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Online Survey on European Crime TV Series

Participants wanted for online survey about European crime TV!

Do you like watching crime series on TV or on streaming services? If so, the DETECt project needs you! Our DETECt colleagues in Rome and Aarhus want to find out which crime shows you like, which are your favourite detectives and which elements of crime series keep you glued to the screen. The survey is completely anonymous.

Please follow the link to the survey here

Through a Glass Darkly: European History and Politics in Contemporary Crime Narratives

Through a Glass Darkly:

European History and Politics in Contemporary Crime Narratives

Monica Dall’Asta, Jacques Migozzi, Federico Pagello, Andrew Pepper eds.

To talk about the crime genre—as opposed to detective or spy or noir fiction—is to recognise the comprehensiveness of a category that speaks to and contains multiple sub-genres and forms (Ascari, 2007). In this volume, we want to uncover the ways in which the crime genre, in all of its multiple guises, forms and media/transmedia developments, has investigated and interrogated the concealed histories and political underpinnings of national and supranational societies and institutions in Europe, particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Two most popular expression of the crime genre, the detective novel and the spy novel, have long been identified as ‘sociological’ in their orientation (Boltanski,2012). These forms often tackle enigmas or uncover conspiracies that are concealed by and within states, asking searching questions about the failures of democracy and the national and international criminal justice systems to deliver just societies. Similarly, following the example of U.S. hard-boiled fiction, the ‘noir’ variant of the genre has also established itself as a ‘literature of crisis’ (according to Jean-Patrick Manchette’s formula), where the shredding of official truths and of ‘reality’ itself ends up revealing dark political motives that elicit an even starker set of ethical and affective interrogations (Neveu, 2004). While the obvious links between the ‘noir’ and the ‘hard-boiled’ traditions of crime fiction (e.g. between Manchette and Hammett) suggest an American-French or trans-Atlantic connection, we are keen to stress that the sociological and political orientation of the European crime genre—especially since 1989 and the corresponding opening up of national borders and markets—requires examining both global/glocal and multi-national (and state-bound) issues and challenges. It is here that the European dimension of the proposed volume is best articulated because, to do justice to this context, we need to pay attention not just to discreet national traditions, but the ways in which contemporary iterations of the genre interrogate the workings of policing, law, criminality and justice across borders and nations (Pepper and Schmid, 2016).

The transnational framework of the DETECt project (Detecting Transcultural Identities in Popular European Crime Narratives) is necessarily and acutely concerned with civic and ethical issues linked to the construction of new European new identities. The proposed volume aims to explore the ways in which these new identities are formulated and thematised in European crime novels, films or TV series, particularly in relation to the interrogations raised by the uncovering of hidden aspects of both the historical past and the contemporary political landscapes. Contributions are encouraged which look at particular case studies or identify larger national and/or transnational trends or synthesise the relationship between individual texts and these larger trends. It is envisaged that the volume will be organised into the three sections outlined below. Prospective contributors are invited to identify where their articles might sit within this structure as well as to outline the particular focus adopted by their essay in relation to the general topic. The list of topics in each section is to be regarded as indicative rather than exhaustive.

  1. Crime Narratives and the History of Europe

European crime narratives from the last thirty years have frequently referred to collective traumas and conflicts that have torn European societies apart throughout the 20th century. Contributions are invited that look at the ways in which these fictional works have restaged and critically reinterpreted some of the most tragic pages in European recent history, including (but not limited to) the following iterations of violent rupture and social breakdown:

  • The Civil War and Francoist dictatorship in Spanish crime narratives (e.g. Montalbán, La isla minima);
  • Fascism, surveillance and the police-state (e.g. Lucarelli, Gori, De Giovanni) and the role of oppositional memory (e.g. Morchio, Dazieri) in Italian detective fiction;
  • Fascistic/right-wing nationalist movements in interwar Scandinavia (e.g. Larsson, Mankell);
  • The Third Reich as the historical biotope of crime fiction (e.g. Kerr, Gilbers);
  • The constant presence of wars as a breeding ground for crime in French crime novels: World War I and II, collaboration, the Algerian War, colonisation, post-colonisation (e.g. Daeninckx, Férey);
  • The heavy presence of Cold War images and axiology in spy novels and films, including those appeared after the fall of the Berlin Wall, both in Western and Eastern Europe (e.g. Kondor, Furst);
  • The ‘Troubles’ in Irish and British crime fiction (e.g. Peace, McNamee).
  • Crime Narratives and the Present of Europe

Our present time is characterized by a number of social, political, financial/economic crises that threaten the construction of a cosmopolitan pan-European identity in line with the EU’s founding ideals. Crime narratives attempt to offer realistic representations of such contemporary crises by putting in place a number of ‘chronotopes’ that symbolise social divisions and peripheral and marginalized identities. We encourage essays that examine the ways in which post-1989 European crime narratives have represented the emergence of nationalisms, xenophobia, racism and other threats to the social cohesiveness of European democracies. We also invite contributions that use the trope of the crisis to explore how the links between crime, business and politics have polluted or corrupted the democratic imperatives of European social democracies and institutions from the outset. Topics might include: 

