Crime Fiction In Catalan: 2 From the Civil War until Today


 By Dr Stewart King, Monash University

The development of crime fiction in Catalan from the Civil War until today has been shaped by two major historic events: the Franco regime (1939-1975) and the reestablishment of parliamentary democracy following the dictator’s death in 1975. After the war a series of laws were enacted prohibiting the public use and teaching of Catalan and, during the early 1940s, the publication of books in Catalan. Indeed, in scenes reminiscent of Nazi Germany, books were thrown onto bonfires or pulped. However, from the mid-1940s the regime began to relax some of the restrictions on the use of Catalan, and books started to appear, some in clandestine editions. The effect of such policies on Catalan culture and identity cannot be underestimated. By 1975 only approximately 50 percent of the population could speak Catalan and even fewer could read it. In contrast, the return of democracy has seen the recovery and consolidation of Catalan as a language of communication and cultural production.

Francoist cultural policies shaped in many ways the sort of literature Catalans wrote, as many authors saw it as their duty to defend Catalan as a language of prestige by producing works of high culture. Others, nevertheless, felt that Catalan literature should cater for more diverse tastes by providing books, like crime novels, that catered to the tastes of a readership beyond the well-educated middle class. Of the latter writers, Rafael Tasis and Manuel de Pedrolo stand out.


Tasis was the first Catalan to write crime fiction after the war, publishing a trilogy of novels set in pre-war Barcelona: La Bíblia valenciana [The Valencian Bible] (1955), És hora de plegar [Quitting Time] (1956) and Un Crim al Paralelo [Crime on Paralelo Avenue] (1960), although the latter was actually written in Paris in 1944 where Tasis resided in exile until 1948 Continue reading

Two Shilling Yellowjackets

Creasey Hodder 1954

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 Executioner’s Tears in Russia

Le bourreau pleure 3

With thanks to Didier Poiret

Frédéric Dard’s noir novel  titled The Executioner’s Tears (Le Bourreau pleure,1956) won the 1957 Grand prix de littérature policière. It was translated in post communist Russia and was published almost simultaneously three times, a sign of the enthusiasm, dynamism, and anarchy of the translated books market in Russia in the early 1990s. Continue reading

Japanese Covers

Le bourreau pleure

With thanks to Didier Poiret

In preparation for the San-Antonio International conference due to take place in Queen’s University, Belfast on the 15th-16th of May and which aims to look at, amongst other things, the international career of  Frédéric Dard, aka San-Antonio,  often considered France’s most quintessentially French writer (whatever that might mean), can you recognise the original books by Dard, under their Japanese covers ?

L'homme de l'avenue

Prenez en de la graine

Early Crime Fiction Series around 1900


With thanks to Philippe Aurousseau and courtesy of  oncle-archibald.BlogSpot

The 62 volumes of the adventures of  French Amateur Detective Marc Jordan were one of the earliest  French publisher’s series devoted to crime  fiction . The publisher was Ferenczi, whose publishing house would soon become a cornerstone of Popular Fiction in France.   From September 1907  readers could purchase every Tuesday, at a price of 25 centimes,  the last instalment in the Exploits surprenants du plus grand détective Français.  The following year (1908) the Éclair company, would release Nick Carter, le roi des detectives, the silent film directed by Victorin Jasset, highlighting the parallels between  Marc Jordan and the American detective Nick Carter. Nick Carter Detective Library had started in 1891. Street & Smith would then publish a magazine, Nick Carter Weekly, until 1915.  It was in some  respects  a template for Ferenczi’s Marc Jordan.

