findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the tag “France”

Children’s Idols and Cultural Differences

Stromae

Stromae

Last week I heard on the radio about a survey commissioned by Le Journal de Mickey in France, to find out the top celebrities or idols for 7-14 year olds. Unsurprisingly, Stromae came out top. He is certainly No. 1 in our house – and a hugely talented singer/songwriter, although his brand of disenchanted, cynical rebellion would suit an older age-group (in my opinion, but I’m just an old-fashioned Mum, right?).

Shy'm

Shy’m

Also in the top 5: actor/comedian Kev Adams, DJ/rapper Maitre Gims, actor Omar Sy and actor/opera-singer Loup-Denis Elion.  The top 10 also included judo champion Teddy Riner and (for girls especially) actress Audrey Lamy and singers Tal and Shy’m. Hollande and Sarkozy were fighting it out amongst themselves down in the dregs for the 50th place.

Loup-Denis Elion

Loup-Denis Elion

You won’t have heard of any of the favourite celebrities (except perhaps Omar Sy, who appeared in the feel-good film ‘The Intouchables’) unless you live in France and regularly watch TV or read the tabloids. So why am I telling you this? Is it an opportunity to bemoan that children seem to be attracted to the stars of entertainment? That they seem attracted to ‘easy fame’?

OmarSy

Omar Sy

Well, actually, no. Because the children’s choice is probably better than an adult version might be. There are no reality TV stars there, famous for little else than provoking scandal and appearing at every opening. There are no teenage boy or girl bands, who are created and controlled by money-hungry adults. These are all people who are working hard in their chosen field and achieving success after many years of practice. Sure, there could be more women on this list – but the women who are there are not just pretty faces or wives/girlfriends of other famous people.

MaitreGims

MaitreGims

What struck me most about the list, however, was that there were hardly any white people on it. Most of these idols are at least partly black, North African, Jewish… And that’s refreshing. You could argue that this is because most ‘ethnic groups’ (a term which sets my teeth on edge, since we are all ethnic in some way) go into the entertainment industry. However, dare I hope that this means that the younger generation are more ‘colour-blind’ than us older ones? And I also wonder what a list like this would look like in other countries: UK, US, Greece? Anyone know?

Atmospheric Settings: Castles

Following on from my previous post, speaking of great settings…

Some of the crucial scenes of my crime novel in progress (3rd draft, thank you for asking) are set in a mountain chalet [of the public rather than the posh type]. However, seeing these pictures of French castles, I couldn’t help wondering if I could set my next novel in one of those places!

Chateau near Clermont-Ferrand.

Chateau near Clermont-Ferrand.

Some have Versailles-type fountains...

Some have Versailles-type fountains…

chateau3

…And some have pools.

The more towers, the merrier...

The more towers, the merrier…

Chateau with gite (B&B).

Chateau with gite (B&B).

For medievalists.

For medievalists.

And for those who prefer Neo-Classical style...

And for those who prefer Neo-Classical style…

Incidentally, all of these castles are for sale, if you have a spare few million euros to invest in buying and renovating. More pictures and estate-agenty type details are available from websites such as http://www.bellesdemeures.com, http://www.avendrealouer.fr  and http://www.maisons-et-chateaux.com.

The Sadness of Bookshop Closures

Bookshop Haul

Bookshop Haul

I wish this could be a light-hearted piece about my latest book purchases and what I am looking forward to reading.

Instead, it is with great sadness that I show you my last purchases from the local independent bookshop. Unfortunately, the wonderful Librairie Centrale in Ferney-Voltaire in France is going to close this coming Saturday. Despite French policy on fixed pricing for books, and despite the fact that it was the only bookshop in a region of 27 villages and 80,000 inhabitants, it too fell victim to online retailers and the rise of e-books. It had been operating at a loss for about a year, although I personally never left the shop empty-handed. I loved chatting to the owner, who would recommend books or order those hard-to-find editions for me.

