27/04/2012

And The Winner Is.../Et le gagnant est...

In reviewing this year's Edgar nominees I expressed the hope that a foreign writer would scoop the Best Novel award, breaking the parochial streak of the last decade. My wishes have been exauced as the winner (Mo Hayder, for Gone) hails from the UK and, what's more, is the first female winner in almost ten years (S.J. Rozan was the most recent one, winning in 2003 for Winter and Night)

I must admit I would have preferred the committee to be more adventurous and bestow the award on one of the two foreign-language nominees; hopefully it's only a beginning and coming years will see more non-English-speaking writers being nominated and even, let's dream a little, win. 

The Edgars' fascination for anything Doyle manifested again with Michael Dirda taking the Best Critical Work award home while a play tellingly titled The Game's afoot won Best Play (the other nominee was also a sherlock-themed affair) The only one not to benefit from this perennial trend was Neil Gaiman whose pastiche The Case of Death and Honey lost in the Best Short Story category to Peter Turnbull's The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train. Mr. Gaiman is not lucky with the MWA: his previous foray into Sherlock territory, the superb A Study in Emerald, had been completely ignored by the Edgars while winning several awards in the sci-fi/fantasy field. 




C'est donc l'anglaise Mo Hayder qui a remporté la nuit dernière l'Edgar du meilleur roman. Elle est le premier auteur étranger (comprenez: non-américain) à recevoir le prix depuis Jason Goodwin en 2007, et le premier lauréat féminin depuis S.J. Rozan en 2003. 


J'avoue que j'aurais préféré que le jury se montre plus aventureux et récompense l'un des deux romans traduits (1222 de Anne Holt, et Le dévouement du suspect X de Higashino Keigo) qui étaient nominés. J'espère que ce n'est que partie remise et que d'autres auteurs non-anglophones seront nominés et, qui sait, gagneront dans les années à venir.


Le tropisme doylien des Edgars s'est manifesté une nouvelle fois avec la victoire de Michael Dirda (On Conan Doyle) dans la catégorie Meilleur Ouvrage Critique, tandis qu'une pièce intitulée The Game's Afoot remportait le prix de la Meilleure Pièce. Le seul à ne pas profiter de ces bonnes dispositions est Neil Gaiman, dont le pastiche sherlockien The Case of Death and Honey (L'affaire de la mort et du miel) s'est vu supplanté dans la catégorie Meilleure Nouvelle par The Man Who Took His Hat Off to the Driver of the Train (L'homme qui tirait son chapeau au conducteur du train) de Peter Turnbull. M. Gaiman n'a pas beaucoup de chance avec les Edgars qui avaient déjà ignoré sa première incursion en Holmésie, le superbe Une étude en vert. 



22/04/2012

NOT The End

Intended as an April's Fool Day joke, my post on my conversion to noir proved to be quite effective. Too much effective, perhaps, as I still get comments and mails from readers thinking this change of heart is for real. As the French saying goes, the best jokes are the shortest and so I think it's time for some clarification. 

I'm not quitting, nor do I plan to in the near or distant future.

I'm still a (mostly) traditional-minded mystery fan. The edgier stuff I read is Thomas H. Cook. 

This blog will continue (at its famously irregular pace, so don't let any prolonged silence worry you) 

There will be no changes made to the editorial line. You can still expect articles on long-forgotten writers or the role of fingerprints in late-20s British crime fiction (good idea).

In brief, stay reassured that At the Villa Rose is still At the Villa Rose. 

And now back to (fictional) crime. 

20/04/2012

L'homme qui expliquait les miracles

Sans John Dickson Carr, vous ne liriez probablement pas ce blog. C'est la découverte émerveillée de l'oeuvre du maître des chambres closes qui fit définitivement bifurquer l'adolescent que j'étais vers le roman policier, tendance classique. Un quart de siècle plus tard, il demeure l'un de mes auteurs fétiches, l'un de ces heureux élus que je revisite régulièrement et dont je ne me lasse pas de chanter les louanges. Et celui qui s'avise d'en dire du mal devant moi, il a intérêt à courir vite.


Roland Lacourbe, lui aussi, est un fan. C'est même le fan numéro un de JDC en France, celui qui a le plus fait pour faire connaître et apprécier le natif d'Uniontown dans nos contrées; les carrophiles gaulois lui doivent beaucoup. Paru en 1998 aux indispensables éditions Encrage, son John Dickson Carr: scribe du miracle est un ouvrage en tous points remarquable, qui complète la superbe biographie (hélas inédite chez nous) de Douglas G. Greene. Lacourbe passe au crible l'oeuvre de Carr - les romans, les nouvelles, les pièces radiophoniques, les adaptations cinématographiques et télévisuelles - avec un enthousiasme et une érudition qui font plaisir à lire. Je ne suis pas d'accord avec tous ses jugements: je trouve en particulier qu'il a tendance à trop se focaliser sur l'intrigue et l'orthodoxie au détriment des qualités littéraires (réelles, n'en déplaise à certains) de l'oeuvre.  Je le rejoins par contre quand il fait remarquer que La chambre ardente (The Burning Court, 1937) qui est un chef-d'oeuvre, n'est pas le seul à l'actif d'un auteur qui disparaît trop souvent derrière ce seul livre. Et oui, Le barbier aveugle (The Blind Barber, 1934) est un livre désopilant. 


Si vous aimez John Dickson Carr et le roman d'énigme, ce livre doit trouver sa place dans votre bibliothèque - mais il y a de fortes chances qu'il y soit déjà.  



01/04/2012

The End

All good things must come to an end. So does this blog. I know my few but faithful readers will be shocked at the news but hopefully they will understand that intellectual honesty leaves me no other choice. My views on mystery fiction have dramatically evolved over the last weeks. 


It all began when I re-read Julian Symons's Bloody Murder which I hadn't read for a long time. To my surprise I found his stance less irritating, and some of his arguments struck me as sound. I was troubled - to say the least. I followed with Chandler's Simple Art of Murder and my reaction was the same - I found myself in almost complete agreement with him even as he eviscerated some of my favorite writers. How could it be? 


I thought revisiting the classics would bring me back to my sense. Alas! Quite the opposite happened. I found Christie boring and repetitive, Carr annoyingly unrealistic and mechanical; better not to say what I thought of Queen, Sayers or Marsh. Painful as it was, I had to admit Chandler and Symons had been right all along: Golden Age fiction just wasn't that good.


Still, I didn't want to give up on mystery fiction as a whole. So I tried other sub-genres I had thus neglected such as hardboiled and noir - and then came another surprise. I discovered that I liked those stories of tough guys and femmes fatales, the sparse writing, the unflinchingness in confronting the evils of society and the darkest side of life. Noir in particular was a revelation to me with authors like James Ellroy (whom I used to despise) and Jim Thompson suddenly becoming favorites of mine - I couldn't get enough of their stuff! I also reconciled myself with the French school of noir fiction: For years I had dissed the likes of Jean-Bernard Pouy or Didier Daeninckx and now I found they were actually terrific writers whose talent easily eclipsed those of my former favorites. Noir was the real thing! How could I have ignored it for so long?


So I'm closing on the doors of The Villa Rose but I'm not quitting blogging. I'm launching a new blog devoted to noir fiction, which I'll name The Dark Palace to keep some kind of a continuity with this one - it's always about houses! I'm aware many of my readers won't like my new stance but hey, that's just the way I feel and I can't change that. 


My new blog.