Quais du Polar 2017 : Day #1

First day at Quais du Polar was a success! After a lovely lunch where Marina Sofia discovered what a café gourmand is, we headed to the Palais de la Bourse where the big bookshop is settled. Todau, the Palais de la Bourse is actually the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyon. The name Palais de la Bourse means literally The House of Stock Exchange. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that a place that used to be a stock exchange is now hosting a huge book fair and a celebration of culture.

We wandered around the different bookstores, chatting about the books on the display tables, seeing where the different writers would be for their signing. Nothing’s better than browsing through books with another book lover.

I had the opportunity to talk to Marcus Malte and gush about how much I loved Le garçon. I purchased Les harmoniques, one of his earlier crime fiction books. Blues music plays an important role in the book and tomorrow he gives a lecture/concert about this book. I hope I can get in.

We decided to attend a conference entitled “Women as victims, women as executioners: what do these female protagonists tell us?” The participants to the conversation were Harold Cobert (French), Dominique Sylvain (France), Jenny Rogneby (Sweden), Andrée A Michaud (Québec) and Clare Mackintosh (UK). Cobert is the author of La mésange et l’ogresse, a book that attempts to describe the Affaire Fourniret from his wife’s side. Fourniret was a serial killer of young virgins and she was his supplier, luring the girls into his trap. I don’t want to read a book about this monster, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad one, of course. Jenny Rogneby and Clare Mackinstosh have both worked in the police before writing novels. I guess they know how to add plausible details into their novels. I’m not going to relate the whole conversation about women, their place in crime fiction as victims or how they are received by the public when they are the criminals.

Both Rogneby and Mackintosh said that they want to give a voice to female victims, to give them some substance to avoid objectification. They want to show them as the humainbeing they were before becoming a victim. And how to we deal with female characters who are vicious criminals? There was an interesting discussion about whether women are as violent as men. I agree with Cobert’s assertion that imagining that women cannot be as violent or mean as men is another sexist way of seeing women. From this point of view, women would be soft and nice by essence, so not built as men and not their equals. I think that this vision comes from a distorted vision ingrained in people from childhood. Clare Mackintosh surprised the audience by explaining that, in her experience in the police force who intervene during Friday night brawls, women get as physical as men. She witnessed a lot of spontaneous aggressions from women too. They just fight differently scratching with their nails, pulling hair or kicking around. Personally, I’ve never seen two women or two girls fight physically. Have you?

Then the journalist asked about their self-censorship when they write. All agreed that they didn’t like to describe violence too closely, that they’d rather suggest it and that they want to avoid useless gore details and voyeurism. That’s better for the readers, in my opinion.

It was a good table discussion. It was located in the Grand Salon of the Hôtel de Ville (the city hall), a magnificent place where you can imagine the high society of the Second Empire having balls.

After that, Marina Sofia and I went our separate ways. I went to an interview of Megan Abbott. I’ve never read her books but since she’s inspired by Raymond Chandler, James M Cain, Patricia Highsmith and James Ellroy, she can’t be bad. (Unless she can’t write, which I doubt). She’s a lovely lady, she answered the questions gracefully and explained a bit about her source of inspiration, her love for Noir films and novels. She told us a bit about her writing process, where the ideas come from, what she starts with…I’m interested in one of her earlier books, Queenpin and in her last one available in French, You Will Know Me. It’s about a young adolescent who’s a gymnastic prodigy. She said she wanted to explore what having a gifted athlete could do to a family, to a couple. She explained that she could relate a bit since her brother was a baseball player. It’s an intriguing idea, I wonder what she made of it.

After this session, I had the chance to talk to David Vann and Todd Robinson who were sitting next to each other. Both are friendly and I appreciated that they made the effort to say a few words in French. As always, writers seem happy to participate to Quais du Polar. They take time to chat with readers, they are relaxed and I think warmly welcome by their bookstore host. Todd Robinson explained that these kind of book fairs don’t exist in the US and that he enjoys them. (There are a lot of “salon du livre” in France. Lots of cities host one) If writers are happy, visitors will be happy too. There were already a lot of people at the Palais de la Bourse today, it will be really packed tomorrow.

Today I came back home with four books.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

  1. April 1, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’ll be interested in your review of the Vann book. I have Caribou Island sitting here unread


    • April 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Do you plan on reading Caribou Island soon? I’m curious about your thoughts about it.


      • April 1, 2017 at 5:20 pm

        No not really. Looks like I bought it in 2012


        • April 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm

          There’s a one hour interview with him tomorrow. I might go and see what he has to say.


        • April 1, 2017 at 7:07 pm

          PS : Just noticed that Désolations is the French title of Caribou Island. Wanna do a readalong?


  2. April 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Re; Megan Abbott: I’ve read quite a few of her books and IMO This Song is You is her best. I have been disappointed in her latest books.


    • April 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      She said that her first four books were more classic Noir and that she changed of style in the next four. I guess you didn’t like the change.


  3. April 3, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Love these posts.

    Regarding humanising female victims, it’s an interesting topic. I reviewed a Lauren Beukes novel a while back, The Shining Girls, in which one of her express aims was to do just that.

    The problem was she succeeded, but the story still involved the brutal murders of these women. I wouldn’t normally read serial killer novels anyway (I read it because it was Beukes, despite the subject) and it was somehow all the more unpleasant as she crafted these likable sympathetic women who were then horribly killed. She succeeded in making me care about them, which meant reading their deaths was actually quite difficult.

    Not sure it’s better if the women are cyphers though. Perhaps the genre is the problem? Entertainment ultimately crafted from suffering. I don’t know, it’s tricky.

    I’ve enjoyed the Abbot’s I’ve read (there’s a couple of reviews at mine) but I think they were both from the early phase rather than the later.


    • April 3, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      I’m not much into serial killer novels either. Suspenseful books don’t appeal to me, I like to keep a normal heart rate when I read.

      The writers we saw all said they wanted their female victims to have a background detailed enough for the reader to care about them.
      Then of course, we don’t like to see them die.

      I don’t think that the genre is the problem. I agree with one of the writers who said that it’s harder to accept that a woman is a criminal. Society accepts (or even expects) violence from men, but there’s still this terrible cliché that women are born sweet and nice. Wrong. Maternal instinct doesn’t exist. Built-in kindness doesn’t exist. It all comes from education. We tolerate that little boys get rowdy but not girls. A good girl is a quiet girl.
      All these speeches about innate “female” or “feminine” qualities is just a way to try to justify sexist ideas and say that they come “from nature”. But usually, dictators’ wives are as awful as their male companion.


  1. April 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm
  2. January 4, 2018 at 10:16 pm

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