Event News: Crime Fiction At This Year’s Jewish Book Week

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CRIME FICTION AT THIS YEAR’S JEWISH BOOK WEEK

20-28 FEBRUARY 2016

 

● Mishka Ben-David ● Professor Saul David ● Jenni Frazer ● Jonathan Freedland ● Mark Lawson ● Adam LeBor ● Harri Nykänen ● Kristina Ohlsson ● Matt Rees ●

 

 Jewish Book Week (JBW) will be welcoming a number of critically acclaimed crime writers to its festival in London next month as part of its ten-day events programme.

Authors speaking include ex-Mossad officer Mishka Ben-David; two of Northern Europe’s most celebrated crime fiction writers – ex-OSCE Counter Terrorism Officer Kristina Ohlsson and former crime journalist Harri Nykänen, creator of Jewish-Finnish detective Ariel Kafka – with talks including everything from historical thrillers, to the real-life story of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris and the mission to save the hostages.

Authors participating in the 2016 programme include:

·         Sunday 21 February, 17:00-18:00.  Location: Kings Place

Award winning crime writer Matt Rees teamed up with the late Yehuda Avner, adviser to Israeli Prime Ministers, to write The Ambassadors, an historical thriller set in Nazi Germany.  What if Israel had been founded before the Holocaust?  Might its existence have changed the course of European history?   This event will be chaired by journalist Jenni Frazer.

·         Wednesday 24 February, 19:00-20.00.  Location: Kings Place

Bestselling author and award-winning journalist Jonathan Freedland will discuss The 3rd Woman, the first thriller to be published under his own name, in conversation with author and broadcaster Mark Lawson.  His book is a high-concept thriller set in a world in which the USA bows to the People’s Republic of China, corruption is rife and the government dictates what the ‘truth’ is.   Jonathan Freedland will explore the genesis of his novel about an individual’s quest for justice.

·         Friday 26 February, 13:00-14:00.  Location: JW3 (in association with Halban Publishers)

‘Spies: Fact and Fiction’Mishka Ben-David served in Mossad as a high-ranking officer. Now a full-time novelist, he writes tense thrillers about Mossad agents worldwide. Forbidden Love in St Petersburg is his second translated novel and he talks about his time in Mossad and how it informs his writing, in conversation with international bestselling author, Adam LeBor, whose novel The Reykjavik Assignment, features rogue ex-Mossad agent Yael Azoulay.

·         Sunday 28 February, 15:30-16:30.  Location: Kings Place

‘Nordic Noir’ – Two of Northern Europe’s most celebrated crime fiction writers, Finland’s Harri Nykänen, creator of Jewish detective Ariel Kafka, andKristina Ohlsson, one of Sweden’s foremost crime writers, introduce their latest page-turners to UK audiences with fellow crime writer Adam LeBor.

 Non-fiction events in the programme include ‘Operation Thunderbolt’ with historian and broadcaster Professor Saul David talking about his fast-paced account of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, and the daring, secret mission orchestrated by the Israeli government to save the hostages, which will take place at JW3 on 25 February.

 In addition to events focusing on crime fiction, JBW, London’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas, will feature topical debates, interviews, performance, debut writers, writers-in-translation and fringe events, designed to appeal to all ages, faiths and ethnicities,covering, amongst other areas: art and photography; biography & memoir; religion & society; science & technology; private passions; and war & conflict.

 Please see www.jewishbookweek.com to view the full festival programme and pricing information.

 Venue information:

Events will be held at Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9AG; and at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London NW3 6ET

Box office information:

Tickets can be purchased online by telephone or in person through:

·         The Jewish Book Week website at www.jewishbookweek.com

·         Kings Place Box Office, tel: 020 7520 1490, www.kingsplace.co.uk/jbw

·         JW3 Box Office, tel: 020 7433 8988, www.JW3.org.uk

Totally Serialized – Interview with Caroline Proust

caroline-proust

Caroline Proust, star of Spiral, visited Institut Francais and revealed behind-the-scenes secrets of France’s most successful police series to more than 200 fans.

Frequently compared to The Wire, Spiral’s hard-edged view of French policing introduced British audiences to Gallic Noir. Now in its fifth season, a sixth will be produced later this year, this gritty drama tackles issues facing contemporary France through the eyes of its justice system.

