"Une description du monstre"
Library and Archives Canada's French Pulp Literature Collection
-A-t-il donné une description du monstre?
-Il dit qu'il ressemble à un phoque gigantesque, avec un cou de giraffe…
- From "Le monstre du marécage"
Jean Larocque de la Gendarmerie royale
Les exploits de la Police montée
The Quebec pulp industry is perhaps best understood as something similar to the monster in "Le monstre du marécage." Many of its features were recognizable as similar to the successful parts of the industries in English Canada and America, but they combined to create something new and unique.
Montréal was the heart of the French-Canadian pulp industry. Montréal publishers such as Éditions populaires, Les Éditions Bigalle, and Police-Journal 1 produced books that mirrored the content of the English pulps, but in a distinctly Québécois format known as a "fascicule." The fascicules (the term translates as "booklet" or "pamphlet" in English) were smaller in dimension and generally about half the length of the English pulps, and usually contained only one story. They came in a variety of genres, with westerns, romance and crime stories being among the most popular.
Many of the fascicules featured the continuing adventures of a single character. Week after week, the people of Quebec could thrill to Les exploits fantastiques de Max Beaumont, l'insaisissable aventurier and Les aventures étranges de l'agent IXE-13, l'as des espions canadiens. While these characters were undeniably French Canadian, the content and covers of their respective publications show "clear links to the American pulp magazine, and to traditions of illustration which reach back into French publishers' renderings of Fantômas 2 and Arsène Lupin 3" (Culture of Cities, online).
This type of serial storytelling was common in the American pulps, where dark avengers, supermen and spies like The Shadow, Doc Savage and Operator #5 battled fearsome foes and journeyed to exotic locales for years on end. But it was very rare in the English-Canadian pulps, which (at least as represented by Library and Archives Canada's collection) were nearly all anthologies of unrelated stories with no recurring characters.
Other publishers, such as Les éditions Paris-Montréal, concentrated on reprints of books by popular French and European writers. While imports of these books were unlikely to have been affected by the passage of the War Exchange Conservation Act, original editions were nonetheless hard to come by as a result of the war (Culture of Cities, online).
Some of the true-crime pulps published in Quebec, such as Mon magazine policier, did adopt the format and style of English-Canadian and American pulps. These magazines boasted multiple stories and bold, action-packed covers rendered in dazzling colour. They featured stories by Quebec writers, as well as translations of stories by such luminaries of the genre as Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. In comparison to the fascicules, however, they represent a small portion of the industry's output, and only a fraction of the pulp literature collection held by Library and Archives Canada.
Best considered as a companion to Library and Archives Canada's English-language pulp literature collection, the French-language pulp literature collection fills more than 20 magazine file boxes. It was acquired in a few small lots from a Montréal book dealer over the course of 2002 and 2003, with the majority of the issues of Agent IXE-13 donated by archivist ARCHIVED - John Bell].
1. When it began publishing romance magazines, Police-Journal adopted the less harsh and less masculine identity of Éditions PJ.
2. Fantômas was created by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, and first appeared in a series of stories in a Paris monthly in 1911. Fantômas was a criminal mastermind who waged war on the city's bourgeois elements, and his exploits were incredibly popular. The Montréal publisher Éditions Paris published numerous reprints of other novels by Marcel Allain, the covers of which proclaimed him as the creator of Fantômas. For more information, see Jess Nevin's excellent Fantastic Victoriana website at www.geocities.com/jessnevins/vicintro.html (accessed Jan. 12, 2005).
3. Gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, created by French author Maurice Leblanc, first appeared in 1905 and starred in some 20 short stories and novels. Les Éditions Variétés published reprints of Lupin's popular adventures in Quebec. For more information, see Jess Nevin's excellent Fantastic Victoriana website at www.geocities.com/jessnevins/vicintro.html (accessed Jan. 12, 2005).
"Quebec's romans en fascicules." Culture of Cities: Print Culture and Urban Visuality. www.arts.mcgill.ca/programs/AHCS/cultureofcities/Gallery3/front.html (accessed January 12, 2005).