Few Crime series, if any, have developed such mystique as the French Série Noire, launched 72 years ago by former surrealist Marcel Duhamel for the éditions Gallimard. While ostensibly dedicated to introducing american hardboiled writers, and to a significant extent their imitators from elsewhere, the series also published an increasing amount of French authors. A simple data viz shows the respective quantitative contribution of the twenty most prolific French writers in the Série Noire.
I’m just back from a couple of crime-filled days in London. The main reason for my visit was to speak at a symposium on European crime fiction and data visualisation (of which more later), but I travelled up a day early in order to see the Forensics exhibition at The Wellcome Trust.
I’ve already written about the Forensics exhibition in a previous post, so here’s a summary of the parts I particularly liked.
- Its focus, as one would expect, is scientific, but it also incorporates photography and artwork reflecting on violence, murder and its aftermath, which provide some genuinely thought-provoking perspectives.
- Frances Glessner Lee’s ‘Nutshell Study of Unexplained Death’ – a crime scene recreated in a dollhouse for police training purposes in the 1940s – was fascinating for its miniature juxtaposition of detailed handcrafts and…
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In the last decades the astonishing speed in the global circulation of cultural works and the unprecedented opportunities to gather and analyse large amount of data through electronic resources have opened up new possibilities for researchers in all disciplines. At the same time, the spatial turn in the Humanities has prompted scholars to consider the benefits of using maps and graphs to investigate the transnational history of cultural phenomena. However, while scholars working on quite traditional literary subjects have been quick to discuss and carry out the provocative claims made by Franco Moretti in The Atlas of the European Novel (1998), an ideal case study for such an approach, i.e. popular fiction, had been largely neglected.
The AHRC-funded project Visualising European Crime Fiction: New Digital Tools and Approaches to the Study of the Transnational Popular Culture has represented a first attempt to adopt this approach in the field of crime fiction studies, starting to collect data from different sources and exploring the uses of an online database and various visualisation tools. This exploratory project in partnership with the Paris-based BILIPO aimed at testing a number of strategies and possibilities in order to envision a larger, longer-term initiative to conduct extensive studies on the transnational circulation of popular fiction at the European level. Researchers from a group of universities in the UK, France, Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have collaborated to create sample datasets, the prototype database and a series of visualisations. Continue reading
(With thanks to Philippe Aurousseau, & Courtesy of Oncle-Archibald.blogspot.fr)
Aptly and obviously for a genre identified with the resolution of an enigma, Detective novels have often been marketed with big interrogation marks on their covers. One of the earliest Crime Fiction Series, Ferenczi’s booklets “Le petit roman policier” was recognizable for the question mark adorning its covers designed by Gil Baer.
Later, two well-known French Crime Fiction series at least were named “The Question Mark”.
1/ The Editions Pierre Laffitte’s series “Le Point d’interrogation” was published in Paris from 1932 and until 1937. This series was devoted almost entirely to Gaston Leroux and Maurice Leblanc.
2/ The Hachette Series “Le Point d’Interrogation” was published between 1951 and 1965.
Countless more series and stand alone crime fiction books used visual references to question marks. If you know about such series or book covers from your own countries and in any languages, please let us know about them !
The question this post tries to answer visually is twofold, and runs as follows. Is it possible, first, to visualise the denotations and connotations carried in the titles of crime Fiction series ? What are the words most frequently used ? And what are the emotions, atmospheres and tropes suggested already by the titles, on the threshold of the books ? What are the most common elements forming part of the contractual promise contained in a title ? Which ones seem to be recurring the most often? And second, do such patterns vary from series to series, reinforcing their distinctive identities? Can one, after listing the literal meanings of the words most frequently used in their titles, and the emotions associated with them, determine the series’ s profiles ? In practice, is it for example possible to compare the three longest French Crime Fictions series (totaling almost 7000 books between them), based only on the words most used in their titles ? Can one try to “profile” Crime series, on the basis of the terms through which the authors, and the series’ s editors choose to market the books ? And which are the words which are more apt at representing each of the three series? The three following pie charts reflect the frequencies of six heavily connoted and intuitively chosen words for each of the three series. Continue reading
Vic St Val is both the main character in the eponymous series narrating his adventures, and the pseudonym under which authors Patrice Dard and Gilles Morris-Dumoulin published them. This excellent and very documented series was well-liked by its readers. The books were informed and informative, politically and scientifically. Vic Saint-Val is still familiar to many, as it probably influenced a famous Belmondo movie (Bob Saint-Clair, in Philippe de Broca’s Le Magnifique, 1973). St Val’s considerable output formed an important part of the Series “Espiomatic” (Fleuve Noir). Author Morris-Dumoulin claimed that his hero’s Adventures are a plea in 64 volumes for the protection of the environment, of the planet, and of human rights. The following is a visual story of Vic St Val in 7 illustrations. Continue reading
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