MAPS

Settings for a crime scene

      KIng Dell

(Click to enlarge)

Rufus King, Holiday Homicide (Dell 22)

Dell books paperback comprised different populargenres, from the Western to the adventure and the sentimental novel.  But  half  or more  of them were crime fiction. The maps on their backs merges visually all these genres. After all, the four of them can, to an extent, rely diegetically, figuratively or at least metaphorically on sketches and raw drawings (Treasure island map, carte du tendre, maps of a crime scene or croquis for a heist). More than 250 Dell Books Mapbacks  were actually Crime scenes.  Crime Scenes without crime, without traces of violence, and almost always without people. A pure material and geographical world.  Put all together, they display a great sense of continuity,  attributable to the unity of style and colours in the work of artist Ruth Belew (who, according to Gary Lovisi, drew more than  150 of them). The wild, unruly, imaginary space of Crime Fiction looks here tamed, domesticated. Pleasant, harmonious, and perfectly defined squares look like the parts of a puzzle. A puzzle reassuring both in its nature as a game, and for its apparent completeness (although it would be interesting to inspect the spaces, states, counties and countries which are not represented). Continue reading

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Maps on the Backs : Dell Books and the Cartography of Crime

 Hammett homicides Dell

(Click to enlarge)

With thanks to Benoit Tadié

The crime scene map is a  feature commonly associated with  1920’s  Crime Fiction.  Detective novels of the Golden  Age tended to favour the spatial representation of  the mystery to be solved. The maps appended to the novels were data visualisations, as they presented the plot in one  easy (and appealing)  overview. Typically,   a locked room mystery, or a  secluded place mystery  (remote manor, island, lighthouse…) could handily be mapped on one page. Such cartographic paratexts not only accompanied the novel, but often preceding it,  they led into it. They were printed in the first pages of the volume, and at times on the cover itself,  inviting the reader to a symbolic and cognitive journey.  They  helped visualize the information relevant to the solution of the case presented in the book.  But at the same time, as they established a sense of location, they dematerialized it into a projection, and  an abstraction.  They became  thus metaphors of the detective novel as an intellectual construct. Imaginary, simplified spaces, stages for schematic problems, disconnected from referential realities.  This view was further corroborated by Chandler’s dichotomy, distinguishing between  the realistic, gritty, hard-boiled genre, which he and Hammett represented, and the delicate, but ultimately insubstantial, de-realized Mystery genre incarnated by Christie, Carr, Sayers and co.   Associated  with  golden age detective fiction,  maps would then paradoxically seem, from this point of view too,  to indicate less referential substance, rather than more. Continue reading

Where’s the action ?

Secondary Dendogram

 San-Antonio novels, like most thrillers, are usually described as “action-packed”. The action is often international. Moving swiftly between countries gives a sense of  international networks so opaque, of criminal plots so dense, of  ramifications so global that they can not be contained within the confines of  one country only. But the San-Antonio Series are generic hybrids. Depending on the epoch when they were written, and on their plot, they recycle elements of noir, spy novel or the  thriller. The intensity of travels during each adventure in the series can be linked with the genre each one owes predominantly to.   The classification of San-Antonio’s Series by country would not be complete  without a consideration of secondary places of action in each novel. These are represented here  in different ways, in the dendograms circle above and in the table below.  Check the following list for a classification by country

Colours Continue reading

Mapping the Urban Landscape of a Cult Movie : Bullitt’s San-Francisco

Bullit

Bullitt, the movie with Steve McQueen features a scene often seen as the mother of  filmic car chases. Certainly, cars speeding at full force of their engines, as an ambivalent proxy for escape and death, industrial perfection and doomed individual freedom  are a token of many classic film noirs. There are memorable ones in Fritz Lang, Becker, Jules Dassin, Melville, to name but a few.  Among what sets Bullitt’s chase apart from the preceding ones and makes it so influential for subsequent directors (and striking for us), is certainly the sense of time and location it is embued with. It was filmed in  San Francisco and close surroundings  in the spring of 1968.

Print - copie

Covering so much space through its streets, the movie maps in effect San Francisco. But of course, and this is one of the sources for its fascination now, it is a San Francisco which does no longer exist. Mapping the film, in return, is akin to a cartography of myths,  of places which are essentially, or have become mostly,  imaginary.

The movie is based on Mute Witness, the 1963 novel by Crime Fiction author Robert L. Pike (Robert Lloyd Fish).