RARA-AVIS: Re: Chandler and Malet

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 18 Jan 2006

> I had written:
>> A masters student in the UK contqacted me a few days ago and said she
>> recalls reading a comment by Chandler suggesting that he appreciated
>> Malet and comparing him to Hammett. Any idea where she might have
>> seen
>> this or is she halucinating?

And Etienne promptly responded (and for that, merci bien):

> I think your last hypothesis is correct.

Actually, when she wrote me, the hallucination crack was hers. She seems to have a good sense of humour about this, and was sharp enough to come to many of the same conclusions both you and I came to -- that such a comment should be easy to track down if it were true.

In fact, she may join us one day -- she seemed intrigued when I described the list.

> As far as I know, Chandler never commented Malet. Further I do not
> think
> that Malet was even translated into English during Chandler's lifetime.
> I'm reasonably well "Malet-educated" and came never across a citation
> about a possible Chandler appraisal. Not in specialist analysis of
> anything related to Malet, nor in his autobiography: LA VACHE ENRAGÉ….
> Should have Chandler said something like what you report, believe me it
> should have been noted in each reprint of Malet's novels and in each
> analyze of his work.
> Worse than that, the way Malet build his mystery fictions with his PI
> Nestor Burma is in a way closer to Chandler's approach than Hammett's.
> Burma can be HB but it is not his only way.
> Of course one could argue that Malet is a French prolongation of a mix
> between Chandler and Hammett, but he added also in his works things
> coming from roots having nothing to do with anglo-saxon HB/noir.
> Neither
> did he pastiche of both Chandler and Hammett.
> On the other hand, "modern" reviewers, lacking mystery fiction culture,

Hoo boy, tell me about it. If I hear one more wide-eyed women's study grad student credit Marcia Muller (or Sara Paretsky or Sue Grafton) with creating the world's first female private eye (or hearing someone call LAS VEGAS one of most stylish private eye TV shows of all time)...

And don't get me started on those on-line "reviewers" whose knowledge of the genre seems to go about as far back as last Tuesday, and who think a reviewer should really only summarize a book's plot and characters and never offer an opinion, because someone's feelings might be hurt and it's all subjective anyway...

> and supported by false pretense issued by publishers (in press releases
> or even on the back-cover of the books), could have at certain moments
> qualify Malet of "heir of Hammett and Chandler..." or "the French
> Hammett..." or of any bulls...t of the same essence. As you know,
> today,
> publishers -everywhere- qualify writers with these two authors names
> that are currently known by the general public (even if they never read
> any of them).
> So this could be the source of confusion for your student (?).

Hmmm... she seems a little too sharp to be waylaid by a blurb. The fact she's trying to track down the source rather than just repeating it (or dismissing it out of hand) is to her credit.

Still, it did give us a good excuse to mention Malet again, one of my favourite non-English language eyes. Imagine Marlowe as a burned-out radical turned P.I. set loose in Paris during and just after WWII.

Any English readers wanting to see what the fuss is about should check out Jacques Tardi's masterful graphic novel adaptations (in English), which may be easier to track down (and more fun to read) than the handful of straight text English translations of the novels Pan released in the late eighties.

Kevin Burton Smith
"I blog, therefore I am..." http://thrillingdetectiveblog.blogspot.com/

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