A quick check suggests my fiction has been translated into twenty plus languages by thirty or so different publishers and with contrasting results. A strong commitment has, unsurprisingly, proved more successful in terms of sales, whereas a single book, slipped like a wary toe into the water, has tended to make a mere ripple before withering away, forgotten. Worse still, there was a time when I was concerned about the effect I was having on the Italian publishing industry: no sooner, it seemed, had a contract for one or more of my books been signed than the business failed and went into administration.
No such problems, thankfully, in France, where Les Éditions Payot & Rivages have published and strongly supported all of my work, beginning in 1993, when the first Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, made its debut as Coeurs Solitaires in the Rivages/Noir collection under the direction of François Guérif, up to the final book in the Resnick series, Darkness, Darkness / Ténèbres, ténèbres. And in January, 2021, they will publish Body & Soul / Le Corps et l’âme, the fourth and final novel in the Frank Elder series – and my final novel all told.
Mon dieu, how I love that cover!
By way of introduction to the novel, there is a short video made by Molly Ernestine Boiling, in which I talk about the novel’s beginnings in an unshakable dream, then read a section from the first chapter.
The recent arrival of two new editions of the third Resnick novel, Cutting Edge, one from Taiwan, the other from Italy, got me thinking about just how many different editions – some in English, some in translation – there have been since the book’s original publication, by Viking, in 1991, close to thirty years ago. A thought which got me scurrying to the shelves in search of an answer, and which turned out, eventually, to be 21. And that’s not including audio versions, abridged and unabridged, and at least two versions I’m aware of when it was included in an omnibus edition with other Resnick titles; one in this country from Arrow, the other a Knizni Klub volume from Czechoslovakia.
It is of course what most writers want, a book that outlasts its initial display on the tables at Waterstones and elsewhere [what elsewhere?] to exist, not just on library shelves or in charity shops, but still, somewhere, on sale. Being – hopefully – bought; being read. And what the writer of a series hopes for, beyond that, is that anyone for whom Cutting Edge is their first encounter with Charlie Resnick, will begin to track down the other eleven books available.
That the novel has been published in ten countries is testimony to both Charlie’s universality – and the universal appeal of crime fiction – and perhaps even more so to the diligence and persuasiveness of my agents over the years – initially Carole Blake at Blake Friedmann, then Sarah Lutyens at Lutyens & Rubinstein, along with their networks of sub-agents across the globe. And looking at the jacket design, gives an interesting indication of changes in graphic fashion, both from year to year and country to country.
Henry Holt were my American hardcover publishers for the first 10 Resnick novels and my editor there, Marion Wood, was, happily for me, more hands-on than many who buy the publishing rights from elsewhere, and, as such, she was very instrumental in framing the way the series would develop. The best-selling author Sue Grafton was one of her writers at Holt and she always said that as long as she had Sue – for whom she had a great fondness and admiration – in her corner, she could ‘get away’ with publishing slightly left-field writers like Daniel Woodrell and myself, whose sales were, shall we say, less than astronomical.
This cover, seeking to tie the paperback edition of the novel in with the BBC television series which featured Tom Wilkinson in the role of Resnick, was commissioned under the assumption that Cutting Edge would follow Lonely Hearts & Rough Treatment, which were broadcast in 1992/93. Unfortunately, although the script for Cutting Edge had been accepted and, thankfully, paid for, the BBC made a decision – based, to an extent, upon what they deemed to be disappointing viewing figures – not to go ahead with the filming. Which didn’t help sales of the paperback and was one of the issues that led to an estrangement between Viking/Penguin and myself and my decision to buy myself out of my contract – I owed them one more book – and move, in 1994, to William Heinemann/Arrow, where, despite changes in ownership, I’ve been ever since, happy under Susan Sandon’s watchful editorial eye.
Although Cutting Edge and a number of the other Resnick titles have been published in a number of countries, only Rivages, in France, have – up to the present – followed a consistent policy of publishing all of my crime fiction – not just the Resnick series, but the first three Elder novels and all the various stand-alones that have come along the way. I first met François Guerif, long the director of Rivages’ magnificent Noir series, at the Shots in the Dark festival in Nottingham, which led to him publishing Lonely Hearts – Coeurs Solitaires – in 1993, and I’m proud to say we have remained firm friends ever since.
One of the distinct and, thankfully, long-lasting pleasures, not to say sources of pride, in my writing life has been being published in France by François Guérif in Rivages/Noir, the collection that he founded and continues to direct for Éditions Payot & Rivages, and which includes such writers as James Lee Burke, Robin Cook, James Elroy, David Goodis, George V. Higgins, Tony Hillerman, Bill James, Elmore Leonard, William McIlvanney, Ross Thomas, Jim Thompson, Donald Westlake and Daniel Woodrell. Who would not be proud to be a part of such a list?
Beginning with Lonely Hearts [Coeurs Solitaires] in 1993, François has accorded me the honour of publishing all of my crime fiction written since that time in the Rivages/Noir series – looking at my shelves, some 22 books in all – in addition to the short story, Billie’s Blues, which was published as a slim volume in 2002.
Written expressly for François and Rivages/Noir, and published originally in a French translation by Jean-Paul Gratias, Billie’s Blues is a Resnick story which opens with the discovery of a body on the Forest, the broad area of inner city parkland which hosts the annual Goose Fair. This is how it begins …
Angels, that was what he thought. The way she lay on her back, arms spread wide, as if making angels in the snow. The front of her coat tugged aside, feet bare, the centre of her dress stained dark, fingers curled. A few listless flakes settled momentarily on her face and hair. Porcelain skin. In those temperatures she could have been dead for hours or days. The pathologist would know.
Straightening, Resnick glanced at his watch. Three forty-five. Little over half an hour since the call had come through. Soon there would be arc lights, a generator, yellow tape, officers in coveralls searching the ground on hands and knees. As Anil Khan, crouching, shot off the first of many Polaroids, Resnick stepped aside. The broad expanse of the Forest rose behind them, broken by a ragged line of trees. The city’s orange glow.
Billie’s Blues can be found in two Arrow paperbacks, Now’s The Time and A Darker Shade of Blue, as well as, if you’re fortunate to find a copy, Minor Key, a limited edition hardback from Nottingham’s Five Leaves Publications.
The twelfth and final Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, partly set during the Miners’ Strike of 1984/5, was first published in France as Ténèbres, Ténèbres in a large format paperback in the Rivage/Thriller series in 2015, and is now being republished in the smaller Rivages/Noir format.
“Ténèbres, Ténèbres est de bout en bout passionnant, émouvant et réaliste.”
Bernard Poirette, RTL
Happy 30th anniversary to my French publisher Rivages Noir and its director François Guérif. For years now a happy home for me, for Charlie Resnick, and, I’m sure, for all the rest of François’ many fortunate writers.
I’m delighted, nay, excited at the imminent prospect of the twelfth and final Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, being published in translation in France in the Rivages/Thriller collection, under the direction of François Guérif.
The French title is Ténèbres, Ténèbres; the cover, as you’ll see below, is as stylish and eye-catching as ever, and publication day is November 11th, Armistice Day.