  • The Kosovo War, and more broadly the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, as the first signs of a generalised geopolitical chaos (e.g. in French noir novels);
  • The financial crisis of 2008 and its devastating consequences for individuals, communities and whole societies (e.g. Bruen and French in Ireland; Markaris in Greece; Dahl in Sweden; Lemaitre in France);
  • The migrant crisis (within and outside the EU) and the emergence of new anxieties about belonging and/or otherness (e.g. Mankell, Dolan, Rankin);
  • Climate change, pollution, and environmental destruction (e.g. Tuomainen, Pulixi);
  • The blurring of crime and capitalism and the depiction of crime as a form of social protest vis-à-vis the effects of global capitalism and neoliberal deregulation and privatisation (e.g. Manotti, Carlotto, Heinichen, the TV series Bron);
  • Inquiries into the effects of contemporary forms of patriarchy, gendered violence and misogyny and their links to other forms of oppression and domination (e.g. Lemaitre, Slimani, Macintosh, Gimenez-Bartlett Larsson, McDermid).
  • Crime Narratives and the Future of Europe

European crime narratives explore a broad range of social and cultural identities across different scales: from the more stable identities attached to local contexts through the new mobile, precarious and mutating identities fostered by the dynamics of globalization. This section will look into how these different identities and their complex interplay can suggest ways to frame the future of Europe. Contributions could address how crime narratives try to make sense of the complex, if yet perhaps contradictory, set of representations circulating across different European public spaces and collective imaginaries. On the one hand, we might ask whether something like a European crime genre even actually exists, given that these works typically demonstrate suspicions about ‘outsiders’ and only rarely offer positive representations of post-national transcultural identities. On the other hand, however, the genre does give us glimpses into what might be achieved through cross-border policing initiatives, organised under or by Interpol and Europol, in the face of organised crime gangs involved in transnational smuggling and trafficking networking. Contributions to this final section are encouraged to reflect upon how crime narratives produced by and in between the discreet nation-states frame the hopes and limits of European cohesiveness and the continent’s future or futures. Essays could focus on one or more of the following topics:

  • The interplay between local, regional, national and transnational identities as represented through specific narrative tropes, such as in particular the local police station, the interrogation room, the frontier or border, and so on;
  • The connection between social deprivation at the local end of the geopolitical scale and different global systems and networks at the other end;
  • The role of borders, cities, violence, rebellion, policing and surveillance in producing new identities and subjectivities not wholly anchored in discreet nation-states. Attention could also be given to formal innovations insofar as these allow or enable the expression of new identities;
  • The hope and consolation offered by the resilient community or village (Broadchurch, Shetland) or the extended family (Markaris’s Kostas Charistos series) in the face of the messy, brutal contingencies of a world ruled by criminal and business elites;
  • Social banditry as a form of contestation directed against social inequalities produced by capitalism (Carlotto’s Alligator series; La casa de papel).

If you are interested in submitting a proposal to be considered for inclusion in this volume, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short biography to info@detect-project.eu by May 31, 2020. We would encourage you to identify the section of the proposed volume where your essay would be best situated. We are looking to commission up to 14 essays in total of 7000 words each including footnotes and bibliographic references.

Noireland Festival 2020

NOIRELAND 28 March 2020

This year NOIRELAND Festival will take place on the 28th March.

Bestselling authors including Liz Nugent, Mark Billingham and Ann Cleeves are scheduled, as well as a special screening of Odd Man Out, the original Belfast Noir, and a creative morning for aspiring crime writers.
 This year’s NOIRELAND will also feature exclusive early releases from Steve Cavanagh, Brian McGilloway and Jane Casey. Plus, a preview of Adrian McKinty’s new Sean Duffy novel at Jack-a-noir-y.

Check out the ‘At a Glance’ NOIRELAND programme to find out what’s on in the ‘Writers’ Morning’, ‘Noirish Afternoon’ and ‘Noirish Night of Stars’.

An Interview with Declan Burke for the Launch of “The Lammisters”

[Dominique Jeannerod] How did you come to write The Lammisters? 


[Declan Burke] “The very first inkling came to me in Dungannon, as it happens, when I was teaching a one-day course on crime fiction writing. I was going through a list of what aspiring writers should and shouldn’t do when it occurred to me that I was interfering with the attendees’ most precious resource, their imaginations. There and then I decided I was going to write a book that broke every rule I was ever taught. That’s not strictly possible, of course, but it did give me a huge amount of freedom to write whatever I wanted to, and especially when I quickly realised that no one would ever want to publish the book I was writing.”

What was your original idea?

