Illustrations

Transatlantic Fiction made in France

JDW collection Noire

 

Imprimerie du Livre, Colombes, December 1951, Cover Art by Jef de Wulf. ( From Didier Poiret’s collections)  

Troughout the late 1940s and early 1950s many French publishers saw a business opportunity in trying to replicate the success of Gallimard’s iconic Série Noire, launched in 1945 by former Surrealist Marcel Duhamel.  The short-lived Collection noire franco-américaine, published by the Editions du Globe (and from 1952 by Editions du Trotteur) between 1950 and 1953, is one such venture. It is also one of the more striking as it invested in quality rather than merely aiming at supplying readers with a cheap ersatz.

The Collection Noire, like the Série Noire reflected the success of  American noir films in post-war France, as well as French curiosity for American Hard-boiled novels. While the Série Noire was largely responsible for instilling a taste for American noir in France, the editions du Globe, with their Collection Noire, sought to capitalise on this emerging market. Unlike the Série Noire, who had by then already published  American authors such as Chandler, Hammett, McCoy, Finnegan, Tracy, Cain (both Paul and James) and Latimer, the Collection Noire had no American talent to back up its “franco-américaine” credentials. Without exception, all authors were French.  The pseudonyms they adopted were often meant to sound American, and their novels were supposed to recall, in both style and theme, not to mention through their violent and bleak outlook, the authors popularised by the Série Noire.  The Collection Noire franco-americaine was not content to simply recall the Série Noire in name and for the colour scheme (namely the trademark black and yellow combination of the Série Noire). From 1951, it called upon some of the best illustrators in the trade (René Brantonne, Jef de Wulf,  Mik, Salva, among others) and in doing so departed from the beautiful austerity of the imageless Série Noire covers.

 

JDW Collection Noire1

 

While the Série Noire, at least until 1953, would show the utmost reluctance for publishing French authors, the Collection Noire featured established French writers, many of who had already published in the crime genre, and even won awards. One such author is André Helena, a true pioneer of the French noir genre and one its the best. Deemed unsuitable for publication in the Série Noire, his novel Les filles me perdront was published in 1953, the 20th volume in the Collection Noire series. Another is Joseph-Louis Sanciaume, born in 1903 and already the author of dozens of detective novels, who was awarded the 1947 Action Novel award for  Sinistre turbin ! (Collection noire, Volume 2, 1952, Illustrated by Brantonne) .

Another, Claude Ferny (aka Pierre Marchand, b. 1906), had only published a handful of crime novels (in the Series La Cagoule), before joining the ranks of the Collection Noire, with whom he went on to publish several novels, more than any other author. He would subsequently go on to write some thirty crime novels elsewhere.

Tellingly, the Collection Noire published the first Frenchman to be published in the Série Noire, Serge-Marie Arcouët (b. 1916), using in both cases the same pseudo-Aamerican pseudonym, Terry Stewart. His novel C’est dans la poche was published in the Collection Noire in 1952, with an illustration by Salva.

The  Collection Noire franco-américaine’s Cover Art can be admired at :

http://oncle-archibald.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Editions%20le%20Trotteur%20-%20Collection%20noire%20franco-am%C3%A9ricaine

http://www.papy-dulaut.com/article-la-collection-noire-franco-americaine-aux-editions-du-globe-et-aux-editions-le-trotteur-54095914.html

 

 

Abstract Landscapes, Train Stations and Crime Fiction: Buffet, Carzou, San-Antonio

 

Carzou rails

Jean Carzou (1907-2000), Les Caténaires, 1967

In a short passage which appears at first glance to encapsulate his populist views on art, bestselling French crime author San-Antonio likens the British Museum, which he professed to hate (“that most abhorrent place on earth, the most sinister ! A quintessential cemetery!”) to the Paris train station Saint-Lazare “with its smell of coal, pee and sweat”. While, according to him, in the Museum’s  “cold light, the work of men becomes inhuman”,  Saint-Lazare station, “full of cries and kisses” reminds him, “with its black beams that crisscross in the smoke” of “a drawing by Carzou”  (San-Antonio, Y’a de l’action,  Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1967; see the original French below). Continue reading

Seeing Simenon: Loustal’s illustrations of The Rico’s brothers

 Loustal_184868

Les Frères Rico, published in 1952 with Presses de la Cité was written in July of the same year, in Lakeville, Connecticut. It is not one of the most well known of Simenon’s American novels, although it deserves to be, even leading to a film adaptation, with Richard Conte cast in the leading role. Conte is not the only link between this novel about business, family and the mafia and Coppola’s epic trilogy, The Godfather.  And there are elements in the main character’s personality which evoke De Niro’s in Scorsese’s Casino.