The latest series has been the most successful to date in the UK. Critics have responded with levels of fervour not seen since The Bridge and ratings have topped the million mark.

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Making her début at a British event, a visibly delighted Proust admitted to being surprised at Spiral’s popularity in Britain.

‘We just knew that there’s been a million viewers for this season,’ she says. ‘Gregory (Fitoussi – Pierre Clément) told me. He worked here on Mr Selfridge and he told me that it was a big success here.’

Fresh from delivering a masterclass on how the show is made and her approach to playing Laure. Proust posed for photographs and signed autographs for over 200 fans.

She recently joined Facebook and has connected with over 3,000 enthusiasts.

‘I opened a Facebook account because I wanted to know what was happening in other countries,’ she explains. ‘This is very interesting for me to hear from Italian, Greek, American, and English fans. There are many English fans.’

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A classically trained actor, Proust was primarily known for her work on the stage when she joined the series. In between seasons she returns to the theatre. Would she be interested in appearing in the West End?

‘I would really like to do that. Maybe I can come with a French play. I came years ago with the play Game of Love and Chance.’

Spiral’s popularity is on the rise. Might now be the time to capitalise on its success and make a feature film?

‘We were wondering. The producer asked us if we want to do a cinema movie. First time we said yes, yes we want to do that and we said I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’ she says. ‘The thing which is very interesting is that you can show how complex human beings are. In the movie you only have one and a half hours.’

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Institut Francais have posted a podcast containing extracts from Caroline Proust and Anne Landois’ panels:

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515

http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Spiral – Series 5 can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spiral-5-DVD-Gr%C3%A9gory-Fitoussi/dp/B00SBA4LRY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424559750&sr=8-1&keywords=spiral+series+5

Event Review: Totally Serialized – Decrypting Spiral

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Shining a light onto the finest TV currently being produced on both sides of the English Channel, Totally Serialized returned to Institute Francais for a fourth season of discussions and exclusive premières.

Launching three days of festivities, Spiral’s showrunner Anne Landois spoke to James Rampton from The Independent about her career, how the series is made, and its popularity in France and the UK.

Now in its tenth year of production, Spiral is seen in 75 countries. Created by Alexandra Clert and Guy-Patrick Sainderichin for French cable network Canal+, it’s the station’s longest running drama series. Transforming the network’s fortunes, it re-positioned the station into a French equivalent of HBO. Seen in 75 countries, Spiral is the most widely sold series in the history of French television.

Canal+  is committed to ensuring the programme has a long-term future. A sixth season has been commissioned and is due to go into production later this year.

Writing professionally since 1996, Anne Landois joined Spiral’s scripting team for the third season. The series currently airing on BBC Four is her first as head writer.

With a track record for writing series and TV movies grounded in realism alongside a long-term interest in policing and judicial process, Landois was a perfect choice to become the new creative force behind Spiral.

As showrunner Landois oversees the series’ artistic vision. In conjunction with a co-writer she crafts a detailed document that encapsulates the season’s main story, subplots, and character developments. This blueprint is then distributed to writers of individual episodes.

The production team uses a core group of advisers comprising police officers, lawyers, and judges throughout the scripting to guarantee the series is rooted in reality. Anne acknowledged the importance of consultants and emphasised the need to have good writers on board to create gripping drama.

Asked how writing has changed this season Landois replied that over the last decade viewers had become close to the main characters and now was the time to concentrate on their personal stories.

She compared the officers interrelationship to a blended family with Laure Berthaud as a surrogate matriarch of the household.

French television drama is currently experiencing a creative renaissance. In addition to Spiral, Braquo, Hard, JO, Maison Close, and The Returned have enjoyed success and acclaim outside of France. Anne said that French drama had been asleep but is now wide awake. The industry has studied shows coming out of English speaking territories, learning techniques in production and applying the lessons to home-grown series.

Explaining how a series is scripted and produced, Landois provided an accessible account of a showrunner’s working methods and differences between French and British television cultures. Fans of Spiral left Institute Francais with an enhanced appreciation of the writer’s craft and an increased understanding of the many production decisions that are made to bring their favourite French crime show to the screen.

