Raymond Chandler, Spanish Blood, The World Publishing Company Tower Mystery, 1946
It is well known that hardboiled stories, which we would now describe as noir, first appeared in 1920s pulps magazines. And that, from the early 1940s, noir novels were circulated as paperback reprints or, in many cases, paperback originals. This belies the fact that the influential, early hardboiled novels were published as hardbacks, complete with polished dust jackets. This benefited especially hardboiled writers of the 1930s, before the triumph of paperbacks. But even after that, noir authors whose books had been published as hardbacks tended to find an easier way into the modern canon of noir literature. While paperback warranted circulation (as the case of Spillane made clear), hardback still anchored conservation, and hence institutionalisation.
W. R. Burnett, Little Caesar, Lincoln MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1929 Continue reading →
(Dominique Jeannerod & Daniel Magennis, 9 June 2015)
French author and documentary filmmaker, Karim Miské recently came to Belfast as part of the Belfast Book Festival, to read and answer questions about his debut novel Arab Jazz (winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and the English PEN award for writers in translation). We managed to detain him long enough to put some questions of our own to him. Continue reading →
(Iconographic Source; http://bookscans.com/Publishers/signet/signet.htm)
The New York based publisher, The New American Library was formed in 1948 and soon became the biggest American publisher of paperbacks. Both of its founders, Kurt Enoch and Victor Weybright had experience with the European pioneers of the mass market paperback industry, the British Penguin and the German Albatross, which Enoch had launched in 1932 and directed. Signet fiction was a particularly successful imprint of The New American Library. The paperback reprints it published included (but were by no means restricted to) a number of classics in the noir genre. The series’ distinctive visual style owed much to the influence of the artist James Avati. Dubbed “The Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers”, often reminding one of Hopper’s bleak style, he drew many of the series’ covers and inspired the other illustrators commissioned by Signet.
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The Etiqueta Negra (Black Label ) Series, published by Editorial Jucar (Gijón) from 1986 to 1995 comprises 140 outstanding noir novels (including the odd collection of short stories, such as Hammett’s Cuentos). They are from, mainly, America, France and Spain. By then of course, the canonisation process has happened elsewhere long ago (in France, in Gallimard’s Série Noire, mostly, and in Hollywood, obviously). Or it is already well underway: the noir genre’s winners in the international competition for literary survival are very well known. McCoy, Goodis, Himes, Thompson, Manchette, and Westlake, amongst others. But more recent authors, such as Ellroy, and rising stars in particular from France (Daeninckx, Jonquet, Pennac and Vilar) and Spain are integrated within the collection, and benefit the most from such a symbolic canonisation.
(Click to enlarge)
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