Few Crime series, if any, have developed such mystique as the French Série Noire, launched 72 years ago by former surrealist Marcel Duhamel for the éditions Gallimard. While ostensibly dedicated to introducing american hardboiled writers, and to a significant extent their imitators from elsewhere, the series also published an increasing amount of French authors. A simple data viz shows the respective quantitative contribution of the twenty most prolific French writers in the Série Noire.
Murder, death, and mystery… Well, who would have guessed? Here is the count of the top six words used in the titles of the 66 mystery novels by Agatha Christie, between 1920 and 1976 Continue reading
San-Antonio in the Spécial Police Series (1950-1972, 79 titles)
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San-Antonio Series (1972-1999, 96 Titles) Continue reading
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Does the word cloud above provide an answer to the question asked in the title of this post ? And is that of any use to anyone? The cloud is based on the titles from the 175 novels published in the crime series “The investigations of Commissaire San-Antonio”. Does is tell us something we did not know about San-Antonio ? And if we don’t know who San-Antonio is, or haven’t read his books does it help us forming a first impression? Does it allow us to find a way through his work? But maybe what we are being told here is not so much something about San-Antonio, but about distant reading. How do you go about with the material which raw (or refined) data gives you? How do you start building a narrative, and research questions around it? Continue reading
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Edgar Allan Poe (1 occurrence)
Based on publicly accessible data and the names of 67105 French Schools (public and private, and at all levels) it shows, without surprise, that many of these schools (some of them 200 years old) chose the name of a writer. But there are great disparities between writers, and the data tells about the omission of Crime fiction authors. It indicates an apparent stigma attached to this specific type of authorship, as Crime authors fare considerably less well than other, even much lesser known authors. Edgar Poe, admitttedly not a French author is named only once. Gaboriau, the author of the first crime novel, zero. Victor Hugo, by contrast (who invented with his inspector Javert a very memorable policeman, but definitely not considered a crime author) had his name chosen by 365 schools. It is more than surprising that some of the most read, most popular and internationally famous French authors (such as Gaston Leroux, the author of the Phantom of the Opera) don’t seem to have been deemed worthy of such distinction. When will a French school be named after him, one of France’s more gifted writers? Or after Eugène Sue, or Frédéric Dard ?
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Edgar Allan POE (1809-1849) The Murders in the Rue Morgue (Graham’s Magazine, Philadelphia, 1841)
Total of 13,724 words and 2,847 unique words. Most frequent words in the corpus: voice (42), said (35), Dupin(27), house (26), head (24).
Emile GABORIAU (1836-1873) L’Affaire Lerouge (Le Pays, 1863; Paris, Dentu, 1866; The Widow Lerouge, 1873)
Total of 123,867 words and 8,792 unique words. Most frequent words in the corpus: said (450), old (443), Sir(351), Noel (311), man (288).
Emile GABORIAU (1836-1873) Le Crime d’Orcival (1867), The Mystery of Orcival
Total of 103,639 words and 8,452 unique words. Most frequent words in the corpus: said (532), Lecoq (322), Plantat (307), man (252), know (230) Continue reading
Created in the early 1950’s, the series of mass market paperback books Ullstein-Büchern, started in the mid 1950’s to offer a subdivision devoted to Crime Fiction, the Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane. This series had different numbers than the rest of the Ullstein- books, to differentiate them from the general series (Allgemeine Reihe). It started at number 701. Further differentiation, the big K on the title banner stands for Krimi. This is the mid and late 1950’s, and American authors are now predominant, in stark contrast to the original Ullstein Gelbe Reihe in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. A canonisation of the noir genre has happened elsewhere, and Ullstein books reflect this. The two first books published as Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane are Hammett (Der Malteser Falke) and Chandler (Einer weisst mehr). Hammett’s Bluternte is the sixth volume in the series. Continue reading
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Studying Crime Fiction Series in their cohesion and complexity, rather than works and authors for their originality, presents a radical departure from the type of literary work traditionally done in academia. Compared with close reading and textual analysis, this seems a more appropriate way to approach the conditions of production of a material culture, and hence, to better understand Crime Fiction. It takes the observer away from the ideology sacralising the unique and celebrating the individual, and promotes the discovery of the collective and relational nature of what we call literature. It also requires different tools and poses different research questions. The shift in focus helps revealing a series of phenomena and circumstances, as well as an entire population of agents usually falling under the radar of literary research. Such is the case of the fascinating, yet totally under-researched subject of translators of crime fiction. Continue reading