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

ENGRENAGES Saison 5 PHOTO PRESSE

Event Review: William Boyd & Marc Dugain – The Great War, Memory & Fiction

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Commemorating the centenary of the First World War Institute Francais invited a pair of acclaimed writers to talk about the conflict and it’s enduring literary legacy.

Inspired by his great grandfather’s experiences during World War One Marc Dugain wrote The Officer’s Ward in fifteen days. An instant critical and commercial success, it won several literary awards including the Prix des Deux Magots.

Wounded early on in the conflict, Dugain’s grandfather suffered extensive facial injuries and spent the remainder of the war convalescing in a hospital. He had to undergo nineteen surgical procedures in an attempt to repair his face. For the rest of his life he had trouble speaking, was only able to eat liquidised food and developed an ability to pull his tongue through the reconstructed nose.

Dugain’s moving account of a soldier spending several years in the Val-de-Grâce hospital rebuilding his life whilst beyond the institution’s walls millions were losing their lives in a bloody conflict waged across the continent is now studied in French schools.

A feature film adaptation was released in 2001. Nominated for nine César awards, it was submitted as the official entry at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dugain acknowledged that the First World War has greater resonance in contemporary French culture than the second due to the nation not yet having come to terms with atrocities committed and allegations that some citizens may have collaborated with invading Nazi forces.

Offering an alternative to conventional historical narratives, Dugain expressed his belief that events between 1914 and 1945 was a single war with a lengthy interlude. He suggested a complex series of events including the Treaty of Versailles made a resumption of hostilities inevitable.

Discussing the writing process Dugain stated that it’s his duty to create a fiction firmly grounded in reality.

A future project will be a script about the role played by Chinese Labour Corps in the conflict. With China not officially involved in hostilities until the decoration of war against Germany in 1917 battalions were restricted to non combatant duties. Under-represented in film and literature, the experiences of those who dug trenches and carried bodies is a story, he feels, has to be told.

Members of fellow panellist William Boyd’s family were also injured in the line of duty. His grandfather was wounded in the back at the Battle of Somme and kept the shrapnel as a souvenir. A great uncle was wounded at Paschendale.

One of Britain’s most successful novelists. Boyd’s work has been translated into more than thirty languages. In a career lasting more than three decades he has written the screenplay for Chaplin, authored a biography of fictitious artist Nat Tate and enlisted the aid of David Bowie in a playful hoax that fooled New York’s art critic community.

Boyd made his debut as director in 1999 with the feature film The Trench. Starring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, the movie focused on a platoon in the hours leading up to the Battle of the Somme.

Currently living in France, Boyd spoke with passion about how the conflict has influenced his writing, differences between French and British commemorations, and the creation of historical myths.

Boyd suggested that in trying to understand events of one hundred years ago we may be distorting key political moments by trying to see them through a twenty-first century perspective. The creation of a historical narrative may have prioritised specific steps in the road to war and devalued instances which were regarded as significant at the time.

In common with many school children, Boyd was taught the War Poets at school. The horrors described in Sassoon’s verse were too much for a fellow pupil who fled from the classroom.

Boyd noted a tendency in war literature to make combat noble and heroic. He expressed a belief that writers and filmmakers have a duty to demythologise the conflict and show the true extent of horror experienced by those fighting in the front line.

When writing about the past he strives to strip away false glamour and heroism. His historical novels are written to challenge false assumptions about the eras and give the readers a greater understanding of the events without exaggeration or sensationalism.

An enlightening and engaging debate offering an insight into the workings of two highly successful novelists, how family experiences in the First World War continues to influence their work and the role they are playing in making sure the fallen will never be forgotten.

For information about future events being staged by Institut Français please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Event Review: Noir is the Colour – Crafting Crime Fiction

Fielding a team of crime writing talent comprised of players from either side of the channel the third event of Institut FrancaisNoir is the Colour festival put together a package of talent proving that Europe is an unbeatable world champion in the Noir stakes. Alongside Barry Forshaw’s recently published Euro Noir, this celebration of the potent contemporary scene offers up a melange of the familiar and unknown. Authors new to UK readers sit alongside more established names discussing common ground and differences in stylistic approaches, influences, and working methods. For those who prefer the allure of the printed page to a soccer tournament the opportunity to sit in an enchanting reading room and see four of Europe’s most vital current writers talk about their craft and careers before that all important first publication was a fruitful experience. Akin to a camp fire conversation, an informal and inviting commemoration that embraced newcomers and rewarded long term enthusiasts.

