviet writers published in the series were already well-known in the Soviet Union for their interest in the spy genre, including literature and screenplays, cinema, and Theatre plays. Yulian Semionov (1931-1993) took part in publishing two dedicated crime fiction magazines, „Detective and politics” and „Top secret”. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of investigative journalism in Soviet Union. He was a member of the Union of Soviet Writers and enjoyed critical acclaim for his works of journalism, which were published in many newspapers. Two of his detective stories are published in the Enigma series, the first one,“Valiza cu amprente”, (“The suitcase with fingerprints”) in 1972 and the second one in 1975, “Ogariov Street, No. 6”. Dmitri Tarasenkov and Emil Braginsky worked as screewriters, among others, and were involved in the development of many Soviet films. The former later immigrated to USA in 1978, where, later on, he worked as a journalist for Radio Liberty. Other Soviet writers include Mihail Heyfetz, Arkadi Adamov, Arkadi and George Weiner. Authors from the Soviet block were also published, such as Maciej Słomczyński and Jerzy Edigey (Polish), Bogomil Rainov (Bulgarian), Eduard Fiker, Vaclav Erben, and Ladislav Fuks (Czech), Rejto Jeno (Hungarian). For a detailed representation, see Fig. 8.

 

Enigma Authors

WORKS CITED

Dobrescu, Caius (2013), „Identity, Otherness, Crime: Detective Fiction and Interethnic Hazards”, in Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Philologica, 5, 1, 43-58. Available at https://goo.gl/EfNK4k

Forshaw, Barry (2007), The rough guide to crime fiction, London, Rough Guides Ltd

Drew, N., & Sternberger, P. (2005). By its Cover: Modern American Book Cover Design. New York, NY, USA: Princeton Architectural Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com, apud Gallagher, Patrick (2015), The look of Fiction: A visual analysis of the Front Covers of The New York Times Fiction Bestsellers, Thesis, Rochester Institute of Technology. Available at https://goo.gl/5gV26P

Negrici, Eugen (2006), Literatura română sub comunism. Proza, București, Editura Fundației Pro

 

ELECTRONICAL RESOURCES

http://romania-inedit.3xforum.ro/post/369954/2/B_Colectia_interbelic_259_AVENTURA_-_Romane_de_actiune_si_pasiune_/ Romanian forum dedicated to discussing and publishing electronical, scanned versions of old books. Available only in Romanian. All the books from the interwar Aventura series are available for downloading thanks to individual efforts of numerous people who still had some of the books in the series. A list of all the titles is also available.

http://romania-inedit.3xforum.ro/post/504019/1/Colectia_Romane_Politiste_-_Topic_recuperat/ Romanian forum dedicated to crime fiction, spy novels and pulp fiction series published since communism. Available only in Romanian. Most of the books are scanned and can be downloaded.

https://goo.gl/9RgDn6 The Facebook page of the same forum contains a photo album with the cover of all the books from the Enigma series. This is useful for getting an overall picture of the chromatics and design of the series.

 

 

 

[1] Carte rară din colecțiile Bibliotecii Științifice Universitare: contribuții bibliografice, Fascicula 3, collected by Scurtu, Elena, Nagherneac, Ana, Bălți, 2008. Available online https://en.calameo.com/read/001133349e22fadf634e7

[1] A good salary (of a clerk) was 9000 lei in 1928, one volume would cost aprox 0.1% of this salary

[1] A complete list of the volumes published in this series, as well as the digitized version of most of them can be found at http://romania-inedit.3xforum.ro/post/369954/1/B_Colectia_interbelic_259_AVENTURA_-_Romane_de_actiune_si_pasiune_/

DETECt – Horizon 2020

The International Crime Fiction Research Group is delighted to share the good news about the European funding secured for our project “DETECt -Detecting Transcultural Identity in European Popular Crime Narrative”, as part of the Horizon 2020 – Societal Challenge 6: “Understanding Europe: Promoting the European Public and Cultural Space” framework. The project is led by the University of Bologna and involves 18 institutions from 11 European Countries.  DETECt addresses the formation of European cultural identity as continuing process of transformation fostered by the mobility of people, products and representations across the continent. Because of the extraordinary mobility of its products, popular culture plays a decisive role in circulating representations that constitute a shared cultural asset for large sectors of the European society. The project examines examples of crime fiction, film and TV dramas from 1989 to present, to learn how mobility strategies such as co-production, serialization, translation, adaptation, distribution, and more, have influenced the transnational dissemination of European popular culture. It also investigates how the treatment of specific ‘mobile signifiers’ – including representations of gender, ethnic and class identities – affect the ability of European narratives to migrate outside their place of origin, and be appropriated elsewhere in different and variegated ways. Researching the contemporary history of the crime genre in Europe, DETECt aims to identify the practices of production, distribution and consumption that are best suited to facilitate the emergence of engaging representations of Europe’s enormously rich, plural and cross-cultural identity. The knowledge acquired through a detailed research programme will be used in cultural, learning and public engagement initiatives designed to prompt the elaboration of new transnational formats for the European creative industries. These activities will profit from a set of experimental research and learning resources and innovative collaborative tools, aggregated and organized on DETECt Web portal which will be introduced here. A range of activities will be addressed to the general public and announced here. In particular, the development of a Web mobile app tools will allow users to contribute to the creation of a collaborative atlas of European crime narratives. Watch this space for updates.

 

 

Foreign Bodies

Demure

With thanks to Donald Nicholson-Smith

Foreign Bodies” is the  title of a promising, pioneering series of international crime fiction that never was. It was planned as a series of French Crime Fiction translated into English and published in America. The project  had been drafted almost two decades ago by the former  member of the Situationist International, Donald Nicholson-Smith, the translator of  Debord’s Society of Spectacle, Vaneigem’s  The Revolution of Everyday life, Lefebvre’s   The Production of space  and other key texts. Nicholson-Smith is also the translator of the  quintessential French Noir author, Jean-Patrick Manchette, whose situationist trajectory mirrored his. It is not only regrettable but also damaging for the understanding of  the international Noir genre in the English speaking world that this series never   saw the light of day. The contemporary surge of French Noir in English translation due to publishers such as Pushkin Vertigo, Gallic Books, or NYRB  might be seen as an opportunity to revisit Nicholson-Smith’s project. Continue reading

Online exhibition: A History of Crime Fiction in Greece

greek-holmes

The International Crime Fiction Research Group is glad to present a new online exhibition hosted on the Omeka-based online database “Visualising Crime Fiction,” sponsored by the AHRC  (the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council) and the Universities of Belfast, Limoges, and Debrecen, in partnership with the Bilipo. A Brief History of Crime Fiction in Greece was authored by Nikos Filippaios, currently a PhD student at the University of Ioannina, and provides a concise outline of the development of the genre in Greece, with particular attention to the impact of international crime fiction on the local creative industries.

Filippaios starts his overview by stressing the success of the earliest translations of modern popular fiction that arrived from Western Europe in the second half of the 19th century. He then highlights the key transformations of crime narratives in Greece throughout the 20th century, particularly up to the 1980’s, when a new generation of local writers started to use the genre to investigate the troubled national history during the post-war era.

The exhibition is structured in four sections, each dealing with a specific historical moment: Continue reading

The”unknown author” who sold 200 Million Books

Souris défunte

 

An encouraging article by Dalya Alberge in The Observer marks the first publication in English of one of the “Novels of the night” (romans de la nuit) by Frédéric Dard. The much anticipated Bird in a Cage, (Le Monte Charge), translated by David Bellos, is out this month, published by Pushkin Vertigo. Continue reading