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

Police & Cinema, 1920

Police et Cinéma

Marcel Priollet, Police et cinéma  éditions J.Ferenczi, 1920, booklet, 18 x 11 cm. ©BILIPO

The small booklet above, by  prolific popular author Marcel Priollet (1884– 1960)  was published  in 1920.  It formed part of the first (1916- 1923) “Le Roman policier” series  published by Ferenczi. This publisher  was  by then well on its way to become a household name in the history of French popular literature . This is an early example of the explicit use of the concept of “Roman policier” (detective novel) in order  to cach the attention of the readers. It is therefore an important indicator of the constitution of the  crime genre  as an autonomous, instantly recognizable entity  in that period.
This particular booklet also demonstrates the relationship  between popular literature and film.  By then the exchanges between the two media have taken a new direction: after the first world war,  it is cinema that will influence the detective story, rather than the reverse.

Question Marks over Crime Fiction

Ferenczi RP

(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.


Laffite Laffite1

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 !

Leroux Laffite


Crime & Police, 1933-1935


Crime et Police was a Crime Novel Series published in Paris by Ferenczi between 1933-1935.  The volumes were 17 cm and their  covers were illustrated with photographic montages by Henri Manuel. The series consists of  76 volumes. They are here ordered by author. This highlights the significance of the contribution of some, like Marcel Allain, or Max-André Dazergues (here also under pseudonym André Mad). It shows, too, the number of publications by British authors : Leslie Charteris (3), Peter Cheyney (2)

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American Paperbacks in French : ” Le Fantôme” Ferenczi


Ferenczi published predominantly  French authors over many decades. But after WWII it followed the American vogue and tried to benefit from  the popularity of Crime Fiction from America. It created the series Le Fantôme to bring American novels which had not been published in France.  Just when French noir authors started to emerge with other publishers (Gallimard, Fleuve Noir and Presses de la Cité, most notably) this new Ferenczi collection was launched in 1953, publishing translations of novels by american authors from the 1940s.  The covers hence  bear two mentions : roman policier américain and inédit en France. It only lasted a couple of years, with only 24 novels published. But among them are four of the first noir novels by Harry Whittington.  Murder is My Mistress (1951) was the first book published in the Le Fantôme series, in 1953.  Satan’s Widow (1952) was Le Fantôme no 8, Married to Murder (1951), Le Fantôme no 19,  in 1954. An author representative of the “second noir generation”, like Jim Thomson, Whittington, who published more than 80 noir novels would from the late 1950’s  onwards become a regular of Gallimard’s Série Noire.  The following sets the context of his debuts in France, and lists other American authors who were less enduringly succesful than him there, but who often did reasonably well at the time (Edward Ronns, Manning Lee Stokes…) Continue reading

Titles in Early Crime Series in France

Ferenczi. ACPNG

When he launched the landmark series “Le Masque” in 1927 Albert Pigasse resorted to publishing English authors such as Christie, Sayers, Valentin Williams, Edgar Wallace, Patricia Wentworth and John Dickson Carr. This was, he claimed, because there were no French Crime Fiction writers at the time. But this was  of course not quite true. Publishers like Ferenczi and Tallandier had long offered an outlet to French authors writing crime novels. And Pigasse would soon publish some of them, like Léon Groc, and André Charpentier in Le Masque.  So, what was French Crime Fiction like between the wars ? And what were the series in which Crime Fiction was published, prior to 1927 ? This post looks at two series titled “Le Roman Policier”. They were published by Ferenczi, between 1916 and 1926.  It lists all the authors published there, with the title of their books. To assess the respective weight of each author, titles  are sorted here  by authors and then by dates.

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Final series and Pseudonyms


The Feux Rouges Series, Ferenczi,  1958-1960

Last in the long string of crime fiction series launched one after the other, over the course of several decades by publisher Ferenczi, “Feux rouges” did not make a lasting impression.  The 54 titles in the series are now all forgotten. The list of authors published there might nowadays seem rather uninspiring. Apart from the occasional book by Marcel Allain (who had created Fantômas, 45 years earlier, before the 1st War, together with Pierre Souvestre) or by Jacques Chabannes (who had won the prestigious Grand Prix du roman d’Aventures -the Award for the best adventure novel, in 1957 for L’Assassin est en retard, Librairie des Champs Élysées, Le Masque, 1957), most of the names are now forgotten. This is partly because most of them are French, with no international author of great standing lifting the profile of the series.  But this is mainly because many of these names are only pseudonyms of better known authors.  In fact, under some of the pseudonyms, one finds great crime authors.   There are for example six books by  a young Georges-Jean Arnaud, concealed by the pseudonym Georges Murey.  An equally young Roger Faller, later a household name in the Spécial-Police Series (Fleuve Noir) is here Roger Henri Nova. And a Gallimard Série Noire author, Ange Bastiani,  aka Victor Marie Lepage, is credited in the Feux Rouges Series as Vorlier.

The books announce on their covers which subdivision in the crime genre they belong to : Suspense, Policier, or  Espionnage. Or indeed Noir,  an indication that at this stage, in the 1950’s, the adjective is now widely  accepted as a distinctive generic category.


Is this the first French Noir Novel ?

In July 1935,  the Editions Ferenczi, then one for the foremost popular literature publishers in France, published an illustrated edition of Céline’s 1932 Journey to the End of the Night in their series  « Le Livre moderne illustré » (n° 226 and  226 bis).   Continue reading

Detection Series in France in the 1920’s


In France, the 1920’s saw  a decisive evolution in the critical recognition of the crime genre (with, notably, the 1929 publication of Régis Messac’s thesis on the detective novel)  and in the organisation of the publishing industry towards the promotion of crime fiction. The most notable series created at the time was certainly the perennial “Le Masque”. It was by no means the only significant one.  Neither was it the first. Here are a few landmarks

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