Current co-director of Books by the Beach festival and former crime critic for The Observer, Peter Guttridge is the author of the well received Brighton mystery series and a remarkable account of The Great Train Robbery. His latest novel Those Who Feel Nothing has been published by Severn House, a review will be posted on this blog at a later date. A visible passion for the genre, familiarity with the European scene paired with an informal style of questioning that set the tone for an evening in which the panellists were made to feel completely relaxed and the audience were stimulated proved Institut Francais had picked the right person to referee the opening match between the World Cup and literature.

Playing for team Europe were Nicci French and Bernard Minier, unlocking the secrets of writing and confirming that within a crime book are moments every bit as dramatic as the action on a Brazilian soccer pitch.

Published in 2011 Bernard Minier’s print début The Frozen Dead was met with a warm reception, this tale of murder in a snowbound valley became an instant best-seller. The UK edition was issued in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. Growing up at the foot of the Pyrenees Minier knew that the landscape was an incredible environment which would make the perfect backdrop for a Noir crime novel.

A lifelong love of literature was formed during primary school after hearing a teacher read Robinson Crusoe to the class. Entranced by the written word’s power he spontaneously decided that his life would be dedicated to crafting narratives. Cutting his literary teeth writing short fiction, he submitted stories to contests. This confidence building exercise replayed over many years sharpened his talent to the point that after completing a six hundred page draft of his première novel he was able to submit it to publishing houses with accompanying evidence of a clear vision for exciting future literary projects.

Describing himself as a “young, old writer” he worked as a civil servant whilst composing his first book. The product of two and a half years creating the cinematic vistas so elegantly described in The Frozen Dead was a lonely experience. With nobody to bounce ideas off he toiled away in relative isolation and wouldn’t allow anybody to see the product of his work before a publisher had given its verdict.

The sequel novel is currently being translated into English, a third has been released in France and a TV series is in the early stages of pre-production.

 

Former journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French write together under the pseudonym Nicci French. Masters of the genre, this husband and wife team, best known for a series of novels featuring psychotherapist Frieda Klein, have authored eighteen books. Thursday’s Child their most recent publication sees the analyst turned investigator confronting some painful demons as she returns to her home town.

Revealing a few tricks of the trade, Sean French admitted that sometimes the ideas which light the blue touch paper of the creative process are comparatively simple. The work begins when along with his writing partner he evaluates this creative seed to ascertain if it has potential to grow into something which will excite them over the many months of sculpting a narrative they hope will enthral their readers. Armed with that initial plot point they discuss why it needs to be written and once both are animated the hard work of translating it into compelling prose begins.

As Nicci Gerrard explained, the evaluation process doesn’t stop with the writing of a first draft, sometimes only after they have a finished manuscript in their hands is it possible to appraise the core concept’s worth. She once scrapped an entire novel after falling out of love with it but instantly got back in the saddle after becoming excited by a new story concept.

Currently working on the fifth Frieda Klein book, Nicci offered an insight into an author’s mind when she revealed that for most writers reaching the end of a book is a terrifying experience because of the fear that never again will be they be able to recreate the alchemy of transforming an idea into a dramatic book that readers are unable to put down. With acute perception Sean French noted that Stephen King’s two most terrifying novels concern writers; Misery and The Shining.

As London settled down to watch the première match of the soccer tournament Institut Francais provided an arena for some of the most distinct writers in Europe’s contemporary crime fiction scene to reveal details about their working methods, personal backgrounds, and approaches to genre. A relaxed and informative evening that gave those who were fortunate to attend an increased awareness of the precise disciplines required to create a book length manuscript.

