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Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 26, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Manchette is legend among all of the crime writers I know, and with good reason: his novels never fail to stun and thrill from page one.”
—Duane Swierczynski, Author of Expiration Date

“Manchette called crime novels ‘the great moral literature of our time.’ Manchette pushes the Situationist strategy of dérive and détournement to the point of comic absurdity, throwing a wrench into the workings of their main characters’ lives and gleefully recording the anarchy that results.”
—Jennifer Howard, Boston Review

“Cool, compact, and shockingly original.”
—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times

“In France, which long ago embraced American crime fiction, thrillers are referred to as polars. And in France the godfather and wizard of polars is Jean-Patrick Manchette. . . . [H]e’s a massive figure. . . . There is gristle here, there is bone.” —The Boston Globe

About the Author

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942–1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. Born in Marseille to a family of relatively modest means, Manchette grew up in a southwestern suburb of Paris, where he wrote from an early age. While a student of English literature at the Sorbonne, he contributed articles to the newspaper La Voix Communiste and became active in the national students’ union. In 1961 he married, and with his wife, Mélissa began translating American crime fiction—he would go on to translate the works of such writers as Donald Westlake, Ross Thomas, and Margaret Millar, often for Gallimard’s Série noire. Throughout the 1960s Manchette supported himself with various jobs writing television scripts, pornographic screenplays, young-adult books, and film novelizations. In 1971 he published his first novel, a collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bastid, and embarked on his literary career in earnest, producing ten subsequent works over the course of the next two decades and establishing a new genre of French novel, the néo-polar (distinguished from traditional detective novel, or polar, by its political engagement and social radicalism). During the 1980s, Manchette published celebrated translations of Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novels for a bandes-dessinée publishing house co-founded by his son, Doug Headline. In addition to Fatale, Manchette’s novels Three to Kill and The Prone Gunman, as well as Jacques Tardi’s graphic-novel adaptations of them (titled West Coast Blues and Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, respectively), are available in English.

Donald Nicholson-Smith’s translations of noir fiction include Manchette’s Three to Kill, Thierry Jonquet’s Mygale (a.k.a. Tarantula), and (with Alyson Waters) Yasmina Khadra’s Cousin K. He has also translated works by Guy Debord, Paco Ignacio Taibo II , Henri Lefebvre, Antonin Artaud, and Guillaume Apollinaire. Born in Manchester, England, he is a longtime resident of New York City.

Jean Echenoz is a prominent French novelist, many of whose works have been translated into English, among them Chopin’s Move (1989), Big Blondes (1995), and most recently Ravel (2008) and
Running (2009).


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 98 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590173813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173817
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean-Patrick Manchette (December 19, 1942, Marseille - June 3, 1995, Paris) was a French crime novelist credited with reinventing and reinvigorating the genre. He wrote ten short novels in the 1970s and early 80s, and is widely recognized as the foremost French crime fiction author of that time. His stories are violent, existentialist explorations of the human condition and French society. Jazz saxophonist and screenwriter, Manchette was also a left-wing activist influenced as much by the writings of the Situationist International as by Dashiell Hammett.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on June 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
This compact roman noir starts off with a bang. It grabbed me from the very first chapter and kept on going. J.P. Manchette's gothic detailing and invention of the driven, single-minded character of Aimee Joubert is a little gem. Its plotting, its cynicism, and its deadly main character reminded me of Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Aimee would find a friend in Lisbeth Salander. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if Larsson knew this book. The plot is loaded with crazed characters, most of whom are rich and despicable. They are parodies of "leading" town citizens: rich corrupt businessmen, a nasty reporter, an adulterous town doctor, a pompous real estate agent, and so on. Aimee, who has already changed her identity six or seven times before arriving at Bleville, where the town motto is KEEP YOUR TOWN CLEAN!, hates them all and spends her time trying to discover the easiest way to exploit their petty conflicts for her own enrichment. I laughed out loud at some of the ridiculous plot twists and absurd deaths sprinkled throughout the book. And the character of The Baron is a fine study of an alienated, debauched, uninhibited lunatic who is hated by everyone. The final pages are a riot! What's also essential for the reader is the Afterword by Jean Echenoz. It's a must-read piece of analysis and shows you how much Manchette accomplishes in just 90 pages (the type is small, though). Recommended for jaded readers with a sense of humor.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By DCB on May 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
In this short but violent French noir thriller, a Female assassin travels to a French seaside town, where she insinuates herself into elite society in order to exploit internecine rivalries among the elites for her own profit. At a mere 90 pages, this is more a novella than a novel, and the chapters are correspondingly short, usually 3 to 6 pages. The first few chapters are fast paced, and do a good job of introducing Aimee, the female assassin. The middle of the book drags a bit as the somewhat contrived and implausible scheme is developed. But the plot is essentially just a vehicle to get to the bloody denouement of the final two chapters. I don't know if Quentin Tarantino was a fan of Manchette, but with its pulp noir imagery and as a graphic celebration of the violent self-destruction of corrupt groups and individuals, this work certainly seems like it could have been an influence on some of his films.

