Way before Benjamin Moser was lamenting the lack of translated literature available in the US in the pages of the New York Times, Anne Trager was doing something about it with her publishing house Le French Book.
A huge fan of France’s treasure trove of detective novels (known in French as the polar), Trager has made it her business to import these books to her native land. “For me, reading has always been about crime novels,” says Trager, a fan of Michael Connelly, Lee Child and Ian Fleming.
Originally from Ohio, Trager is an American francophile from a family of linguists who visited France as an exchange student and, in her heart, never came back. After a cooking school and several internships, Trager worked as a private chef in Paris. Her studies at INALCO and six months in China put her on the translation and publishing track.
Her career took off from there, but after she had been working for a time in communications, Trager came to a realization. “One day I was catching a flight at 5am to Paris from Toulouse near where I live,” she remembers, “There was a meeting I absolutely had to be at, even though I really didn’t want go.”
Trager decided a career change was in order. She called her husband (“a wonderful man”) to announce her intention to take a sabbatical year. He immediately agreed. “In the plane home I was reading a book on my phone and I started to think,” says Trager,”At that time (in 2011) everyone thought e-books were bout to change the world of publishing.” In 2012, Le French Book was born.
The first titles were only available in the e-book format. “I was worried that publishing houses wouldn’t be OK with that idea. Actually, though, they really supported me.” Albin Michel and Fayard were the first to sign on. Two years later, Le French Book began publishing physical books. “That’s when we really got started,” says Trager.
Today, most of the titles available from Le French Book are also available as audiobooks. Whatever the format, though, it’s the story that counts. With Americans, the ones that take place in Paris are the most successful. The Shadow Ritual series by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne is popular as is The Paris Homicide series by Frédérique Molay. Anything that jives with the France of America’s imagination tends to fly, like The Winemaker Detective Mysteries by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, which takes place among the vineyards.
Le French Book is based in New York. “New York is the heart of publishing,” explains Trager,”I think that it’s important for authors and editors that our house is here, but it’s also important for readers.” They plan to publish 10-12 titles in 2016.