The latest titles from all the authors appearing at Noir is the Colour can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Those-Who-Feel-Nothing-Brighton-based/dp/0727883607/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403567624&sr=8-1&keywords=Those+Who+Feel+Nothing

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Frozen-Dead-Bernard-Minier/dp/1444732269/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403567685&sr=8-1&keywords=the+frozen+dead

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thursdays-Children-Frieda-Klein-Novel/dp/0718156994/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403545727&sr=8-1&keywords=Nicci+French

For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:

Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

 

Event Review: Noir is the Colour – Simenon and Monsieur Hire

Building on the success of an enlightening and rewarding launch event, Institut Francais‘s second programme of its Noir is the Colour festival was a screening of Patrice Leconte’s adaptation of Monsieur Hire’s Engagement followed by a free and frank discussion of the film and Simenon’s legacy chaired by biographers Pierre Assouline and Patrick Marnham.

One of the 20th century’s most prolific and widely read authors, French-speaking Belgian novelist George Simenon’s prodigious output consists of 193 novels under his own name, numerous short stories, and an estimated 200 books written under a variety of pseudonyms. Effortlessly crossing the divide between literary and mass-market genre fiction, he is best known by English speaking readers for the seventy five Maigret novels which are now being reissued by Penguin on a monthly basis in newly translated editions.

Writing professionally since fifteen, his talent for producing page upon page of concise prose at a rate that astounded his peers and would entertain millions of people across the globe was honed in the competitive worlds of a newspaper’s crime desk and the pulp fiction industry. Two years after arriving in Paris he embarked on a literary apprenticeship producing erotica, romances, crime and adventure novellas under a variety of pen names including Germain d’Antibes, Christian Brulls, Jacques Dersonne, Jean Dorsage, Luc Dorsan, Georges Gom Gut, Georges d’Isly, Georges-Marin, Jean du Perry, Plick et Plock, Georges Sim, Gaston Vialis, and Poum et Zette.

A master of publicity and subterfuge, in 1927 he signed a contract with entrepreneur Eugene Merle to write a novel whilst locked inside in a glass cage. An opportunity to publicly demonstrate his gift, giving fans a literal window into the creative process along with a chance to influence the book’s outcome. Conceived as a launch event for a newspaper, the terms of Simenon’s arrangement with Merle specified that he was to provide the publication with an exclusive book which would be serialized over several weeks. Members of the public were to vote on the book’s theme and its title. Paid a princely sum of 50,000 francs upon signing the contract with the promise of a further 50,000 once the completed manuscript was delivered, the attendant media interest boosted Simenon’s profile. Over the next few decades this incident became a core part of the mythology which had grown up around the author.

In the 1990s after reading about accounts of an author so confident in his industrious output that he turned the writing process into a public spectacle science fiction writer Harlan Ellison decided to repeat the experiment. X-Files creator and showrunner Chris Carter was enlisted to supply Ellison with a sealed envelope containing the story’s theme. As each page was completed it would be plucked from Ellison’s typewriter and placed in the store window for passers by to read. At the day’s end Ellison could bask in the glory of having a completed draft in his hands and feel satisfied at following in his literary hero’s footsteps. Some time afterwards he learnt that Simenon never got to write a story in that glass cage. Eugene Merle’s newspaper Paris-Matinal went into liquidation before the publicity stunt took place although under the terms of the contract Simenon kept the advance payment of 50,000 francs. The confusion about this incident’s occurrence (or lack of) grew, in part, because the author sensed a good publicity opportunity and when confronted with people who claimed to have witnessed him toiling away in that cage never corrected them.

A gigantic figure in the pantheon of 20th century European popular culture. Penguin’s exhaustive work in ensuring that only the finest translators bring his prose to a new generation of readers in the year in which long time fans will mourn the 25th anniversary of his passing brings the spotlight firmly back onto his unrivalled literary legacy. Compared by Paul Theroux to Albert Camus. Simenon’s admirers included Ian Fleming, Dashell Hammett, Somerset Maugham, and Henry Miller.

With a fresh edition appearing on the shelves of the nation’s booksellers each month new found converts to his intensely atmospheric paintings with words may become ever more curious about the man who gave life to Maigret. An enigma every bit as perplexing as those investigated by the pipe smoking detective, Georges Simenon’s life is shrouded by a sea of misdirection, inaccuracies, and falsehoods, some of his own creation. More than twenty volumes of memoirs contain either vague or contradictory information leaving the task of peeling away layers of a densely constructed public persona to diligent biographers.

