Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Boileau and Narcejac

I mentioned Pierre Boileau and his partner in crime writing Thomas Narcejac the other day. They are my favourite (non-British) European mystery novelists, ahead of Simenon, Camilleri, Fossum and all the others. Narcejac once wrote a whole book about his hero Simenon, but for my money (I know it’s a minority view) the pupil surpassed the master.

Boileau-Narcejac books almost always have a filmic quality. So it’s no surprise that some of the very best crime movies ever made have been based on their novels – notably ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Les Diaboliques’

I’ve reviewed several Boileau-Narcejac novels for CADS, that excellent magazine edited by Geoff Bradley. One of the recent titles I had the pleasure of reading was Who Was Claire Jallu? It’s a typical Boileau-Narcejac work, with dazzling twists, and lots of confusion about identities.

But what struck me was that the publishers didn’t even get their authors’ names right. Both on the cover and in the bio note, the writers were named as Thomas Boileau and Pierre Narcejac.

And this was at a time when their fame was at its height….


Juliet said...

Ah, Vertigo! Near (possibly at) the top of my 'top five movies ever made' list. Would it be a mistake to read the novel if one has long been a fan of the film?

Karen (Euro Crime) said...

Must add these authors to Euro Crime! Thanks.

Martin Edwards said...

My feeling is that 'Vertigo' and 'Les Diaboliques' belong to that relatively small group of movie masterpieces that far surpass the orginal source material - good as the source material was. But you'll have gathered that I'm a huge fan of Boileau and Narcejac's ingenuity and the tricks they play with identity. More about some of their other books soon.

Xavier said...

Have you read "Choice Cuts"? It won the Dark Humor Prize back in 1965 and was made into a fine movie starring Jeff Fahey and Kim Delaney.
I admit to having a fondness for Boileau's solo works - La Pierre Qui Tremble, Le Repos de Bacchus, Les Rendez-vous de Passy - are all terrific.

Martin Edwards said...

Xavier, 'Choice Cuts' is almost at the top of my to-be-read list and I hope to get round to it soon. My impression is that the solo Boileau books are just as good as you suggest, and it is a real shame that they haven't (as far as I know) been translated into English. I'd love to read them.

Xavier said...

Hilary St. John Saunders (of Francis Beeding fame) wrote a novel, "The Sleeping Bacchus" based on Le Repos de Bacchus, with Boileau's permission.

Unknown said...

There I was watching a movie 'Cache', A french mystery movie with English subtitles. It got me to thinking about French crime novels and took me back to my schooldays in the sixties, when I devoured all of Boileau and Narcejac translations in our local library. Those two authors turned me on to reading those crime novels with almost 'supernatural" twists. Something that for me has lasted to this day, with the likes of John Connolly and King and Sandford and Connelly and others. I owe those two Frenchman a great deal!
And so I went online to remind myself of their work...I haven't read anything by B&N for many, many years and I came across your Blog, with comments from 9 years ago!
Les Diaboliques is still my favourite. So clever, so scary.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Brian. I've discussed these great writers several times over the years. I agree. Great writers.