It made the national news (you can see a short clip in French on You Tube, see the link below). The local inhabitants did try to form an association to save the bookshop. We organised bring-and-buy book sales, literary events, word-of-mouth campaigns, but it was all too little too late.  Late last week we were told that the court of Bourg-en-Bresse has ordered the cessation of commercial activity (forced bankruptcy).  As the video says, it is ironic that in the village founded by writer and patron of the arts Voltaire, there should be no bookshop. Market forces, I suppose, but I still have a leaden heart about it!

 

The Greenland Breach by Bernard Besson

greenland-breach1

As part of the France Book Tours, I am pleased to welcome you to my blog today with a candid review of the eco-thriller The Greenland Breach.

 Release date: October 30, 2013
- Direct-to-digital translation (all major ebook outlets)
- Isbn: 978-1-939474-94-0 (Kindle)/ 978-1-939474-95-7 (epub)
- 113,000 words/285 pages
Buying links: http://www.lefrenchbook.com/get-books/ or the Amazon Le French Book page: http://www.amazon.com/l/6327897011#

Synopsis:

A stylish, fast-paced spy thriller about the intrigue, economic warfare and struggles for natural resources promised by global warming. The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the Unites States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steamy Eurasian partner, Victoire, and their bisexual computer-genius sidekick, Luc, pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity.

Author:

Award-winning thriller writer Bernard Besson, who was born in Lyon, France, in 1949, is a former top-level chief of staff of the French intelligence services, an eminent specialist in economic intelligence and Honorary General Controller of the French National Police. He was involved in dismantling Soviet spy rings in France and Western Europe when the USSR fell and has real inside knowledge from his work auditing intelligence services and the police. He has also written a number of prize-winning thrillers and several works of nonfiction. He currently lives in the fourteenth arrondissement of Paris, right down the street from his heroes.
Author page: http://www.lefrenchbook.com/our-authors/bernard-besson/

Translator:

Julie Rose is a prize-winning, world-renowned translator of major French thinkers, known for, among other works, her acclaimed translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, which was published by Random House in 2008. She has translated twenty-eight books, including many French classics, and writes on the side. She lives in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, with her husband, dog and two cats.

greenland-breach-banner

My Review:

This book is the first ecological thriller I have ever come across, but there is little moralising or preaching here. The author has a knack for taking topical issues and making exciting, highly complex adventures out of them. Global warming is but one of the culprits in this story: corporate and personal greed, national pride, inflated egos and lack of concern for the future of humanity are all equally to blame.

The plot is complex, with so many strands combining and so many instances of double-crossing that it is difficult to know whom to trust. Even the three main investigators at Fermatown come in ambiguous shades of grey at times. This makes them more nuanced and less obviously heroic than the main protagonists of many international thrillers. They are prone to appalling lack of judgement and rash decisions at times, which I attribute to their character flaws, but which the author may have done to move the plot forward. Their knowledge of the latest technology is unparalleled, but they are sometimes less discerning when it comes to people.

This not just about spying and international conspiracies, however As readers, we also witness moral dilemmas and real murders, with victims about whom we have started to care. My favourite character is the captain of the vessel stranded in Greenland, Loïc Le Guévenec, a simple man forced into bravery, when all he dreams of is to retire with his wife to a little house on the coast of Brittany.

The prose is taut and fast-paced, as befits a thriller, and you can tell that Monsieur Besson really knows his stuff. Yet it has more poetry to it than some American thrillers I have recently read. The beauty and severity of Greenland is lovingly described, as is the community feel of the Montparnasse district in Paris, where the Fermatown posse work and live.

In conclusion: buckle up tightly, you are in for a roller coaster of an exciting read, but you will have to concentrate, as the storyline may confuse you if you are not paying close attention.

See what other reviewers thought of this book by joining the blog tour here.

If you would like to win an e-book copy of The Greenland Breach, please leave a comment below and tweet about this review before midday (GMT) on Monday 11th November and I will select a winner at random and ask for your email address to have the link sent to you. Since it is an e-book, it is open to readers worldwide. Thank you and hope you enjoy the read!

