Friday, December 16, 2011

11.21 The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette

The Prone Gunman (1981) by Jean-Patrick Manchette

The Prone Gunman, the last crime novel Manchette wrote, mixes two well-worn plotlines to cruelly ironic effect: the hit man who wants out of the game and the working-class boy made good who comes home to claim his girl. 

Martin Terrier grows up poor in a puddle of a provincial town, and has the misfortune to fall for the daughter of the town's one factory owner, who forbids him from seeing her and sends him packing through the service entrance. Young Terrier makes his love promise to wait 10 years for him, swearing, "I will return, I will kill them, I will drag them through the shit, I will make them eat shit." He does, but not in quite the way he had hoped: When the decade is up, Terrier, an accomplished assassin, wants to break free from his employer—a CIA-like American group referred to only as "the company"—and whisk away his old lover, now an alcoholic housewife who finds him absurd. The company, of course, does not want to let Terrier go, and blood and mayhem follow him home.

I'm continuing my little love affair with the short French crime novels of Jean-Patrick Manchette. This one, like many of the others has been adapted into a graphic novel drawn by the Frenchman, Jaques Tardi. I haven't read it yet but I suspect that much of the novel might be lost in the visual translation.

The novel has some insanely cinematic violent scenes but the roughest stuff is the unceasing and crushing disappointment that the hero must endure. It is really a fine little book with some very European sensibilities.

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