Commercially successful and critically acclaimed, the Maigret novels raised the question of whether genre fiction could be treated as serious literature. Harbouring a yearning for “respectability” he wrote stand alone psychological novels alongside the steady stream of populist detective fiction. Melancholic and filled with the trademark Simenon immersive descriptions, these texts which he referred to as romans durs (hard novels) were existential angst ridden depictions of men confronted, and often corrupted, by greed and lust. Physical, spiritual, and emotional torment were constant companions of the doomed protagonists in these fatalistic fables.

Two years after Jules Maigret lit his first pipe his literary parent wrote Monsieur Hire’s Engagement , a gritty account of obsession and murder. Adapted for the big screen in 1947 by Julien Duvivier and released as Panique the film’s depiction of an angry mob hounding a man to his death struck a chord with a country coming to terms with all that had occurred during wartime occupation. In 1989 Simenon’s novella returned to the cinema courtesy of a claustrophobic re-imagining by Patrice Leconte.

Best known to UK audiences for The Girl on the Bridge and Man on the Train, Patrice Laconte had been making films for two decades by the time Monsieur Hire was released. Displaying a chameleon like ability to work within a variety of genres his craft demonstrated an understanding of the form along with a precise individual signature. Sympathetic to the material being filmed but never fawning, his style is based on an inherent ability to know when a sequence requires cynicism or compassion, sometimes setting these two oppositional approaches upon each other within a single scene.

Georges Simenon’s tale of obsession and isolation is in Laconte’s hands filtered through the prism of Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang with a tip of the hat to German Expressionism. A concise novella translates into an equally precise motion picture that with a running time of seventy seven minutes never outstays its welcome and yet still manages to make viewers feel as though they have experienced a myriad of emotions.

The body of a murdered young girl is found and the Inspector (André Wilms) assigned to the case is convinced he has found the guilty party after hearing reports of a man fleeing from the scene, seeking refuge in an apartment block. Statements from neighbours lead the investigating officer to Monsieur Hire (Michel Blanc).

A loner, uncomfortable in his own skin and deeply unpopular with his neighbours Hire spends each night gazing at Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire) who lives just across the courtyard. One evening she catches a glimpse of her stalker and soon the balance of power is shifted… Exploiting his affections, she makes him feel impotent and it is not long before Hire is completely under her spell.

Simenon’s tale of fatalistic flaws, compulsion, repulsion, and misanthropic star-crossed pessimists is merged with Laconte’s exploration of scopophilia, paranoia, and erotomania. Highly intelligent filmmaking that plays games with the audience’s passivity, making the viewer experience the sensation of being complicit in the dark deeds whilst sharing in the pain of the inevitable downward spiral that Alice and Hire are dragged into.

Newcomers to Simenon’s legacy may have initially been unsure about the film’s place within his significant body of work. With the audience concentrating on reading subtitles a live DVD commentary explaining key plot points and recurrent themes would not have been a viable option but Noir is the Colour had the perfect solution… As the lights rose two leading Simenologists took to the stage fielding questions from neophytes and purists. Simenon’s career and life away from the printed page was dissected with the precision of a master pathologist. Shining a light into every aspect of the public and private persona, the lack of consensus about the man is something biographers have wrestled with for decades.

An afternoon that for those who were lucky to attend was a curtain raiser to many months enjoying Penguins reissues and for some the beginning of a quest to discover who was the real Simenon.

Pierre Assouline and Patrick Marnham’s Simenon biographies are currently out of print but second hand copies can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Man-Who-Wasnt-Maigret/dp/0747508844/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436373&sr=8-1&keywords=Patrick+Marnham+simenon

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simenon-A-Biography-Pierre-Assouline/dp/0701137274/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436336&sr=8-1&keywords=Pierre+Assouline+simenon

Monsieur Hire can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monsieur-Hire-DVD-Michel-Blanc/dp/B000ETR71C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402436445&sr=8-1&keywords=monsieur+hire

For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:

Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Event Review: Noir is the Colour – The Anglo-French Connection

The publication of Barry Forshaw’s sterling critical overview Euro Noir represents a significant acknowledgement that something remarkable is happening to crime fiction. Across mainland Europe murder is firmly on the agenda. In print, on TV, DVD, and in the cinemas the genre is undergoing a creative renaissance.