Running Home

P1010699The mountains are closing in today.

On a clear day, just after a drop in temperature, they open up as endless as your life seems in childhood. On a day like this, when clouds display a full arsenal of grays, when rain is announced every few minutes, the mountains seem closer.  Too close.  They press against you, crush you, lock you in. You begin to understand the danger of the Alps. Ominous is a word created for that brief silence before the storm breaks.

So you start running. Mud, pebbles, asphalt: the terrain varies and so do your steps. What you cannot get used to is the running between borders.  After a lifetime of being punished for your nationality, of not being allowed in or out of countries, it is such a thrill to be able to weave your way in and out of France and Switzerland. A grey, moss-covered border stone dating from the 1870s is your only witness.

You moved to the area unwillingly the first time round. You had to give up a good job, family and friends, a good-sized house in the process of being slowly renovated, the language of your comfort. The children were fully dependent on you that first time, each day was a struggle with unfamiliarity. You couldn’t wait to get back ‘home’.

MountainsBut home had moved on, as had you. You found yourself struggling to fit in. You were still the alien, perhaps even more so with your new-found love for croissants and small coffees. You missed the extreme landscapes, the seasons. You remembered breathing in air so fresh that it rushed straight to your lungs in unadulterated delight.

Life has a way of playing with your emotions. Just when you are settled in again, when you have arranged your memories in a neatly labelled box to be put up in the attic, it is time to resurrect them.  You are going back to the space on the border for a second time. But this time it’s all different again. The children are older, your French is better. You continue working, but you are determined to make each minute in this wonderful location count. You are not going to leave this area again, regretting all that you didn’t do and see.

Home is a word you have bandied about far too often in your existence. You’ve believed you were at home in many places, with many people, but have you ever fully understood it? 

GrapesCould this be home now? You hardly dare to hope.

Yet there is a lilt in your peasant soul as you run through the fields, worrying about the harvest. 

The peaks and valleys, now green and pleasant, now eerily bare, mirror your own innerscapes. You surprise yourself with the sudden onset of storms, but you recognise a twin spirit.

If you weren’t so marked by years of taunting, you might almost think you are communing with nature.

Whether this is home or not, this is the best of you. Use this time wisely. Write it all down.

Who Has the Larger Audience?

globes

Courtesy of louisemore.wordpress.com

A couple of days ago my husband and I were having a ding-dong – I mean a civilised debate of course – about which writers have a larger audience worldwide: English-speaking ones or those from other countries?

I was arguing that American crime writers, for instance (talking about a genre that I know a little about), have a large audience back home, plus they can be easily exported to the UK, Australia, Canada and so on.  Additionally, European publishers and readers are much more likely to translate American crime fiction, while US publishers and audiences are more reluctant to try translations.  For instance, looking at bestseller lists for crime and thrillers across Europe, I find similar stats for the Top 20 at any given time. In France only a quarter are by French authors, about half are by English-speaking (largely US) authors, and another quarter by other Europeans.  In Germany, slightly more German authors (about a third), but again half are translations from English and slightly fewer translations from other languages than in France (predominantly Scandinavian). Italy, by way of contrast, numbers about one-third European translations in their Top 20, plus one-third Italian, one-third Anglo.

What is the picture in the US, meanwhile? Well, things have moved on, apparently, from the notorious 3% problem, i.e. that only 3% of all publications in the US are translations.  It seems that nowadays, out of approximately 15,800 new titles being published each year, 300 or so are translations. Which brings the percentage total up to 5.2%, yippee! Of course, I am not comparing like with like, as this is translation across all genres, rather than just for crime fiction. Every crime author hopes to crack the US market though, that’s when you know you’ve hit the jackpot!

