So as part of my blog articles as opposed to posts section, I have decided that the next installment is the Ancient Interview with Jean-Bernard Pouy, following the Ancient Interview With Maurice G. Dantec. In fact, Pouy is not just a crime writer – today he is still around, at 67 – but he was also a key element of the new wave of French crime writers in the early to mid-1990s as he helped spawn the careers of both Dantec, and another of the major writers, Tonino Benacquista, both of whom were former high school students of Pouy’s in a Paris suburb….
If you want to make any sense of that, read the old ancient interview with Pouy….
PARIS – I had the Abbey Bookshop in mind yesterday when I posted that short story of mine on my new fiction area of my blog. I was readying myself to attend an event at the Abbey for the launch of the latest edition of an online literary magazine called Five Dials, which I have written about in the past, as well as of a book that is published in – at least – English and French and has been nominated for several of the top French literary prizes. But what I least expected to make the whole evening worthwhile for me was the meeting of an optimist.
The Five Dials, to recap on an earlier blog item, is edited by a Canadian named Craig Taylor, who lives in London, and who has done a book about Londoners. Five Dials has been running since 2008, and it is one of the top online only literary reviews. To quote directly from the Five Dials entry in Wikipedia, the review’s “notable contributors include famous authors living and deceased such as Raymond Chandler, Noam Chomsky, Alain De Botton, Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, Hari Kunzru, J. M. G. Le Clézio and Susan Sontag.” It is published by the respected publisher Hamish Hamilton.
As to the book that was being presented by its author, Eric Reinhardt, it was “The Victoria System,” which the Nouvel Observateur called: “Dark, twisted and devastating. A big novel of amorous adventures in the era of the blackberry. Eric Reinhardt is the new Alexandre Dumas.”
But it was my unexpected meeting with a curious optimist that actually made the evening for me. This was the flower child-looking Marie Deschamps with flowers in her hair whom Brian Spence, the bookshop owner introduced me to. It was not long in our conversation before we realized that we had a point in common. The point was our basic belief in an optimistic approach to life – even when it’s trying to sink you. In fact, Marie told me that she had started a kind of association called “the curious optimists” and they get together once a month in Paris to meet and eat and talk and celebrate about how great life is. She said her Facebook page for the Curious Optimists had just exploded, so much did people want to be optimistic….She also said she was about to leave Paris on a world tour that she will film, trying to meet other optimists and to spread the word. Marie told me her road to this philosophy really came after she did her degrees at Science Po in Paris and the London School of Economics, and she came back to Paris and found a little too much of the opposite of optimism…. I told her that her world tour was a little bit like my world tour and the film I’m working on about it in the world of the open mics and open jams. And, I also told her that she ought to read my interview book called: Colin Wilson: Philosopher of Optimism, as everything she was saying was part of the philosophy of that book.
Could I have asked for a better or more curious or optimistic evening than that at the Abbey Bookshop????
It did not win the prize, and I did not read any of the other entries, so I don’t know what it was up against. I can say that while I really like this short story, it is about as old-fashioned a mystery short story as you can get – but that makes it kind of fun. It is a real mystery puzzle, almost a locked-room style story, and could have been written at the same time as Edgar Allen Poe’s or Conan Doyle’s pieces, as it introduces nothing new to the genre. But so what? Simple good fun is fine by me. Hope you read it and like it.
So here again, is a link to my story, “Murder in the Abbey,” – oh, yes, and by the way, I DID draw on the title by the famous play by T.S. Eliot called, “Murder in the Cathedral.” But also, I should add, the story takes place in an actual bookstore in Paris called the Abbey Bookshop, which still exists today….
At the same time as I was beginning my career as a writer about car racing, Formula One being the main emphasis, I was also establishing a career as a writer about the French crime novel. Because I myself had written several published crime stories and several unpublished, but agented, crime novels, I grew tired of this not-well-paid area of meta-writing that, while it was vastly interesting, was also vastly frustrating. I was a published crime fiction writer, and I had begun to establish myself as crime fiction writing journalist…but who was not considered by the writers themselves as a writer.
The auto racing writing was more attractive in that I could never, ever claim to be a car racer, but I had a subject to write about that involved amazing human endeavor, and therefore, made for interesting material. So it was that I stopped writing about crime fiction. But by the time I stopped, I had amassed a fair sized trove of journalism, especially about the French crime novel.
This story that I am posting today in Blog Articles as Opposed to Posts, was the highest point of the whole period, probably, and covered a massive swathe of French crime writing of final quarter of the 20th Century. Many of the people are still around or still read. The story, one of the best surveys of the French crime novel written in English, appeared in print in The Armchair Detective, in 1997. Check it out.