Books set in Marseille or about Marseille

Books based in Marseille - Books that feature Marseille - Non-Fiction Books - Guide Books - Other items

While we hope that our website will contain all the information you need, you might still want to do your holiday in the traditional way and read a book. So, for those who like nothing better than to curl up with a good book, here is our selection of Marseille related books, each with a brief review (mostly provided by the publishers).

Finally, please note that the links to the books on this page are provided by Amazon.co.uk. Each time you buy something from Amazon.co.uk we get a small sum that helps us to cover our running costs. See the Friends of Marseille City of Culture page for more details.

 

Books based in Marseille

Apparently there are not a lot of novels that feature Marseille directly, however we have done our best to search out those that do. We have divided these into 3 categories crime novels, historical novels and "other".

 

Crime

As you might expect, Marseille makes an appearance in more than its fair share of crime fiction. The selection below are novels where the City features prominently.

Jean-Claude Izzo

The Marseille born writer Jean-Claude Izzo is probably the best-known exponent of the genre of murder mystery novels known as "Marseille thrillers" or "Marseille Noir". In his novels, the city becomes an actor in its own right not simply a backdrop for the action. Following his death in 2000, "The Marseille Trilogy" has been published in English.

The Marseille Trilogy

Fabio Montale, disillusioned ex-cop and son of immigrants with a taste for food, poetry, jazz, fishing and women takes us into the underworld in Marseilles with a cast that includes drug dealers, right wing activists, gangsters, radical Islamists, investigative journalists and, of course, the mafia.

Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy Volume 1)

Chourmo (Marseille Trilogy Volume 2)

Solea (Marseille Trilogy Volume 3)

The Lost Sailors

A group of sailors is stranded in Marseille after their boat is impounded as security against an unpaid debt. The book focuses on the tension between the captain and the first mate, and how they come to terms with their enforced stay.

The Lost Sailors

A Sun for the Dying

Not so much a story about Marseille, more a story of a return to Marseille. However, as this book was written by Jean-Claude Izzo and contains many of the same themes as his other books, this seems to fit here better than with the Books that feature Marseille below.

A Sun for the Dying

 

Martin O'Brien

The Daniel Jacquot detective series from Martin O'Brien features Chief Inspector Daniel Jacquot of the Cavaillon Regional Crime Squad. A former French rugby international who once scored the winning try against England but now wears his hair in a ponytail and loves good food and good wine.

Confession

Jacquot goes to Paris where Marseille Magistrate Solange Bonnefoy's niece has been abducted. A trail of violence and corruption leads back to Marseille where an unexpected murder sends him undercover.

Confession

Jacquot and the Master

Jacquot is called to a luxury hilltop hotel where a young woman, it seems, has been murdered. There are bloodstains, but no body. When a summer storm isolates the hotel, and not one but two bodies are found, passions run high.

Jacquot and the Master

Jacquot and the Angel

A local gardener is arrested and charged with the murder of a wealthy German, but Jacquot is convinced they have the wrong man. A psychic in Alsace thinks the same and comes to Provence to help Jacquot. Together they uncover a secret that goes back more than half a century.

Jacquot and the Angel

Blood Counts

When you're a cop in Marseille, threats of violence and revenge go with the territory. Usually they come to nothing, but when friends and colleagues start turning up dead it soon becomes clear that someone has a score to settle and intends to see it through.

Blood Counts

Jacquot and the Waterman

Jacquot investigates a series of killings, where the female victims are drugged, raped and left under water. With only a three-word tattoo to work on, Jacquot gradually closes in on the murderer.

Jacquot and the Waterman

Jacquot and the Fifteen

Marc Dombasle is a successful businessman and the captain of the French Rugby team that beat England twenty years earlier. To mark the anniversary, he organises a reunion. When one of Jacquot's old team-mates apparently commits suicide, past rivalries soon re-surface.

Jacquot and the Fifteen

The Dying Minutes

In 1972, a gold bullion convoy is hijacked in Marseille. More than twenty years later, Daniel Jacquot receives an unexpected gift from an old fisherman. At the same time, a Marseille lawyer called Claude Dupont receives an equally unexpected gift from a dying gangland boss.

