Peter Cheyney

Blood and Sex: Violence and sexuality in Greek crime fiction series of the 1970s.

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By Nikos Filippaios (PhD candidate, University of Ioannina, Greece)

Since its beginning, crime fiction in Greece has usually been distributed by publishers in multi-volume series. The first series of crime fiction translated into Greek were published from the 1910s to the 1930s, initially outside of Greece, in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, where many Greek-speaking people lived, and some years later in Athens (Kassis, 165). Before long however, it centred exclusively around publishers, translators and writers based in Athens. In addition to series of novels and short stories, many magazines appeared dedicated exclusively to crime fiction and the successful family magazines of the era often featured detective stories. Following the difficult decade of the 1940s, in which Greece was wracked by the Second World War and a civil war, the crime, and popular fiction publishing industry in Greece in general, prospered. After the mid-1950s however, something of a “golden era” for popular literature in Greece, a slow decline began, culminating in a defeat by the cinema, TV and, finally, digital media (Filippaios 2015, 5-19).

Cover of Greek edition of 'Berlin, Check-point Charlie' by Gerard De Villiers. It was published in 1975 as volume 533 of the “Viper” series by Papyros. Translation was by Tasso Kavvadia, an actress, radio producer and translator. She was an important figure during this time in Greece.

Cover of Greek edition of ‘Berlin, Check-point Charlie’ by Gérard De Villiers. It was published in 1975 as volume 533 of the “Viper” series by Papyros. Translation was by Tasso Kavvadia, an actress, radio producer and translator. She was an important figure during this time in Greece.

A compelling phenomenon visible in the evolution of Greek crime fiction of this time is an increasing shift towards violence and sexuality, a trend which began during the early 1970s and lasted at least until the end of the decade. This shift became evident between 1968 and 1972, with the appearance of three new series. The most important of these was the “VIPER Series of crime fiction novel by Papyros (English: “papyrus”) Publications, a publishing house established in 1936 in Athens, which expanded into the crime fiction genre in 1968. This series was so successful that, not only did it continue publishing until the early 1990s, but some volumes can still be found in kiosks and bookshops around Greece today (Koskinas, 21/01/2014). “VIPER” initially followed the trend of other famous crime fiction series, including mainly classic writers such as Agatha Christie and James Chase. But from 1975 onwards, its publisher turned chiefly to Gérard De Villiers’ SAS novels. After Ian Fleming’s James Bond, SAS’s Malko Linge was the next most famous literary spy who fascinated Greek readers with his violent and erotic adventures.

The Greek edition of SAS à l'ouest de Jérusalem by Gérard De Villiers. Also translated by Tasso Kavvadia, it was published in 1976 as volume 610 of the “Viper” series. Its weathered cover shows the connection between popular literature and the everyday life of its readers.

The Greek edition of ‘SAS à l’ouest de Jérusalem’ by Gérard De Villiers. Also translated by Tasso Kavvadia, it was published in 1976 as volume 610 of the “Viper” series.
Its weathered cover shows the connection between popular literature and the everyday life of its readers.

In fact, Papyrus Publications’ interest in a more hard-core subgenre of crime fiction, such as the spy novel, probably influenced two other, smaller series. Although both featured fewer volumes and were distributed by smaller publishing houses, they followed the trend of “blood and sex” from inception. The first of these was “Fascinating Pocket Books” and was published by Panthir (English: ‘panther’) Publications. Probably active between 1970 and 1973, Panthir Publications was created and curated by Dimitris Chanos, a writer and publisher who began his career in the iconic crime fiction pulp magazine Mask (Chanos, 221-240). From its very first volumes, Panthir adopted a very specific approach: (a) focusing on “hard-boiled” crime fiction writers, mainly Mickey Spillane, and (b) replacing older cover illustrations, usually with photo collages of scantily clad women, an aesthetic which borrows elements from soft-core pornography. Along the same vein, “Modern Pocket Books”, one of the first attempts from Kampanas Publications and also circulating during early 70s, adopted a similar approach to its covers, but with slightly more conservative images. The main writer featuring in “Modern Pocket Books” was Anthony Morton, a pen name of John Greasy. Particularly popular were his spy novels featuring “the Baron”.

