Home > Personal Posts, Polar > Quais du Polar 2023 : friends, museum, boats, music, panels, books and more importantly, writers

Quais du Polar 2023 : friends, museum, boats, music, panels, books and more importantly, writers

Life got busy this week and I’m late with my billet about the 19th edition of the Quais du Polar festival. For newcomers to Book Around the Corner, it’s a literary festival dedicated to crime fiction and set in Lyon, France. This year it was from March 31st to April 2nd.

Despite the capricious April weather, the festival was a success, bringing 90 000 visitors and allowing independent bookstores to sell 290 000 euros worth of books in three days. See the avid readers milling around writers and bookstellers.

As usual, the organizers have surpassed themselves and there were a lot of events set in the city and its suburbs.

An investigation to explore the city on foot, buses with judiciary and police experts talking about their jobs, panels on bateaux-mouche, a CSI exhibition set up by the police themselves, lots of literary panels, music & literature events, visits to museums, crime fiction films in cinemas…All around real crime solving and justice and crime fiction.

And most of all, lots of writers from various countries, who seemed to really enjoy themselves.

I spent the weekend with a friend who came for the festival and had the chance to see Marina Sofia again. We were happy to spend time together. Thanks for the lovely time!

So, what did I do during these three days of festival?


We went to the Modern Art Museum and visited the exhibition The Skin Is a Thin Container by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, followed by a discussion with Johana Gustawsson, a French crime fiction writer married to a Swede. The talk was fascinating as she explained her family history and background, how it fuels her book stories and why she felt connected with the exhibition.

We had a grand time with her, as she was open about her family legacy and eager to exchange views with the attendance. I’ve never read her yet and I got one of her books, La Folly. I didn’t get a signed copy as the lines were too long.

That’s when we joined Marina Sofia in the great hall of the Chamber of Commerce where the independent bookstores are set with their guest authors. I managed to talk briefly with Peter Farris and William Boyle, both authors published by Gallmeister and tour budies (their word), as they are touring together in France for a few weeks.

We then met with friends in a restaurant to have drinks and appetizers. We had a wonderful time.


The day started with a bateau-mouche cruise with the artist Joann Sfar. This is a one hour cruise on the Saône river with a writer interviewed by a journalist.

It’s usually a lovely hour and Sfar talked about his latest BD, Riviera, about his hometown Nice. He’s friendly, funny and made me want to visit Nice again. Imagine that he went to the same lycée as Joseph Kessel and Romain Gary.

At the beginning of the afternoon, we attended a panel in the grand salon of the City Hall. The writers were Carlos Zanón who has taken over the Pepe Carvalho character, AK Turner, William Boyle and Elizabeth George.

It was supposed to be about the importance of their chosen town in their work, Madrid and Barcelone for Zanón, Camden Town in London for AK Turner, Gravesend in Brooklyn for  Boyle and London for George. The journalist didn’t really manage to make them interact and it wasn’t the best panel I’ve ever attended.

The next panel at the Chapelle de la Trinité was excellent. It was about writing crime fiction set in remote places. The authors were Andrée Michaud and Roxane Bourchard, both from Québec and writing books set in the woods or in Gaspésie, Henri Loevenbruck who has created a fictional Channel Island, Thomas Mullen whose last book is set in a commune in Washington and RJ Ellory with his book in a mining town in Québec.

The atmosphere of this panel was relaxed and full of banter, thanks to Michel Dufranne, the journalist who led the discussion. His sense of humor backed up by Roxane Bouchard and Henri Loevenbruck’s own brand of fun made them crack jokes and had the attendance laughing.

I was impressed with Loevenbruck’s island, Blackmore: imagine that he created an island, built its scale model, imagined the lives and biographies of its 1000 inhabitants. And now, it’s an open source island, meaning that, provided that they ask his permission, any writer may use this setting to write their own book. Isn’t it unheard of?

Roxane Bouchard won the Quais du Polar prize for crime fiction for her novel Nous étions le sel de la mer. I really want to read it as I’ve been to Gaspésie and I’m curious about her book.


First, an international panel at the Chapelle de la Trinité again, with Peter Farris (USA), Takashi Morita (Japan), Jacob Philipps (UK) and Jakub Szamalek (Poland). Farris and Szamalek write novels while Takashi Morita made Arsène Lupin into a manga and Philipps draws comics.

I’m curious about all their books, with a preference for the novels. I’ll wait for their paperback editions to read them, though. Le Présage by Peter Farris received glorious reviews by French journalists and libraires. It’s only available in French translation and I hope he’ll be published in his native language some day.

Szamalek’s book explores contemporary Poland and our digital world. It sounded fascinating. I don’t think it is available in English translation.

