The auction, currently live on ebay, of an August 1939 issue of Jean-Pierre, a relatively obscure and long disappeared French Magazine, which featured comics and detective stories aimed at young readers, looks certain to fetch a substantial price. With still five days to go, the auction price for the magazine has already surpassed more than one thousand times its nominal price (1 Franc from 1939 is worth 0,44514 Euros, according to the tables of the French Statistics Office, l’INSEE). Continue reading
(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.
(Click to enlarge)
The first 120 volumes in the Seventh Circle (Septimo Circulo) series were selected by Borges and Bioy Casares, both practitioners and very well- informed observers of the crime genre and its developments since the 1930s. It is well known that the pair had previously co-written, under the pseudonym of Bustos Domeq the ultimate armchair detection classic, Six problems for Don Isidro Parodi, published in 1942. The Septimo Circulo series reflects their tastes (even though, unlike Borges, it favours novels over short stories) and views on crime fiction aesthetics. Given the global status and influence of Borges especially, the vision of a canon of international crime fiction which emerges from this selection is interesting. The visualisations below show which authors were published, between 1945 and 1954 in the series’s first 120 volumes, and highlight their relative importance there. Continue reading
Tintin en Amérique, the third album installment of the world famous series of realistic comics drawn by Hergé, was first serialized in the Brussels-based Petit Vingtième, between 3 September 1931 and 20 October 1932. The colour version of the album dates from 1945. Tintin en Amérique is therefore, both for Americans and for Europeans, a contemporary of early noir novels. Not only does Tintin visit America just after the noir genre was invented there in the 1920s pulps (the first “hardboiled” novel considered to be Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, published in 1929), but the colour edition coincides with the genre’s real discovery and vogue (in film and publisher’s series such as Gallimard’s Série Noire) in post-war Europe, when curiosity for America was at its peak. Of course, the plot of Tintin en Amérique owes more to the spectacular gangster-film tradition (and, in parts, to the western) than to the cultural malaise associated with the noir genre. Himself a product of media culture, Tintin was born in the newspapers. He works, diegetically, as a journalist (although he never sends any articles): his is a newsreel vision of America. Not by coincidence, his American adventures are set in Chicago and feature Al Capone.
(1945 version) (1931 version)
What is your favourite book by Agatha Christie? Which are the most popular amongst readers worldwide? Here are a few titles to choose from, as presented on the website http://worldsfavouritechristie.com/books : This website asked fans to vote for the World’s Favourite Christie book and will release the results in September.
For more information on the vote
The fame and multimedia durability of the Dick Tracy series are fascinating. They show how, from a very early stage, the Noir genre advanced internationally as a transmedial cultural industry. Interesting also are the circumstances in which they were produced, and how they created a career-defining relationship between this character and its author. Described as “A Museum of Atrocious Death” (Francis Lacassin), the violent and popular Dick Tracy strips originated in the classic age of “hardboiled America” (O’Brien). Their creator, Chester Gould introduced the plainclothes detective officer Tracy in The Detroit Mirror in October 1931, and within the same month in The New York Daily News. Later published in The Chicago Tribune, the strips appeared every day for forty-six years, until December 1967. During that time (exactly forty-six years, two months and twenty-one days, according to his own account) Chester Gould delivered six daily strips in black and white and a colour page on Sunday, writing and illustrating all the stories himself.
John Creasey, Inspector West Cries Wolf, Hodder & Stoughton, 1954
Hodder & Stoughton original Yellow Jacket series were published in England from 1926 until 1939. A second series was launched in 1949. Each book cost 2 shillings. The covers remained yellow until 1957, when the series gave way to Hodder Pocket books. Uber-prolific English author John Creasey (1908 – 1973) published there some of the six hundred novels he is credited with (under twenty-eight pseudonyms). Hodder & Stoughton published notably books with his Inspector Roger West , and his eccentric, aristocratic, “Saint”- like character, the “Toff”, a sort of later days Arsène Lupin. The Toff was created in 1938. Charteris’s The Saint was also published and republished in the same series, as were many successes from the first, interwar series : Wallace, Oppenheim and Sapper amongst many others. Or Patricia Wentworth, with her upper-class compatible, governess-detective, Miss Silver. The yellow covers signal classicism, in the detective novel or the thriller traditions.
The highly anticipated book by Martin Edwards on “the mystery of the writers who invented the modern detective story” is being released today. It promises to shed new light on the 1930s authors who published in Britain and formed part of the Detection Club. It invites readers to undertake a long overdue reconsideration of both their literary output and their worldviews. The problem with authors who were, for so long, as famous and dominant as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and John Dickson Carr is that it is easy to feel complacent about them. For a very long time, golden age authors have been seen as unfashionable in both literary and political circles. The noir genre, especially after WWII, seemed more exciting, modern and transgressive. While structuralists and narrative theorists have, from Todorov in the 1960s to Pierre Bayard, more recently, praised golden age authors’ artful plot construction, their politics had never really been reappraised. Chandler, in distancing the realistic, street-savy, brand of crime fiction he represents from the world of privilege and pure intellectual speculation he identified with the golden age output, inflicted terrible and certainly unfair damage to this group of authors. But treating them in an undifferentiated way, as conservative stalwarts of the established narrative and the social order, does not do justice to the great variety of authors and circumstances represented within the Detection Club. Continue reading
Ruth Rendell, L’Analphabète, Paris, Librairie des Champs-Élysées (Le Masque no 1532, 1978 ) new translation, 1995
Ruth Rendell, who died yesterday, was not only one of the most distinguished English crime fiction authors, the impeccable writer of more than 60 best selling books (25 of them featuring Inspector Wexford – often presented as a British Maigret- and 14 written under the pen-name Barbara Vine). She was a peer for the Labour Party in the British Parliament. Her attention for the social context and the particular settings of her novels was commanded for modernising British Crime Fiction.
Her 1977 novel A Judgement in Stone (London, Hutchinson) begins with the line : Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write. This is a cool statement about the Crime genre, saying that it is not just about to the whodunit. And a clear indication that crime is a product of socio-cultural circumstances. Rendell was comimtted to represent it that way. The plot, and the social classes antagonism it is based on (servant kills masters) is reminiscent of a well-publicised French Criminal affair: the savage murder of their employer by two young women, the sisters Christine and Léa Papin, two maids from Le Mans, in 1933. Continue reading
Les Sept Cadrans (The Seventh Dials Mystery, 1929) Cover by A. Masson, Le Masque, 44, 1929
Le Secret de Chimneys (The Secret of Chimneys, 1925 ), Translation Juliette Parry, Le Masque, 126, 1933. Continue reading