Thursday, November 29, 2007

Paris, city of crime, part III

It transpires that more Parisians than just the woman on the Metro read French translations of Donald Westlake. A number of Paris bookstores stock fairly generous selections by that great American crime novelist, better selections than does my friendly neighborhood chain store back home, for instance.

I'd noticed, however, that the stock in Paris was heavier on Westlake's standalones than on his series about John Dortmunder and his burglar friends. Perhaps, I thought, French readers don't go for comedy with their crime. This afternoon, though, I found a store that did carry two of the Dortmunder novels in translation, but I still may have been partly right. The cover of Au pire, qu'est-ce qu'on risque? (What's the Worst That Could Happen?) is surprisingly dark for a comic caper novel, especially one whose film version co-starred Danny DeVito. But then, the nation that gave the term film noir to the world may just have a predilection for darkness, shadows and harsh contrasts.

I found some intriguing historical crime fiction today, a series written in French by the Vietnamese sisters Thanh-Van and Kim Tran-Nhut about a young magistrate in 17th-century Vietnam. The books have been translated into Japanese, Spanish, Russian and Italian, but not — stop me if you've heard this before — into English.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous LauraR said...

Not translated into English, you do shock me Peter :). Still it's good for the "little grey cells" to force us crime fans into reading in a foreign language. French crime paperbacks are often much cheaper than the British ones too for some reason.

December 02, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

It's hard for me to keep perspective on book prices because of the dollar's miserable weakness against the euro these days.

Re the grey cells, perhaps I cheat a bit. I've bought three crime novels this trip that I had already read in English translation, one of them for a surprisingly low price at a second-hand bookshop. I do know that French publishers are known for issuing cheap editions of the classics (and for inexpensive and accessible classical-music concerts, by the way).

December 02, 2007  

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