Then, we went to another cruise on the Saône river, this time with Javier Cercas and about his Terra Alta trilogy. I haven’t read it and it felt like I was really missing out. Have you read it?

We really felt that we had just shared a privileged moment with a great writer. He talked about his crime fiction trilogy, about writing, about literature. All in French.

And last but not least, we went to the opera where William Boyle had a rock and talk hour. First, a local rock band played a few songs and then Philippe Manche, a music journalist, interviewed Boyle about his love for rock. He used to be in a band and listens to a lot of rock music. We had a great time.

Between the various events we attended, we spent time at the bookstores, bought books, had them signed and talked a little with writers. I think I had the opportunity to talk to all the writers I wanted to see: Michèle Pedinielli, William Boyle, Peter Farris, Thomas Mullen, Victor del Arbol, Santiago Gamboa. All of them were friendly and it’s a great opportunity for readers.

They all seem to have a good time, spending time with their libraires, their publishing house, other writers and meeting readers. And people stay in line, eager to share their love of books, there’s a constant rush of people buying books, talking about books, reading books in lines or in corridors and sharing book recommendations. What a blast!

The outcome: an increase of my crime fiction TBR:

Next year will be their 20th anniversary of the festival, from April 7 to April 9-2024. See you next year for another Quais du Polar episode!

  1. April 8, 2023 at 10:09 pm

    Lucky, lucky you, and I’m glad attendance was so good. Sounds like sales were booming too.
    No I haven’t read the trilogy you mentioned.


    • April 10, 2023 at 8:58 am

      I’m sure you’d love this festival and yes, the attendance is back to normal. I wonder what they’ll do for their 20th anniversary.


  2. April 9, 2023 at 3:18 am

    You won’t be surprised to hear that all we’ve seen in the media here is the riots in Paris… so it’s lovely to see that life is going on regardless and that you had a great time.


    • April 10, 2023 at 9:04 am

      Ah, the riots and the demonstrations. All part of the folklore. The demonstrations were predictable given the topic.

      The festival was excellent, I’m impressed by all the events they organize and how they managed to rally institutions around it.
      The forensic examination police, the school for commissaires de police, the criminal courts, lawyers…
      It’s fascinating for crime fiction readers.

      And everytime I see tired but happy writers. Happy to meet other writers, happy to meet their readers, happy to be with their publishers or their attached local libraire.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April 9, 2023 at 8:10 am

    Ah, you managed to attend so many panels! I’m especially jealous of the Javier Cercas cruise and I’m definitely gòing to try and read his trilogy, which I don’t think has been translated into English.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 10, 2023 at 9:06 am

      It was lovely seeing you again.
      I think that Terra Alta was translated into Even the Darkest Night. And yes, I’m interested in reading it too.


  4. Vishy
    April 9, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Loved your post, Emma! Wonderful events and wonderful writers and wonderful books! Always look forward to your annual post on the Quais du Polar 😊 Have added Roxanne Bouchard to my wishlist. Can’t wait to read her book! Thanks for sharing 😊


    • April 10, 2023 at 9:11 am

      Thanks Vishy! As always, I had a wonderful time. Looking forward to their 20th anniversary!

      I hope you’ll enjoy the Roxanne Bouchard, Vishy.


      • Vishy
        April 10, 2023 at 4:08 pm

        Thank you for sharing your Quais du Polar experiences this year and taking us along with you, Emma! Loved your post! Can’t wait for your post next year. Looking forward to reading Roxanne Bouchard soon. Thanks so much for writing about her books!


  5. April 10, 2023 at 2:43 pm

    I always enjoy your excursions. Thanks too for the wonderful photos.


    • April 10, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Thanks. It always surprises me that they catch people’s attention but I’m glad you enjoyed this post.
      Stay tuned, a Literary Escapade is coming up!


  6. April 10, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    Sounds like a marvellous and very special time – thanks for sharing this!!!


  7. Pat
    April 17, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    Hi, haven’t been well, and so just got round to reading your post. Sounds like you had a great time. So yes I read the first of Cercas’ trilogy https://patpalbooks.wordpress.com/2021/09/11/javier-cercas-terra-alta/, which I quite enjoyed, I recently borrowed this second part of the trilogy from the library but finding myself back in the same seedy surroundings in Barcelona as previously I didn’t read more than the first chapters.


    • April 18, 2023 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks, I’ll keep the Cercas in mind even if I have A LOT of other books to read before I read this one. 🙂


  8. Pat
    April 17, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    hi again, I read the Roxanne Bouchard as well and noted that she slows the story to the speed of the sea.



    • April 18, 2023 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks again! This one is very tempting too.


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