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Série Noire (publishing imprint)

Related: hardboiled crime fiction - crime fiction - detective - roman noir - noir - film noir

La Môme Vert-de-Gris (1945)
de Peter Cheyney
premier titre de la Série Noire
[ ici, couverture cartonnée de la réédition de 1950 ]
info sourced here. [Jul 2005]


For almost 60 years, the Série Noire has constituted a determining factor in the French thriller market, for a number of reasons: its quantitative importance (thousands of titles had been published, 85% of which translations), its low price, the high prestige of editor Gallimard, the serie's unique image with its famous yellow on black covers, but above all the fact that this very Série Noire introduced the model of the roman noir (or hard boiled crime fiction) into the French book market.

It is obvious that before the second World War, the model of the classical mystery story, incarnated by authors such as Doyle, Christie, Queen, after having reached its peak during the twenties and thirties, quickly attained a stage of ever growing codification (e.g. Van Dine's Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories, 1936) and consequent petrification. Clear symptoms were the continuous search for "new" exploitations of the mystery model's devices (e.g. Roger Ackroyd or Orient Express) and the growing number of (auto?)parodies. Reactions could be expected: already in 1927, Dashiell Hammett attacked Van Dine in an article bearing the eloquent title "Poor Scotland Yard"; in 1944, Raymond Chandler gave the fatal blow in "The Simple Art of Murder". Ever since, the classical model is widely considered as "epigonic", notwithstanding endeavours of the until then dominant group to ensure its central position in the genre system (more "human" detectives, greater variation of setting, new types of characters...).

The first black novels were published in the United States, the first "incarnations" of the new model were Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The rupture wasn't radical: the mystery element was conserved for some time, serving as an alibi for hardboiled stories. Later on, the roman noir got rid of the enigma and concentrated on action and suspense. The features of this new model are well known. No more mysterious poisons, puzzling alibis or subtle interrogations. Instead of explaining placidly the mystery in the final scene of the story, the detective now simply kills the criminals. The setting changes too: no more bodies in the library of huge countryhouses in peaceful villages, but slaughter in a dirty night club. Even narrative devices are transformed. Hammett and Chandler adopt a detached writing; privileging external focalization, their narrators limit themselves to the description of gestures without bothering about "internal life". All these changes have been studied frequently, not the least the aspect of focalization.

In the meantime, the repertoire of French detective fiction manifested the same symptoms of petrification. The first American black novels in French translation were presented, without great success, as "romans d'aventures", thus being separated deliberately from the detective tradition. But the postwar vogue of "consuming American", and the acquaintance of the French public with the film noir cleared a way for the centralisation of the Hammett/Chandler model in the non-canonized literary system. New collections were established, among them, in 1945, the Série Noire. During the first years after the war, translations monopolized the genre system: French originals were only published as pseudo-translations. This shows how the American model, though accepted on the condition of being "foreign", still wasn't fully integrated in the French system. The series Minuit, for instance, created in 1941, published only pseudo-translations. In 1947, the Editions du Scorpion published J'irai cracher sur vos tombes ("I will spit on your tombs"), supposedly written by a black American, Vernon Sullivan. Its extreme violence and the "shocking" sexual scenes provoked a scandal, and the book was prohibited. Only years later, the real identity of the author was revealed: "Vernon Sullivan" was the well?known French writer Boris Vian.

Gradually the local production gained quantitative importance (especially towards the sixties); only the Série Noire remained rather resistant to French authors. During the fifties, the series maintained its dominant position. As could be expected, the sixties marked a first crisis of the genre, since the basic model published was still the one of the immediate postwar period. The crisis produced defensive reactions: the roman noir annexed political fiction, fantastic novels, spy stories, even westerns and science fiction. Moreover, several series started to emphasize the "French element", not only in the selection of authors, but also on the thematical level. A similar crisis, caused mainly by saturation of the market, was felt in the beginning of the seventies. Besides a reduced number of publications, this brought about a new model change: roman noir became néo-polar, changed again setting, characters, milieus. Several authors adopted an air of social engagement, and narrative procedures became more complex and experimental. In contradistinction to the sixties crisis, this one clearly marked the introduction of a new model; in contradistinction to the model change of the forties, this time indigeneous production played a much greater role. The Série Noire, which continued to privilege the Hammett/Chandler model and the Anglo-American import, secondarized (i.e. lost its renovating function) together with the model it had introduced some 30 years earlier. Only at the beginning of the eighties, the Série Noire started an attempt to regain the (already declining) French thriller market, paying more attention to the local néo-polar.

So it seems clear that the Série Noire had an important role in the introduction and evolution of the roman noir in France, to such an extent, as a matter of fact, that the term roman de série noire from time to time even replaced the original generic term. This fact, added to the strong editorial policy (incarnated by its director, Marcel Duhamel) that has always characterized the collection, may justify the supposition that the translations published in the series correspond to an elaborate model, beyond the diverse subgenres, authors and translators. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%E9rie_noire [Apr 2005]

Robyns, Clem, 1990: "The Normative Model of Twentieth Century Belles Infidèles. Detective Novels in the Série Noire", Target 2:1, pp. 23-42. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%E9rie_noire [Apr 2005]

Gallimard was founded in 1911 in Paris by Gaston Gallimard as Les Éditions de la NrF. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallimard [Apr 2005]

