Friday, April 04, 2008
I'm just back from the first evening of my first crime-fiction convention, NoirCon 2008 in Philadelphia. Though the event is devoted principally to American crime, the opening sessions contained a touch or two of special international interest, starting, of course with the name: noir, a French word adopted for an American sub-genre of crime fiction and film.
1) David Schmid, a professor at the University of Buffalo and the kind of professor whose classes you would have wanted to take, opened proceedings with a talk about the wide use to which the term noir has been put. Schmid was educated in England and, from his accent, grew up there, too. Why does this matter? Because it's just one more piece of evidence of the international appeal that noir, like its fellow American art form, jazz, has enjoyed.
2) Scott Phillips, present for a screening of the superb movie based on his novel The Ice Harvest, said he had read about 150 of Georges Simenon's books and planned to be part of a Simenon panel later in the convention. He said he started reading Simenon as a way to keep up his skills in French when he was living in France.
He's not the only author for whom Simenon opened (or widened) a path into French. Janwillem van de Wetering, Dutch author of the Amsterdam Cops novels, has said in interviews that he started reading Simenon for a similar reason: to sharpen his French skills for business purposes. This, if I recall correctly, inspired him to start writing crime fiction.
3) One of the convention's two guests of honor was not on the first evening's program but put in a brief appearance nonetheless. I am happy to report that, based on a brief meeting, Ken Bruen seems to be a warm and personable a fellow as his reputation would suggest.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008