Home > About reading, Crime Fiction, Hardboiled, Noir, Polar, Pulp > Quais du polar: Lyon celebrates crime fiction

Quais du polar: Lyon celebrates crime fiction

Quais_PolarThis weekend Lyon hosted a festival dedicated to crime fiction named Quais du polar. Let me explain the name. In French, polar is a crime fiction category that covers Noir, thriller, hardboiled and pulp. Cozy crimes and whodunnits aren’t called polars. I have a category Polar on the blog since I never know exactly how to tag the crime fiction book I’m reading. So more precisely, a Raymond Chandler is a polar and an Agatha Christie isn’t. That was for polar. Now, what about Quais? In Lyon, we have two rivers, the Saône and the Rhône. This means lots of banks and piers (Quais) in the city. In addition to this geographical consideration about Lyon, 36 Quai des Orfèvres is the address of the police department in Paris. So a festival named Quais du polar makes sense when it deals with crime fiction.

This event is a firework of crime fiction feasts. There are conferences with writers and publishers, a literary fair (more about that later), an investigation organized in the city, theatre plays, touristic tours, operas and films in the Institut Lumière, the place where the cinema was born.

We did the investigation with the children and I went to the literary fair. It was held in the Palais du Commerce, the beautiful buildings owned by the Chamber of Commerce, located Place de la Bourse. (Stock-exchange plaza). I mused about the irony to have a book fair in the premises of the corporate world. There, independent book stores had stands and each stand had writers present to meet readers and sign copies of their books. I’m not usually looking for signed copies of books, except for particular writers. I was really happy to discuss with Nancy Huston once, more to talk about our common love of Romain Gary than about her own books. This time I was on a mission; my mother is a huge crime fiction reader and with Mother’s Day coming soon, I had the perfect idea for a gift! So I got the signed books I wanted.

Quai_Polar_SalonTo me, the most interesting part was to meet with enthusiastic booksellers. (Sorry, sorry, writers… I never know what to say to you). The nicest one was the crime fiction aficionado from Au Bonheur des Ogres. The name of the book shop itself is attractive since it’s the first title of the Malaussene series by Daniel Pennac. (You can read a review of Fairy Gunmother another volume of this series here) This bookseller uses “tu” at first sight because we’re members of the great brotherhood of compulsive readers. He recommended a Spanish writer, Carlos Salem, and you’ll read about him soon. This bookseller helped Salem’s career in France, along with two other independent bookstores in Toulouse and Paris. I know because they are all mentioned in the acknowledgments of Matar y guardar la ropa, the book I purchased. Yes, as far as I know, the only murder that occurred during the festival is that of my book buying ban. I came home with:

  • Matar y guardar la ropa by Carlos Salem (Nager sans se mouiller). I’m loving it so far.
  • Le petit bleu de la côte Ouest by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Three to kill, review here) I’ve never read Manchette and I’ve been willing to try him for a while.
  • The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski. Also recommended by the friendly bookseller. I knew the name though, thanks to Guy. (See his review of Severance Package)

Salem_Nagermanchette_Bleu

Swierczynski_BlondeI love crime fiction, I’ve always read this genre and I wondered why I hardly read any lately. I came to the conclusion that it stemmed from a language Chinese puzzle. I don’t know much about French crime fiction writers and I’d rather read English-speaking ones in English. And here come the difficulties: I enjoy reading crime fiction to unwind and reading crime fiction in English requires more concentration than in French. Plus, I came to question old translations of crime fiction classics, so reading them in French isn’t an option anymore. With hindsight, it seems quite stupid not to pick crime fiction on the shelf because of a bad concentration-fun equation. So I’ve decided to read recent polars in French; you’ll have to make do with billets without quotes (terribly frustrating at times) and probably poor ones too because I’m not very skilled at reviewing crime fiction.

I think the festival was a success, the place was full of people engrossed in conversations with booksellers, avidly reading their recent purchase on one of the side benches and writers seemed happy to be there. There were lines in front of the conference rooms, we crossed a lot of families and couples also doing the fake Chinese investigation in town. The Palais du Commerce is gorgeous, it gives a classy touch to the event and I hope these independent book stores gained new readers. I can tell you Au Bonheur des Ogres has me now, especially since they also deliver books.

