Le poulpe (Gabriel Lecouvreur)

Created by Patrick Raynal, Jean-Bernard Pouy, & Serge Quadruppani
Written by Patrick RaynalJean-Bernard Pouy, Serge Quadruppani, Jean-Gérard Imbar, Marc Villard and others

Was it just a gimmick? Or a brave publishing experiment?

Maybe it was both.

GABRIEL LECOUVREUR, also known as “LE POULPE” was, according to co-creator Patrick Raynal, “something of an avenger, an outlaw, a Robin Hood and an anarchist… He always looks behind the scenes, to see if what we’re told reflects the truth…. It’s a character that fits in a little with a certain tradition we have in French literature…Arsin Lupin, Fantômas, Judex.”

Which means he’s not exactly a private eye, a vigilante or any sort of cop– he’s just a thirty-seven-year-old do-gooder who sticks his nose into things, and isn’t easily pinned down professionally or politically. He lives in a hotel, and his “office” is the bar he hangs out in, just around the corner from where his girlfriend Cheryl has her hairdressing salon. Sometimes someone comes to him with a problem; sometimes he’s spurred into action by something he reads in the morning paper.

Co-created over a few rounds at a bar with Raynal’s partners in crime Jean-Bernard Pouy and Serge Quadruppani, two fellow crime writers, Le poulpe was the tough guy hero of an amazing publishing phenomenom that brought the North American concept of Men’s Adventures (Mack Bolan, The Executioner et al) to France. The three were longing for a return to a “pulpier” style of crime fiction, as opposed to much of the rather literary stuff currently making the rounds in France, and were wary with the right wing, “almost fascist” leanings permeating much of the pulpier crime fiction then available, and so they concocted a left-leaning detective as a kind of antidote–one who even sported the letter “A” tattooed on his left arm (for “anarchy,” of course).

“What we were interested in was having another go at this inexpensive genre of mass-market fiction by using funky titles and color covers,” Raynal explained, “while maintaining a high stylistic level and a clear ideological bent, a Left viewpoint to fight against the National Front.”

Not that he was some shrill political gasbag–Lecouvreur also had a thing for English beer, Japanese poetry and his ongoing restoration of an old Soviet fighter plane. Nor was he some po-minded loner–he had his longtime girlfriend Chéryl, who’s definitely nobody’s bimbo. She soon became a fan favorite, taking the lead in several of the books. There were other recurring characters in the books, most notably Gerard and his Spanish wife Maria, proprietors of the restaurant/bar Le Pied de Porc in Sainte-Scolasse, and numerous recurring themes–all carefully prescribed in the Poulpe “Bible,” a four-page outline of the character’s life and friends, written by Raynal, et al.

The trio then set about having some of France’s best crime writers actually write the books. Each author had to follow the “Bible,” but was urged to keep his or her own style and interests. And while the first books were by the original threesome and other well-known crime writers (including Didier Daeninckx and G.J. Arnaud), the series soon began to publish work by other writers: journalists, show business personalities, mystery novelists, beginners, friends, critics, and essayists, all lining up to take a crack at “le Poulpe.” If you wrote it, they’d publish it.

“It’s an exercise in style,” said Raynal, who’d also written about private eyes Phillippe Clerc and Corbucci, and had served as editorial director of France’s legendary La Serie Noire since 1991.

It may have been a gimmick, but it worked. Perhaps not surprisingly, not all the books were gems, given their anything goes attitude, but the series certainly shipped more than a few units. Over two hundred le Poulpe titles were published, as well as several graphic novel adaptations and even a feature film. The books were deliberately moderately priced, and even drew praise for their original covers by illustrator Miles Hyman, which were a cut above most in the Men’s Adventure genre–a classy switch from the usual cleavage and guns themes that usually decorated these things.

Alas, such a ballsy idea apparently couldn’t last. According to our pal E. Borgers of Hard-Boiled Mysteries, in a January 2005 post to Rara-Avis, the original publisher, Baleine, was bought out in 2003 by another publisher, Le Seuil, who simply didn’t seem very interested in this type of approach and couldn’t “handle the heritage. We are now close to two years since the take over and they have published only three more titles. Everybody agrees that it’s finished, as “adventurial publishing” of real popular lit–as launched by JB Pouy with Baleine — cannot easily be assimilated by a mainstream publishing house.”

 The cover of one of the graphic novels.The poster for the film.

BY THE WAY

  • Despite its implied reference to the pulps; a poulpe is actually an octopus–Lecouvreur apparently has long arms.

