The other life of French Crime Fiction Authors in Portugal

  Groc Torres

Léon Groc (1882-1956), O Segredo da Praça Maldita (La Place maudite, Le Lynx, 1941),  Lisboa, 1947

The International Circulation of Cultural Works operates like a magnetic field. Forces interact, currents drive materials in different directions, at different speed, in various magnitudes. Such effects can be observed in the reception  of French Crime Fiction authors, between the 1930’s and 1960’s, in countries like Spain, Italy and Portugal. In these countries, a secular tradition of French cultural influence offered an outlet to a French production which was at this point in time experiencing a severe  competition from the English and American markets.  There had been a  Golden Age  in French language Crime Fiction too (Simenon, Steeman, Véry, Decrest, Boileau, Nord, Vindry and others…) but it was, in most countries, overshadowed by the success of English language Golden Age crime fiction. Even on the French literary field the successful import of the Detection Club authors created  a tough competition for French authors in the thirties.  After the war, the Noir vogue would even engineered a  process of eviction of new, American or American sounding authors. Continue reading

The best Detective Novels : Colecção Os Melhores Romances Policiais


Francis D. Grierson (1888-1972), O Negro Assassino (Murder in Black, 1935; Portuguese translation : Adolfo Coelho, 1938).  Colecção Os Melhores Romances Policiais, Volume 44, 2nd edition, 1947


The Lisbon-based publisher Livraria Clássica Editora launched in the early 1930’s a Series of  International Crime Fiction classics :  Os Melhores Romance Policiais.   This series was interrupted in the mid 1950’s. It consists of 124 volumes.  The two first authors published there were two Belgians,  both from Liège.  The first one was Stanislas-André Steeman (1908-1970) with  Seis homens mortos (1932).The second one, of course,  Simenon. The series would publish two other successful  Belgian authors after the war (both hidden under the pseudonym Paul Kenny). French Language Crime Authors are certainly over-represented there. In an era when the British authors members in the Detection club  (including  Chesterton, Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie,  Freeman Wills Crofts, R.Austin Freeman, Ronald A. Knox, A.E.W. Mason,  Baroness Orczy,  Dorothy L. Sayers, Henry Wade, and Victor L. Whitechurch ) asserted their worldwide dominance,   Os Melhores Romance Policiais published  mainly translations of  French  works originally published by Gallimard, Ferenczi   or Librairie des Champs Elysées, in series such as Le Masque or Crime et Police.
Several novels translated for Melhores Romances Policiais had won the “Roman d’ Aventures” Award, which was created in 1930 to promote  Crime Fiction writing in French.  Steeman’s Six hommes morts  won it in 1931. Among the French authors of  Livraria Clássica’s “best Crime Novels” feature notably :
-Algeria born and Cambridge educated Charles de Richter (1887- 1975), who published many thrillers inspired from Edgar Wallace in the Éditions de France Series ” À ne pas lire la nuit”.
-Jean-Toussaint Samat (1891- 1944),  a former journalist with Le Petit Marseillais who published in Le Masque and in a number of other French Series of the 1930’s, for Baudinière, Ferenczi, and Editions de France. 
-Marcel Marc, author of Les Trois Crimes de Veules-les-Roses (Gallimard, 1931).
The list includes, too, Pierre Nord, Louis-Léon Martin Edouard Letailleur and Léon Groc, Francis Didelot and Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe.
The first ten books published there are listed on  the blog Rua da Morgue : (http://livrosecrimes.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/os-melhores-romances-policiais.html)
1 – Seis homens mortos de S. André Steeman
2 – Condenado à morte de Georges Simenon
3 – A casa fatal de Leon Groc
4 – O segredo de H.21 de Adolfo Coelho
5 – O “autobus” desaparecido de Leon Groc
6 – Quem matou? De Charles Kingston
7 – Três crimes de Marcel Marc
8 – “ M” de Leonard Falkner
9 – A horrível morte de miss Gildchrist de Jean Toussaint-Samat
10 – O mistério de Loverval de S. André Steeman

Continue reading

The Vampiro Series (Livros do Brasil)


The “Colecção Vampiro”, published  from 1947 by Editora Livros do Brasil, in Lisbon, was one of the very fist series of Crime Fiction paperbacks in Portuguese. It  was certainly the most popular. The “Masters of detective fiction”  published  there showed  a large emphasis on English and American authors.   The notoriety of the authors seemed of rather  more importance than a clear definition of the sub-genre of crime Fiction the books pertained to. Agatha Christie  and Dorothy Sayers  appeared alongside Hammett and Chandler; Wallace with Simenon; Van Dine with Ellery Queen.  The latter, and the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner were the most represented.  While a close contemporary of Gallimard’s “Série Noire” (created in 1945) Vampiro was editorially much closer to Le Masque (Librarie des Champs Elysées, 1927). Vampiro favoured novels of deduction and investigation over hardboiled noir. Continue reading

Simenon in the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal


«O cão amarelo», Lisboa, Empresa Nacional de Publicidade, 1939? (Le Chien jaune, Fayard, 1931)  First Title in the Series «Romances policiais de Georges Simenon».

Georges Simenon, 1903-1989: mais do que Maigret  is the title of the exhibition with which  the  Portuguese national library  currently ( 8th January to 18th April) commemorates the 25th anniversary of Simenon’s death. The exhibition shows  first Portuguese editions of his novels. These  were translated in Portugal from the early 1930s’. The curators of the exhibition contribute to understand the global (and intermedia) appeal of an author who, with 550 million copies sold, ranks as the third most widely read French language writer, after Jules Verne and Alexandre Dumas.

The first Portuguese translation of a work by Georges Simenon  was  the novel  Condenado à morte (Sentenced to death, for La Tête d’un homme, 1931) , published in 1932 in the Os Melhores Romances Policiais  Series, directed by Adolfo Coelho, for the publisher Clássica Editora. By the end of the decade, Simenon’s success was such that he  was published in a separate series : Romances policiais de Georges Simenon (Empresa Nacional de Publicidade). One of his most  popular novels, The Yellow Dog , translated by Adolfo Casais Monteiro started the new series.

For more information on the BNP and the exhibition :