18 July, 2008
Léo Malet was a French crime novelist.
Leo Malet was born in Montpellier. He had little formal education and began work as a cabaret singer at "La Vache Enragee" in Montmartre, Paris in 1925.
In the 1930s, he was closely aligned with the Surrealists, and was close friends with Andre Breton, Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy amongst others. During this time, he published several volumes of poetry.
Though having dabbled in many genres, he is most famous for Nestor Burma, the anti-hero of Les Nouveaux Mystères de Paris. Burma, a cynical private detective, is an astute speaker of argot (French slang), an ex-Anarchist, a serial monogamist and an inveterate pipe smoker. Of the 33 novels detailing his adventures 18 take place in a sole arrondissement of Paris, in a sub-series of his exploits which Malet dubbed the "New Mysteries of Paris" quoting Eugene Sue's seminal "feuilleton"; though he never completed the full 20 arrondissements as he originally planned. Aside from the novels 5 short stories were also published, bringing the total of Burma's adventures to 38.
He died in Chatillon, the little town just south of Paris where he had lived for most of his life, on March 3, 1996, the day before his 87th birthday.