Home > Personal Posts > Quais du Polar 2022 : my festival.

Quais du Polar 2022 : my festival.

In a previous billet, I had told you about the crime fiction festival Quais du Polar, set in Lyon for the 18th time.

The whole city was full of activities dedicated to the “polar” genre, a nickname for crime fiction in French. Even the weather was committed to the cause, the temperatures were polar, we even had snow! In April. In Lyon. Only Craig Johnson and the Icelandic writers felt at home with this, I imagine.

So, what did I do? I started with a rencontre musicale autour du jazz avec Jake Lamar, ie a musical experience around jazz.

Jake Lamar is an African-American from New York who’s lived in France for thirty years. His last book, Viper’s Dream is a crime fiction novel set in Harlem from 1936 to 1962 and the story revolves around jazz musicians and how the music changed in these years. Lamar is a fan of jazz, his book includes his playlist at the end and the jazz band Les Paons had prepared several songs that agreed with his writing. They were very good and the public had the chance to hear Lamar about his love for jazz and then discover his musical preferences with Les Paons. Wonderful experience.

One of my great friends was staying with us for the festival and we decided to attend a panel, la puissance noire des éléments, about wilderness or natural elements influencing a plot to the point that they are characters as much as the human characters.

As you can see on the picture, we were not in the wilderness for this panel but in the great room of the City Hall.

The writers invited to his panel were Olivier Norek, whose last book is set in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, David Joy and the importance of the Appalaches mountains in his work, Dolores Redondo who wrote a book about the hurricane Katrina and Marie Vingtras who wrote a novel set in Alaska. The journalist who hosted the debate was a bit prejudiced against Marie Vingtras who was the only one who had written a book about a place she’d never been to and where extreme weather plays a key part in the plot. To be honest, I’m not sure you can describe the cold in Alaska without experiencing it yourself. Unless you’re from British Columbia, Norway or Greenland. But for most French people who shiver when three snowflakes hit the ground and who live in a country that is mostly a garden, you need to have a hell of an imagination to write about Alaskan wilderness and be convincing. Maybe she’s that good.

Dolores Redondo decided to write about the Katrina tragedy because she was so shocked by what happened to people in New Orleans, how help took five days to come and rescue the poorer population who was stuck in town because they didn’t have the means to leave. She wrote a crime fiction book based on true facts.

That was the first time I heard David Joy speak and he intrigued me.

We managed to get into another panel, le Coeur noir des Appalaches. A lot of people were interested in this panel. The writers invited were John Woods, Kimi Cunningham Grant and David Joy. Covid happened and only David Joy was among us and we ended up spending an incredible hour with him.

Christine Ferniot from the culture magazine Télérama did an outstanding interview. She knew his books in-and-out and asked intelligent questions in such a calm and tranquil way that she pulled him out of his shell and made him talk about himself, his country, his Apalachees, the opioid pandemic around him, his love for literature.

We listened to him talk freely about his favorite writers, the importance of books and literature in his life and what matters the most to him. What outrages him. How he sees his mountain culture disappear. How he soaks up everything around him and feels more natural in the woods than in cities. Where his characters come from. His vision of the role of an artist and his quest to understand the human condition. What he wants to achieve with his books. We went off tracks and left the highway of book tours to meander in his inner literary garden.

We had a lovely and moving time with him and the great news is that you can have a lovely time with him too as all the conferences are available on the Quais du Polar website, on the replay part.

The next day, I went to a literary cruise with Olivier Norek.

We spend an hour with him and he talked about his new book, Dans les brumes de Capelans but also about himself, his experience as a policeman and how he writes his books. He’s a lot closer to an IT project manager than to Hemingway but it works! He was nice and friendly and being on the Saône river, seeing the city from the water added to the pleasure of this conference.

And of course, I spent time at the giant book fest and came back with several books:

The Kurkov is not a crime fiction novel but the blurb reminded me of Romain Gary. It just sounded like a book that he could have written. Obviously, I couldn’t resist. The English title is The Good Angel of Death. Have you read it?

The most frustrating part of the festival is that there are so many tempting panels that it’s hard to choose which one to attend. But everything is on the Quais du Polar website and now I just have to find some time to listen to other panels. (I’ll have to listen to the one called Marseille la noire).

According to newspapers, there were around 100 000 visitors at the festival and the independant bookstores sold for 250 000 euros of books in three days. A great success and see you next year from March 31st to April 2nd.

  1. April 5, 2022 at 1:05 pm

    Sounds wonderful Emma. That room in City Hall is astonishing! I really enjoy Kurkov but I’ve not read The Good Angel of Death yet – it’s in the TBR…


    • April 6, 2022 at 9:32 pm

      One of the perks of the festival is to go to places that are not always accessible. That room in City Hall is one of them. Too much gold for my tastes but it is striking.

      I’ll be interested in your thoughts about this Kurkov. I enjoyed The Penguin.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April 5, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Sounds marvellous Emma – so jealous, but very glad you had such a great time,and thanks for sharing it with us!


    • April 6, 2022 at 9:35 pm

      It’s a great event, and I’m lucky it’s in my city! All the panels, cruises…are free, so you can go to as many as you want (or can)

      I forgot to write in my billet that the conferences are available on the Quais du Polar website AND that they are available in French translation or in the original. So, if the writer speaks English, it’ll be in English.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April 6, 2022 at 4:57 am

    Always enjoy your reports on this event and am happy that you were able to attend it again. I’ve read quite a few of Kurkov’s books over the years, starting with his penguin books and Grey Bees is the latest on my TBR, but not The Good Angel of Death. Look forward to your report on it!


  4. April 6, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks, I really had a great time. It’s a festival full of energy and the writers always seem happy to be there. (Tired sometimes, but happy)

    I’m curious about this Kurkov, I really enjoyed The Penguin, so I expect to like this one too.


  5. April 7, 2022 at 9:15 am

    Another fabulous festival, I can understand the frustration at not being able to see everything with so many high quality events. The mountain man interview sounded interesting, I do live it when someone has read all an author’s books and can delve that much deeper into their inspiration. How ironic that he was the only one on that panel that was able to make it. The Kurkov does indeed sound interesting, quite different titles.


    • April 8, 2022 at 8:57 pm

      It is a fabulous festival and we’re lucky to have it here. They manage to renew themselves, which is great for frequent visitors. And authors always seem happy to be there.

      This journalist was especially spot on and her love for David Joy’s work was palpable in her questions. A wonderful interview.


  6. April 8, 2022 at 11:40 pm

    “a literary cruise with Olivier Norek” : sounds fabulous, plus I really like his books a lot


    • April 9, 2022 at 8:59 pm

      He was really talkative and friendly.


  1. May 8, 2022 at 4:18 pm

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