holiday reading 2
Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Prone Gunman, trans. James Brook (to be republished by Serpent’s Tail in November)
Manchette is the master of stripped-down, masculine French noir. Much like the films of Jean-Pierre Melville*, whose clipped, amoral style he echoes, Manchette deals with the intricate details of criminal life whilst eschewing any emotion or judgement. The Prone Gunman follows professional assassin Martin Terrier (often just referred to as ‘the man’, his anonymity and amorality reflected in a stylistic trick) as he attempts to go straight. His employers, naturally, desire him to stay on and chaos follows their attempts first to reclaim him and then to control him. The novel is cool, taut and brief. Manchette is generally underconsidered – as, indeed, is the French tradition in general – when noir or hard-boiled fiction is discussed (flashier Americans generally dominate) but he is well worth taking a look at.
*if you don’t know Melville, seek out Le Cercle Rouge or Le Samourai.