Léon Groc (1882-1956), O Segredo da Praça Maldita (La Place maudite, Le Lynx, 1941), Lisboa, 1947
The International Circulation of Cultural Works operates like a magnetic field. Forces interact, currents drive materials in different directions, at different speed, in various magnitudes. Such effects can be observed in the reception of French Crime Fiction authors, between the 1930’s and 1960’s, in countries like Spain, Italy and Portugal. In these countries, a secular tradition of French cultural influence offered an outlet to a French production which was at this point in time experiencing a severe competition from the English and American markets. There had been a Golden Age in French language Crime Fiction too (Simenon, Steeman, Véry, Decrest, Boileau, Nord, Vindry and others…) but it was, in most countries, overshadowed by the success of English language Golden Age crime fiction. Even on the French literary field the successful import of the Detection Club authors created a tough competition for French authors in the thirties. After the war, the Noir vogue would even engineered a process of eviction of new, American or American sounding authors. Continue reading
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With thanks to Benoit Tadié
The crime scene map is a feature commonly associated with 1920’s Crime Fiction. Detective novels of the Golden Age tended to favour the spatial representation of the mystery to be solved. The maps appended to the novels were data visualisations, as they presented the plot in one easy (and appealing) overview. Typically, a locked room mystery, or a secluded place mystery (remote manor, island, lighthouse…) could handily be mapped on one page. Such cartographic paratexts not only accompanied the novel, but often preceding it, they led into it. They were printed in the first pages of the volume, and at times on the cover itself, inviting the reader to a symbolic and cognitive journey. They helped visualize the information relevant to the solution of the case presented in the book. But at the same time, as they established a sense of location, they dematerialized it into a projection, and an abstraction. They became thus metaphors of the detective novel as an intellectual construct. Imaginary, simplified spaces, stages for schematic problems, disconnected from referential realities. This view was further corroborated by Chandler’s dichotomy, distinguishing between the realistic, gritty, hard-boiled genre, which he and Hammett represented, and the delicate, but ultimately insubstantial, de-realized Mystery genre incarnated by Christie, Carr, Sayers and co. Associated with golden age detective fiction, maps would then paradoxically seem, from this point of view too, to indicate less referential substance, rather than more. Continue reading
The “Colecção Vampiro”, published from 1947 by Editora Livros do Brasil, in Lisbon, was one of the very fist series of Crime Fiction paperbacks in Portuguese. It was certainly the most popular. The “Masters of detective fiction” published there showed a large emphasis on English and American authors. The notoriety of the authors seemed of rather more importance than a clear definition of the sub-genre of crime Fiction the books pertained to. Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers appeared alongside Hammett and Chandler; Wallace with Simenon; Van Dine with Ellery Queen. The latter, and the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner were the most represented. While a close contemporary of Gallimard’s “Série Noire” (created in 1945) Vampiro was editorially much closer to Le Masque (Librarie des Champs Elysées, 1927). Vampiro favoured novels of deduction and investigation over hardboiled noir. Continue reading
One of the most iconic of German Crime Fiction series is Goldmann Taschen-Krimis. It was created as a pocketbooks series in 1952. In this format, together with new titles it republished many books, which had previously been published by Goldmann before the War, such as Christie’s Das Geiheimnis von Sittaford. The Goldmann pocket books used to cost less than 2 Deutsche Mark (1,90) until 1960. The price was then set at 2 DM 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
Mignon Good Eberhart (USA, 1899- 1996)
Crime Fiction is an international genre. It is well-known that several countries have collaborated to its invention. Exchanges and reciprocal influences between the US (Poe), France (Vidocq, Gaboriau) and England (Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle), in particular, have been crucial in shaping it in the 19th Century. Publishers and Magazines have driven the translation of works of foreign crime fiction, creating international trends and reception patterns. Publishing industries, in the 20th Century have spread internationally. Continue reading
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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.
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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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.
Having published 2 025 novels of Crime Fiction over a period spanning seven decades, between 1930 and 1994, The Collins Crime Club is another of the longest Crime Series worldwide. An imprint of William Collins & Co, it published almost the entire work of British women authors Agatha Christie (from 1926 and Murder in the Vicarage) and Ngaio Marsh (pictured)
82 authors contributed to the Collins Crime Club Series. The most frequently published were Gilbert (55 books), Lorac (52) Christie, (48) Farjeon (36) and Rhode (32). Books selected to be included in the Collins Crime Club Series certainly deserve to be described as murder mysteries. As the following visualization, based on the titles suggests it :
Murder features prominently among the hundreds of titles published by Collins Crime Club of the decades : see for example some of the novels by the prolific Anthony Abbott (aka Fulton Oursler (1893–1952), author of The Greatest Story Ever Told), in his Thatcher Colt Series : The Murder of Geraldine Foster, Collins Crime Club, 1931; The Murder of the Night Club Lady, Collins Crime Club, 1931; The Murder of the Circus Queen, Collins Crime Club, 1932; Murder of a Startled Lady, Collins Crime Club, 1937; Murder of a Man Afraid of Women, Collins Crime Club,1937; Murder at Buzzards Bay, Collins Crime Club, 1940.
The “Angoisse” Series comprised 261 novels, published by Fleuve Noir between 1954 and 1974. Much in the same ways as Gallimard’s Série Blême offered a different blend of noir and suspense from that of its more successful sister, the Série Noire, Angoisse is a series devoted to Stories of Dread, and Psychological Suspense. The heritage of Edgar Poe is manifest. Albeit putting greater emphasis on terror and fantasy literature, this series is in many respect a companion to the great Special Police series by the same publisher. Books in the Special Police Series carried advertisements like the above for the “Angoisse” series. “Angoisse” was the place were classics such as J. Redon’s Les Yeux sans visage (“Eyes Without a Face“, “Angoisse” number 59, later a famous film by Franju) were first published. Many distinguished authors published in Angoisse : Marc Agapit, Maurice Limat, Kurt Steiner, B.R. Bruss, and André Caroff.