“I usually start with a setting, and then begin to people it with characters, and then give them a story to work with. I’d always wanted to set a book in Glenveagh Castle, in Donegal – it’s a beautiful setting, and I was fascinated by the idea that, in the 1930s, artists of all kinds would come from all over the world to stay at Glenveagh (Greta Garbo was probably the most famous). And I’d recently fallen head-over-heels for the work of PG Wodehouse, who I’d only very belatedly discovered. So the original and very vague idea was for a Jeeves and Wooster-style story set in Glenveagh; but when I sent my Bertie Wooster, aka Sir Archibald l’Estrange-B’stard, to Hollywood to bring a few movie stars back to Donegal, Archie refused to come back. And so The Lammisters is set in Hollywood, in 1923, amid the bootleggers, film stars and movie moguls of the Prohibition Era …”

John Connolly, with whom you co-edited a few years ago what I consider the best anthology of world crime fiction (Books to Die For, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012) has recently devoted a book to Stan Laurel. Now you are exploring Hollywood in 1923 and portraying  characters, real or invented, representing that mystique, like Cecil B. DeMille and “Vanessa Hopgood”.  What is it that fascinates you both with early Hollywood Cinema?

“I can’t speak for John, of course – I loved his Stan Laurel book He, by the way; a quiet masterpiece, I think – but I’ve always loved the classic movies. I’ve earned a living as a film critic for 25 years now, and I’ve always been fascinated not just by the films of Hollywood, but Hollywood itself. And especially early Hollywood, which was a true melting-pot. Anyone who has read Gore Vidal’s Hollywood or Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run?, say, knows that Hollywood was never just about making movies – it was about myth-making, and the unholy alliance of money, politics and culture. A heady brew. Also, I love the idea that silent cinema was not only obliged to communicate increasingly complex stories without dialogue, but that that very absence of dialogue allowed the movies to appeal to a global audience.”

Who is the inspiration for the mysterious Vanessa Hopgood ? Is it Clara Bow?

She isn’t really based on any one person. More a hazy ideal of what the platonic ideal of a Flapper movie star might be. In the back of my mind she’s very similar to the young Norma Desmond, before she got old and the screens got too small …

Is it fair to say that in that book you have sought to bring together both your experience as a literary critic and as novelist? 

“It certainly is fair to say that, although it’s probably fair to say that that’s true of most of my books (and probably everyone’s books) – it’s impossible, I think, when you’re writing, not to respond, consciously or otherwise, to whatever it is that constitutes your reading. That said, The Lammisters is far more influenced by what I might call my extra-curricular reading, or the reading that isn’t commissioned for review. Over the last four or five years I’ve been reading back into the past, and discovering, or in some cases rediscovering, writers like Dickens and Austen, and Cervantes, and Henry Fielding, and totally falling in love with literary styles that might be considered outmoded today. The Lammisters is a comic novel, and I loved the incongruity of hardboiled gangsters and movie stars talking to one another as if they’d just stepped out of Pride and Prejudice, or Tristram ShandyThe Lammisters’ style is also, I guess, a commentary of sorts on the way the language of public discourse, and certainly at the political level, has been debased and upended and turned inside-out over the last decade or so. But that’s a story for another day, perhaps.”

What interested you more in the process? Telling a great story or almost forensically dismantling the art of storytelling? 

“This question made me laugh out loud. It’s always terrific fun to write a new story, and to try to make it as original as you can – I’m still a little bit awestruck by the idea of creating something from nothing. With The Lammisters, I didn’t set out to tell a story about telling a story; that was just the way it evolved. The story is told by a narrator who has been abandoned by his author and left to his own devices, and so the narrator is keen to prove his credentials by reminding the reader about the various aspects of the storytelling craft. Sadly, the narrator has yet to learn that less is more …”

I remember meeting with you in the IFI in  Dublin, after the publication of The Lost and the Blind (2015): you were saying how much this book had taken from you and even considering it might be your last novel. How did the writing of The Lammisters happen in that context?

“You’re right, Dominique – I did feel very drained after writing The Lost and the Blind: it was a pretty traumatic year, personally and professionally, and that book was the one that gave me the least pleasure when I was writing it. And as far as I was concerned, at the time, if I wasn’t having fun, then there was no point to writing. The Lammisters was the complete antithesis to that – I wanted to write a book purely for myself, that wasn’t written according to any genre conventions, or any deadlines, or anyone’s expectations. And I wanted it to be fun, because it seemed to me – as a result of Brexit, for example, and Donald Trump’s election, and what seems like the inexorable rise of far-right extremism, with its racism and antisemitism – that the world was becoming a darker place. I wanted to be able to cheer myself up on a daily basis. The book certainly delivered on that front.”

How much does this new book still owe to Crime Fiction? 

“Well, it’s a comic novel, and I’d hate for any crime fiction reader to pick up and feel cheated by the fact that the story plays very fast and loose with the expected conventions. That said, I love the crime novel, in virtually all its variations, so there’s certainly elements of crime fiction involved – the characters go on the lam, as the title suggests, and one of the main characters is not only a bootlegger and a bank robber but the terror of all right-thinking Republicans everywhere. The Lammisters isn’t a crime novel; but I don’t think I’d have been able to write it if I hadn’t written my crime novels first.”

Are there shadows of Crime authors you felt looming in particular over the book? 