Certainly in the UK, there has been a boom in translated crime fiction, particularly of the Scandinavian persuasion, since 2005 or thereabouts.  So much so, that it sometimes feels like publishers are scraping the bottom of the barrel, as for every outstanding author like Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell or Karin Fossum, there seem to be some real duds being foisted onto the British public as well.  However, if I conduct there too my admittedly unscientific sampling of bestselling paperback crime titles at any given point in time, what do I find? 1 or 2 out of 20 are translations (sure enough, Scandinavian): everything else is English – and by that I mean about 60% American.

translationglobeMy husband dared to suggest that the quality of the writing might have something to do with it.  You know what you get with an American thriller, it’s pretty standard, just like a Hollywood blockbuster.  That sounds to me like consistency rather than quality, but I suppose some readers are less willing to experiment. They prefer the tried and tested.  Clearly, though, the marketing, translation rights teams and PR all work better state-side – they probably have much bigger teams to handle it all.

‘But,’ argues my numerate and oh-so-scientific husband, ‘The European publishing market overall is bigger. See here, I googled it and European publishing houses report 22 billion euros revenue, while the US is only 15 billion $.’

I think that may have something to do with book pricing, so I’m not even going to go there.  But the point is that Europe of course is a much more segmented market, so you need to be translated into several languages to make a killing there.  And the final clincher is: Europeans get translated by other Europeans (and a teensy bit in the US), while Americans travel everywhere. Cultural imperialism is still alive and well.

Without forcing you to take sides in this conjugal dispute, what are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you think readers in other countries are more open to trying something new, unfamiliar? Do you think the slick Anglo-Saxon model of crime fiction is taking over the entire world? What are some of your favourite recent discoveries in translated fiction, anything that surprised you?

Review of ‘The 7th Woman’

7th-Woman_cover_3_v2It’s my great pleasure today to be a stop on the blog tour of ‘The 7th Woman’ by  French author Frédérique Molay.  This tour is organised by France Booktours and I jumped at the chance to be part of it.  You know me and my passion for French crime fiction!

My Review:

When foreign authors set their crime novels in France, they tend to dwell on the more nostalgic and touristy aspects of French culture (the wine, the food, cute historical villages and the weekly markets, for instance). Nothing wrong with that lovely escapism. However, contemporary French crime fiction is much more likely to be closer to the Anglo-Saxon model.  Serial killers, police profilers, forensic science and police teamwork all feature prominently, but I love the way French authors use and adapt these conventions,  giving them a French twist.

A serial killer is the subject of Frédérique Molay’s first novel about Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, head of the brigade criminelle in Paris.  The first murder is brutal (the description can get a bit graphic, not overly so, but squeamish readers will need to exercise some caution here), but everything is meticulously staged and there are no clues.  They barely have time to get started on the investigation, when another murder follows.  The killer appears to have a predilection for relatively well-off, dark-haired, thin women, and is planning to kill 7 such women in 7 days unless the police can stop him.  From about the third murder onwards, it becomes clear that the killer is sending a personal message to Sirsky, and knows far too much about him and his family.

Although it feels like this story has been covered many times before (in books and on film), Molay does a good job of keeping things fast-paced and interesting. The plot has plenty of twists and dead ends to keep you guessing and entertained: it certainly had me reading until late at night.

But what I really liked about the books are the realistic and workman-like descriptions of the police investigation.  This is a well-oiled team, suffering a little from the long hours and the stresses of the job, but working well together, against the clock.  There are no primadonnas or melodramatic confrontations simply for the sake of making the characters appear more interesting.  And, although Nico Sirsky is the main protagonist, we get to know and appreciate other members of the team as well: strong-minded psychologist Dominque Kreiss, specialising in sexual assault; deputy police commissioner Cohen, a top-notch professional who manages to steer clear of politics; fiery medical examiner Armelle Villars; hard-working Commander Kriven, Nico’s right-hand man.  These are all promising characters in their own right and I look forward to finding out more about them in the next books in the series.

