(Pictures courtesy of Daniel Finlay and Annika Breinig)
Thanks to all for participating in the ICRH Conference on Representations of Rurality in Crime Fiction and Media Culture. This interdisciplinary conference co-organised by IRCH Senior Research Fellows Dr Dominique Jeannerod and Dr Linda Price was part of the ICRH’s 2014-2015 Research Theme Creativity in imagined and material worlds. Thanks for attending and to those of you who helped making it such a successful event. Thanks for your great papers and discussions. We really enjoyed having you here and look forward to seeing you again soon.
Published in Paris by Presses Internationales, the Inter-Police series is rather underrated. It is certainly not considered one of the great crime fiction series in France, and is nowadays largely forgotten. Nevertheless, it published some 115 novels of international crime fiction between 1959 and 1965. Many of them would have actually deserved to be included in the much more prestigious “Série Noire” or “Un Mystère” series. Inter-Police featured a number of renowned international authors, starting brightly with Scerbanenco and McBain (as Evan Hunter, with Don’t Crowd Me, 1953), translated as Alerte aux baigneurs ! (no 3, 1959).
The first book in the series was Visa pour la morgue (Green Light for Death) by famous American Pulp Magazine writer Frank Kane (1912-1968) Continue reading
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas’s thousand pages novel of revenge and metamorphosis (first serialized from 1844 to 1846 in the Journal des Débats), portrays the ultimate Avenger character. Or, as Umberto Eco pointed out in a famous essay, the prototype of all later superhuman action heroes, up to James Bond. But the arch-villain, the predecessor of the invincible evil geniuses of incredible powers, the masterminds of Crime in Literature, Film, Comics and Poetry (such as Lautréamont’s Maldoror) was created no long after him, and not far from there. Rocambole‘s adventures were first published in 1857, in another Parisian newspaper, La Patrie. And they amounted to considerably more pages in total, as their author, Viscount Ponson du Terrail wrote nine Rocambole novels until his death in 1871. Ambiguity and complexity, an embrace of the fantastic and the willingness to stretch the readers’ belief for the benefit of narrative expediency (or through plain forgetfulness) are their distinctive features. Quite a heinous villain in some of the books (Les exploits de Rocambole, La Revanche de Baccarat) he is a more likeable hero in others; loosing his looks (to vitriol) in an adventure, he finds them again in a subsequent one. This very plasticity and openness, which make the plot subject to dramatic changes of course have contributed to the Series’ success and led to the coining of the adjective rocambolesque.
While the books are, regrettably, rarely read now, they have been adapted as comics (see below) and movies, with Rocambole morphed into a Superhero (below). The novels themselves are still in print in many countries and no popular fiction library would be complete without them. The posters and book covers reproduced below are more than the remains of a great popular success ; they carry the stamps of this success, and for us the signs which can be read to better understand what conditioned it. Continue reading
(click to enlarge)
The three leading series of Crime Fiction which were launched in France after the war are : “La Série Noire” (Gallimard, 1945-) ; “Un Mystère” (Presses de la Cité, 1949-1972) and “Spécial-Police” (Fleuve Noir,1949-1987). This post sets out to compare them visually, on the basis of their most frequently recurring title words. No translation needed. (I think ?)
The following representation is based on the most frequent words in the titles of all the books published in each series. The size of the words represented here is proportional to their total amount of occurrences in the titles.
Série Noire, Paris, Gallimard, 2743 Titles (between 1945- and 2005)
Un Mystère, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 769 titles (first serie :1949-1966 )
Spécial-Police, Paris, Fleuve Noir, 2075 titles (1949-1987)
Illustrators and authors Illustrated
Gérard Dixe, L’Homme aux yeux jaunes, Nicea, 1945
illustration René Brantonne.
The 1930’s and 1940’s registered an abundance of Crime Fiction series in France. They are treasured today by collectors. Often this interest owes more to their cover art than to the crime stories themselves. This is perhaps unfair, as there are many great stories there. But the cover art is indeed remarkable. Here are a few examples from these iconic series.
On the 24th of April, Dominique Jeannerod presented at the Bath Conference, Crime Fiction, Darkness and Desire a paper titled Quantifying the thrill : The point of distant-reading crime fiction. This paper considered the crime genre in its essentially transnational dimension and sought to provide a methodology to assess and compare the success of crime fiction in international circulation. To that effect, it proposed to reflect on the processes of translation, imitation and appropriation of foreign crime fiction in post WW II Europe, in a crucial period in the history of the genre. The fascination for American hard-boiled fiction and 1940’s cinema in continental Europe, as reflected there by authors, markets, publishers and readers has in turn contributed in shaping the genre internationally and has led to its 1960’s evolution and re-politicization. But how is it possible to reliably identify and quantify such processes? How is it possible to navigate and manage the profusion of published titles exemplary of such circulation, in order to give an accurate and representative picture of the international exchanges at play in this particular period? What are the most appropriate research methods and the best digital tools that can support this type of research? How can the relevant data be collected and archived, and how can the collected data be visualised and shared?
Stemming from an AHRC funded research Grant on the Visualisation of Crime Fiction circulation conducted at the University of Belfast, and based on the 130 000 entries in the catalogues of the only Public library devoted to Crime fiction, the Paris-based BILIPO, this paper offered to apply Franco Moretti’s approach (distant reading, maps and graphs) to quantifying the popularity of Crime Fiction in continental Europe.
The database constituted with the help of the BILIPO was shown to be crucial to help answering a set of questions which are critical to a European historiography of the genre, such as the following:
- What was the percentage of foreign popular fiction published in a specific country during a specific year?
- How did this develop in the course of a certain period of time?
- What was the share of the different national/regional production?
- How did this evolve over time, and how is this reflected in the apparition of national schools of crime fiction?
- When did novels hailing from specific national/regional areas become suddenly popular?By raising such questions and related ones the proposed paper hopes to highlight the potential of quantitative and visual approaches in renewing the study of crime fiction in an international context. It might contribute elements for the understanding of the fascination of crime fiction in a trans-cultural context, and how the genre succeeds in captivating large international audiences.