Fleuve Noir

The Art of French Crime Fiction

 

Luc Ferran

 

Jef de Wulf (Publisher’s advertisement for the Luc Ferran Series, Editions de l’Arabesque, 1958-1969)

Until the 21st of March, Queen’s University Library will host an exhibition on classic Crime Fiction, Spy Thrillers and Suspense Series in France. The exhibition showcases some of the 1,500 Crime Fiction books in the French language, which have been recently added to the collections, having recently been donated to the Library by the Paris-based Bibliothèque des Littératures policières (BILIPO) and other partners in the project “Visualising European Crime Fiction”. This project, led by Dr Dominique Jeannerod (School of Modern Languages) together with colleagues in the ICRH Research Group, International Crime Fiction was awarded a grant by the AHRC, as part of the Big Data in the Arts and Humanities Framework (2014-2015)

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Conty

The project’s chief task was to develop innovative digital methods with which to bibliographically record (database) and visually present (Graphs, Maps, Dataviz) the innumerable volumes of Crime Fiction published across Europe since the early 20th Century. The aim in developing such new digital instruments was to rethink the significance of popular culture and its dissemination in a globalised world. It was also to reconsider the role of crime fiction in a transnational, cultural and literary context. Continue reading

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First of 2076 : inaugurating the Special Police Series

Jean Bruce

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With thanks to Didier Poiret

This novel by Jean Bruce is the first book published in the famous “Spécial Police” series by Fleuve Noir. It was published in Paris in August 1949 some four years after the launch of the Série Noire by Gallimard, of which it would be a strong competitor, albeit with a different model (publishing French authors rather than Americans in French translations) and targeting a much broader readership. While the Série Noire celebrates its 70th birthday this year, Spécial Police was discontinued in 1987. By then, it had published 2076 novels, from 155 authors. The illustrator of the cover reproduced above was artist Michel Gourdon, who would illustrate some 3000 covers in the series (including re-editions). Gourdon, as the illustrator of all the original covers from the first  (above)  to No 1402, gave the Series its distinctive flair and largely contributed to its success.

Kââ: An Art of the Title

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Of all the authors in the later period of the famous Fleuve Noir Spécial Police Series, Kââ (Pascal Marignac, 1945-2002) is one of the most interesting. His noir novels are amongst the most literary and sophisticated published in this series. The books are no less brilliant than their titles suggest:

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Silhouettes de morts sous la lune blanche, Fleuve noir, Spécial Police no 1862, 1984 Continue reading

Multimedia Crime Fiction : an international trajectory, 1954-2015

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Les salauds vont en enfer, Play by  Frédéric Dard, Edited,  introduced and annotated by : Hugues Galli, Thierry Gautier & Dominique Jeannerod, EUD, 2015, 238 pp.

Grand Guignol programme 1

Frédéric Dard was France’s most popular Crime Fiction author.  Besides his career as  a novelist, Dard was a prolific playwright, screenwriter and dialogue writer. The recent discovery  and subsequent publication (EUD, 2015) of an original manuscript of the  successful Play Les salauds vont en enfer  allows to retrace the circuits of cultural creation in 1950’s France and the interrelation between various  media and narrative forms.  Created in the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris in 1954 and directed by Robert Hossein, the play went on to experience  a series of  transpositions. First, in 1955, on screen (also directed by Robert Hossein), then as a novel, when  in  early 1956,  it was novelised as a roman noir by Frédéric Dard, the author of the play.   In 1971, Abdal Iskar adapted it as television film.  A wealth of archives, generously shared by collectors  and the author’s  family  have helped reconstructing  the story of the play’s reincarnations and exportations.  But working  closely on the text of the play  for this first edition (six decades after it had been written) also highlighted the  importance of the international  and intermedia horizons in the creation, as they are both already  there in the author’s inspiration.  Most  of the following pictures, which document the variations  and interpretations from media to media and in different countries, are reproduced in this edition, where they are fully referenced. Continue reading

Punctuating Crime Fiction: a Comparison of 6886 Titles

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 (Total number  of titles with exclamation marks, by series)

The following pie charts represent the  varied use of three types of punctuation signs in the titles of  all the novels published in the three longest series of Crime Fiction in France : Le Masque (Librairie des Champs-Elysées), La Série Noire (Gallimard), and Spécial-Police (Fleuve Noir).  While the amount of books published in all three series is roughly comparable (all three series have published more than 2000 books each), there are manifest discrepancies in their use of punctuation marks. Continue reading

A Literature of Exclamations

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Noir Fiction is a literature of affects. It depicts passions, surprise, anguish, despair, and tragedy. Exclamation marks are a  way of expressing and highlighting these  feelings and tensions textually. Orders are shouted, threats are uttered, insults are exchanged. Cruel realisations are made, usually too late. Wrong turns were taken. Fortunes are lost. Lives come to an end.   Exclamation marks, in the San-Antonio novels, stress  the urgency of the plot and the impulsive, ill-tempered nature of the first person narrator. They suggest his lack of restraint. They mark his own accentuation, they force his own tempo. Like a music conductor, the author dictates the rhythm of his score. San-Antonio’s tendency to “over-ponctuate” is manifest.  Exclamation signs can be found both in the narration and in  the dialogues.  They  even find a way into the paratexts, in the titles, including the titles of chapters (Chapter XIII of Du mouron à se faire (1955) is ominously titled :” OH! OH!”). But how can machine- reading a text confirm and help refine this empiric observation made by the reader ? How many times, exactly, does San-Antonio use the exclamation mark in each of his novels ? Are there patterns, is there an evolution?  The following is the data that a computer, reading some novels by San-Antonio will find.  Continue reading