“Definitely, yes. The first writer I fell madly, deeply and hopelessly for was Raymond Chandler, because of his language, his style. I’ve always said that if Chandler had written science fiction, or romantic fiction, I’d probably have ended up writing that. So Chandler’s hardboiled style is an important jumping-off point for The Lammisters. But I also love crime writers with a comic sensibility – Carl Hiaasen, Barry Gifford – and there’s no doubt that their approach is a factor too.”

You are a keen reader and commentator of European Crime Fiction: what are your main discoveries in that area over the past few years? 

“It’s been mainly Scandinavian reading for the past while, I’m afraid. One of my recent discoveries – and apologies if this is old news to anyone – is Antti Tuomainen, who reads a lot like the Finnish Elmore Leonard. Again, it’s blackly comic crime fiction, which I adore. I read Stina Jackson’s The Silver Road earlier this year, and I thought it was a superb meditation on grief. I thought Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth was a flawed but very interesting contemporary take on Shakespeare, although my favourite of the Norwegian writers – of any of the Scandinavian crime novelists – is Karin Fossum. Her The Drowned Boy is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last decade, in any genre. Of the non-Scandinavian writers, David Torrans introduced me recently to Pascal Garnier, who is superb; and Hannah’s Dress, by Pascale Hugues, is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in years.”

To what European authors do you feel more related, and at what level? 

“This is a bit of a loaded question, I think, because once I start naming writers it’s going to sound like I’m comparing myself to them, which is certainly not my intention. If I can put it like this: I love reading Umberto Eco, and especially his wilder flights of fancy (Baudolino, say), because it seems to me as if he cares very little for any rules or regulations of writing. The same applies to Italo Calvino – when I read If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller many years ago, it made a huge impression on me. I guess I’ve always loved writers who are prepared to take chances, to go beyond the accepted and the expected – as a young man, for example, I loved Milan Kundera’s books, because they seemed to challenge everything I had read up to that point.”  

From feuilletons to romans policiers and to TV series

Forgotten Connections in Popular Culture

I. De Miguel
The Graduate Center – Bernard Baruch College
City University of New York  (CUNY)

While Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, and in particular, Murders in the rue Morgue (1841) are considered the starting point for the detective genre (Baudou 159), Honoré de Balzac, has been seen as one of the genre’s initiators too. In 1841 also, Balzac published as a serial and without any fanfare in the newspaper Le Commerce his novel Une Ténébreuse Affaire[1]. The narrative, set over a timespan running from 1803 to 1833, starts by depicting a sinister man cleaning his rifle in front of his terrorized wife and the arrival from Paris of two espions de police. Yet Balzac’s narratives are not structured around a crime leading to an investigation, and are, therefore, dismissed as crime novels by many scholars[2].

There are however many connections between some of Balzac’s novels, French serialized novels (le roman feuilleton) rooted in melodrama,TV series and crime fiction up to its current development by Virginie Despentes. Serialized narratives, with their episodes and their techniques of delayed solution, progressively influenced detective fiction and gave birth to series based on events linked to a main character, the literary forerunners of TV series.

As “Roman-feuilletons”, such as Balzac’s popular works of serialized fiction published in installments in 19th-century French periodicals started losing interest, the section “fait divers” (or miscellaneous contents, narrating news items, often in sensationalist terms) started attracting readers. This miscellany soon became a synonym for scandals, criminal cases, and court-related stories, which proved to be even more financially rewarding for the press than serialized fiction. It is not surprising, therefore, that the origins of the detective novel in France are usually linked to a specific daily periodical, “Le Petit Journal,” created in 1863 and specialized in “faits divers.” Émile Gaboriau, one of the journal’s chroniclers, is also traditionally considered the father of French detective fiction. His narratives combined two writing modes: sensationalistic journalistic chronicles and feuilletons, the serialized fiction prized at the time.

As highlighted by Jacques Dubois, during this period the romantic feuilletoninfluenced by the melodrama experienced a progressive shift towards the detective novel, keeping some common characteristics like:

• an innocent accused falsely and a mystery to solve

 • a romantic and honorable hero, acting at the margins of official justice, that tries to bring back justice and harmony to the community

• the city appearing in the background, as a labyrinth, a metaphor for the complexity of urban society

• fueling suspense, the installments that ended with the phrase “la suite au prochain numéro” (“to be continued”) influence the rhythm of the narrative

We find here many traits inherited from melodramatic plays: the innocent victim, the honorable hero, a narrative fed by a secret (in detective novels the crime will replace the secret from the melodrama), and many digressions that will delay the novel’s solution. Eugène Sue’s Les Mystères de Paris (1842) is a perfect example of this. These characteristics incorporated the progressive-regressive movement of two intertwined narratives: the story of the investigation and the story of the secret (later, the crime). Gaboriau’s The Widow Lerouge (1863) inspired Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet (1887), but Sherlock Holmes became much more famous than Gaboriau’s detectives, le père Tabaret and Monsieur Lecoq. In “Avènement et ascension du roman policier”, Jacques Baudou notes that mainly the later translation of Conan Doyle’s first three novels published in France by installments and later as books propagated the first wave of detective novels in France (159).

