Noir

The Executioner Weeps

Frédéric Dard – The Executioner Weeps (translated by  David Coward, Pushkin Vertigo, 09.03.2017, original title Le bourreau pleure, 1956)

A BOOK REVIEW BY EUGEN KONTSCHENKO

“And then suddenly everything had changed. Yes, everything, and all on the account of that supine figure which had come out of the night and leapt into the bright lights of my car.”  (Page 10)

Thus begins the highly popular French crime noir author Frédéric Dard’s prize-winning novel The Executioner Weeps. The book follows the story of Daniel Mermet, a famous French painter, who is on vacation in Francoist Spain when he accidentally hits a young and beautiful woman with his car. The woman survives, but Mermet soon discovers that she has lost her memory. Taking care of her, Daniel falls in love with the mysterious stranger and goes on a quest to France to gather information on her past – a past full of lies and vice and horror, which would be better forgotten. Continue reading

Bird in a Cage

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Presented as “The literary descendant of Simenon and Céline” and  as “one of the few twentieth-century authors to win both critical acclaim and great popularity”,  Frédéric Dard (1921-2000)  will be introduced this year to  English readers with some of his darker novels. Pushkin Vertigo will publish, starting in June with Bird in a cage  (Le Monte -charge), and continuing with The Executioner Cries, available in Autumn 2016, a selection of  his romans de la nuit.  It is an euphemism to say, that, some sixty years after their original publication in French, this event has been hugely anticipated. Continue reading

Tartan Noir in 2016

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 The success of Regional Crime Fiction is so global and has been prevalent  for seemingly so long already, it is easy to forget nowadays that the trend to set  crime novels away from the big crime capitals – the traditional sites of “Urban Mysteries” since the mid 19th Century (typically, Paris, London, New York, later Los Angeles and Chicago)- is still relatively recent in European Crime Fiction. Authors such as Izzo in France, Camilleri in Italy,  Staalesen in Norway, Mankell in Sweden and many others, especially since the 1990s   have all heralded such a  turn,  anchoring their detectives in marginal, referential, less mythical (but not necessarily less mythologised),  realistically defined geographical spaces. In  many respects the remarkable surge  of  Crime  Fiction set in Scotland since  William McIlvanney’s  1977  Laidlaw,  and the  first Rebus novel (Ian Rankin,1987) announces this remarkable trans-European phenomenon. Scottish authors Val McDermid, Quintin Jardine and Stuart MacBride are all long since  household names in international crime fiction and  “Tartan Noir” is recognised as a thriving  subgenre.  Almost 40 years after the publication of Laidlaw, it is worth looking at  the most recent and  upcoming publications, showcasing  Tartan Noir’s  durability. Here is a selection, any other suggestions are welcome. Continue reading

Transatlantic Fiction made in France

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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.

 

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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