The character of Sherlock Holmes is very much based on Vidocq; so are both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. Dickens mentions Vidocq in Great Expectations; Melville cites him in Moby Dick; and Poe refers to Vidocq's methods in Murders in the Rue Morgue.
As a player in the criminal underworld, Vidocq was a master of disguises and an accomplished thief, eventually turning his unlawful talents toward catching criminals as the first chief of secret police. Playing both sides of the law, Vidocq's life highlights the blurry line between law enforcement and the criminals they pursue. He has a knack for finding trouble throughout his topsy-turvy life, getting into one hot situation after another, often finding himself behind bars, only to escape the first chance he gets.
In December 1828, Vidocq published his Memoirs, with the help of some ghostwriters. The work became a bestseller and sold over 50,000 copies in the first year. His book takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of 1830s France, including the circus stage, pirate ships, prison cells and beautiful women's boudoirs. Vidocq's life story is unforgettable and includes some of the best crime stories and juicy tales ever written.
Out of print for many years, this newly revised edition of the Memoirs features a dynamic translation that brings this captivating autobiography to life for modern readers.
"He preferred the tumultuous life of danger to the contentment of security. His story is one long swashbuckling adventure as he breaks out of jails, pursues actresses, duels to the death, raids the hells of criminals and stalks the Paris night in a thousand disguises." (Philip John Stead, Vidocq: Picaroon of Crime)
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About the Author
On 19 July 1946, the first American film about Vidocq appeared - A Scandal in Paris, with George Sanders as Vidocq and direction by Douglas Sirk. It showed the rise of a rogue in society, coupled with a love story. It was followed in April 1948 by the next French version of Vidocq's life story, Le Cavalier de Croix-Mort, directed by Lucien Ganier-Raymond with Henri Nassiet in the lead.
On 7 January 1967, the French television station ORTF showed the first of two television series, each with thirteen episodes. Vidocq starring Bernard Noël was still in black and white. The second series, Les Nouvelles Aventures de Vidocq, the first in color, premiered on 5 January 1971 and starred Claude Brasseur.
In 2001, under the direction of Pitof, Gérard Depardieu played Vidocq in the French science fiction film Vidocq. In 1989, the pilot episode "Trail" was devoted to Eugène Vidocq. The series was called Adventure of Criminalistics and was filmed in Czechoslovakian-German co-production.