Re: RARA-AVIS: recent reads

From: Kevin Burton Smith (
Date: 18 May 2007

On May 16, 2007, at 12:26 PM, wrote:

> Mayhem in the Marais by Leo Malet
> I really like Malet's Nestor Burma series. This is the fourth or
> fifth
> I've read. They're a lot of fun with their slightly exaggerated PI
> mannerisms. Burma's wisecracking and flirting with his secretary
> are in
> the classic mold, but the books' Frenchness gives them a novelty.
> Somehow, the rampant sexism -- partly due to their being written in
> the
> '50s -- that would come off as nasty and bitter, even judgemental (if
> they enjoy sex, they must be bad), in a US book of the time, comes off
> as good natured and playful from this Frenchman; he lcearly loves all
> women. I must say, though, that, as an American, I found some of the
> British slang in this UK printing jarring, kept pulling me out of the
> French setting -- I probably would not have blinked if US slang had
> been
> used, whereas it would probably jar a Brit's idea of Frenchness.

The translated books you're reading (by Pan?) struck me as being klunky, as well; an unfortunate sort of "pip-pip, jolly good" creeping in to a supposedly Gallic setting.

If you can still find them, some of the graphic novel adaptations by French cartoonist Jacques Tardi were translated into English, and the slang is handled much better, as I recall -- more a direct translation, and less an 'equivalency.'

This is an on-going project of Tardi's; evidently a real labour of love -- and it shows. Anyone interested in crime comics should definitely check these out. The slightly cartooney artwork soon sinks in, and you're just caught up in a finely rendered world rarely seen in detective fiction. In suitably black, white and gray.

In fact, the whole French comics industry is chockfull of great crime stuff -- something I've definitely come to miss since slipping south of the border (the Montreal bookstores were full of them). There are some real classics out there, handsome volumes full of vivid, muscular artwork, both adaptations from literary sources (LE DER DE DERS, for example) and originals (ALACK SINNER).

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site

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