Allez ! Over the cultural fence . . .

Not too long after the publication of my second book about the N.Y.P.D., I felt the emotional pull of Paris catch up with me, strong as ever. Soon I was right back in the France habit. Gratefully, I retrieved treasured friendships in both Paris and Brussels, just as if I’d never made such a lengthy, unusual detour into New York cop city.

Queasy about the quality of my French, I resolved to brush up. The FIAF (French Institute-Alliance Française) catalog was there where I’d left it, online. I discovered the joys of the shorter, more lighthearted summer classes, and really did a double-take when I spotted a course in French detective literature, the “policier” (or “polar” for short) genre.

Izzo's Marseille trilogy hero is Fabio Montale.

Izzo’s Marseille trilogy hero is Fabio Montale.

My FIAF teacher at the time, Pierre Mesnard, was willing to respect the genre and chose superb examples of the polar for our class to study. I fell hardest for author Jean-Claude Izzo, and for the Marseille of Izzo’s classic trilogy whose hero, Fabio Montale, is an irresistibly disillusioned, retired detective.

Toward the end of our eight week venture, the prof’ assigned us to write a character sketch in French. I chose to translate from Cop Talk, my own Continue reading