For decades commissioning editors remained resolute in their conviction that translated fiction was an unprofitable niche market with no possibility of crossing over into the mainstream. This long standing reluctance to issue significant amounts of English language versions of European texts was perplexing when confronted with data which reveals the phenomenal sales figures for George Simenon’s work.

Emboldened by the unexpected success of Scandinavian fiction publishers are now casting their nets wider, looking across the continent for new authors to introduce to the British market and finding a genre in rude health. Similarly, TV stations chasing the next breakout cult hit have looked at what Europe has to offer and been rewarded with a bounty of shows offering bold storytelling, dynamic characters, exciting locations, and layers of rich social commentary. Fans of European series have embraced Braquo, Inspector De Luca, and Spiral with the same passion already given to The Killing, The Bridge, and Wallander. BBC4’s foreign language slot is a permanent fixture in the broadcast landscape and it has been joined in the pursuit of excellent TV from the continent by Sky Arts, More 4, and FOX UK.

An exciting time for fans of Noir, the movement is continually being refreshed with intriguing variations; Nordic, Latin, Neo, Gallic, and Tartan. Recognizing the cultural significance of a renewed interest in European crime fiction Institut Francais has launched Noir is the Colour. a month long series of events celebrating France’s contribution to the genre.

An oasis of French culture based in the heart of central London, Institut Francais‘ raison d’etre is the promotion of Gallic cultural practices and the facilitation of a dialogue between our nations based on shared values. Initially founded in the early twentieth century to teach the French language it now exists as a space offering appreciation of and engagement with the arts and current affairs. Routinely presenting a cornucopia of varied and dynamic talks, seminars, screenings, and demonstrations the institution’s ever changing schedule never ceases to be anything less than intriguing and is frequently supremely enlightening.

The staging of Noir is the Colour is first and foremost an opportunity for fans of the genre to embrace their enthusiasm, meet fellow aficionados, quiz their favourite authors about a particular scene or plot point, and possibly forge new friendships. Not explicitly stated, in addition to celebrating the contemporary scene the festival must surely have been set up in part because of France’s unique relationship with the genre. It’s not every country that can lay claim to having its cultural DNA woven into a stylistic category. Possessing a harder, slightly more cynical edge to its Scandinavian counterpart, French crime fiction has never fallen out of vogue. Continually cool and dancing to its own unique beat, the Gallic approach to the genre is currently gaining new fans thanks to FOX UK’s screening of Braquo‘s third season. How did this nation become midwife to a genre that nearly two hundred years later continues to entertain people all over the world?

A combination of real life events and canny publishers catering to shifting public tastes placed France at the vanguard of an emerging literary movement and ensured its influence has remained constant. Long before Arsène Lupin battled Sherlock Holmes in the marketplace for the title of Europe’s most popular fictional sleuth an American born author with a taste for the macabre was midwife to an entirely new genre and made sure that no matter what iterations may materialize in the coming centuries it’s heart would always beat with Gallic blood coursing through its veins. Edgar Allan Poe’s Paris based Murders in the Rue Morgue invented the modern detective story and established France as the spiritual home of crime fiction. A grotesque story that played on then prevalent fears of urbanization, it was published as science was establishing its credentials and challenging religion’s supremacy. In C. Auguste Dupin Poe created a template for fictional sleuths that is still in use, scintillating and unconventional, prone to philosophizing and psychologizing but ultimately reliant on deductive reasoning.

Away from the printed page, the founding of the Gendarmerie and Sûreté represented trailblazing initiatives in approaches to policing necessitated by the new breeds of criminality that had begun to emerge as society moved away from a predominantly rural infrastructure and migrated towards the newly expanding cities. Transformations in law enforcement coupled with a rise in literacy led to an increase in interest about the men keeping the streets safe. Poe’s use of a city he had never visited as a backdrop for a trilogy of stories featuring Dupin was due to his having read press reports about the effectiveness of this new form of civic protection.