PS: The book buying ban is a phoenix, it can be born again from its cinders.

  1. April 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I have The Blonde on my shelf and actually almost picked it up this weekend but finally decided on something else (a Wharton novel I’ve never read). I’ll be reading the final part of the Charlie Hardie trilogy this month (Duane Swierczynski). I’ve waited a long time for the final part (as have all the other fans). If interested: Fun and Games, Hell & Gone, & Point and Shoot). Highly recommended.

    The festival sounds like a lot of fun and I’m glad to hear that you came home with a few books. Thanks for the explanation of POLAR–crime fiction is such a vast genre, so we need these sub-categories.

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    • April 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      You would have loved being here. There was a conference about Simenon and others that sounded interesting but I couldn’t go.

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  2. April 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    So funny, when i saw your post the first thing I thought was …Emma has actually not reviewed a lot of crime lately but I know she likes it. I got my answer. Sounds like an interesting festival. Hmmm book buying ban and all that? 🙂

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    • April 1, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Lyon hosts this festival every year: it’s only 3 hours from your home 🙂
      The book buying ban experienced a breach this weekend but is still on.

      Like

  3. April 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Sounds like a tremendously entertaining event. Though I’m not much of a fan of crime fiction, I just read a French polar (well, Swiss, actually, written in French) that has been getting a lot of attention over there for its Simenon-like qualities and American setting: La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert, by Jöel Dicker. Let’s say I did not dislike it. I do, however, certainly wish the author had opted for a typical Simenon length over the 667 pages with which he ended up. Still, given your frustrations about reading translations of English-language polars coupled with the not-exactly-unwinding task of reading them in the original English, you might well like this one: it’s a quintessentially American polar written in French.

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    • April 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      It’s a great event.

      I have La Vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert on the shelf, someone gave it to my husband for Christmas. He liked it. Joël Dicker was present at the festival.

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  4. April 2, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Nice post, Emma! Nice to know about ‘Quais du polar’. It was nice to read your explanation of the word ‘polar’ – I didn’t know that before. Glad to know that you had a wonderful time at the festival. The investigation sounds like a lot of fun. Your comment – “the only murder that occurred during the festival is that of my book buying ban” – made me smile 🙂 The books that you have got all sound quite interesting. Hope you enjoy reading them. Happy reading!

    Like

    • April 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks, Vishy. The festival is great; we wanted to visit the police academy (they had a special tour to explain investigation techniques and how they gather scientific clues) but it was sold out.
      Polar is a popular word, so I wanted to share about the genre.
      The book by Carlos Salem was great.

      Like

  5. leroyhunter
    April 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Great event!
    Isn’t there a film called 36 Quai des Orfevres?
    The 3 I’ve read by Manchette I’ve really liked. I think another one is being translated this year.

    Like

    • April 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks.
      36 Quai des Orfèvres is a French film, indeed. A polar (of course…)
      I’m curious about Manchette.

      Like

  6. April 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    ‘Polar’ is a great term to learn about. Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler really do belong in different genres. The English language really should catch up!

    I agree, it makes sense to lift the ban temporarily for a once-a-year event. You can get back on the wagon now 🙂

    Like

    • April 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Actually, as often, the English language is more precise than the French. That’s why I have difficulties with book categories in English. I never know what to use: when should I say “novella” (no French equivalent), “literary fiction” (ditto) or “Noir”…

      I’m back to reading what’s on my TBR.

      Like

  7. April 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Polar is a great term. I actually prefer it to the narrower English language categories.

    Three to Kill is my favourite Manchette of the two I’ve read so far. I think when I reviewed it I subsequently added it to my end of year best of list as well.

    The title of Three to Kill seems more interesting in the French. The English title is a bit meh.

    The festival sounds rather fun, and enforcing the buying ban at a festival would make it a glum affair so I entirely support suspending it. The ban is dead. Long live the ban!

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    • April 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      The French subtitle of Three to Kill is Trois hommes à abattre. I don’t know yet the exact meaning of the French title. A “bleu” is a rookie.
      It’s a very nice festival.

      Like

  1. April 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm
  2. June 29, 2013 at 11:17 pm
  3. April 13, 2014 at 9:01 am

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