By Daniel Magennis, M.A. Candidate, Queen’s University, Belfast
Thrillers which take Troubles-era Ireland as their subject matter form a distinct genre in their own right. The Troubles Thriller, or Troubles Trash, as it is sometimes known, has become the primary form of literary representation of Northern Ireland and its benighted capital Belfast (which has itself been described as “the noirest city on earth”). While the novels might be didactically unremarkable and have done little to challenge the tabloid representations on offer, some met with considerable commercial success both within and outside of the English-speaking world.
Murder, death, and mystery… Well, who would have guessed? Here is the count of the top six words used in the titles of the 66 mystery novels by Agatha Christie, between 1920 and 1976 Continue reading
San-Antonio in the Spécial Police Series (1950-1972, 79 titles)
(Click to enlarge)
San-Antonio Series (1972-1999, 96 Titles) Continue reading
Frédéric Dard dit San-Antonio, Y a-t-il un Français dans la boîte à gants ?, Paris, Omnibus, May 2015, ISBN : 9782258116726 .
The two books which have just been published together in the prestigious Omnibus edition are a landmark in the career of France’s most successful crime fiction author. This is where San-Antonio officially meets Frédéric Dard, and where the two faces of the prolific double-author merge. Signed (on their original publication) ‘San-Antonio’, even though the eponymous character of the San-Antonio series does not feature, the books are closer to the dark and despairing atmosphere of the books previously signed ‘Dard’ (the “Romans de la nuit”). Published respectively in 1979 and 1981, one before and one after the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist President of the 5th Republic, their subject matter is politics. Conspicuously however, they don’t contain any of the huge sense of anticipation which Mitterrand’s election triggered in the social discourse at the time. Rather, they reflect the social unrest and atmosphere of scandals and corruption in the final years of the presidency of Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. They tell the story of an ambitious career politician, who hides a terrible secret, the legacy of an unsavoury past, buried in his home. Continue reading
San-Antonio, Passez-moi la Joconde, In Detektiv Francii, 7, Moscow, Renaissance, 1993
With thanks to Didier Poiret
Passez-moi la Joconde, one of the earliest novels by San-Antonio (1954) formed part of an anthology of French Detective fiction published in Russia. The anthology contains five novels. San-Antonio’s is the last one. There is no sense of chronology, nor apparent attention paid to genre distinctions or any other criteria of classification. It would be an interesting question for a quizz to try and guess what the five (or six) French authors (see below) have in common: Boileau-Narcejac ; Didier Daeninckx; Vernon Sullivan (aka Boris Vian); Paul Andreotta; San-Antonio
Passez-moi la Joconde, one of the earliest novels by San-Antonio (1954) formed part of an anthology of French Detective fiction published in Russia. The anthology contains five novels.(1) San-Antonio’s is the last one. The collection entirely lacks a sense of chronology’, nor does there seem to have been any attention paid to genre distinctions or any other criteria of classification. It would be an interesting question for a quiz(4) to try and guess what the following five (or six) French authors (see below)(5) have in common: Boileau-Narcejac ; Didier Daeninckx; Vernon Sullivan (aka Boris Vian); Paul Andreotta; San-Antonio.
With thanks to Didier Poiret
In preparation for the San-Antonio International conference due to take place in Queen’s University, Belfast on the 15th-16th of May and which aims to look at, amongst other things, the international career of Frédéric Dard, aka San-Antonio, often considered France’s most quintessentially French writer (whatever that might mean), can you recognise the original books by Dard, under their Japanese covers ?
San-Antonio is a positive, all-action hero. His novels, a literature of affirmation. And of exclamations. Not of doubts, it would seem. On the face of it, the textual reality might be a bit more complex. And a machine, reading the San-Antonio novels, might challenge some of the beliefs and impressions human readers might form, on their basis of their impressionable reading. There are more questions than exclamations, for one. Of course, the mystery genre entails consubstantially a fair amount of questions. The narrative tension thrives on hypotheses, conjectures, interrogations and all type of questionings. The opposition between two crime fiction subgenres, between, on the one hand, a “hardboiled”, violent, action literature and on the other, a literature of mystery and detection, is not as clear-cut in this respect. Both subgenres are riddled with questions. Maybe, these questions are more existential, or metaphysical in the “hardboiled”, noir genre, and of more logical, speculative or even academic nature in the Mystery genre. But this empirical observation, might still need to be addressed and backed up in a more scientific manner. Continue reading
Strategies of Self-advertising abound in the San-Antonio Series. There are many visual and textual ways in which the eponymous hero is announced, and promoted. This integration of the product-name works especially as San-Antonio, the author, doubles as San-Antonio, the character. It is as if Chandler novels were signed Marlowe, or Spillane’s, Mike Hammer. As a result, the cover can be the site of a repetition, the repeated name promoting both an author and a text. Like for a commercial advertisement, there is no fear of echoes and redundancy of the message. On the contrary, the reiteration of the name reinforces its capacity to influence.
The “Troubles Thriller” is an international genre. Albeit peripheral, and taking place in a small country, the conflict in Northern Ireland has generated a flurry of crime novels set there during the Troubles. In addition to the several hundreds Crime and spy novels written in Britain and in America on the ” Troubles” in Northern Ireland, there have been a number of novels written on this subject by European Crime authors and published in their own countries. These works have very rarely been translated into English (nor, as a rule in many other languages), as they primarily targeted their own domestic market, and sought to offer there a similar fare to the Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins and others who dominated the genre. They might be derivative, but this in itself does not make them redundant. Their take on the conflict is often highly idiosyncratic. They are controversial, but they were read by hundred thousands, if not by millions of readers. The political views they display and the representations of Ireland which they carry are of interest, making the books precious sources for a cultural history of European responses to the situation in Ireland. Continue reading