Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: Canadian Authors

Today on Forgotten Book Friday, it's Canadian Author Appreciation Day. Since Patti Abbott is away, the participating posts will be collected and listed on Todd Mason's blog, SWEET FREEDOM.

My choice for today is SALAMANDER by J. Robert Janes. Perhaps you're familiar with Soho Press? They do wonderful, well designed (just the right size for comfortable reading) hard cover editions. Janes, a prolific Canadian author is one of theirs.

J. Robert Janes was born in Toronto and is a geologist by profession. He turned to full time writing in 1970 and now lives in the gorgeous town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.


While WWII rages, the police in Vichy France, continue to investigate everyday (and not so everyday) crime. In Paris, the work of the regular police requires an uneasy alliance.

In Janes' series, begun in 1992 with the publication of CAROUSEL, it's up to the French Inspector Jean-Louis St, Cyr of the Surete to work with his German counterpart, Gestapo officer, Herman Kohler (as unlikely a duo as you will ever meet), to solve local crimes.

In SALAMANDER, it's wholesale murder (outside of war) when a suspected serial killer ignites a fire in a crowded theater just before Christmas, killing dozens.

How St. Cyr and Kohler, two opposite numbers, are able to find a way to work together in an occupied country, says much about their own personalities, their intelligence and their tolerance for irony.

This is a story with (as you might suspect) a harsh view of the world in which these two 'cops' find themselves. There is no sugar-coating of the dark details and the historical setting is very well done. While the large scale madness of war goes on, smaller scale madmen find their own niche.

SALAMANDER is the fifth entry is the St. Cyr and Kohler series. To see a complete list of the series titles, please go here.


  1. My question in seeing this is how can a "decent" police officer work with a Gestapo officer? Was the French cop complicit in Petain's government, round-up and deportation of the Jewish people?

    And if he wasn't complicit in the Vichy government's program, how did he survive? The Nazis and their supporters would have gotten rid of anyone who wasn't working with them.

  2. Kathy: This is a fictional depiction of a man who is trying to work as a policeman while his country has been invaded. I suppose there were people who had to do the daily work of finding criminals of the day to day kind.

    The two men are actually working to try and stay sane in an insane world.

    These books are not for you, kiddo.

  3. Bob Janes' Jean Louis St-Cyr/Hermann Kohler novels are brilliant. The dilemma that Kathy D. raises is central to the books. Many of the victims of the crimes the duo investigate are French; the cases often have political overtones which put Jean Louis and Hermann in even more peril. Jean Louis secretly supports the Resistance, but pays a terrible price for his continuing to work as a policeman during the occupation.

    Hermann is not a Nazi and is despised by his colleagues for it. He is assigned to work with Jean Louis as punishment. He has two sons fighting on the eastern front and has not heard from them in months. He also is providing shelter to two women wanted by the Germans.

    The events of the novels occur immediately one after the other. Jean Louis and Hermann are exhausted (often running on amphetamines) and must always remain on their guard.

    Unfortunately, Janes has not had a publisher for the series in nearly a decade. He has written at least three more books, but they remain unpublished. This is a real shame.

  4. Terry, thanks for filling in the details. I read this a long time ago and frankly, I'd forgotten a lot of it. But I still wanted to recommend it (and the series) on Canadian appreciation day.

    Too bad about Janes losing his publisher. Hard to believe.

  5. Hi,Folks, I am alive and still writing, and have just signed with The Mysterious Press in New York. They will do ebooks of the 12 St-Cyr and Kohlers, and I have just sent them a new book, one of the three I have since written, so please keep your fingers crossed.
    Cheers and all the best,
    Bob (J.Robert Janes, or, if you like

  6. Great news! I recently heard from Bob Janes that he has signed with Otto Penzler's relaunched Mysterious Press.

    This coming year, Otto will be publishing a St Cyr-Kohler novel at the rate of one per month as e-books and print-on-demand. In addition Bob has sent him the first of three of the unpublished novels. So after a 10-year hiatus, Jean-Louis and Hermann are back.

  7. This is great news, Terry. Thanks for the update.

    2012 is going to be another fabulous reading year.

  8. Just saw this, Bob. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. Looking forward to the reading more of your work in the coming year!

    P.S. My fingers are crossed!!


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