Overall, I can only give this book a lukewarm recommendation. Fans of pulp crime fiction and Quentin Tarantino films may enjoy this as a "quick read". Most of the supporting characters are little more than generic cardboard cut-outs: the greedy corporate bad guys, the corrupt police captain, the slimy tabloid reporter sniffing out dirt on everyone. The reader must also be able to overlook certain inconsistancies in the behavior of the lead character, as well as the contrivances of the plot.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cary Watson on February 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
When reviewing a crime novel it's normally pretty easy to come up with a comparable author or book. Not in this case. Fatale is blunt, brief and brutal; its style brings to mind comics or graphic novels, or a particularly vicious B-movie. That's not to say it's junky or pulpy; this is a proper novel, with crisp, direct prose and a mandate to put the boots to the French upper middle-class.

The central character is Aimee, an attractive woman who travels from town to town infiltrating the local upper crust and then blackmails them once she's found out their dirty secrets. Oh, and she also usually murders her victims after she's got the cash. Aimee arrives in Bleville, a coastal town in northern France, and soon finds that there's no shortage of victims for her blackmail scheme. The denouement finds Aimee facing off against a gang of Bleville's notables. The body count is very high.

A synopsis of the plot can make this novel sound ludicrous and sensational, but that's clearly not what Manchette was striving for. Fatale is almost a schematic of how the upper bourgeoisie acts and reacts to threats and temptations. Aimee is partly an avenging angel and partly a victim of bourgeois culture. She, like a good capitalist, sees society purely in terms of its utility to her: what parts of it can be used to her profit, what parts can be eliminated because they hinder her. In short, Aimee's motivating philosophy would seem to be exploit others before they exploit you.

Fatale is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's bleak and cruel, and the tone of the writing is dry and sometimes startlingly matter-of-fact. Machette wrote a handful of other novels but not many of them seem to be available in English.

Read more of my reviews at JettisonCocoon dot com.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CB on August 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel, Three to Kill, was so good, I ordered Fatale. The tone of Fatale is remarkably different than Three to Kill, and outside length, there aren't many similarities. Nonetheless Fatale was, for me, a five star novel.

It's hard to discuss a book like Fatale without instantly loading the review with spoilers. I won't give anything paramount away, thus the review won't be very informative. The opening chapter is a murder, where the descriptive details of the scenery, outfits, and ages of a hunting band, are as in depth as the actual murder that takes place. Yet, despite any serious description, or psychological portfolio, it's implicitly clear that the murder was not whimsical, but deliberately calculated with some long-running motive. For a crime noir, this is the catalyst and momentum for majority of the story. Little suspense, nor action, will follow suit, but the constant question of `what the hell happened back in chapter 1' will you keep you reading as if the novel is an edge of your seat thriller.

Several weeks later we find the murderer moving into a bourgeoisie caste society, where the well to do have barred themselves away from everyone else, and spend all their time partying, dining, gambling, and gossiping, while their invested capital collects staggering interest. The old maxim that money doesn't buy happiness is readily apparent, but what is more apparent is the constant Hegelian contradictions of bourgeoisie life, and capital investment. The towns raving mad man - a poser Marxist and Hegelian - shows up to these party's spouting mad rants (or philosophic truths...?), about the sheer contradictory nature of this well-to-do society, and its rotten essence underlining the appearance of wealth.
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