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Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 26, 2011
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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
“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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Typical of many French works, this is heavy on atmospherics which delghtfully disguise theory. Remember this is a French work and they are the race that gave us Descartes and Sartre. Briefly this is a tale of a female hit woman who improbably finds employment by insinuating herself among the bourgeoisie, observing them, and subtly suggesting to them that she may know someone who can help them. And away we go.
However anyone who wishes to learn to write well should pay particular attention to the first several page of the book and the final scene which takes place between our anti-hero Aimee Joubert and the entire ruling elite of the town. It is some of the best fast-paced action sequences which you will come upon.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While the premise of this book certainly sounded gripping and thrilling, none of it really panned out. In fact, this book was sort of a mess. Read morePublished 3 months ago by fra7299
This shotgun blast of a noir novel hits hard and was over fast, and I enjoyed every second of it. It's my favorite type of story--the kind with no good guys, just characters that... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Brandon Johnson
The synopsis for this novella sounded intriguing to say the least, a beautiful deadly femme fatale with an agenda who arrives in a small provincial French town and immediately gets... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Cphe
Interesting, but hard to see why this author is called the French Raymond Chandler.Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
Let's face it, I bought this book for its cover and its slim size. I have seldom been disappointed by NYRB books, and thought this would make a tart little sorbet between more... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Roger Brunyate
I loved both "3 to Kill" and "The Prone Gunman." Brilliant, gripping books that livened up my holidays. This book is a dissapointment by comparison. Read morePublished on January 26, 2014 by Tod R. Brubaker
This guy is a very good story teller. His short novels are especially descriptive of the interesting characters he writes about and very funny at times. Read morePublished on July 27, 2013 by Danny