Despite some inaccuracies, including sassafras grass growing on the Seine’s banks, Murders in the Rue Morgue was a best-seller in America, France, and the UK. The near simultaneous transformation of the printed press into widely distributed mass media meant for the first time citizens had access to affordable newspapers and serial magazines. Frequently sensational, this new form of literature required a constant stream of salacious content to satisfy its readership and editors soon found that one way to please its audience and drive opponents out of business was with the inclusion of real-life and fictional tales of criminality and judicial process. An early beneficiary of France’s new found enthusiasm for accounts of wrongdoers being brought to justice was Eugène François Vidocq. After being made head of the Sûreté several volumes of ghost written memoirs were published, inspiring characters in Balzac’s novels Le Père Goriot and Le Député d’Arcis . Victor Hugo drew heavily from the public image of Vidocq, the former villain who became France’s most notorious police officer, whilst writing Les Miserables. Two archetypes, one fictional and the other based on a real-life public figure, the merging of Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and Vidocq into Inspector Bucket the detective in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House represented a significant milestone in the history of crime fiction and ensured that as the generic template traversed the globe and evolved into different forms it would forever more have indelible French fingerprints.

To kick-start a month long critical appreciation of the genre in terms of its current and historical legacy Institut Francais opened the doors to its recently renovated reading room and invited the always entertaining author of Euro Noir to chair a discussion about the French approach to crime fiction. Readers of Barry Forshaw’s work or anybody who has seen him give a talk at another event will testify that his knowledge of the genre is without equal. Justly renowned for several benchmark texts including Nordic Noir, British Gothic Cinema, and British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, his work is work is always filled with a mixture of appreciation, affection, and tempered criticism. In print and on stage he is a supreme communicator, pitching his discussion at precisely the right level. Seemingly acquainted with every major author working in the field at the moment, his warm and witty style of questioning backed up with an encyclopedic attention to detail means he gets fuller, more rounded replies from interviewees.

To explore the extent which British and French approaches to the genre may have taken slightly different paths, the speakers included Prix Goncourt winner Pierre Lemaitre, John Harvey recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for Sustained Excellence in Crime Writing, and Irish born translator Frank Wynne.

The term ‘Noir’ is rich with meanings, some culture specific. A conceptual category filled with associations, the connotations relating to crime fiction varies dependent on cultural context. Harvey first became acquainted with noir via double bill screenings of classics at a local repertory cinema and cites The Killers directed by Robert Siodmak and featuring Burt Lancaster as a personal favourite. Proving that he most definitely knows his onions, Harvey spoke about the importance of post War French intellectuals in defining the categories parameters.

Offering a live demonstration of the translator process Frank Wynn relayed Pierre Lemaitre’s comments. In mainland Europe the distinctions between crime and noir are not so clear cut. Defining Noir in the English literary sense to a French readership is fraught with obstacles. The term may have originated on the other side of the channel but it has very different meanings when applied to literature. Lemaitre conceded that the oft used French term Romans Noir cannot be confused with the Anglo conception of Noir. Despite some overlap they are related but ultimately separate approaches to crime fiction. Tipped by those in the know to be the next Stieg Larsson, Lemaitre offered an informed perspective on a literary scene about to ignite this side of the channel.

Educational but not polemical, the first Noir is the Colour event perfectly set the tone not only for the rest of the festival but also as an introduction into the world of contemporary French literature. On a warm summer evening against a backdrop of thousands of French texts in a beautifully restored library fans were given a rare opportunity to learn about where ideas for crime novels came from, how a translator approaches the material she or he is working with, writer’s perspectives on the inclusion of violence and when they feel it’s time to rein in the descriptions of physical assaults.

Several fans were heard expressing a wish for this to become an annual event, surely the ultimate compliment. As the literary marketplace becomes ever more cosmopolitan and new authors from the mainland are introduced into the crime sections of our friendly neighbourhood bookstores the need for a second festival grows. The best kept secret in the crime fiction scene, fans should not miss out on the opportunity to attend any of the remaining talks.

The latest titles from all the authors appearing at Noir is the Colour can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Euro-Noir-Essential-European-Essentials/dp/1843442450/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402347983&sr=8-1&keywords=euro+noir

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ir%C3%A8ne-Verhoeven-Trilogy-Pierre-Lemaitre/dp/0857052888/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1402348018&sr=8-3&keywords=Pierre+Lemaitre

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darkness-Resnick-12-John-Harvey/dp/0434022926/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402348065&sr=8-1&keywords=John+Harvey

For more information about Noir is the Colour contact:

Institut français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515 – http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/