Yet, as Kálai Sándor observes in “Pratiques sérielles dans le roman judiciaire : Le cas de Gaboriau”[3], Gaboriau started a series of narratives that evolved into five separate novels published between 1863 and 1873 with a recurrent character, Monsieur Lecoq, and contributed to the founding of the genre. Sándor adds that the publicity for the feuilletons made by Moïse Millaud, owner of the Petit Journal, announcing and delaying Monsieur Lecoq’s novels also participated in the creation of the genre by creating the first series. This confirms Matthieu Letourneux’s assertion in Fictions à la chaîne (2017) that as mass culture started rationalizing its production, the 20th-century’s cultural industry fully understood the interest of considering novels according to a logic of cycles or series (291). Sándor mentions other writers of the time, such as Fortuné du Boisgobey (1821-1891), author of Une affaire mystérieuse and of Le Forçat colonel, both published in 1869, and Pierre Zaccone (1818-1895), author of Mémoires d’un commissaire de police (Dentu, 1875) whose detectives appeared in several novels without as much success as Monsieur Lecoq.

But before Gaboriau, Balzac had used narrative techniques that we can link to the modern detective novel. In Les Chouans (1829), Marie de Verneuil, an aristocratic ‘femme fatale’ sent by Fouché, Napoleon’s minister of police, tries to seduce and have the anti-Republican hero captured. In L’Auberge Rouge (1831), like in many melodramas, and some of Agatha Christie’s novels, the murderer is confronted with the narration of the crime in front of an audience and is exposed by the expression on his face and his reaction. In Maître Cornelius (1832) there is a locked room mystery with a murderer that acts during his sleep. Based on true facts, Une ténébreuse affaire, seems, in terms of detective fiction, as the most modern of Balzac’s narratives. The two policemen, Corentin and Perayde, appear as predecessors of the couple of the detective and his sidekick. Corentin is the natural son of Fouché and is the exceptionally intelligent and dangerous policeman. Peyrade is more of a comic figure. Since Balzac was a great admirer of Fenimore Cooper, Corentin is compared to an Indian explorer with exceptional senses that help him see what the normal eye cannot see. The two spies try to capture the returned sons of a noble family. The noble émigrés are accused of kidnapping Malin, a Republican politician that bought their proprieties and land after the revolution, but at the end of the novel they are pardoned and only their guard is executed. The last chapter takes place thirty years later in a Parisian salon, where a high ranked official explains that Malin, the kidnapped politician had documents concerning a coup against Napoléon and that Fouché was also involved. In fact, Fouché organized the kidnapping of Malin. In this last chapter, the reader realizes that he has been terribly misguided by an unreliable narrator, and that the official narrative does not correspond to reality.

From the roman-feuilletons whose intrigue lasted forever and digressed in many ways, TV series took many features, including the recurring character appearing in the roman policier. In TV serials with chronological episodes there is suspense and a rhythm fueled by the fragmentation of the episodes.” On the other hand, TV series with self-contained episodes (such as Columbo[4]) do not need to be watched chronologically since a character or a set of characters will experience a complete event in each episode (as it happened in Dupin’s, Sherlock Holmes’ or Arsène Lupin’s short stories).

Multimedia and transmedia development of serials is nothing new. In Le roman feuilleton français, Lise Quéfélec notes that the numerous theatrical adaptations of romans-feuilletons contributed to the diffusion of the genre. As André Maurois recalls in Les Titans ou les trois Dumas, from his start as a playwright, Dumas père excelled at writing suspenseful endings for the acts of his plays, a technique that he brilliantly used to keep interested the readers of his roman-feuilletons (173). As in TV series, Dumaswho had extensively studied Walter Scott’s novels, excelled on defining the characters in detail at the beginning of a novel. We can establish here a parallel with classical TV series, such as Columbo, since, as Stephane Benassi explains in Séries et feuilletons T.V. : pour une typologie des fictions télévisuelles, in a TV series the main character will be defined in the pilot episode with a very strong personality and will remain unchanged as long as the series will exist. Benassi adds that in Columbo there is a common universe throughout the series, but each episode represents a micro-narrative with a similar structure and rhythm, whereas in a serial, the common universe will form a cohesive macro-narrative that will allow many variations in terms of the evolution of the story, and a recurrent character. Benassi also notes that for the first adaptations of detective novels into TV series, TV channels’ high executives prioritized policies of neutrality and consensus, erasing political or ideological contents. For example, according to Umberto Eco, with a very French touch, both Arsène Lupin and Fantômas were very successful TV series in France but since Arsène Lupin showed a more conventional behavior, the series lasted longer in hopes to keep the support of TV advertisers. We find here a parallel along the evolution of the roman feuilleton, most ideological in its beginnings, and more politically correct later on (Eco in Benassi[5]).

