THE GREEK CLUB OF CRIME WRITERS (ELSAL)
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Greece is among the first countries in Southern Europe to adopt and develop crime fiction. Greek detective stories immerged in a peculiar way. They were imitations of stories featuring well known heroes such as, Dupen, Holmes, Arsen Loupen, who were known from translations in the late 19th century.
A major event was the serialized publication of a novel, “Sherlock Holmes saves the life of the Greek Prime Minister Venizelos” in 1913, in a weekly magazine. It was an original novel by an anonymous author who imitated the style of Conan Doyle. Venizelos at that time was a prominent political figure, featuring also in the famous spy novel Thirty Nine Steps by John Buckan, 1915.
Between 1936 and 1950 two very popular magazines The Mask and Mystery dominated the Greek scene. They collected stories, pulp fiction mainly, featuring Pinkerton, Arsen Loupen, Holmes, Nero Woolf, Poirot, Lemmy K, The Sadow etc. The stories were often original written by Greek authors using pseudonyms. Sometimes Greek-American detectives were used, such as Nic Laertis, Nic Wallet, Jimmy Cristopher, Johnny Phill or Martin Meg. However the setting of these stories was never in Greece. They were usually set in New York or other big American cities in accordance to the dominant belief of the time put forward by newspaper and magazine publishers. They thought that Greek readers were interested in detective adventures taking place abroad.
In the first half of the 20th century only two novels had local scenery (the satirical Crime in an Athens Suburb –Pavlos Nirvanas, 1929 and the Whodunit –The Real Life of Mr. Verinis, by Helen Vlachou -1938).
In the 50's a major shift took place. The Mask and Mystery magazines started publishing stories, mainly "hardboiled", featuring police detectives active in Athens.
Genuinly Greek crime fiction writing appeared in 1952 and 1953 respectively in two whodunit novels, Death on the Beauty Contest (Hristos Heropoulos) and Crime in Downtown Athens (Yannis Maris).
From 1953 to 1976 fifty novels of Yannis Maris were serialized in popular newspapers as well as a large number of short stories. Later, he was to be considered as the father of Greek suspense novel. During 60’s, Athena Kakouri was the first woman writer in Greece ever published crime stories.
In the 80’s, three writers, Titina Danelli, Filippos Filipou and Fondas Ladis (and Paris Aristidis, in Cyprus), kept the declining detective story alive in Greece. The decline was mainly caused by two events, the censorship imposed by the military dictatorship during the years of 1967 to 1974, and the appearance of public television.
In the 90’s, the detective story was renewed by writers, such as Andreas Apostolidis, Petros Martinidis and Petros Markaris - the first Greek writer who had a major break through in the international market. In Germany his books, published by the Diogenes Publishers, were well received.
At the turn of the century new writers appeared in the scene, Dimitris Mamaloukas, Neoklis Galanopoulos, Marlena Politopoulou, Yannis Rangos, Tefcros Michailidis, Panayiotis Agapitos, Kostas Kalfopoulos and Sergios Gakas (his novel Ashes was published in England). They wrote a variety of suspense and mystery stories.
In 2010, the Greek Club of Crime Writers (ELSAL) was established. Nowadays it has 48 members.
Actually, in the 21st century crime stories and mystery novels flourished. More than 60 crime fiction writers work now in Greece. Characteristically, the Greek crime novel was mentioned for the first time in the Barry Forshaw's 2014 international bibliography. "Greece" occupied a separate chapter in his book “Euro Noir”.
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The Greek Club of Crime Writers (ELSAL) was founded in April 2010, by a group of 25 writers. Today it counts 48 members living all over Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, Iraklio, Kavala, Komotini, Samos) and abroad (Cyprus, Turkey). The club's main objectives concern the study and the promotion of crime fiction, as well as the gathering and spreading of information on old and new publications. Also, it is related with international unions of crime fiction writers, such as IACW/AIEP.
In these years, ELSAL has organised a number of bigger and smaller events all over Greece and has put together four volumes of short stories written by its members. They were published by well known publishing firms and are the following:
- "Είσοδος Κινδύνου" (Emergency Entrance), Metaichmio Publications 2011,
- "Η επιστροφή του αστυνόμου Μπέκα" (The return of inspector Bekas), Kastaniotis Editions 2012,
- "Ο τόπος πρόδωσε τον ένοχο" (The site revealed the murderer), Topos Books 2014,
- Noir comic stories in collaboration with the comic magazine "Blue Comet", Polaris Editions 2017-2018, and
- Μάνη νουάρ (Mani noir), Dromon Editions 2022.
