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.
(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
The wonderful exhibition Cinema’s First Crimes curated by Matthieu Letourneux (Paris X), Alain Carou (BNF) and Catherine Cauchard (BILIPO) opens tomorrow in Paris at the Galerie des Bibliothèques.
The “Visualising European Crime Fiction” project collaborated with its organisers to create a promotional website to be found at the following address:
Here below an excerpt from the press kit:
“Cinemas premiers crimes enables today’s audiences to feel the same shivers that rippled through spectators a hundred years ago.
(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)
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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.