Sirsky’s home life is complicated, but not depressing, as is so often the cliché about lonely police detectives.  Sirsky has almost too much family, all concerned about his welfare: a larger-than-life mother, devoted sister, a depressed ex-wife Sylvie and his teenage son Dimitri.  He also embarks upon a passionate love affair with Dr. Caroline Dalry, whom he has consulted about his stomach pains.  Some readers have found the progression of the love affair to be far too rapid, but I thought it was understandable for a man in a profession where he is daily confronted by death and the transitory nature of life.

All in all, an enjoyable, solid police procedural, which proves you can sustain suspense without going overboard on thrillerish elements.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Le French Book is to be congratulated for finding such a great variety of contemporary French crime fiction and for making it available to English speakers.

The 7th Woman

A bestselling police procedural set in Paris

 Synopsis

There’s no rest for Paris’s top criminal investigation division, La Crim’. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? A serial killer is taking pleasure in a macabre ritual that leaves the police on tenterhooks. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky—a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son and a budding love story—races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure? It has the suspense of Seven, with CSI-like details, giving a whole new dimension to Paris.

-Won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award, the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres

-Named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year by Lire magazine

-Months on the bestseller lists

-Translated into seven languages

-Over 150,000 copies sold in France

Author: Frédérique Molay

Translator: Anne Trager

Publisher: Le French Book, Inc.

First published in French (Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2006)

Genre: police procedural/thriller

BISAC cat.: Mystery and Detective/Police procedural

ISBN: 978-0-9853206-6-9 (Kindle)/

978-0-9853206-7-6 (epub)

List Price: $7.99

Buying links:

For your Amazon Kindle.

For your Barnes & Noble Nook.

For your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

For your Kobo.

Praise for The 7th Woman

“Frédérique Molay is the French Michael Connelly.” — Jean Miot, former head of Agence France Presse and the French daily Le Figaro

“It’s really an excellent book. It’s the kind of suspense that makes you miss your subway stop or turn off your phone once you’ve started it.” —RTL

“You barely have time to catch your breath between turning the pages of this spine-tingling novel.”— Cine Tele Revue

About the Author

Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious political science school Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Frédérique Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, with three in the Nico Sirsky series.

http://www.lefrenchbook.com/our-authors/frederique-molay/

Contact:

anne@lefrenchbook.com

Website:

http://www.lefrenchbook.com

More at:

http://www.the7thwoman.com

Facebook: LeFrenchBook

Twitter: @LeFrenchBook

Signs You May be Turning French…

You know your children are turning French when…

… they know more swear/slang words in French than they do in English.

… every sentence is prefaced by the exclamation ‘La vache!’ (and no, they weren’t referring to the Montbeliard cows producing Comté cheese, who were grazing peacefully on every field we passed during our holidays).

… they demand ‘explications’ for every single command you issue.

… older son is writing an encyclopedia because he likes to pontificate about things and he has heard of Diderot.

… younger son builds Eiffel Towers with rulers, protractors, pens and rubbers (in earlier years, it used to be the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth).

… they have opinions on the policies of François Hollande and compare him with Sarkozy

Maybe it’s time to head home soon?

Then again, on a sunny day like this…Image

 

Memorable Moments from Lyon Crime Festival

DSCN6589Did you know that 70% of crime fiction editors in France are women?  That is just one of the surprising facts that I found out at the Quais du Polar in Lyon this last weekend.

What I also found there: a great intimacy between readers and writers, a fun-filled atmosphere, resilience to stand in the queue despite the rain and cold, and plenty of memorable quotes and valuable nuggets of information such as:

1) The Festival in Figures: 4 days, 70 authors, 35 panel discussions, 5 live recordings of radio programmes, 5 literary prizes (less to do with money, more to do with prestige and a spike in sales), 10 films introduced by authors, 10 theatre performances and an estimated 60,000 visitors.