Written during the decade Simenon spent in America (1945 to 1955) and dealing with American settings, characters and topics, it is a novel which could equally have been published in the Série Noire, save for the fact that, maybe, it had much more authenticity than anything published by French crime authors in that series at the time.  Like so many of the Série Noire novels, Simenon’s novel is really a tragedy, a tragedy with ordinary people. Blood and sacred family ties, duty and honour, being forced to make the most cruel of choices are its tragic elements. Businessmen instead of heroes, and corporate organisations (here, the mafia) with their dispassionate, mechanical rules instead of gods, are the elements of ordinariness. Simenon of course is one of the 20th century’s true poets of the ordinary and the novel is poignant in its evocation of the melancholy of submission.

The noir atmosphere, the lingering sense of betrayal, displacement and sorrow left by the novel is captured beautifully by Loustal’s colour drawings for the Omnibus illustrated edition (Paris, Omnibus, 2004)

Les_freres_Rico

Avon’s art of the Macabre

avon038nn

Founded in 1941 and based in NYC, Avon Books was one of the early publishers of  paperbacks in America, following closely the industry-changing model set in 1939 by Pocket Books (also in NYC), with their pocket-sized publications. But while Pocket Books publications emphasized literary recognition of the works they republished, Avon chose to rather stress their popular appeal. Illustrations played a large part in this. Beyond the promise of a pleasurable read, the audience’s fascination with death is an equally reliable marketing force. Continue reading

Tintin’s adventures in Hardboiled America

Chicago

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.

  

en Amerique Chicago petit 20e

(1945 version)                                                          (1931 version)

Continue reading

Multimedia Crime Fiction : an international trajectory, 1954-2015

SVEEUD

Les salauds vont en enfer, Play by  Frédéric Dard, Edited,  introduced and annotated by : Hugues Galli, Thierry Gautier & Dominique Jeannerod, EUD, 2015, 238 pp.

Grand Guignol programme 1

Frédéric Dard was France’s most popular Crime Fiction author.  Besides his career as  a novelist, Dard was a prolific playwright, screenwriter and dialogue writer. The recent discovery  and subsequent publication (EUD, 2015) of an original manuscript of the  successful Play Les salauds vont en enfer  allows to retrace the circuits of cultural creation in 1950’s France and the interrelation between various  media and narrative forms.  Created in the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris in 1954 and directed by Robert Hossein, the play went on to experience  a series of  transpositions. First, in 1955, on screen (also directed by Robert Hossein), then as a novel, when  in  early 1956,  it was novelised as a roman noir by Frédéric Dard, the author of the play.   In 1971, Abdal Iskar adapted it as television film.  A wealth of archives, generously shared by collectors  and the author’s  family  have helped reconstructing  the story of the play’s reincarnations and exportations.  But working  closely on the text of the play  for this first edition (six decades after it had been written) also highlighted the  importance of the international  and intermedia horizons in the creation, as they are both already  there in the author’s inspiration.  Most  of the following pictures, which document the variations  and interpretations from media to media and in different countries, are reproduced in this edition, where they are fully referenced. Continue reading

Club Del Misterio, Barcelona

Bruguera

The Club del Misterio Series (early to mid-1980’s) predates the Etiqueta Negra Series (mid- 1980’s to mid-1990)Both Series are devoted to Crime Fiction. Both  have appeared post-Franco, and in a cultural context profoundly changed by the Movida. Both have published around 150 books of international Crime Fiction, the majority of them considered classics of the genre. While  Etiqueta Negra is a series launched by a Madrid publisher, Jucar, Club del Misterio belongs to a Barcelona-based publisher,  Bruguera.

Chandler

But the most striking difference is their respective scope. The Madrid publisher puts the emphasis on selection and distinction. There are fewer authors, representing fewer countries, and a distinctive branch within the crime genre, the noir novel. On the contrary, the Barcelona series favours diversity : different subgenres, different authors, different countries.  It is remarkable that the author most published in this series is Italian (Scerbanenco). Rather than American (or Spanish as is at the time the pattern elsewhere, when only local authors seem capable of resisting the American -and to an extent English- dominance). Continue reading

Illustrations of Vigilantes Thrillers

Verpilleux

Edgar Wallace’s  thrillers are true international bestsellers. First published in The Strand Magazine, in 1921, then as a book, the same year,  by  Hodder & Stoughton,  The Law of the Four Just Men is the fourth novel in this Edwardian Crime series, started in  1905, and dedicated to the adventures of  Edgar Wallace’s international cast of eccentric, youngish, killing vigilantes, the “Four Just Men”. It  was hugely popular and went on  to become a bestseller in America (Doubleday, Doran, Crime Club). The stories were illustrated, for the Strand Magazine by Belgian visual artist Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1888-1964). Among others, the artist also illustrated a short story by Conan Doyle for the same publication (1922) Continue reading

A German “Série Noire”

Fatale

The iconic Série Noire, created in Paris in the summer of 1945,  by  surrealist Marcel Duhamel in order to publish American hardboiled authors, celebrates this year its 70th Birthday.  This is an occasion to look at the influence it had abroad, and beyond America, where it helped defining the noir genre. Continue reading