Abstract Landscapes, Train Stations and Crime Fiction: Buffet, Carzou, San-Antonio


Carzou rails

Jean Carzou (1907-2000), Les Caténaires, 1967

In a short passage which appears at first glance to encapsulate his populist views on art, bestselling French crime author San-Antonio likens the British Museum, which he professed to hate (“that most abhorrent place on earth, the most sinister ! A quintessential cemetery!”) to the Paris train station Saint-Lazare “with its smell of coal, pee and sweat”. While, according to him, in the Museum’s  “cold light, the work of men becomes inhuman”,  Saint-Lazare station, “full of cries and kisses” reminds him, “with its black beams that crisscross in the smoke” of “a drawing by Carzou”  (San-Antonio, Y’a de l’action,  Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1967; see the original French below). Continue reading

French Sleaze



Bastille Day (today) seems an appropriate enough occasion to reflect on the use of a French context in US and UK paperback fiction from the golden era of crime fiction (1940s and 1950s). Far from the fireworks, musette music and petit bal du quatorze juillet, one can reflect on the often pejorative French stereotypes on which a large amount of postwar US and British publications were based. This is an opportunity to remember the importance at that time of a parallel subgenre of crime fiction, which is usually described as sleaze. Here are a few examples from US and British paperbacks, highlighting how apt the qualification is.




13  FRENCHGM0211



Some works by the likes of Pierre Flammêche and Paul Rénin deserve a special mention, for their great contribution to sleaze. Both were British authors of French sleaze. Paul Rénin was the penname used by Richard Goyne (1902-1957) to publish stories in “girls’ magazines”; Elsewhere he used the pseudonyms of John Courage, Aileen Grey, Scarlet Grey, Kitty Lorraine and Richard Standish. Pierre Flammêche’s real name was George Dawson. Also noteworthy are the works of Jules-Jean Morac.


Rén Flam Prud morac

Jules-Jean Morac, Bertrand and the Blondes (Vintage Paperback), New York: Leisure Library no. 12, 1952.

Further reading :   Steve Holland, Mushroom Jungle: History of Postwar Paperback Publishing, Zardoz Books,  1993

Non verbis, sed rebus : a Farewell to Honoré


Philippe Honoré was killed yesterday in Paris. He was one of the victims of  the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the bloodiest terrorist attack in the French capital since 1835’s “machine infernale” on the Boulevard du Temple. He was loved by French Fans of Crime Fiction, who found his drawings in Charlie Hedbo, and in publications such as Le Magazine littéraire,  Le Monde and Les Inrockuptibles. In the monthly mainstream literary magazine Lire, he published his famous Rebus, the  “Rébus d’Honoré”. They mainly consisted in pictograms representing names of authors, title of literary works, or famous quotes in rebus form. The following (see below) is for example Honoré’s representation of the American inventor of Crime Fiction. Continue reading

Crime Fiction on a Parisian Street Map


With thanks to Fabien Cerbelaud and Remy Crouzevialle

The famous series of the San-Antonio Adventures (175 books published between 1949 and 2000) explores the parisian space. The following maps locate the parisian streets and places inscribed in the texts;   they  visualise  their repartition and evolution. The first map (above) focuses on the first decade of the San-Antonio production ; it is based on a systematic inventory of occurences spread across 30 books. The second map (below)  shows the results of a sample from books published during the entire span of the original series’s career. Continue reading