The Dying Minutes

 

Xavier-Marie Bonnot

Marseille born Xavier-Marie Bonnot's character, Commandant Michel "the Baron" De Palma, is an old style policeman and member of the Marseille Murder squad, however the stories are more than simple tales of cops, robbers and Marseille's ever present underworld.

The First Fingerprint

A series of bizarre murders in Marseille share a common theme: the mark left by a three-fingered hand. A murder mystery that links the prehistoric cave paintings found in Grotte Cosquer, south-east of Marseille, to the modern day world of academia in Aix-en-Provence.

The First Fingerprint

The Beast of the Camargue

A body is found at the foot of an effigy of the Tarasque, a mythical beast that features the coat of arms of the town of Tarascon in the Camargue. The twist is that the body shows all the signs of having been killed by the beast itself. Michel De Palma is sent to investigate.

The Beast of the Camargue

 

Léo Malet

Although the French crime novelist Léo Malet's hard-nosed detective Nestor Burma is best known for his exploits in Paris, he did occasionally find his way down south to do a bit of crime fighting and Marseille features in a couple of novels.

Mission to Marseille

Featuring private detective Nestor Burma in wartime Marseille where he is caught between the local villains and the Gestapo whilst searching for the secret of the mysterious Formula 5.

Mission to Marseilles

Death of a Marseille Man

On a journey, private investigator Nestor Burma is assaulted but manages to push his attacker from the train. The mystery begins to grow when he discovers that a young woman was thrown from the same train exactly a year before.

Death of a Marseille Man Death of a Marseilles Man

 

Peter Mayle

The Marseille Caper

Sleuth extraordinaire Sam Levitt and glamorous insurance agent Elena Morales move to Marseille to find themselves in the middle of an increasingly intrigue-ridden and dangerous real estate grab.

The Marseille Caper

 

William Hughes

Marseille Contract

A US agent sets out to stop the activities of a big drugs dealer in the only way he can, by hiring an underworld hit man, who turns out to be an old friend - also available as a film.

Marseille Contract Marseille Contract

 

 

Historical Novels

Given Marseille's long history as a port, perhaps it is not too surprising that there are also a few historical novels that feature Marseille. Here we have taken "historical" to include anything up to the fairly recent past.

Steven Saylor

Last Seen in Massilia

A mystery novel by Steven Saylor set in Massilia (ancient Marseille) and featuring the sleuth "Gordianus the Finder". Part of his Roma Sub Rosa series of novels.

Last Seen in Massilia

 

Charles Dickens

Little Dorrit

Much of the novel is set in London, so this is possibly more suited to the category of books that feature Marseille, however it is a historical novel and it does begin with a typically Dickensian description of the Marseille of the 1820s.

Little Dorrit (paperback)

Little Dorrit (audio book)

 

Joseph Conrad

The Arrow of Gold

One of Joseph Conrad's less well known novels, this is a story of a young sea captain, his love for a beautiful woman, gun-running and a conspiracy to overthrow the king of Spain - most of the action for which is set in 1870s Marseille.

The Arrow of Gold: A Story Between Two Notes

 

Claude McKay

Banjo

Written by the Harlem Renaissance Writer, Claude McKay, the novel features Lincoln Agrippa Daily, known to friends as 'Banjo', who passes his days panhandling in the Vieux-Port in Marseille during the 1920s. When he is joined by Ray, a writer, it triggers the rediscovery of his African roots.

Banjo

 

Anna Seghers

Transit

After escaping from a Nazi concentration camp in Germany, the nameless narrator of the novel is asked to deliver a letter to a man named Weidel, who he finds to be dead. In Marseille, the narrator converses with other refugees, listens to their stories and gradually pieces together the story of Weidel.

Transit

 

Sembene Ousmane

Black Docker

Written by the Senegalese writer, Sembene Ousmane, the book tells of the life of Diaw Falla, a black docker in Marseille for whom work exists merely to finance his true obsession - writing. It paints a grim picture of Marseille in the 1950s, and the fierce, brutal and harsh life of the dockworkers there.