NOVELS

  • Le poulpe # 1: La petite écuyère a cafté (1995; by Jean-Bernard Pouy)
  • Le poulpe # 2: Saigne sur mer (1995; by Serge Quadruppani)
  • Le poulpe # 4: Arretez le Carrelage (1995; by Patrick Raynal)
  • Le poulpe # 7: Nazis dans le métro (by Didier Daeninckx)
  • Le poulpe # 8: Un travelo nommé désir (by Noël Simsolo)
  • Le poulpe # 9: Un trou dans la zone (by Franck Pavloff)
  • Le poulpe #11: La pieuvre par neuf (by Paul Vecchiali)
  • Le poulpe #12: La cerise sur le gâteux (by Jean-Jacques Reboux)
  • Le poulpe #13: Le cantique des cantines (by Claude Mesplède)
  • Le poulpe #14: Les pis rennais (by Pascal Dessaint)
  • Le poulpe #15: Les pieds de la dame aux clebs (by Olivier Thiébaut)
  • Le poulpe #16: Chili incarné (by Gérard Delteil
  • Le poulpe #17: Les sectes mercenaires (by Bertrand Delcour)
  • Le poulpe #18: Le G.A.L., l’égout (by Roger Martin)
  • Le poulpe #19: Les gens bons bâillonnés (by Jean-Christophe Pinpin)
  • Le poulpe #20: Ouarzazate et mourir (by Hervé Prudon)
  • Le poulpe #21: Le saint des seins (by Guillaume Nicloux
  • Le poulpe #26: Allah recherche l’autan perdu (by Roger Dadoun)
  • Le poulpe #27: Cheryl; Les damnés de l’artère (by Pascale Fonteneau)
  • Le poulpe #28: Cheryl: Comme un coq en plâtre (by Sylvie Granotier)
  • Le poulpe #31: Lundi, c’est sodomie (by Romain Goupil)
  • Le poulpe #32: Bunker menteur (by Olivier Douyère)
  • Le poulpe #34: Chicagone (by François Joly)
  • Le poulpe #35: J’irai faire Kafka sur vos tombes (by Michel Chevron)
  • Le poulpe #37: Boucher double (by Mano Gentil)
  • Le poulpe #39: Causse toujours (by Mouloud Akkouche)
  • Le poulpe #40: Lapin dixit (by Serge Meynard)
  • Le poulpe #41: Cheryl: Lavande tuera (by Chantal Pelletier)
  • Le poulpe #43: Du hachis à Parmentier (by Michel Cardoze)
  • Le poulpe #44: L’amour tarde à Dijon (by Jacques Vallet)
  • Le poulpe #48: Vomi soit qui malle y pense (by Gérard Lefort)
  • Le poulpe #49: Les potes de la perception (by Yannick Bourg)
  • Le poulpe #50: Cheryl: Le Karma saut’ra (by Aïdé Caillot)
  • Le poulpe #54: Je repars à zorro (by Alain Puiseux)
  • Le poulpe #55: Danse avec Loulou (by Alain Bellet)
  • Le poulpe #58: J’aurai ta Pau (by Cesare Battisti)
  • Le poulpe #59: Dakar en barre (by Lucio Mad)
  • Le poulpe #60: Cheryl: Crève de plaisanterie (by Stéphanie Benson)
  • Le poulpe #64: La Belge et la bête (by Bruce Mayence)
  • Le poulpe #65: Eva te faire voir ! (by Hervé Mestron)
  • Le poulpe #66: Le crépuscule des vieux (by Guillaume Darnaud)
  • Un été de Poulpe (1997; three book set)
  • Le poulpe #69: Sans foie ni loi (by Fabienne Tsaï)
  • Le poulpe #70: La lune dans le congélo (by Alain Raybaud)
  • Le poulpe #71: Tropique du grand cerf (by Guillaume Chérel)
  • Le poulpe #72: La neige du killerman manchot (by Jacky Pop)
  • Le poulpe #73: Satanique ta mère ! (by Gérard Lecas)
  • Le poulpe #74: Cheryl: Le bal des dégoûtantes (by Evane Hanska)
  • Le poulpe #78: Nice baie d’aisance (by Serge Livrozet)
  • Le poulpe #79: Le chien des bas serviles (by Jean-Luc Poison)
  • Le poulpe #82: L’aorte sauvage (by Laurent Fétis)
  • Le poulpe #83: Les bêtes du Gévaudan (by Hervé Korian)
  • Le poulpe #84: Docteur j’abuse (by Woô Manh)
  • Le poulpe #87: Papy end (by Jean-Pierre Andrevon)
  • Le poulpe #88: Lazare dîne à Luynes (by Jacques Albina)
  • Le poulpe #89: La disparition de Perek (by Hervé Le Tellier)
  • Joyeux Gabriel (four book set)
  • Le poulpe #92: La bête au bois dormant (by Robert Deleuse)
  • Le poulpe #93: La Nantes religieuse (by Christian Congiu)
  • Le poulpe #94: La dingue aux marrons (by Chantal Montellier)
  • Le poulpe #95: E pericoloso for Jersey (by Pierre-Alain Mesplède)
  • Et heureux Poulpe (four book set)
  • Le poulpe #96: Une balle dans l’esthète (by Patrick Eris)
  • Le poulpe #97: Les deniers du colt (by Gilles Vidal)
  • Le poulpe #98: Fugue en Nîmes majeur (by Monique Demerson)
  • Le poulpe #99: Touchez pas au grizzli (by Jean-Pierre Huster)
    .
  • Coffret cent pour sang bande dessinée (three book set)
  • Le poulpe #100: Le Nord aux dents (by Mako; black & white graphic novel)
  • Le poulpe #101: L’opus à l’oreille (by Olivier Balez; black & white graphic novel)
  • Le poulpe #102: La bande décimée (by Jean-Luc Cochet)
    .
  • Le Poulpe (à l’heure suisse)
  • Le poulpe #103: Au nom du piètre qui a l’essieu (by Jean-Jacques Busino)