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Crime Fiction in Greece

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Giannis Maris,  Crime In Kolonaki,  Pechlivanidis, 1955

 

By Nikos Filippaios (PhD candidate, University of Ioannina, Greece)

Crime fiction in Greece is characterized, on the one hand, by the strong influence of American and European classics and standards, and on the other by a constant search for a more localized expression. This initial reception of a new literary genre and its final assimilation is an idiosyncratic characteristic of Modern Greek culture, which was shaped by accepting both eastern and western influences. Thus, when crime fiction was introduced as a new genre to Greece, during the first decades of the 20th century, readers were already familiar with its main elements, because one of its precursors, the “roman feuilleton” (or serial) was very popular in Greece during the 19th century, as in other European countries. Continue reading

Advertising Peter Cheyney

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(With thanks to Didier Poiret)

After Edgard Wallace, and second perhaps only to Simenon, Peter Cheyney (1896-1951) was the great writer businessman of his age. The blurb below gives an example of how he was advertised in France  at the height of his fame.

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(Click to enlarge)

Peter Cheyney. Duel dans l’ombre [Dark duet..], adaptated by Michel Arnaud,  Paris, les Presses de la Cité, 1950,   Un mystère,  72

One more Whisky

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Peter Cheyney,  Un whisky de plus [Another little drink],  Paris, Presses de la Cité, Paris,1947

(Collection Didier Poiret)

Peter Cheyney, the first author published in the Série Noire, was, more than any other at this early stage of the noir genre, responsible for disseminating the equation:  Noir = Violence + Alcohol. His hard-hitting protagonists used to hit the bottle just as savagely as the villains they encountered. Cheyney is often considered to have made the consumption of whisky fashionable in post-war France. Continue reading

Spanish Crime Series : GP Policíaca

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The popular  “The Owl” Series (Colección El buho), by the Barcelona publisher Planeta, published household names of international Crime Fiction in Spain in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Such as, for example Dashiell Hammett’s Ciudad de pesadilla (translated by César de Montserrat) in  1958 or  Erle Stanley Gardner’s  El caso de la lata vacía, in 1953 and El caso de la lámpara humeante, in 1957. Another famous Series dedicated to Crime Fiction in Spain at the time of the fascist dictatorship, and one  of the most popular was GP Policíaca .  Published by editorial Plaza & Janés,  in Barcelona, it comprised some 200 novels, from 1957 to 1966. Continue reading

Crime Fiction in Ullstein Pocket Books

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Created in the early 1950’s, the series of mass market paperback books Ullstein-Büchern,  started  in the mid 1950’s to offer a  subdivision devoted to Crime Fiction, the Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane. This series had  different numbers than the rest of the Ullstein- books, to differentiate them from the general series (Allgemeine Reihe). It started at number  701.  Further differentiation, the big K on the title banner stands for Krimi. This is the mid and late 1950’s, and American authors are now predominant, in stark contrast to the original Ullstein Gelbe Reihe in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.  A canonisation of the noir genre has happened elsewhere, and Ullstein books reflect this.  The two first books published  as Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane are  Hammett (Der Malteser Falke) and Chandler (Einer weisst mehr). Hammett’s Bluternte is the sixth volume in the series. Continue reading

International Detective Fiction (1927-1966): The Authors

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Mignon Good Eberhart (USA, 1899- 1996)

Crime Fiction is an international genre. It is well-known that several countries have collaborated to its invention. Exchanges  and reciprocal influences between the US (Poe), France (Vidocq, Gaboriau) and England (Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle), in particular, have been crucial in shaping it in the 19th Century.  Publishers and Magazines have driven the translation of works of  foreign crime fiction, creating international trends and reception patterns.  Publishing industries, in the 20th Century have spread internationally. Continue reading

Crime & Police, 1933-1935

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Crime et Police was a Crime Novel Series published in Paris by Ferenczi between 1933-1935.  The volumes were 17 cm and their  covers were illustrated with photographic montages by Henri Manuel. The series consists of  76 volumes. They are here ordered by author. This highlights the significance of the contribution of some, like Marcel Allain, or Max-André Dazergues (here also under pseudonym André Mad). It shows, too, the number of publications by British authors : Leslie Charteris (3), Peter Cheyney (2)

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