ClaudeMespledeClaude Mesplède was the President of the Readers’ Jury and the true beating heart of the Festival.  Passionate about crime fiction since the age of 10, he has edited anthologies of crime fiction, written the definitive Dictionary of Crime Literature and been instrumental in setting up the Toulouse Crime Festival.

UrbanPanel2) The Urban Panel: The urban landscape as a scene of desolation, poverty and deprivation, with petty crime and trivial, sensationalised news items. This is crime fiction at its grittiest, providing rich social commentary. Young writers Rachid Santaki and Jérémie Guez write about the Parisian ghettos from personal experience, Petros Markaris mourns the amnesia and almost casual descent into violence and indifference of Athens, John Burdett shows a side of Bangkok that the Thai Tourist Board would undoubtedly not approve of.  It is left to Swiss writer Joël Dicker to round it off with a critique of the American media reporting on crimes in his runaway success of a debut novel ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’. (Oddly enough, Dicker has become a bit of a media buzz himself – however, in the picture I took of the panel he is not visible, so you cannot judge for yourselves if he is indeed as good-looking and boyish looking as he is hyped to be).

3) Quotes about writing, sources of inspiration and the joys of being read:

It’s not about faith or inspiration, it’s about work. (David Khara)

I never wanted to write anything else but crime fiction. Writing a story that grips people, with strong characters, seems to me such an art and an achievement. (Sylvie Granotier)

When a community and a society is starting to lose its conscience, perhaps a writer has a duty to act as the collective memory. (Petros Markaris)

PetrosMarkaris

Petros Markaris

The banality of evil is what makes crime fiction so interesting.  We are always surprised to find a killer in our midst, which is why we always say ‘Who could have imagined X doing such a thing?’ But we never know people well enough to see what lurks beneath the surface. We seldom dare to look deep enough within ourselves even. (Joël Dicker)

I started out with crime fiction because it was something I liked reading and I thought I might be able to do it. But I didn’t think I would stay with it for so long. That’s because it is a genre that also allows you to say something true about men and women, and about the society in which we live. (P.D. James)

Amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us go to work.  You can’t be in it just for the money – I don’t chase the money (although it’s nice when I get it), but the readers’ hearts. However, Dickens, Shakespeare, Dumas all wrote for money.  The idea that a writer has to be   lofty and above commerce is a very modern one.  All I want to do is entertain.  If a reader takes my book to bed with them for 15 minutes and is still reading it at 5 in the morning, I have more than accomplished my mission. (Harlan Coben)

Diniz Galhoz

Diniz Galhos

Us younger French writers feel more like global citizens: we can write about America, about Japan, about anywhere in the world. A good story remains a good story, no matter where it is located. (Diniz Galhos)

The authors of obscure literary fiction who say ‘You have readers, but I have my dignity’ are kidding themselves if they think that their notion of success is any different from my notion of success.  Everyone wants more readers. (Jeff Abbott)

ElsaMarpeau

Elsa Marpeau

90% of present-day French crime writers have been influenced by American fiction, especially Elmore Leonard.  I am not sure that all those traditional differences between Anglo-Saxon and French literature still apply. (Elsa Marpeau)

Only bad writers think they are good, all others are insecure.  Your book is never quite what you want it to be. That’s what motivates you to write the next one. (Harlan Coben)

But above all, I found ornate, sumptuous and unusual locations, just right to celebrate literary delights!

Hotel de Ville, Lyon

Hotel de Ville, Lyon

MainHall
Main Hall

And here is my book haul from the festival.  I really made an effort to restrain myself.

DSCN6594

Lyon, Lyon, here I come!

Starting today, Lyon is hosting the Quais du Polar festival, celebrating crime fiction. Last year’s visitors’ numbers were 45 000 and this year, I am delighted to say, I will be amongst them.  You can see the full programme here (in French) and my summary of the event here.  But for now, I am looking forward to spending Easter with my family and with thousands of crime fiction fanatics like myself in one of the loveliest (and gastronomically most renowned) cities in France.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover for all who are celebrating this now.Image

Post Navigation