Surprisingly, melodrama as a genre resurfaces, in a different guise, among the profusion of judiciary TV series created in the US in the 1950s. In Television and the Legal System, Barbara Villez explains how the criminal process staged in these series connects with an investigation to uncover a mystery or a culprit, and to establish the truth[6]. As I see it, the figure of the lawyer that gives birth to a recurring character, can easily be coupled to the figure of the aforementioned honorable righter of wrongs of the melodrama, since the TV drama lawyer untangles misunderstandings and defends an innocent victim unjustly accused, winning all the cases. As Villez explains, judiciary TV series grew out of the lack of confidence in justice that took place in the US in the 1950s, when the lawyer, a trusted figure at the time, became part of popular culture. According to Villez, with not only a recurrent character but also a repetitive narrative scheme with an innocent wrongly accused, the weekly series of Perry Mason showed the inner workings of justice and emphasized the figure of the lawyer-hero fighting the prosecutor (and I add, the villain in the melodrama). For Villez, such series had a very high impact and educated the audience not only on justice, but ultimately on democracy, since as they evolved, they started dealing with issues of social justice, and the characters became more complex, less idealized (and we could also say, as it often happens in contemporary crime novels). As Borges claimed in his 1978 conference “The Detective Story,” (El cuento policial) the modern detective story also engendered a specific kind of reader that would no longer read a narrative without a hint of suspicion and incredulity. By exposing hidden truths and questioning the notion of what is perceived as “reality,” works of fiction like the North American legal series mentioned by Villez, but also Balzac’s and many detective novels up to Virginie Despentes contemporary rewriting of the genre, uncover the hiatus between official discourses and the truth. These works of fiction contribute, in fact, to develop critical thinking.

A fan of TV series, the French writer Virginie Despentes has achieved great success following the controversies of the famous adaptation of her first novel, Baise-moi, published in 1994 as the first volume in a paperback series (Poche Revolver) devoted to Crime Fiction by publisher Florent Massot. Her more recent trilogy Vernon Subutex (2016-2018) has been celebrated as a modern roman-feuilleton. Although Vernon Subutex has not been published as a crime series, the novel is presented by the editor as a ‘fake crime novel’ with short chapters that take the form of each character’s flow of consciousness and an intricate web of characters, of both marginal and conventional status. The narrative takes place around two suicides or eventual crimes, and La Hyène the detective from Apocalypse bébé (2010) also appears in the novel. Despentes treats the chapters of the first volume as if they were episodes, slowing down the rhythm of the main narrative to introduce Vernon’s acquaintances, and narrate his wanderings through the voices of these secondary characters. Like in most recent American series, the set of characters displays an uncommon level of diversity for high-brow French literature, including a Tunisian non-religious professor and his devout daughter, rock musicians, a rich trader, a black singer, pornstars, and transgender characters. This group of characters described with details in the first chapters allows Despentes to consider issues from different angles and to resist dominant mainstream heteronormative representations (like Villez suggested for the series, Villez 26). In the second and third volume, the group starts acting as a collective hero, as it happens in many TV series (Villez first sees this happen in Hill Street Blues). Vernon Subutex had a record store in Paris and lost it with the arrival of virtual music platforms. Whereas, the first volume gives the setting for the Parisian identities and mentalities that once surrounded Vernon, and how they have changed, the second one does not uncover the truth about the two eventual crimes but it highlights that for many of the characters an irremediable sense of loss came along with the new economic model, and what it destroyed since the 1980’s. Despentes’s narrative seems to assert that “human beings” stopped being at the center of how society considers things, that money took over the system, displacing the most vulnerable, not giving them a place in society, and destroying all sense of community. The perception of this latter collective crime seems to be what brings all this disparate group of characters together. According to François Jost, the legitimate interest and the success of many American series revolves around several criteria. I would emphasize three of them. One is the fact that the main hero becomes a familiar character with qualities but also flaws (Jost refers to Norton Frye’s ‘low mimetic mode” with heroes and environments similar to the audience’s, and I would note that this also happened in detective novels). The second one is the use of common transnational tropes such as conspiracy or secrecy, the rejection of the elites, and exposing manipulations of public opinion. And the third is the appearance of the collective hero. We can see these three criteria through the voices conveyed by Vernon Subutex’s group of characters and the social analysis Despentes includes in the novel. Despentes seems to think, as did Balzac for the post-revolutionary period, that our contemporary world is increasingly unreadable. Through his wanderings, the character of Vernon socializes with crowds from both the lowest strata and the richest milieus of French society (like another famous French detective, Arsène Lupin). Despentes reminds French society that there was a time when the working class felt as a collective, not as a series of individuals in competition, and provides an uncommonly rich and comprehensive picture of social, economic, and political realities. Despentes also claims her attachment to popular culture by using noir fiction, along with her admitted influences of punk culture, and TV series. Like Balzac does in Une Ténébreuse Affaire, Despentes alludes to the conflict opposing how facts were officially narrated and what actually happened as neoliberalism took over the economy in the 80’s and the 90’s. Despentes exposes and resists institutional violence by decoding the past, providing a better understanding of the present and of the functioning of power.

