How many people have heard of the arch-criminal Fantômas created by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre in 1911 and one of the most popular ruthless and evil geniuses in modern French crime writing?
Fantômas is the cause of almost any unsolved crime, a merciless criminal who can get away with his evil deeds by impersonating pretty much anyone. He is obsessively chased by Inspector Juve, who is generally the only one able to see Fantômas’s tracks. He is so evil, he thinks nothing of poisoning the passengers of an entire ship to suit his evil plan.
The stories have a unique twist. While most crime novels have the villain caught at the end – think of Agatha Christie’s work; Fantômas is the opposite – somehow he always escapes at the end, ready for his next dastardly and evil plot.
Fantômas has never been caught, and here he is in London in the paintings of Scottish artist Steven Campbell (1953-2007) each of which weaves an amazingly elaborate story in its own right, on show at the Marlborough Gallery in London.