He is one of the most famous French crime novels writers of the second half of the 20th century. He was also one of the most prolific, since he wrote more than 300 novels throughout his career. Under the pseudonym of San-Antonio (with the hyphen, which was originally a mistake), which he chose randomly with his finger on a map of America while he was looking for an English-sounding name for the famous police superintendent who is the main hero of his novels. San-Antonio is both in the case the main hero and the pseudonym of the writer, and books are written in the first person.
Frédéric Dard wrote 173 adventures of San-Antonio, of which millions of copies were sold. A San-Antonio is likely to be found in any French household. Detective Superintendent Antoine San-Antonio is a kind of French James Bond without gadgets, flanked by two colleagues, the old, sickly but wise inspector César Pinaud and the gargantuesque inspector Alexandre-Benoît Bérurier. He is a member of the French secret service and has to fulfill impossible missions given by "Le Vieux" (the Old Man), later known as "Achilles", the head of the French police. With the help of his colleagues he always succeeds through various adventures.
Written in a classical crime novel style at the beginning in the 50's (classic spy stories), San Antonio adventures become more satirical from the beginning of the sixties and leave the strict format of the crime novel literature. The style is very influenced by the French writer Céline but is also full of French slang and new words coined by the author himself (to the point of publishing a specific San-Antonio Dictionary), which makes it quite difficult for non-native speakers. Frequent are the digressions where the author goes on ranting or raving about anything at hand, addressing the reader directly, often with sarcasm and mockery.
- Tough Justice (Messieurs les hommes), by Cyril Buhler, Sphere Books, London, 1967; Duckworth, London, 1969; Norton, New York, 1969; Paperback Library 63-287, New York
- Stone Dead (C'est mort et ça ne sait pas), by Cyril Buhler, 1969, Paperback Library 63-283, New York, 1970
- Thugs And Bottles (Du brut pour les brutes), by Cyril Buhler, Sphere Books, London, 1969; Paperback Library 63-306, New York, 1970
- The Strangler (La fin des haricots), by Cyril Buhler, 1968, Sphere Books, London, 1969; Paperback Library 63-326, New York, 1970
- Knights Of Arabia (Bérurier au sérail), by Cyril Buhler, Duckworth, London, 1969; Paperback Library 63-341, New York, 1970
- From A To Z (De "A" jusqu'à "Z"), by Hugh Campbell, Duckworth, 1970, ISBN 0-7156-0410-4 (9780715604106); Paperback Library 63-352, 1970
- Crook's Hill, Paperback Library 63-342, New York
- The Sub Killers (La rate au court bouillon), by Cyril Buhler, Michael Joseph, 1971, ISBN 0-7181-0868-X (9780718108687)
- Alien Archipelago (L'archipel des malotrus), by Hugh Campbell, Michael Joseph, London, 1971, ISBN 0-7181-0869-8 (9780718108694)
Apart from San-Antonio Frédéric Dard wrote a great deal of novels under various other pseudonyms, such as Frederic Antony, Verne Goody, William Blessings, Cornel Milk, Frederic Charles or L'Ange Noir, to give only a short list.
There is no monograph on San-Antonio or Frédéric Dard in English.
- Dominique Jeannerod, San-Antonio et son double, PUF, Paris, 2010
- Raymond Milési, San-Antonio premier flic de France, DLM, Paris, 1996
- François Rivière, Frédéric Dard ou la vie privée de San-Antonio, Fleuve Noir, Paris 2010
- Françoise Rullier-Theuret, Faut pas pisser sur les vieilles recettes : San-Antonio ou la fascination pour le genre Romanesque, Bruylant-Academia, Bruxelles, 2008