First 50 titles in the Série Noire series

Le fondateur de la Série Noire en 1945 aux éditions Gallimard, Marcel Duhamel, avertit d'entrée : "Que le lecteur non prévenu se méfie : les volumes de la Série Noire ne peuvent pas sans danger être mis entre toutes les mains. L'amateur d'énigmes à la Sherlock Holmes n'y trouvera pas souvent son compte. L'optimiste systématique non plus. L'immoralité admise en général dans ce genre d'ouvrages, uniquement pour servir de repoussoir à la moralité conventionnelle, y est chez elle tout autant que les beaux sentiments. L'esprit en est rarement conformiste. On y voit des policiers plus corrompus que les malfaiteurs qu'ils poursuivent. Le détective sympathique ne résout pas toujours le mystère. Parfois, il n'y a pas de mystère. Et quelquefois même, pas de détective du tout... Mais alors ?... Alors, il reste de l'action, de l'angoisse, de la violence, de la bagarre et du meurtre. Comme dans les bons films, les états d'âmes se traduisent par des gestes, et les lecteurs friands de littérature introspective devront se livrer à la gymnastique inverse. Il y a aussi de l'amour - sous toutes ses formes - de la passion, de la haine, tous sentiments qui, dans une société policée, ne sont censés avoir cours que tout à fait exceptionnellement, mais qui sont ici monnaie courante et sont parfois exprimés dans une langue fort peu académique mais où domine toujours, rose ou noir, l'humour. En bref, notre but est fort simple : vous empêcher de dormir. A cet effet, nous avons fait appel aux grands spécialistes du roman policier mouvementé : Burnett, James Cain, Hadley Chase, Peter Cheyney, Horace Mc Coy, Dashiell Hammett, Don Tracy, Raoul Whitfield, etc. et tous nous ont donné le meilleur de leurs œuvres pour cette louable entreprise. Il paraît deux titres par mois. A l'amateur de sensations fortes je conseille donc vivement la réconfortante lecture de ces ouvrages. En choisissant au hasard il tombera vraisemblablement sur une nuit blanche." Vous voilà donc prévenus. Prêts à vous confronter aux 50 premiers titres parus dans la collection de polars par excellence ? --http://www.chapitre.com/accueil.asp?page=/la/selections/polar/serienoire.htm&donnee_appel= [Jul 2005]

    1 Peter Cheyney La môme vert-de-gris
    2 Peter Cheyney Cet homme est dangereux
    3 James Hadley Chase Pas d'orchidées pour miss Blandish
    4 Horace Mac Coy Un linceul n'a pas de poches
    5 Donald Fiske Tracy Neiges d'antan
    6 James Hadley Chase Eva
    7 Peter Cheyney Vous pigez ?
    8 Raymond T. Chandler La dame du lac
    9 Peter Cheyney De quoi se marrer
    10 James Hadley Chase La chair de l'orchidée
    11 James Mallahan Cain Dans la peau
    12 Raymond T. Chandler Adieu, ma jolie
    13 Raymond T. Chandler Le grand sommeil
    14 Donald Fiske Tracy Tous des vendus
    15 Peter Cheyney Comment qu'elle est !
    16 Raymond Marshall Miss Shumway jette un sort
    17 W.R Burnett Le petit César
    18 Terry Stewart La mort et l'ange
    19 James Hadley Chase Douze Chinetoques et une souris
    20 Raymond Marshall En trois coups de cuiller à pot
    21 Peter Cheyney A toi de faire, ma mignonne
    22 Peter Cheyney Les femmes s'en balancent
    23 Dashiell Hammett La clé de verre
    24 Raymond Marshall Le requiem des blondes
    25 Robert Finnegan Des monstres à la pelle
    26 Jonathan Latimer Quadrille à la morgue
    27 Robert Finnegan Les spaghettis par la racine
    28 Henry Kane Un fauteuil en enfer
    29 Bill Goode Mic mac maison
    30 Kenneth Millar A feu et à sang
    31 James Hadley Chase Garces de femmes !
    32 Virgil Scott Jusqu'à la gauche
    33 William Stuart Passage à tabac
    34 D.H Clarke Un nommé Louis Beretti
    35 James Hadley Chase Le corbillard de madame
    36 Paul Cain A tombeau ouvert
    37 Stanley Ellin La peur au ventre
    38 Samuel Wooley Taylor Comme un frère
    39 Horace Mac Coy Adieu la vie, adieu l'amour
    40 Jonathan Latimer Les morts s'en foutent
    41 James Hadley Chase Méfiez-vous, fillettes !
    42 Jonathan Latimer La corrida chez le prophète
    43 James Hadley Chase Tu seras tout seul dans ton cercueil
    44 Geoffrey Homes Pendez-moi haut et court
    45 Raymond T. Chandler La grande fenêtre
    46 Raoul Whitfield Vivement mes pantoufles
    47 Harold Q. Masur Les pieds devant
    48 Richard Sale Lazare n°7
    49 Richard Ellington Vide ton sac
    50 James Edward Gunn Tendre femelle
--http://www.chapitre.com/accueil.asp?page=/la/selections/polar/serienoire.htm&donnee_appel= [Jul 2005]

see also: Série Noire - fiction


See also: giallo, published by the Mondadori group, the same type of literature in Italy, named after the yellow book jackets.

Peter Cheyney

La Môme vert-de-gris (1945) - Peter Cheyney, translated by Marcel Duhamel[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
eighties cover

Amazon UK has an English copy for 0.01 pounds.

La Môme vert-de-gris (1953) - Bernard Borderie

This film was after a novel written by Peter Cheyney, entitled Poison Ivy (1937).

It was the first title in Gallimard's Série Noire series, translated by Marcel Duhamel.

The French title was La Môme vert-de-gris and was published in 1945.

The Série Noire can be called the equivalent of the Italian gialli by Mondadori publishing house.

see also: 1945 - crime fiction - film noir

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