The name Stanislas-André Steeman may not mean anything to you but when one mentions the movie “The Killer Lives at No. 21″, chances are you will then realize that you have probably read some of the Belgian author’s books or at least seen some of their cinematographic adaptations.
Steeman is rightly considered one of the masters of the detective novel, alongside Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon. This summer, Menton, the city he called home from the end of World War II to his death in 1980, is holding a special exhibition at the Palais de l’Europe to celebrate the centenary of his birth, .
Credited with some 37 novels, 12 movies based on his books, a dozen adaptations for Belgian and French television and two theatrical renditions, Steeman was born in Liège, Belgium, in 1908, where he created his first comics at the tender age of six. A precocious writer, he later joined the staff of the “Nation Belge” where he befriended journalist Herman Sartini, a.k.a. Sintair. Together, they wrote what they intended to be a parody, but to their surprise, it ended up being published by the popular French publisher Le masque under the name “Le mystère du zoo d’Anvers” (The Anvers Zoo Mystery). After four more efforts together; Sintair called it quits and Steeman, who always regarded himself as a mystery writer first and foremost, began working on his own.
If his first three solo detective books could be described at best as experimental, he definitely established himself as a literary master with “Six hommes morts” (Six Dead Men), which won the prestigious Grand Prix du Roman d’Aventures in 1931. Steeman was just 23. Eight years later, he published what would be his greater masterpiece, the aforementioned “ l’Assassin habite au 21”, which was adapted on the big screen by Henri-George Clouzot in 1942. Later on, Clouzot will also use Stemman’s novel “Légitime defense” (Legitimate Defense) for his movie “Quai des Orfèvres”.
Thanks to his humour, irony, conciseness, psychological subtlety and witty recurring characters such as detective Wenceslas Vorobeitchik, Steeman is revered in both France and Belgium as one of the greatest and most inventive plotters of all times, but unfortunately he remains little-known in English-speaking countries where only two of his books were translated.
The current exhibition in Menton offers a great opportunity to discover his life and works and runs until the 8th of September. Admission just €2. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm.
Palais de l’Europe
8, avenue Boyer
Tel: + 33 4 92 41 76 73