Gaston Leroux Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Gaston Leroux, a journalist by profession, proved himself an outstanding author of two different kinds of popular fiction: what the French term the roman policier and the roman d’adventure. Both these terms are broad and ambiguous: the first embraces more specifically the detective mystery, the police procedural, and the crime story. The second term embraces such vague categories as thriller, novel of suspense, and horror story as well as the more specific espionage story, gothic romance, Western, fantasy, and science fiction.

Leroux created two main series characters, Joseph Rouletabille and Chéri-Bibi. Rouletabille is a prodigy who displayed his mathematical genius at the age of nine. As a child, he was accused of a theft of which he was innocent and ran away from his boarding school in Eu. He lived on the street until age eighteen, when he became a reporter on the Paris paper L’Èpoque. Although a rationalist, he is not a worshiper of reason. He holds that it is incorrect to apply logical processes to external signs without first having grasped them intuitively. In his thinking, therefore, Rouletabille is as much a philosopher as a mathematician.

Chéri-Bibi, whose real name is Jean Mascart, grew up in Puys, near Dieppe. He was a butcher’s apprentice when he was mistakenly convicted for the murder of M. Bourrelier, a wealthy shipowner and the father of Cécily, the beautiful girl whom the poor butcher’s boy loved. Although Chéri-Bibi’s life was spared, he was sentenced to a long term in prison. His life then became a series of escapes and repeated imprisonments as he committed various crimes in his efforts to survive and to remain free. As an innocent man to whom society has meted out injustice, he blames his difficulties on fate. At the same time, he is a man who knows how to laugh.

Leroux’s first novel in his famous Joseph Rouletabille series, Le Mystère de la chambre jaune...

(The entire section is 799 words.)

Gaston Leroux Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Flynn, John L. Phantoms of the Opera: The Face Behind the Mask. Rev. ed. Owings Mills, Md.: Galactic Books, 2006. This study, originally primarily focused on the film adaptations, was revised to take advantage of the popularity of the stage production of the 1990’s.

Hogle, Jerrold E. The Undergrounds of the “Phantom of the Opera”: Sublimation and the Gothic in Leroux’s Novel and Its Progeny. New York: Palgrave, 2002. Study of the tropes of sublimation and repression in Phantom of the Opera and its many film and stage adaptations. Bibliographic references and index.

Murch, A. The Development of the Detective Novel. New York: Philosophical Library, 1958. Argues for Leroux’s importance in the history of the genre.

Sayers, Dorothy L. Les Origines du Roman Policier: A Wartime Wireless Talk to the French. Translated by Suzanne Bray. Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, England: Dorothy L. Sayers Society, 2003. Address to the French by the famous English mystery author, discussing the history of French detective fiction and its relation to the English version of the genre.

Symons, Julian. Mortal Consequences: A History from the Detective Story to the Crime Novel. London: Faber and Faber, 1972. Places Leroux in a lineage of crime-fiction writers, focusing on his role in the evolution of the genre in France and the influence of the French on British and American authors.

Thomson, H. Douglas. Masters of Mystery: A Study of the Detective Story. Reprint. New York: Dover, 1978. Places Leroux alongside his fellow “masters” in the process of comparing the French detective story with other national crime literatures.