Already the fourteenth edition of the Toulouse Polars du Sud festival which, as its name suggests, is dedicated to detective literature in all its forms. Its Grand Helmsman, Jean-Paul Vormus, presents the edition which will take place from Friday October 7 to Sunday October 9, as well as the authors present.
This year again, there is an important international dimension among the invited authors. With a mix of well-known authors (see very well-known like Deon Meyer and Iain Levison), but also some less famous ones. Some authors to recommend to us among the latter?
The first one I think of is Simone Buchholz, an excellent German novelist who lives in Hamburg and describes this city remarkably well. There is also Miguel Szymanski who has written thrillers with a fairly classic structure. His latest book takes place after the last financial crisis in Portugal, with the shenanigans between the banks and the government. It has an extremely well-drawn main character, it’s really well done. Otherwise I also like Stuart Turton whose last novel, The Strange Saardam Crossing, takes place in 1634 on the side of Indonesia, where a ship leaves the East Indies for Amsterdam. The cruise starts badly since a leper with his tongue cut out curses the boat as soon as it sets sail. There could be a demon on board. A whole bunch of paranormal phenomena occur. He even reverses the codes of the genre since the one who could be the main detective, a kind of Sherlock Holmes, is locked up in the hold, and it is finally his Watson who leads the investigation. It’s very good, with lots of twists and turns. Finally, there is also a Quebec author, Roxanne Bouchard, whose noir novel has spread to the fishing community in Gaspésie, on the shores of the Gulf of Chaleur. She speaks very well of this world of fishermen and there is also the charm of Quebec expressions. It’s quite satisfying and full of color. Finally, I will quote Edyr Augusto, a Brazilian author who writes a hundred miles an hour.
And among the French, what new faces?
By a really new head but an excellent author, Séverine Chevalier, in a very dark but very successful register, on the evolution of a child who grows up with an alcoholic mother who becomes infatuated with a manipulative guy. It’s more of a crime novel and a social novel than a thriller. I liked The combination by Félix Lemaître who tells the story of a fifty-year-old supermarket demonstrator whose dream is to go to the West Indies with his family. Alas, he is fired. At the same time, he receives a diving suit that he had ordered for his trip to the West Indies. He then began to wear this combination every day. This gives a social, funny, crazy novel which makes it a very original book. Otherwise, I will quote The blues of the moths by Valentine Imhof, a superb novel set during the Great Depression in the United States. Finally, Olivier Bordaçarre who wrote a dystopia, Apartment 816where the covid confinement is extended almost indefinitely, and where people are supplied by drones and are only allowed to open their windows for a few minutes.
You also always invite Toulouse authors…
Yes, this year, there are still many of them, there are Benoit Séverac, Nicolas Druart, Pascal Dessaint, Gabrielle Massat, Maïté Bernard, Fanny Abadie, Christophe Guillaumot, Pierre Dabernat and the designer Gaël Henry.
There have always been cycles/modes in crime fiction: the serial killer in the 1990s, the Nordic thriller in the early 2000s, the thriller under other skies with foreign authors more present in translation and French people who write on other countries (Ferey, Manook, etc.)… What will be the next trend?
Given the somewhat scary times we are living in, I think there will be an increasingly dystopian side to crime fiction. Whether political or ecological dystopias (I’m thinking of the recent novel Collapse of Thomas Bronnec who describes an ecological dictatorship with recovery centers to educate people in ecology), technological, nuclear threats, social control, etc. It’s a new playground for them.
There is a diversity of houses in thrillers ranging from the most main stream to the most literary. There are still beautiful houses and collections on a human scale such as La Manufacture des Livres, Agullo, Equinox, Gallmeister… I’m probably forgetting some. When you see that Rivages was bought by Actes Sud (which also took over Bragelonne in SF if I’m not mistaken), is there a risk of seeing the small ones bought up by the big ones, as we have seen in the world of records and independent labels thirty years ago?
The biggest threat is the possible merger (in one form or another) under the aegis of Bolloré between Hachette and Editis. This would risk leading to a distribution monopoly and would weaken the diversity, quality and dynamism of the French publishing landscape. However, you have a whole bunch of small publishers, publishing a few books a year. And I’m not asking for pessimism because I think there will always be enthusiasts to set up a publishing house. I will take the example of the Cayman editions. He notably edited Sandrine Cohen who wrote a great novel: Rosine, an ordinary criminal. We invited him last year. Also look at Monsieur Toussaint Louverture who started from nothing and who is today a great success. I remain optimistic even if the distribution aspect with Editis worries me more.
For the festival activities, what is on the menu this year?
In particular, there is a rally-investigation on Sunday, October 9, written by Maïté Bernard, a life-size Cluedo at the Museum of Natural History on Thursday, October 6, an investigation reserved for children during the weekend, film screenings with commentary by Hugues Pagan, Iain Levison and Jerome Leroy.