  • Le poulpe #104: Légitime défonce (by Paul Milan)
  • Le poulpe #105: L’helvète underground (by Grégoire Carbasse)
  • Le poulpe #108: Allons au fond de l’apathie (by Philippe Carresse)
  • Le poulpe #109: Les Jarnaqueurs (by Michel Boujut)
  • Le poulpe #110: Cheryl: Un poisson nommé Rwanda (by Catherine Fradier)
  • Le poulpe #113: L’antizyklon des atroces (by Georges J: Arnaud)
  • Le poulpe #114: Ataxie pour Hazebrouck (by Serge Turbé)
  • Le poulpe #115: Zombi la mouche (by Grégoire Forbin)
  • Le poulpe #118: Zarmaggedon (by José-Louis Bocquet)
  • Le poulpe #119: Le manuscrit de la mémère morte (by Bellanti & Vacher)
  • Le poulpe #120: Meufs mimosas (by Sylvie Rouch)
  • Le poulpe #123: Eros les tanna tous (by Pierre Filoche)
  • Le poulpe #124: Plus dur sera le chiite (by Michel Musolino)
  • Le poulpe #125: Le carnaval de Denise (by Didier Vandemelk)
  • Le poulpe #128: Kop d’immondes (by Michel Pelé & Frédéric Prilleux)
  • Le poulpe #129: Don qui shoote et la manque (by François Billard)
  • Le poulpe #130: Du pont liégeois (by Jean-Paul Deleixhe, Guy Delhasse & Christian Libens)
  • Le poulpe #133: La petite marchande de doses (by Jacques Vettier)
  • Le poulpe #134: Mali-mélo (by Alain Leygonie)
  • Le poulpe #135: Tananarive qu’aux autres (by Danièle Rousselier)
  • Le poulpe #136: L’Aztèque du charro laid (by Philippe Delepierre)
  • Le poulpe #137: Veine haineuse (by Pierre Fossard)
  • Le poulpe #138: Les pourritures célestes (by Albédo)
  • Le poulpe #139: Macadam cobaye (by Lionel Besnier)
  • Le poulpe #144: Vainqueurs et cons vaincus (by Andreu Martin)
  • Le poulpe #145: Le Poulpe, le film (by Guillaume Nicloux, Jean-Bernard Pouy et Patrick Raynal)
  • Le poulpe #148: Le mec à l’eau de la Générale (by Pierre Fort)
  • Le poulpe #147: Madame est Serbie (by Nila Kazar)
  • Le poulpe #149: Les Teutons flingueurs (by Stéphane Geffray)
  • Le poulpe #152: L’arthritique de la raison dure (by Alain Aucouturier)
  • Le poulpe #154: Un nain seul n’a pas de proches (by Thierry Reboud)
  • Le poulpe #155: La pensée inique (by Cyril Berneron)
  • Le poulpe #159: Sur la ligne Marginaux (by Pierre Kolaire)
  • Le poulpe #160: Feinte alliance (by Dominique Renaud)
  • Le poulpe #163: Pour cigogne le glas (by Cyprien Luraghi)
  • Le poulpe #164: La Brie ne fait pas le moine (by Christian Rauth)
  • Le poulpe #167: La tour de l’immonde (by David Downie)
  • Le poulpe #168: Le vrai con maltais (by Marcus Malte))
  • Le poulpe #170: L’évincé au fond du pouvoir (by Yan Molin)
  • Le poulpe #171: Belles et putes (by Claude Ardid)
  • Le poulpe #173: Lisier dans les yeux (by Franck Resplandy)
  • Le poulpe #174: Quand les poulpes auront des dents (by Pierre Barachant)
  • Le poulpe #177: Goulash-moi les baskets (by Cédric Suillot)
  • Le poulpe #178: La petite fille aux oubliettes (by Sophie Loubière)
  • Le poulpe #181: L’agneau pas squale (by Adna H.)
  • Le poulpe #182: L’ordure, hein! (by Collectif Orange amère)
  • Le poulpe #185: Ethique en toc (by Didier Daeninckx)
  • Le poulpe #186: 22 mars 2000 : c’est un bon jour pour Gabriel (promotional giveaway)
  • Le poulpe #187: Saône interdite (by Francis Pornon)
  • Le poulpe #189: Le cinquième est dément (by Jean-Marc Ligny)
  • Le poulpe #190: Jeux de roumains, jeux de vilains (by Stéphane Koechlin)
  • Le poulpe #192: Palet dégueulasse (by Michel Dolbec)
  • Le poulpe #193: Un pastis à la soviet (by Michel Abax
  • Le poulpe #196: Drôle de drums (by Alain Wagneur)
  • Le poulpe #197: Des gourous et des douleurs (by Patrick Mercado)
  • Le poulpe #199: Le cas G.B. (by Gérard Streiff)
  • Le poulpe #200: Le Poulpe au lycée (by Collectif)
  • Le poulpe #201: Notre père qui êtes odieux (by Violaine Bérot)
  • Le poulpe #203: Belle mère en l’île (by Olivier Mau)
  • Le poulpe #204: Les ravies au lit (by Emma Christa)
  • Le poulpe #205: A Freud, sales et méchants (by Pierre Magne)
  • Le poulpe #206: Oasis pour l’OAS (by Mariano Sanchez-Soler)
  • Le poulpe #208: Psy cause (by Patrick Arduise)
  • Le poulpe #210: Lady commandement (by Didier Quester)
  • Le poulpe #211: Je bande à Bonnot (by Jean Marboeuf)
  • Le poulpe #213: Vol au-dessus d’un nid de cocos (by Antoine Blocier)
  • Le poulpe #214: Gab save the Di (by Pierre Bourgeade)
  • Le poulpe #216: Une valse de salve nu (by Vladimir Bodiansky)
  • Le poulpe #217 (by Guère épais Pierre Garcette)

GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATIONS

  • Le poulpe #1: La petite écuyère a cafté
  • Le poulpe #2: Le saint des seins
  • Le poulpe #3: Les pis rennais
  • Le poulpe #4: La bande décimée
  • Le poulpe #5: Arrêtez le carrelage
  • Le poulpe #6: Pour cigogne le glas
  • Le poulpe #7: J’irai faire Kafka sur vos tombes
  • Le poulpe #8: La disparition de Perek
  • Le poulpe #9: Le vrai con maltais
  • Le poulpe #10: A Freud ! sales et méchants
  • Le poulpe #11 – Ouarzazate et mourir
  • Le poulpe #12 – Palet dégueulasse
    Written by Michel Dolbec, based on his novel, Le poulpe #192
    Art by Leif Tande
    I have a soft spot for this one– it’s set in Montreal, has hockey in it and La Poulpe tracking down a hitman in the East End. Author Dolbec is the correspondent for La Presse Canadienne in Paris.
  • Le poulpe #13: Lapin dixit
  • Le poulpe #14: Pieuvre à la Pouy
  • Le poulpe #15: Kop d’immondes
  • Le poulpe #16: Les jarnaqueurs

SHORT STORIES

  • “Deuxième debre” (1997, Catalogue Baleine; a publisher’s promo)

FILMS

  • LE POULPE
    (1998, Bac Films)
    100 minutes
    Tagline: Pour l’attendrir, faut taper dessus
    Screenplay by Guillaume Nicloux, Jean-Bernard Pouy, Patrick Raynal
    Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
    Produced by Charles Gassot
    Executive producer: Jacques Hinstin
    Starring Jean-Pierre Darroussin as GABRIEL LECOUVREUR, aka “LE POULPE”
    and Clotilde Courau as Cheryl
    Also starring Stéphane Boucher, Julie Delarme, Aristide Demonico, James Faulkner, Jean-François Gallotte, Nicolas Jouhet, François Levantal, Bruno Lochet, Martine Logier, Philippe Nahon, Julien Rassam, Frédéric van den Driessche, Yves Verhoeven, Didier Abot, Christian Anneix, Gérard Barreaux, Claude Bergamin
    “Appropriately enough,” according to viewer Robert Bossy, “the film lasts only about as long as it takes to read one of the books”.

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

  • Le Poulpe sur la toile
    An unofficial Web site totally devoted to Le Poulpe, with complete lists of titles, characters, authors, comments and critics.Very well done. In French.

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • NOVEMBER 30, 2021
    THE BOTTOM LINE: ZUT! A French publishing phenom appearing in over 200 books (each written by a different author), 16 graphic novels & a film.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Merci à Marcel Bernadac and Etienne Borgers for their help and guidance on this one!

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