As we can see, from their very early forms, detective novels have contributed to promote critical thinking and political awareness, furthering Villez’s claim that popular culture plays an important role in shaping the public’s perceptions of law, justice, and ultimately democracy.

I would like to dedicate this research to Dr. Julia Przybos, Professor of French at the Graduate Center, New York and author of Entreprise mélodramatique, Paris: Corti, 1987.

Bibliography

Baudou, Jacques. « Avènement et ascension du roman policier », Temps Noir 18, Paris : Joseph K., 2015 : 159-173.

Benassi, Stéphane, Séries et feuilletons T.V. : pour une typologie des fictions télévisuelles, Liège: CÉFAL, 2001.

Borges, Jorge Luis, “The Detective Story,” 1978 in Eisenzweig,Uri.Autopsies du roman policier, Paris: Union générale d’éditions, 1983.

Dubois, Jacques. « Naissance du récit policier ». Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, vol. 60, 1985, 47-55.

Eco, Umberto. Innovation and repetition: between modern and post-modern aesthetics, in Daedalus, New York, August 1985. Translated as « Innovation et répétition : entre esthétique moderne et postmoderne », Réseaux, 12:68, 1994.

Eco, Umberto. De superman au surhomme, Paris : Grasset, 1993.

Jost, François, De quoi les séries américaines sont-elles le symptôme ? Paris : CNRS, 2011, Print.

Letourneux, Matthieu. Fictions à la chaine : Littératures sérielles et culture médiatique, Paris: Seuil, 2017.

Maurois, André. Les Titans ou les trois Dumas, Paris: Hachette, 1966.

Frye, Norton (in Jost), Anatomie de la critique, Paris : Gallimard, 1969.

From Dallas to True Detective– podcast franceculture

Pellini, Pierluigi. Un Caso tenebroso, Palermo: Sellerio, 1996, 21.

Quéffélec, Lise. Le roman feuilleton français,1989. Print.

Kálai, Sándor, « Pratiques sérielles dans le roman judiciaire  », Belphégor [En ligne], 14 | 2016, mis en ligne le 10 octobre 2016, consulté le 10 septembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/696 ; DOI : 10.4000/belphegor.696

Villez, Barbara. Television and the Legal System, London: Routledge, 2009.

Vanoncini André, « Balzac et la ténébreuse naissance du roman policier », Romanische Studien, 3 (2016): 260-273.


[1] As noted by Maurice Serval, « Autour d’un roman de Balzac : Une ténébreuse affaire », in Revue d’Histoire littéraire de la France No. 4 (1922), pp. 452-483, « Elle ne trouva pour l’accueillir, que le rez-de chaussée d’un journal politique, « Le Commerce », et aucun critique n’en parla ».

[2] See Pellini in Vanoncini André, « Balzac et la ténébreuse naissance du roman policier », Romanische Studien, 3 (2016): 260-273.

[3] Kálai Sándor, « Pratiques sérielles dans le roman judiciaire », Belphégor [En ligne], 14 | 2016, mis en ligne le 10 octobre 2016, consulté le 10 septembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/belphegor/696 ; DOI : 10.4000/belphegor.696

[4] Mentioned by Umberto Eco in “Innovation and repetition: between modern and post-modern aesthetics”, Daedalus, New York, August 1985. Translated as « Innovation et répétition : entre esthétique moderne et postmoderne », Réseaux, 12:68, 1994, 22-23.

[5] See Stéphane Benassi, Séries et feuilletons T.V. : pour une typologie des fictions télévisuelles, Liège: CÉFAL, 2001, p. 104 and p. 107-108.

[6] Barbara Villez (Université Paris 8), « Que nous apprennent les séries sur le système judiciaire ? » conférence du 20 février 2015 au Forum des Images (Paris) https://www.forumdesimages.fr/app_beta.php/les-programmes/toutes-les-rencontres/cours-de-cinema-que-nous-apprennent-les-series-sur-le-systeme-judiciaire-par-barbara-villez

Captivating Criminality 7: Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation (CFP )

CFA 7

7th Annual Conference of the International Crime Fiction Association, in association with Bath Spa University

Captivating Criminality 7: Crime Fiction: Memory, History and Revaluation

2-4th July 2020

Newton Park campus, Bath Spa University, Bath UK.

Call for Papers

The Captivating Criminality Network is delighted to announce its seventh conference, which will be held in Bath, UK. Building upon and developing ideas and themes from the previous six successful conferences, Memory, History and Revaluation, will examine the ways in which Crime Fiction as a genre necessarily incorporates elements of the past – the past in general and its own past, both in terms of its own generic developments and also in respect of true crime and historical events. The CfP will thus offer opportunities for delegates to engage in discussions that are relevant to both past and present crime writing.

