Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette

The Prone Gunman
The novel is so tightly plotted one can barely tear oneself away. It is slim enough to read in an evening, however, if you are so inclined. Manchette wrote screen plays also, and the writing in this novel is spare enough to read almost as an outline with its own stage directions.

A hitman completes what he thinks is his final job, deposits his take with his financial advisor, then heads back to find the woman he left behind whom he hopes is still waiting for him ten years later. She hasn’t been waiting.

Machette is a master of cool, though his hitman does betray his nerves on occasion, by irritability, or by a tightening of the lips. The language is so un-upholstered, we zip along from one hideout to another, watching our hitman eliminate threats until his old boss comes hunting him down—for more work, or to close his file—we can’t be sure.

It occurs to me that someone learning a language could use this book to effect. Sentences are short and punchy and generally only have one clause:
"To get back to Paris, they headed towards Orléans, where they got on Autoroute A10. It was cold but dry. The little van went fast."
A generation of thriller writers benefitted from Manchette’s oeuvre. He brings the thrill back into the genre. How Manchette manages to grab (and hold) us with so little verbiage is the real mystery.

City Lights Books publishes this novel and 3 to Kill. The New York Review of Books publishes Fatale. I have been heavy into things French since beginning the TV series available to stream on Netflix called SPIRAL. If you haven't seen it, you are missing something grand.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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