Apache (gang)

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See Apache (disambiguation) for other meanings.
Apache revolver – Curtius Museum, Liège
Le Petit Journal Apaches battle French Police 14 August 1904
Title page of Le Petit Journal (20 October 1907) "The Apache is the sore of Paris. More than 30,000 prowlers against 8,000 city policemen."

Les Apaches (French: [a.paʃ]) were members of a Parisian Belle Époque underworld subculture. Apaches were so called because their alleged savagery was compared with that attributed by Europeans to the Native American tribes of Apaches.

The Apaches were especially associated with some districts of Paris: Belleville, la Bastille, La Villette and Montmartre which was also home to the famous Moulin Rouge dance hall and nightclub.

During their heyday, the prospect of being mugged or otherwise assaulted by Apache gangsters was especially feared by members of the emergent bourgeois middle class. Some of the gangs used a unique type of pistol which was named the "Apache revolver" or "Apache pistol": a pinfire cartridge revolver with no barrel, a set of foldover brass knuckles for a handgrip, and a folding knife mounted right underneath the revolver drum for use as a stabbing weapon.

The Apaches also evolved a semi-codified collection of "tricks" used in mugging and hand-to-hand combat. The most famous was the coup du père François, a tactic by which a victim was stalked by several Apaches before being garroted from behind; one Apache was assigned the job of searching through the victim's pockets for any valuables, while another served as a lookout.

In fiction[edit]

Certain elements of the Apache "style" became influential in French and then international popular culture, including the Apache dance and Apache shirt. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client", Holmes' adversary, Baron Gruner, threatens Holmes by asking him if he knows what befell a French private detective named 'Le Brun', who inquired into the Baron's affairs. Holmes tells Gruner he heard Le Brun "was beaten by some Apache in the Montmartre district and crippled for life".

The famous French 10-part 7-hour silent film Les Vampires (1915, re-released on DVD in 2005) is about an Apache gang named "the Vampires". Emilio Ghione's La Mort series of films—of which only I topi grigi (The grey rats, 1918), Anime buie (Dark souls, 1916) and a fragment of Dollari e Fracks (Dollars and dinner jackets, 1919) still exist—was about the adventures of a 'noble' Apache in the Parisian underworld and further afield.

The popular Italian pulp fiction writer Aristide Marino Gianella also wrote a serial novel called Gli apache parigini, which was first available in short installments and then within a complete volume.