European crime fiction in the crosshairs
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France's Detective Fiction Fanzines (1)

Etienne Borgers
Translation:

 

Talking about fanzines

In the world of French publishing there are no longer any magazines published on a regular basis (and commercially) that are entirely devoted to the detective novel and other media influenced by it. If we broaden the search to French-speaking countries we finally come across a Canadian publication in French, the excellent and dynamic magazine Alibis - currently the sole survivor.
In addition there is the magazine of the French association 813, whose special status positions it on the fringes of the commercial magazine, so it does not really belong to the class of magazine referred to above (despite its interesting content, quality production values and contributions from many detective fiction professionals). But it cannot be automatically classified among the kind of publications to be examined here: detective fanzines published regularly. This article is the start of a mini-series devoted to them.

Fanzine is a hybrid American word containing the idea of enthusiast. Add to that a passion for a subject, and often self-sacrifice and purely voluntary work, to arrive at a definition of the character of this kind of publication. And, depending on the expertise and finance available, its lack of ‘technical' professionalism may be evident in particular from the production quality and distribution of its publications. Often there are financial constraints. On the other hand the various editors' knowledge and the research undertaken in the area they are interested in frequently puts them on the same level of competence as the best reporters on the subject in your daily papers and general-interest magazines, while some of these amateurs are clearly superior. And there is always enthusiasm and the desire to share information as a plus.

If we look at the current detective fanzines published regularly, we immediately notice several things that might seem surprising, such as the fact that the French detective fanzine appears to be a provincial phenomenon. Paris and its surroundings do not seem to feature, unlike the provinces where a number of well-informed and widely dispersed enthusiasts flourish. Here we are going to take a look at fanzines from Anjou to the Riviera via the Bordeaux area. Others, from Limoges or other places, could have been included. It is as if the provinces, which are used to having to rub along, given the ubiquitous cultural centralism, have taken up gauntlet in this area as well.
The second thing to note is that it is detective fiction, the polar noir, that is the subject of most reviews; other media reported on (films, cartoon strips, tv) are mostly mentioned when they appear clearly influenced by it. But let us hand over to the enthusiasts and follow them as they talk about their passion.

 

L'Ours polar

Launched in 1998, this highly developed fanzine is produced by the association of the same name, which was started by a native of Bordeaux and aims to promote ‘the detective novel in all its forms'; it also offers training workshops in detective fiction for librarians and the book world in general, as well as cultural events for schools.

L'Ours polar, a bi-monthly publication edited by Christophe Dupuis, measures 17.5 x 21.5 cm, with colour cover and a minimum of 52 full pages (regularly more than 60 in recent editions). With a print-run of 500 it is up to its 42 nd issue (June '07).
Its eclectic contents list is mainly devoted to the noir detective novel and other media influenced by it, from cartoon strip to cinema via tv series and music. A large proportion of the content is a presentation with commentary of recently published detective novels. Alongside the aforementioned (detective) cartoon strip section there is a section devoted entirely to mangas and manhwas published in French which have some close or distant connection with detective fiction. Both are signed by Frédéric Prilleux. The cinema column offers Ludovic Lamarque's excellent and detailed reviews of films and dvd releases; though it is selective, the section hits the spot and provides the right information.
An interview/profile section written by Christophe Dupuis features very good interviews with French and foreign authors, often those who are less well known to the general public but of proven quality; this is in addition to unmissable writers such as David Pearce, with whom Dupuis gives us an excellent interview in no. 37/38.
There is even an interesting section devoted to children's literature L'Ours polar which presents detective fiction and cartoon strips with detective themes aimed at young people, a fairly rare phenomenon in magazines of any kind devoted to detective fiction. It should also be noted that each issue of ‘L'Ours polar' contains several short stories submitted by beginners and less experienced authors, thus providing a publishing arena for a type of writing that is increasingly endangered in the French-speaking world. And finally, to conclude, there is a regular column of articles on the music to be found in snatches in detective novels.
Add to all this an airy pleasant layout making use of a number of black and white photos and we have a very successful fanzine and a very good reflection of the detective novel's current situation in France.
The Ours polar Association maintains a website where there is also information about its fanzine as well as a list of the contents of the issues published.