Each  issue  of Marc Jordan’s adventures consisted of 32 pages (22 x 27 cm). The covers were  illustrated  by painters and cartoonists  Edouard Yrondy  (1 to 42)  Hickx (43 to 46), Michel Ronceray (No. 47 to 52) and Marco (No. 53 in 62). Continue reading

The beauty of International Crime Fiction Cover Art


Cornell Woolrich, The black path of fear,  The Crime Club, Doubleday, Doran, 1944

The Big data approach and instruments,  which inform this blog, do not only allow to study globally a population of  popular writers  who, in an international effort and over many decades invented Crime fiction.  It  also helps to envision the books they produced in a material way, in their condition as objects, commodities and fetishes. The  juxtaposition of hundreds of book covers from different countries reveals their semiotics,    with their recurring motifs and their serial patterns.   Books covers can thus be read  as sites where developments in international cultural industries, the specialisation of narrative genres, the publishers’ distinctive strategies and the evolution of popular representations and tastes all  intersect.  The  available metadata linked with each cover also recalls  that Crime Fiction series fostered some of  the past  century’s greatest artists.  This post  displays  a very short selection of some Crime Fiction cover art, as milestones in a cultural history of the international imagination of crime, and its visualisation.

Poe rua-morgue

Continue reading

The best Detective Novels : Colecção Os Melhores Romances Policiais


Francis D. Grierson (1888-1972), O Negro Assassino (Murder in Black, 1935; Portuguese translation : Adolfo Coelho, 1938).  Colecção Os Melhores Romances Policiais, Volume 44, 2nd edition, 1947


The Lisbon-based publisher Livraria Clássica Editora launched in the early 1930’s a Series of  International Crime Fiction classics :  Os Melhores Romance Policiais.   This series was interrupted in the mid 1950’s. It consists of 124 volumes.  The two first authors published there were two Belgians,  both from Liège.  The first one was Stanislas-André Steeman (1908-1970) with  Seis homens mortos (1932).The second one, of course,  Simenon. The series would publish two other successful  Belgian authors after the war (both hidden under the pseudonym Paul Kenny). French Language Crime Authors are certainly over-represented there. In an era when the British authors members in the Detection club  (including  Chesterton, Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie,  Freeman Wills Crofts, R.Austin Freeman, Ronald A. Knox, A.E.W. Mason,  Baroness Orczy,  Dorothy L. Sayers, Henry Wade, and Victor L. Whitechurch ) asserted their worldwide dominance,   Os Melhores Romance Policiais published  mainly translations of  French  works originally published by Gallimard, Ferenczi   or Librairie des Champs Elysées, in series such as Le Masque or Crime et Police.
Several novels translated for Melhores Romances Policiais had won the “Roman d’ Aventures” Award, which was created in 1930 to promote  Crime Fiction writing in French.  Steeman’s Six hommes morts  won it in 1931. Among the French authors of  Livraria Clássica’s “best Crime Novels” feature notably :
-Algeria born and Cambridge educated Charles de Richter (1887- 1975), who published many thrillers inspired from Edgar Wallace in the Éditions de France Series ” À ne pas lire la nuit”.
-Jean-Toussaint Samat (1891- 1944),  a former journalist with Le Petit Marseillais who published in Le Masque and in a number of other French Series of the 1930’s, for Baudinière, Ferenczi, and Editions de France. 
-Marcel Marc, author of Les Trois Crimes de Veules-les-Roses (Gallimard, 1931).
The list includes, too, Pierre Nord, Louis-Léon Martin Edouard Letailleur and Léon Groc, Francis Didelot and Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe.
The first ten books published there are listed on  the blog Rua da Morgue : (
1 – Seis homens mortos de S. André Steeman
2 – Condenado à morte de Georges Simenon
3 – A casa fatal de Leon Groc
4 – O segredo de H.21 de Adolfo Coelho
5 – O “autobus” desaparecido de Leon Groc
6 – Quem matou? De Charles Kingston
7 – Três crimes de Marcel Marc
8 – “ M” de Leonard Falkner
9 – A horrível morte de miss Gildchrist de Jean Toussaint-Samat
10 – O mistério de Loverval de S. André Steeman

Continue reading

Maps on the Backs : Dell Books and the Cartography of Crime

 Hammett homicides Dell

(Click to enlarge)

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