Black Docker

 

Michael T. Hertz

Seven Victims In Marseille

The story is set in Marseille in 1962 concerning an American who was raised in Marseille, helped liberate the city during the war and is now drawn into the terrorism associated with the French exodus from Algeria.

Seven Victims In Marseille

 

 

Other

This final class of books are those that feature Marseille prominently, but do not fit into either crime or historical novel categories above.

William Firebrace

Marseille Mix

In seven chapters (a reference to the seven hills surrounding Marseille), the book uses various forms of writing - essay, narrative, description, list, recipe, glossary, conversation - to examine the city.

Marseille Mix

 

Peter Child

Marseille Taxi

Ten hectic days in the life of Michel Ronay, a taxi driver in Marseille.

Marseille Taxi

 

Books that feature Marseille

In case none of the novels that feature Marseille directly take your fancy, then here are a selection of some others that are connected to Marseille in one way or another.

Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol was born in Aubagne and, as a boy, spent most of his summers in La Treille, both of which are villages near Marseille; in addition, as an adult he also lived and worked in Marseille for a period. A great deal of his work, some of which is available in English, (see also the page on films about Marseille) is based on his Provençal childhood.

Jean De Florette / Manon Des Sources

A story of intrigue set in the idyllic Provencal countryside that revolves around water (the source), tragic deaths (principally that of Jean De Florette) and revenge when Manon (his daughter) sets out to punish those responsible for the death of her father. This popular story is available in a variety of formats.

Jean De Florette and Manon Des Sources (film version)

Jean De Florette & Manon of the Springs (Translation)

Jean De Florette (Audio book)

La Gloire de Mon Pere and Le Chateau de Ma Mere

Two autobiographical stories from Pagnol's childhood: the first concerns his schoolteacher father's attempts to become a hunter in the Provençal countryside; the second concerns the young Pagnol's first love affair with a local lass.

My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle

 

Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas' famous novel, may not feature Marseille very much but the Château d'If certainly plays a major role. At 1488 pages, this may be the only book you will need during your stay! Alternatively, you might prefer the unabridged audio version - much more practical for your trip to the Iles de Frioul.

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo (Audio book)

 

Émile Zola

Zola spent most of his early life in Aix-en-Provence, which is near to Marseille. Marseille itself however only makes an appearance in two of his works.

The Mysteries of Marseille

An early novel by Émile Zola that was first published as a serialized story in 1867 It tells the tale of the love of Philippe Cayol, a poor untitled republican, for Blanche de Cazalis, the niece of De Cazalis, a millionaire and all-powerful politician in Marseille.

The Mysteries of Marseilles

Naïs Micoulin

One of Zola's short stories about the trials of a factory worker in what was then the village of L'Estaque and is now administratively part of Marseille.

The Best Known Works of Emile Zola

 

J. M. G. Le Clezio

Desert

The book is an interweaving of two related stories, one about an uprising against the French in North Africa in 1910–1912 and the other, set in the 1970s, about a woman who flees North Africa to avoid an arranged marriage, travels to Marseille and endures the hardship of an immigrant's life.

Desert

 

Sebastien Japrisot

The 10:30 from Marseille

A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of a night train from Marseille to Paris. The task of finding her killer is handed to an overworked, crime-weary police detective Pierre Emile Grazziano, nicknamed Grazzi, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a savage murderer.

The 10:30 from Marseille

The Sleeping-Car Murders

A book based on the film version of "The 10:30 from Marseille".

The Sleeping-Car Murders

 

Stephen C. Norton

The Marseille Scrolls

Some 1st century manuscripts are discovered near Marseille. Jeanne-Marie de Nord, a young Canadian translator, realizes that the scrolls are the journal of an unknown woman. Why were the scrolls hidden and why has their tale been suppressed for 2,000 years? Others are closing in, intent on re-burying the scrolls, and possibly Jeanne along with them.

The Marseille Scrolls

 

J. P. Smith

The Man From Marseille

Alexander Ostroff is an unsuccessful writer living in London who becomes obsessed with finding the truth about his parents, Russian expatriates who fled to southern France in 1919 and took up with a Mephistophelian character - the man from Marseille.

The Man From Marseille

 

 

Non Fiction and Reference Books about Marseille

If you are more interested in finding out facts about the city than reading a good yarn, here are a selection of non-fiction reads.

