Philippe Clerc

Created by Patrick Raynal

PHILIPPE CLERC isn’t really a private detective. But he sure acts like one.

Truth is, he’s an insurance salesman in Nice. Not the most crooked one in town, perhaps, but not the most honest, either.

The beginning of Fenêtres sur femmes (1988; translates as “Window on Women”) is in the best P.I. tradition: Élise d’Horville, a pretty young woman, struts into Clerc’s office and offers him 150,000 francs if he will set her family’s home on fire. He doesn’t outright refuse her, but asks for some time to think about it. But the next day the house is set on fire–and a corpse is found in the debris: that of Élise.

And Clerc is the main suspect.


For Patrick Raynal, it’s been quite a ride. The author of several crime novels (including Le débarcadère des anges, about rookie private eye Corbucci) and the co-creator of troubleshooter/adventurer Le poulpe (who went on to appear in over 200 books!), he was born in Paris in 1946, and bounced around  the south of France, eventually joining the French Communist party, receiving a master’s in French Literature and a 6-month prison sentence (suspended). He eventually married, settled down (more or less), served in the military (in the highly regarded Chasseur Alpin) and worked various odd jobs. He sold insurance for 18 years, worked as a columnist for Nice-Matin and as the mystery critic for Monde des Livres, before starting to write crime fiction novels in 1980. After making a name for himself as a crime novelist, he succeeded Robert Soulat as the editorial director of Gallimard’s Série Noire from 1991 until 2005. He subsequently created the La Noire imprint, and served as the editor of  Fayard’s Noir collection. As an actor, he appeared in the films Renaissance (2006), Le poulpe (1998) and Zone franche (1996).

As he puts it, “I’ve successively been a dunce, a Maoist, a graduate in literature, a convict (one month only), a Chasseur Alpin (12 long months), an insurer (18 years), a crime fiction writer (still), a literary columnist, director of Gallimard’s Série Noire (14 years), director of Fayard Noir (4 years), lecturer at Paris School of Political Science (Sciences Po), translator and free-lance publisher (now).”


  • “It’s classic Chandler-style mystery, set in the Riviera city of Nice. Much of the pleasure comes from Raynal’s style and his play with language. His portrayal of life in Nice is also interesting, and an example of how the (French) mystery has finally migrated to the regions.”
    — Brad Spurgeon


Report respectfully submitted by Marcel Bernadac & Kevin Burton Smith.

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