As Tzvetan Todorov argued in “The Typology of Detective Fiction,” crime fiction in many of its various sub-forms has a special relationship with the past. In classic forms of detective fiction, the central event around which the narrative is organized – the murder – occurs in pre-narrated time, and the actual narrative of the investigation is little more than a form of narrative archaeology, an excavation of a mysterious past event than is only accessible through reconstruction in the present. But this relationship between crime fiction and the past goes beyond narrative structure. The central characters of crime writing – its investigative figures – and frequently represented as haunted by their memories, living out their lives in the shadow of past traumas. More broadly, crime writing is frequently described as exhibiting a nostalgic orientation towards the past, and this longing for the restoration of an imagined prelapsarian Golden Age is part of the reason it has been association with social and political conservatism. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of radical crime fiction that looks to the past not for comfort and stability, but in order to challenge historical myths and collective memories of unity, order, and security. Val McDermid argues that ‘…crime is a good vehicle for looking at society in general because the nature of the crime novel means that you draw on a wide group of social possibilities.’ Thus, crime fiction has been used to challenge, subvert and interrogate the legal and cultural status quo. Crime fiction’s relationship with the past is thus inherently complex, and represents a fascinating, and underexplored, focus for critical work.

Papers presented at Captivating Criminality 7 will thus examine changing notions of criminality, punishment, deviance and policing, drawing on the multiple threads that have fed into the genre since its inception. Speakers are invited to embrace interdisciplinarity, exploring the crossing of forms and themes, and to investigate and challenge claims that Crime Fiction is a fixed genre. Abstracts dealing with crime fiction past and present, true crime narratives, television and film studies, and other forms of new media such as blogs, computer games, websites and podcasts are welcome, as are papers adopting a range of theoretical, sociological and historical approaches.

Topics may include but are not restricted to:

· True Crime

· Gender and the Past

· Crime Fiction in the age of #me too

· Crime Fiction from traumatised nations

· Crime Fiction and Landscape

· Revisionist Crime Fiction

· Crime Fiction and contemporary debates

· Crime Reports and the Press

· Real and Imagined Deviance

· Adaptation and Interpretation

· Crime Fiction and Form

· Generic Crossings

· Crime and Gothic

· The Detective, Then and Now

· The Anti-Hero

· Geographies of Crime

· Real and Symbolic Boundaries

· Ethnicity and Cultural Diversity

· The Ideology of Law and Order: Tradition and Innovation

· Gender and Crime

· Women and Crime: Victims and Perpetrators

· Crime and Queer Theory

· Film Adaptations

· TV series

· Technology

· The Media and Detection

· Sociology of Crime

· The Psychological

· Early Forms of Crime Writing

· Victorian Crime Fiction

· The Golden Age

· Hardboiled Fiction

· Contemporary Crime Fiction

· Postcolonial Crime and Detection

Please send 200 word proposals to Professor Fiona Peters, Dr Ruth Heholt and Dr Eric Sandberg, to captivatingcriminality7@gmail.com by 15th February 2020.

The abstract should include your name, email address, and affiliation, as well as the title of your paper. Please feel free to submit abstracts presenting work in progress as well as completed projects. Postgraduate students are welcome. Papers will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Proposals for suggested panels are also welcome.

Andrea Camilleri, 1925-2019

commissario-montalbano

 

Andrea Camilleri has died today, in Rome, aged 93.  True internationalist and international crime fiction icon, world-famous for his charismatic detective, Sicilian Commissario  Salvo Montalbano,  but also known for his outspoken political consciousness, Camilleri is one of the most influential authors of crime fiction in Europe. Acknowledging inspirations such as Simenon, Sciascia and, of course, Montalbán, and with his own novels widely translated and adapted across the continent and beyond, he has come to represent the quintessential European Author. Here are a few obituaries from different European countries paying  homage to his international legacy,  selected from the great many published this morning all over the world.

https://www.repubblica.it/robinson/2019/07/16/news/andrea_camilleri_morto-231343655/?ref=RHPPTP-BH-I231368817-C12-P1-S1.12-T1

https://elpais.com/cultura/2019/07/17/actualidad/1563347589_267750.html

https://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2019/07/17/l-ecrivain-andrea-camilleri-pere-du-polar-italien-est-mort_5490273_3382.html

https://www.dn.pt/cultura/interior/morreu-o-escritor-italiano-andrea-camilleri-11120233.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/17/andrea-camilleri-obituary-inspector-montalbano

https://www.spiegel.de/kultur/literatur/andrea-camilleri-italienischer-schriftsteller-stirbt-mit-93-jahren-a-1277687.html

https://stirescu.ro/actualitate/a-murit-scriitoruil-italian-andrea-camilleri-9907.html

 

Caribbean Noir (2) – CFP

Confiant Pepin

The  Centre Aixois d’Etudes Romanes (Aix-Marseille University) calls for papers for its 2nd conference on  Caribbean Crime Fiction in Spanish, French and English.  The conference will take place on May 28 & 29, 2020, in  Aix-en-Provence.

All submissions must be received by 30 September 2019.

Learn more, including how to submit your paper here , or contact the organisers :

Nelly Rajaonarivelo : nelly.rajaonarivelo@univ-amu.fr

Dante Barrientos Tecún : dante.barrientos-tecun@univ-amu.fr

To see the full call (and some impressive art), click here