Postwar Noir, in Text and Images : Noir Graphic novels (Presses Mondiales)


 Ah ! les vaches, Paris, Presses Mondiales, 1953 (Cover by Mik, drawings by Gal), adaptation of Jim Schott, Ah ! les vaches, Le Trotteur , 1952

Belgian publisher Roger Dermée, in one of his fated post-war ventures in Paris, published in 1953 with Presses Mondiales a series of 48-page booklets, priced at 95 cents, entitled “Les grands romans noirs dessinés“. These were comic book adaptations of novels written by French authors using American-sounding pseudonyms and originally published in other series. Translating these novels into comics was a way of taking  noir literature’s commitment to a visual narration literally. The pictorial form was always going to emphasize the already graphic depictions of lust and violence in the novels. As such, it inevitably caught the eye of censors. It was also difficult for artists to meet the short deadlines for the graphic adaptation of a full novel. Having completed a text, they could then discover that the publisher no longer existed, nor could pay them, and that a legal suit had been opened against their work and its alleged obscenity.

Du sang dans la sciure , 1953, Cover by Alex Pinon, drawings by Guy Mouminoux Continue reading

“Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking” – The Rialto Film Series


   By Annika Breinig

Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace,” are probably the first words that come to German minds, when they hear the name of the British author. Those lines introduce each film in a series based on Wallace’s books that was produced from the 1950s until the 1970s and televised throughout Germany. Thanks to the enduring popularity of these films among German audiences, the author enjoys a more prominent place in the cultural memory of Germany than in that of his home country. Unfortunately, Edgar Wallace himself never experienced the huge impact and success the movie adaptations achieved, since he died in 1932 Continue reading

Ruth Rendell (1930-2015) and the meaning of exclusion


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

Forgetting Cinema


Frédéric Dard. Les Salauds vont en enfer, Presses Pocket, 1963

Novelisations, the transcription in book form of a successful  movie are part of its merchandising. Such books  are not really  meant to survive the cycle of the film’s commercial exploitation. Their sell-by date is short. After that, they tend to simply vanish. They are seldom remembered. Much less conserved. Even their authors are obscure.  The movie casts a long shadow.  The novelisation  is destined for oblivion. It is hardly  a way for a writer to gain status. Nor literary recognition. The 1956  novel by Frédéric Dard Les Salauds vont en enfer (the Wicked go to Hell)  however offers the curious case of a novelisation which has survived much longer than the film to which it owed its existence. Continue reading