Marcelline Block

World Film Locations: Marseilles

Marseille, France's oldest city, has a significant cinematic culture, dating back to the 1890s when the Lumiere brothers shot some of the first moving pictures in the world there. The book features maps of film scenes, high quality screen-grabs and images of locations as they appear today.

World Film Locations: Marseilles

 

Rosemary Sullivan

Villa Air-Bel: The Second World War, Escape and a House in France

The story of the Emergency Rescue Committee, based in New York and set up by the American Varian Fry during the second world war, which compiled a list of two hundred people it wished to evacuate from a Marseille controlled by the Vichy government. Many of those evacuated passed through the Villa Air-Bel in the 'La Pomme' district of Marseille.

Villa Air-Bel: The Second World War, Escape and a House in France

 

Alban Janson and Carsten Krohn

Le Corbusier, Unité d'Habitation

This is not a book about Marseille, but about (arguably) Marseille's most famous building La cité radieuse de le Corbusier. Unfortunately there is no English version of this book available, but this dual text English-German version will tell you all you need to know.

Le Corbusier, Unite D'habitation

 

Junko Thérèse Takeda

Between Crown and Commerce

Between Crown and Commerce examines the relationship between French royal statecraft, mercantilism, and civic republicanism in the context of the globalizing economy of the early modern Mediterranean world. Junko Thérèse Takeda tells this tale through the particular experience of Marseille, a port the monarchy saw as key to commercial expansion in the Mediterranean.

Between Crown and Commerce: Marseille and the Early Modern Mediterranean

 

Paul Jankowski

Communism and Collaboration

Written from Sabiani's experiences as a Corsican neighbourhood boss in Marseille from the 1920s until the end of the German occupation in 1944.

Communism and Collaboration: Simon Sabiani and Politics in Marseille, 1919-1944

 

Daniel Young

Made in Marseille

New York restaurant critic and food commentator Daniel Young's paints a portrait of Marseille by way of its food.

Made in Marseille: Food and Flavors from France's Mediterranean Seaport

 

Nicholas Woodsworth

Seeking Provence

The book reads like an autobiography written by a travel writer, which is exactly what it is. However, it does include a chapter on Marseille that gives a good feel for the place, which is why it appears in this list.

Seeking Provence: Old Myths, New Paths: Old Paths, New Myths

 

 

Guide Books

Naturally, we hope that our guide tells you everything you need, but just in case you want to carry a book around with you, here are a few guides on paper.

 

Innercities Cultural Guides

Marseille

If you're looking for a more in depth exploration of Marseille, its history, its culture and its traditions try this. It is, as it says, a cultural guide rather than a visitor's guidebook. It is very well researched and will be useful as background reading as you travel on the train from Paris to Marseille.

Marseille (Innercities Cultural Guides)

 

Footprint Focus Guide

Marseille and Western Provence

A small, soft cover guidebook to Marseille that is slim enough to fit in your pocket.

Marseille and Western Provence (Footprint Focus Guide)

 

Wallpaper City Guides

Marseille

Wallpaper* City Guides not only suggest where to stay, eat, and drink, but what the tourist passionate about design might want to see. Includes features on up and coming areas, landmark buildings and design centres.

Marseille ("Wallpaper*" City Guides)

 

CitySpot Guides

Marseille

A city breaker's pocket guide to seeing and doing more in France's oldest city - with a fun-seeking and cost-conscious slant. Includes accommodation, restaurant and nightlife listings.

Marseille (CitySpots)

 

Pocket Guides

Marseille

Pinpoints the highlights, showing the visitor what to see and do in a limited timescale. Includes shopping, sightseeing, eating and drinking and ideas for the low-budget traveller.

Marseille (Pocket Guides)

 

OffBeat Guides

Marseille

This Kindle Edition of the guide offers a personalized, up-to-date travel guide using a combination of search technology and contributions by both amateur and professional travel experts.

Marseille (OffBeat Guides)

 

 

Other items

This is not really about books at all, but we could not think of anywhere else to put it!

 

A deck of Tarot cards

A deck of fifty-six Marseille Tarot cards

The Tarot of Marseilles