L'Ours polar
25 Cours des Carmes
33210 Langon
France
e-mail : contact@ours-polar.com
tél/fax : + 33. (0)5 56 63 23 20

Subscription for 6 issues: 30 € (by cheque)
Association membership: 45 €
Cover price: 6 euro – on sale in some bookshops
site web : http://www.ours-polar.com/index.htm

 

La Tête en Noir

Straight from the Anjou region, this fanzine started by Jean-Paul Guéry is a heart-warming initiative that was born in 1984 with the aim of getting detective fiction better known among readers unfamiliar with it. From the start La Tête en Noir was distributed free and it still is. With 6 issues a year the fanzine reached no. 125 in mid 2007.
In A5 format and professionally photocopied in black and white, each issue has between 8 and 16 pages and a print-run of 1000.
Regular contributors come from the French detective fiction world, names such as Michel Amelin, Claude Mesplède, Alfred Eibel or Christophe Dupuis. Jean-Paul Guéry fills the role of publisher (and is one of the reporters). Illustrations are drawn by Gérard Berthelot.
We should also mention the Angers bookshop Contact, which supports the initiative.

The fanzine is mainly focused on recent appearances and the novels discussed by the various reporters mostly offer a wider range than the detective novel, from ‘Claude Mesplède's Selection' to ‘Michel Amelin's Column' via short presentations by J-P Guéry in his ‘In Brief' section.
As for Christophe Dupuis, he often uses recent publications to present a writer of detective fiction in more detail, discussing a selection of his work in the same article (for instance his enthusiastic recommendations for James Sallis's novels, an author he deems of exceptional quality and insufficiently known to readers – which we completely agree on).
‘Gérard Bourgerie's Finds' covers all and sundry, the thriller being one of his favourite subjects. Jean-Marc Laherrère joined the contributors in late 2005 and regularly presents his assessment of various detective novels (and he contributes to Europolar too, coordinating some of the translations).
La Tête en Noir regularly carries announcements about most events in France associated with detective fiction and presents a short press round-up which keeps readers up to date on what is going on in other fanzines and publications devoted to the detective novel.
To conclude, this is an informative fanzine which allows readers to find out what is happening in the world of detective fiction published in France , staying true to its basic purpose, which is to get the genre known by the maximum number of people.

La Tête en Noir
3, rue Lenepveu
49100 Angers
France

Subscription 6 issues a year: 6 euro for postage
(by cheque made out to J-P Guéry)
Cover price: free
(available from the Bibiliothèque Municipale and
Contact bookshop, Angers, as well as BiLiPo, Paris)

 

Carnet de La Noir'Rôde

This fanzine comes from the Riviera, from Villeneuve-Loubet, a town between Antibes and Nice. The ‘Carnet' is published 4 times a year and the latest issue, no. 31, is dated summer 2007.
Its appearance is simple but effective, 21 x 14.8 cm (A5) in black and white, with a layout that uses small-size photos to illustrate the subjects covered and makes the whole thing very easy to read.
The fanzine's 20 or 24 pages naturally give quite a large amount of space to descriptions of (mainly recent) novels with commentary by several reporters and at least one interview with a writer signed by Corinne Naidet (who is also an occasional contributor to Europolar). The fanzine's various contributors are most frequently concealed behind extremely varied pen-names.
The detective fiction examined in ‘Carnet de La Noir'Rôde' is decidedly inclined to the noir , as are the 10 or so books reviewed in each issue. The interviews often provide an interesting approach to the authors, their intentions and their methods, like the excellent face-to-face discussions with Charlie Williams (no. 31) and Donald Westlake (no. 28).
Jacques Lerognon is a bit the venture's one-man-band, being chief editor, reporter and webmaster of the website for La Noir'Rôde, an association promoting the detective novel which has several strings to its bow. One of them is a regular programme on the regional FM radio station ‘Agora FM' (94 MHz, Grasse-Cannes-Nice) every first and third Wednesday in the month at 18.10 The programme is called ‘Ondes Noires' (black waves), which really identifies its colour.
A feature of the website is that it picks up the content of the programmes, stores it and makes it available in MP3 format to download (podcast) or to listen to direct on demand (streamed). And so this excellent initiative makes it possible to hear interviews, reviews and analysis of novels, even if you do not live near the Riviera . The whole thing is guaranteed ‘100% Matière Noire'.

La Noir'Rôde
Le Boticelli
Les Hameaux du Soleil
06270 Villeneuve Loubet
France
e-mail : noirode@lanoirode.com
tél : +33- (0)4 93 22 88 83
site Web : http://www.lanoirode.com

Association membership and subscription for 4 issues of the Carnets: 10 euro (by cheque)
Cover price: 1.50 €

Ondes Noires, FM broadcasts on 'Agora FM' – 94 MHz (voir texte)
Radio MP3 files: http://www.lanoirode.info/agora/ondes2007.html


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