BONNEFONTAINE, Switzerland — Popular French writer Frederic Dard, the author of more than 300 novels including the "San Antonio" detective fiction series, has died. He was 78.
Dard died of a heart attack Tuesday at Bonnefontaine in western Switzerland, where he had lived for more than 25 years, authorities in the village said Thursday.
Born in 1921 near Grenoble in southeastern France, Dard was the son of a small-business man who went bankrupt in the Depression, losing the family possessions. Like his more famous Belgian-born counterpart, George Simenon, Dard worked as a journalist in Lyon from 1942 to 1950 before dedicating himself to novels, theater and film. He used a number of pseudonyms, among them Frederic Charles, Kaput and L'Ange Noir (The Black Angel), and sold more than 270 million books.
Dard published his first San Antonio thriller, which recounted the adventures of police superintendent San Antonio and his faithful sidekick, Inspector Berurier, in 1949 but the book was quickly remaindered. However, it came to the attention of a publisher who was looking for writers for a new imprint devoted to crime fiction. Dard went to write more than 140 novels in the "San Antonio" series.
Known for his inventive and exuberant word play, Dard wrote his novels--including "Sexuality," "Is There a Frenchman in the Room?" and "Between Life and the Morgue"--at a rate of three to five per year.
Dard's last work, "Napoleon Pommier," was published three weeks ago.
"After Simenon, he was really the great eminence of the detective genre and an author who was a literary phenomenon," Francois Riviere, Dard's biographer, said on France's all news television channel, LCI.
Jean d'Ormesson, of the prestigious Academie Francaise, said that Dard "invented not only a personage [San Antonio] but a language."
In 1983, Dard's daughter Josephine, then aged 12, was kidnapped and held for 55 hours before being ransomed for $2 million francs ($963,530 in 1983)--an experience that he said "traumatized me forever."
Survived by his wife and three children, Dard was buried Thursday in Saint-Chef, a village near his birthplace.