France's Detective Fiction
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.
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.
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.
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.
25 Cours des Carmes
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
tél/fax : + 33. (0)5 56 63 23 20
Subscription for 6 issues: 30 € (by
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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'.
Les Hameaux du Soleil
06270 Villeneuve Loubet
e-mail : email@example.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