Frédéric Dard

Visions of Paris Suburbs in San-Antonio


Bernard Buffet (1928-1999), Buildings en banlieue, 1970

San-Antonio, France’s most popular author of crime fiction of the past 50 years, was fascinated with the bleakness of the Parisian suburbs, where he moved to in 1949. His prolific oeuvre documents this morbid fascination, somewhere between horror and nostalgia. His novels are full of notations and recurring observations about the suburban tragic  as the author experienced it. Suspending the investigation he his conducting, the first person narrator, Commissaire San-Antonio turns his attention momentarily to the representation of the surrounding space, the banlieues which were then rapidly sprawling around Paris. Continue reading

Trash to Goldmine: High Returns Investments in Crime Fiction Collectibles


The auction, currently live on ebay, of an August 1939 issue of Jean-Pierre,  a relatively obscure and long disappeared French Magazine, which featured comics and detective stories aimed at young readers, looks certain to fetch a substantial price. With still five days to go, the auction price for the magazine has  already surpassed more than one thousand times its nominal price (1 Franc from 1939 is worth 0,44514 Euros, according to the tables of the French Statistics Office, l’INSEE). Continue reading

Curiosa in Russia

Cette Mort Repro

With thanks to Didier Poiret

The two editions of this book (one published in 1992 and the other in 1994), a Russian translation of two novels by Frédéric Dard  (Cette mort dont tu parlais & C’est toi le venin, both  belonging  to his “Romans de la nuit”) present some minute, and inexplicable differences. At first glance, it is not obvious, but the pose and the women lying are similar, yet different. Why ? Is the 1994 cover (picture on the left) deemed less aggressive, because of its less crude colours and because it features a slightly more clad woman than the one on the right (1992)? Even with not so subtle semiotic codes, there are subtle boundaries and differences in degrees.

French Authors in the Circulo del Crimen Series


Source :

Compared with other Spanish series, Circulo del Crimen from the 1980s seems to suggest a decrease in the influence of “French” crime fiction in Spain. Out of a series of 120 books, Boileau, Dard, Exbrayat,  Japrisot, Kassak, Leblanc, Le Breton and Simonin  are the only French language authors, and they feature with solely one book each. Simenon, the only other translated from the French in this series, has two. Ten out 120 is a poor return for one of the literary traditions in which the crime novel was co-invented (together with the USA and GB) and in a country like Spain, where cultural exchanges with France were frequent and long standing.

Simenon Circulo

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Marriage Noir, illustrated


In the same way as Film Noir represents the “dark side of the screen”, the noir novel, a 20th century heir to Emile Zola’s naturalism, offers a dark brand of literary realism. Where noir cinema is the nightmare to Hollywood’s dream industry, noir paperbacks can be seen as an inverted mirror to Harlequin romances. Continue reading

Bad blood over Dirty Snow

Simenon 4è de couv Simenon avec jaquette (1) Simenon sans jaquette

Georges Simenon, La neige était sale, Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1949

The cover above (courtesy of Didier Poiret’s collection) is from a 1949 edition of Georges Simenon’s 1948 noir novel La neige était sale, translated in English both as The Stained Snow and Dirty Snow. The following year (1950) Simenon and Frédéric Dard would co-write an adaptation of the novel for stage. The play, also entitled la Neige était sale was produced in December 1950 at the Théâtre de l’Œuvre. Dard and Simenon fell out in the process and would never truly reconcile. Dard owes to the play his encounter with Robert Hossein, who played the leading role. Dard and Hossein went on to work together on plays, films and books across four decades. Simenon, meanwhile, probably owes to Dard the inspiration for his novel. He had praised Dard’s 1946 novel, La Crève, calling its 25 year old author a master.

Both La Crève and La neige était sale are short, and noir, and both have a teenage criminal for their central characters. Both are violent and seedy, and live with their mothers. Both novels, published in the aftermath of the Second World War are set in an occupied (although in Dard’s case it is rather the liberation army which is perceived as a threat) and unnamed town. Both are stories of bad blood and reckonings.

Y a-t-il un Français…


Frédéric Dard dit San-Antonio, Y a-t-il un Français dans la boîte à gants ?, Paris, Omnibus, May 2015, ISBN : 9782258116726 .

The two books which have just been published together in the prestigious Omnibus edition are a landmark in the career of France’s most successful crime fiction author. This is where San-Antonio officially meets Frédéric Dard, and where the two faces of the prolific double-author merge. Signed (on their original publication) ‘San-Antonio’, even though the eponymous character of the San-Antonio series does not feature, the books are closer to the dark and despairing atmosphere of the books previously signed ‘Dard’ (the “Romans de la nuit”). Published respectively in 1979 and 1981, one before and one after the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist President of the 5th Republic, their subject matter is politics. Conspicuously however, they don’t contain any of the huge sense of anticipation which Mitterrand’s election triggered in the social discourse at the time. Rather, they reflect the social unrest and atmosphere of scandals and corruption in the final years of the presidency of Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. They tell the story of an ambitious career politician, who hides a terrible secret, the legacy of an unsavoury past, buried in his home. Continue reading

The Executioner’s Tears in Ukraine

LeBourreauPleure  Frédéric Dard, Le Bourreau pleure, in Cherchez la Femme, Raidyga, Kiev, 1993

(With thanks to Didier Poiret)

Translated and published anarchically  in post-communist Russia, Frédéric Dard’s award winning novel Le Bourreau Pleure was published in Ukraine, too (and in Ukrainian), after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Here it formed part of a thematic collection of four international crime fiction novels, published within the same volume. The general title is international French: “cherchez la femme” and does not give much away. Unlike what was the case in Russia, in the Renaissance edition of French Crime Fiction classics  (Moscow, 1993), Dard is here the only French author. He features with three of the most prolific, and bestselling authors in Crime Fiction, indeed, three of the biggest names in the trade internationally: Carter Brown, who reputedly sold 120 million books; the king of the thriller, James Hadley Chase, and John D MacDonald. This encounter under an Ukrainian cover sums up both the deterritorializing effect of Crime fiction, and the American tropism they reflect. Three out of four authors are pseudo-American, and the fourth is American. One author was born in England, but lived in Australia and wrote stories set in America (Brown); One was English writer influenced by 1930’s American Pulp Magazines (Chase); and the third, a French Author publishing, under the name of a town in Texas, stories largely set in Paris (San-Antonio). And as for the American (MacDonald), his most famous character is a drifter, living on a boat Continue reading

The Executioner’s Tears in Russia

Le bourreau pleure 3

With thanks to Didier Poiret

Frédéric Dard’s noir novel  titled The Executioner’s Tears (Le Bourreau pleure,1956) won the 1957 Grand prix de littérature policière. It was translated in post communist Russia and was published almost simultaneously three times, a sign of the enthusiasm, dynamism, and anarchy of the translated books market in Russia in the early 1990s. Continue reading