« Plenty of nocturnal ambiance in this book… It stems, I suppose, from an old childhood reminiscence. When I was little, gaslit street lamps were still around, and they created, in the evening, rather extraordinary effects of light. That slightly sinister element stuck with me, and I love to recreate this sort of thing. » – Maurice Tillieux
Private detective Gil Jourdan finds the proper spot from which to conduct a nocturnal stakeout, in his fourth (and possibly finest) investigation, « Les cargos du crépuscule », originally serialized weekly in issues 1113 to 1137 of Spirou magazine, back in 1959-60.
Ah, but this time, non-French-fluent readers won’t be left out in the cold. The late Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson was a lifelong fan of Tillieux’s work, and was quite willing to put words into action and bleed some money in the process. Before his passing in 2013, he had time to publish a pair of twofer volumes of Jourdan (slightly renamed Gil Jordan*) adventures, « Murder by High Tide » (which contains this tale, entitled here « Leap of Faith ») and « Ten Thousand Years in Hell ». Fans of clever and suspenseful noir should not miss these babies.
This being a Hallowe’en post, I’ve squarely put the emphasis on mood rather than action, but let me assure you that these bédés contain plenty of action, and of the highest calibre. Fantagraphics’ promotional blurb gets it right (except that the Hergé comparison is perhaps a bit lazy, but probably necessary given the audience): « Another never-before-translated classic from the Golden Age of Franco-Belgian comics, finally brought to American readers. Imagine the beautifully crisp images of Hergé (Tintin) put in service of a series of wise-cracking, fast-paced detective stories punctuated with scenes of spectacular vehicular mayhem (including in this volume a dockside pursuit via car and bulldozer) and you’ll see why 50 years later Gil Jordan is still considered a masterpiece in Europe. »
*I can’t help but think that the detective’s renaming to « Gil Jordan » was a bit of a Fantagraphics inside joke, given that the publisher employed, for a couple of decades or so, a news correspondent/translator/editor by the name of… Gil Jordan. It’s not as if « Jourdan» is such an unknown name to Americans.