Many of its members write articles in newspapers, magazines as well as in a variety of sites and blogs on crime fiction. Also, they take part in radio and TV shows concerning crime fiction in Greece and elsewhere.
The club has also created the site www.elsal.gr, which is the first and, for the time being, the only of its kind in Greek. It posts news on current publications of crime novels in Greece and abroad usually thoroughly commented, it includes a number of studies on various topics concerning crime fiction, it contains a bibliography of greek novels from their early start, as well as information on crime novels that have been or are currently translated in Greek. One can also find a number of original short stories posted by the members of the club.
The first president of ELSAL was Andreas Apostolidis (2010-2013), who was followed by Titina Danelli (2013-2015), Yannis Rangos (2015-2017), Sergios Gakas (2017-2019) and Neoklis Galanopoulos (2019-2021). Presently, Vassilis Danellis fills the post. Athena Kakouri is our honorary president.
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● Ελληνικά Εγκλήματα (Greek Crimes, Kastaniotis Editions 2007), Ελληνικά Εγκλήματα 2 (Greek Crimes 2, Kastaniotis Editions 2008), Ελληνικά Εγκλήματα 3 (Greek Crimes 3, Kastaniotis Editions 2009), Ελληνικά Εγκλήματα 4 (Greek Crimes 4, Kastaniotis Editions 2011) and Ελληνικά Εγκλήματα 5 (Greek Crimes 5, Kastaniotis Editions 2019)
A collection of 70 contemporary detective stories written by crime fiction writers. Five volumes.
● Το τελευταίο ταξίδι (The last journey, Metaichmio Publications 2009)
A collection of 11 detective stories by contemporary crime fiction writers.
● Είσοδος Κινδύνου (Emergency Entrance, Metaichmio Publications 2011)
A collection of 16 detective stories by crime fiction writters, members of ELSAL.
● Η επιστροφή του αστυνόμου Μπέκα (The return of inspector Bekas, Kastaniotis Editions 2012)
A collection of 15 detective short stories with the main character in Yannis Maris' novels inspector Bekas, by crime fiction writters members of ELSAL.
● Κλέφτες και αστυνόμοι (Cops and Robbers, Psichogios Publications 2013)
A collection of 14 contemporary detective stories by crime fiction writers.
● Ο τόπος πρόδωσε τον ένοχο (The site revealed the murder, Topos Books 2014)
A collection of 11 detective stories by crime fiction writters members of ELSAL.
● Τα πολλά πρόσωπα του αστυνομικού μυθιστορήματος (The various aspects of crime fiction, Agra Publications 2009)
A study of greek and international crime fiction by Andreas Apostolidis.
● Ο κόσμος του Γιάννη Μαρή (Yannis Maris' world, Agra Publications 2012)
Maris is considered as the father of greek crime fiction. A study of his complete works by Andreas Apostolidis.
● Barry Forshaw: Euro Noir - The Pocket Essential Guide to European Crime Fiction, Film & TV / Chapter 5: Greece (Pocket Essentials/Oldcastle 2014)
● Critical Times, Critical Thoughts - Contemporary Greek Writers Discuss Facts and Fiction / Part III: Detective Fiction (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2015)
● 18 κείμενα για τον Γιάννη Μαρή (18 studies on Yannis Maris, Patakis Publishers 2016)
Brief essays regarding aspects of the life and the work of the "father of greek crime fiction", written by contemporary Greek writers, scholars, journalists etc (Editor: Kostas Kalfopoulos).
● Ιστορία της ελληνικής αστυνομικής λογοτεχνίας – Ο Γιάννης Μαρής και οι άλλοι (History of greek crime fiction, Patakis Publishers 2018)
The first ever written study of the genre in Greece, from the early years of the 20th c. until today, written by Filippos Filippou.
● Αστυνομική Λογοτεχνία (Crime Fiction) / Tribute to crime fiction - Literary magazine, Diavazo, issue 86 , 25.1.1984
● Αστυνομική Λογοτεχνία (Crime Fiction) / Tribute to crime fiction - Section included in Kathimerini newspaper, 28.6.1998
● Αστυνομική Λογοτεχνία (Crime Fiction) / Tribute to crime fiction - Literary magazine "Dekata" issue 12, Winter 2008.