Discoveries on the bill

Quais du Polar 20th anniversary : three questions to the most loyal bookseller

La Grande librairie des Quais du Polar au Palais de la Bourse © Cécile Mathy / QDP
Julie Masson
By Julie
Published on 28/03/2024

To celebrate the 20th of the festival, we went to ask three questions for Francis Chaput, bookseller at Le Bal des Ardents and loyal follower of the crime fiction festival Quais du Polar since its beginnings.

You’ve been taking part in Quais du Polar for 20 years now. What was it like at the start?

When the first edition was held, in the Galerie des Terreaux [a passage between Place des Terreaux and the banks of the Saône], I’d just opened Le Bal des Ardents. Right from the start, there were about eight or ten booksellers like me, mostly from Lyon and independent. In the festival’s first years, we did nothing on the Friday morning. In the afternoon, the schoolchildren would come. Now, at 10 am on Friday morning, we have four authors doing signing sessions and 40 people queuing up! It’s great for business; our sales our ten times what they were in the first year, but we have less time to have a drink with the authors [laughs]

How do you explain the success of this event?

Before Quais du Polar, there were no book fairs in Lyon, only in Bron. When crime novels got really popular, like Millenium for example, the big publishers 
pulled out all the stops. Then there’s the location, in the city centre. Even though the number of festival goers now would justify a different venue, the Palais 
de la Bourse makes a fantastic bookshop. The hosts who run discussion sessions with the authors are brilliant and make the exchanges so rewarding. 
Lastly, the team does a great job promoting the event throughout the year and working with schools, libraries, prison projects, l’école de police de Saint-Cyr
[the national police training school]… It’s the biggest and best fair of its kind that I’m aware of in France.

Do you have any outstanding memories or meetings?

I received a dedication from Ravenne & Giacometti [Editor’s note: masters of crime fiction] thanking me profusely for getting a chance to meet the great writer Donald E. Westlake at my stand. This is the good side of the job: the meetings between passionate individuals.

Le Bal des Ardents
17 rue Neuve, Lyon 1er