• A graphic account of the riddle of The Black Dahlia

     © Miles Hyman © Miles Hyman

    When James Ellroy published his celebrated crime novel The Black Dahlia in 1987, based on the true story of the unsolved 1947 murder in Los Angeles of Elizabeth Ann Short, it established him as one of the leading neo-noire authors, selling millions of copies worldwide. Now Ellroy has agreed to a major project by French publishers to turn it into a graphic novel, with artwork by Paris-based US illustrator Miles Hyman and text by French ‘BD’ writer Matz. Mediapart has gained exclusive access to follow the complex making of this unusual work, from its initial conception all the way through to its publication in 2013. In this first report, with video, Hyman takes Dominique Bry through the early steps and sketches (pictured) of the project, for which the first, essential challenge was to convince Ellroy that it should happen.  

  • A middle France pushed to extremes

    As France approaches presidential elections, held over two rounds in April and May, both the mainstream Left and Right are threatened with a significant desertion of their core electorate among the country’s low- and middle-income earners, struggling to survive the devastating effects of the economic crisis and revolted by a series of major scandals among the political elites. Rachida el Azzouzi and Mathieu Magnaudeix report from Crepoil and La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, two dormitory communities just east of Paris, where hope in the future has turned to rage against broken promises.

  • How the cost-cutting bug made French hospitals sick


    The French healthcare system enjoys a reputation as one of the most comprehensive and effective worldwide, and was ranked as the overall best in an international survey by the World Health Organization in 2000. But all that came at a price which is now the target of severe cost-cutting drives. The country's debt-ridden hospitals, once an example of excellence, are short of basic supplies of sheets, blankets, bed pads, syringes, bottled water and nurses' uniforms, among other things. "What was working fine before has since turned into a huge mess," comments a senior doctor at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. Noémie Rousseau reports.

  • Nationality, citizenship and a foreigner's right to vote in France


    Early December, the Left majority in the French Senate passed a bill to give non-EU nationals the right to vote and to stand as candidates for the position of councilor in local, municipal elections. The bill stands no chance of becoming law before the 2012 presidential and legislative elections, as it would require adoption by the current Right-majority in parliament's lower house, and the approval of President Nicolas Sarkozy. But a Socialist Party victory in next year's polls could see the bill finally introduced as law, ending several decades of campaigning, notably by representatives of France's large North African immigrant community. Carine Fouteau met with Hocine Taleb, a 32 year-old Algerian who runs a youth association in a Paris suburb, who explains his anger and frustration at being excluded from local decision-making.

  • How French school books keep it a man's world


    French school teaching books offer a stereotyped, partial, sexist and always minimal record of the place of women in History, according to a study published this month and which confirms the conclusions of various official reports carried out over the past decade. The study, by the Hubertine Auclert Centre, a semi-public institution for the promotion of gender equality, was so damning that none of the 11 books examined were considered worthy of a prize of excellence. Lucie Delaporte reports on its findings.

  • The story of Cheylard, another French town felled by the crisis

    Assemblée générale de salariés. Assemblée générale de salariés.

    The small town of Le Cheylard, in the Ardèche region of south-east France, has for decades enjoyed an unusual level of prosperity, essentially through the national and international success of two local companies, one a textile firm the other a jewellery-maker. But now Le Cheylard is facing sudden social death after the companies, weakened by market changes, international competition and the economic crisis, announce job cuts, shorter working weeks and the threat of delocalisation to the Far East. Rachida el Azzouzi reports from a town that is a mirror image of the dramatic industrial transformations wrecking small communities across France.

  • France’s 58 nuclear reactors need safety upgrade to resist natural disasters, says watchdog


    Nuclear power plants in France, the most nuclear dependent country in the world, are vulnerable to the catastrophic effects of a major natural disaster such as that which hit the Japanese plant at Fukushima in March. That is the conclusion of a stress-test study of the country's 58-strong reactor fleet carried out by the French radioprotection and nuclear safety institute, the IRSN, presented Thursday by the national nuclear safety agency, the ASN, which warned that "massive investment" is required for the recommended safety upgrades. Jade Lindgaard reports on the findings.

  • Sarkozy camp hoists social benefits fraud to forefront of re-election campaign


    President Nicolas Sarkozy has clearly decided to make the fight against social benefits fraud, described by one of his ministers as "a cancer of French society", one of the main themes of his 2012 re-election campaign. While that will not officially begin until early next year, this week saw a carefully coordinated blitz against the increasingly stigmatised welfare dependent, and which announces the colour of the presidential election debate ahead. Marine Turchi reports.

  • French youth caught in a spiral of poverty and unemployment


    The French presidential election campaign is underway, after President Nicolas Sarkozy left little doubt in his television interview Thursday that he would be a candidate for his own succession. One of the issues he will be judged upon is the programme he launched in 2009 to combat youth unemployment, and notably the rising numbers of youngsters who are dropping out of the system, unqualified and permanently unemployed. Two years after the president presented his government's ambitious ‘Acting for youth' plan, 20% of 18-25 year-olds in France live below the poverty line, representing half of the country's poor, and 22% of 15-25 year-olds are unemployed. Noémie Rousseau has been seeking out the experiences of those at the frontline reinsertion centres, and their accounts paint a grim picture.

  • The roadmap to a non-nuclear, low carbon future for France


    In a country which gets around 75% of its electricity from nuclear power, and billions of euros from exportation of its civil nuclear technology, the call to dump it could appear akin to science fiction. Yet Négawatt, an association of French environmentalist energy specialists, drew a crowd for its recent presentation of a plan for France to pull out of nuclear energy by 2033 while also halving CO2 emissions by 2030 and converting almost entirely to renewables by 2050. The nuclear industry and two ministries sent emissaries, and the plan now looks set to feature in the 2012 presidential election campaign. Jade Lindgaard reports.