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Who were Boileau-Narcejac?



Who were Boileau-Narcejac?
The tandem that revamped French detective novels

Their stories are thrilling and engaging. They wrote the kind of books one never wanted to finish – because the stories were that good. Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud, also known as Thomas Narcejac, formed one of the most prolific writing duos of the 20th century French literature: Boileau-Narcejac.

Before becoming a novelist tandem, each established a career as writers of detective novels. They both were winners of the prominent Prix du Roman d'Aventures (Adventures Tales Prix), awarded each year to the best work of detective fiction, French or foreign. Boileau won for Le Repos de Bacchus in 1938 and Narcejac for La Mort est du Voyage in 1948.

The crucial day for the tandem came precisely in 1948 when the pair met at a dinner given in honor to Thomas Narcejac for his recent award. There, a conversation between both of them led into agreeing on what a great detective novel should have, and decided to start working together. Their idea was to create a new and unique style for the genre… They certainly accomplished it!

Their first work together was L'Ombre et la Proie, under the nom the plume Alain Bouccarèje – an anagram of Boileau-Narcejac. In 1952, She Who Was No More became their first novel under the Boileau-Narcejac pseudonym. Although it was a worldwide success, the novel was initially rejected by several publishers before it was accepted by Denoël's, The novel turned out a favorite of the genre and was adapted to cinema several times. The most notable adaptation is the 1955 French thriller Les Diaboliques. According to an urban legend, director Henri-Georges Clouzot beat Alfred Hitchcock to the film rights by mere hours.

Boileau-Narcejac published more than 40 novels together, always writing in a unique style. They did it by correspondence, and never sat together to work on a project. Boileau provided the plots and main ideas while Narcejac decided the atmosphere and characterization.

Their fruitful collaboration ended in 1989 with the death of Pierre Boileau. Thomas Narcejac continued a single time, before dying in 1998.

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