(1935 translated and edited by Edwin Gile Rich) 2003, Nabat/AK Press.
Before there was Edgar Allan Poe, there was Vidocq.
Before there was Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, there was Vidocq.
Before there was Wilkie Collins, there was Vidocq.
Before there was Charles Dickens, there was Vidocq.
All of these writers were inspired by the meeting , and the legend, of Eugene-Francois Vidocq.
Before there was James Ellroy, Ian Rankin and James Lee Burke, there was the original compromised cop – or rather his memoirs. Vidocq was the original corrupt cop, the Chief of La Surete Nationale in Paris, the blueprint of the CID, informant-led model of policing, the ex-criminal-turned-police-detective-turned-private-investigator. A real character, so rich in experience, moral ambivalence and complexity, crime fiction has spent the past two centuries trying to explore the various facets of his personality and reach into the highest echelons and lowest gutters of society.
Reading his memoirs, devoid of vanity and the saccharine of today’s virtue-signalling, is refreshing for its lack of polemical posturing:
‘I got the prisoners together, told them about Neveu’s suspicions, and asked them if they believed me capable of selling my comrades. All answered in the negative, and Neveu had to make excuses./It was very important for me that these supicions should be dissipated, for it was certain death for me if they were confirmed.’
A riveting read – thanks to the translator!