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Jean-Patrick Manchette - book author

Jean-Patrick Manchette was a French crime novelist credited with reinventing and reinvigorating the genre. He wrote ten short novels in the seventies and early eighties, and is widely recognized as the foremost French crime fiction author of the 1970s - 1980s . His stories are violent, existentialist explorations of the human condition and French society.

Manchette was politically to the left and his writing reflects this through his analysis of social positions and culture. His books are reminiscent of the nouvelle vague crime films of Jean-Pierre Melville, employing a similarly cool, existential style on a typically American genre (film noir for Melville and pulp novels for Manchette).

Three of his novels have been translated into English. Two were published by San Francisco publisher City Lights Books (3 To Kill [from the French "Le petit bleu de la côte ouest"] and The Prone Gunman [from the French "La Position du tireur couché"]). A third, Fatale, was released by New York Review Books Classics in 2011.

Manchette believed he had gone full circle with his last novel, which he conceived as a "closure" of his Noir fiction. In a 1988 letter to a journalist, Manchette said:

" After that, as I did not have to belong to any kind of literary school, I entered a very different work area. In seven years, I have not done anything good. I'm still working at it."

In 1989, finally having found new territory he wanted to explore, Manchette started writing a new novel, La Princesse du Sang" ("Blood Princess"), an international thriller, which was supposed to be the first book in a new cycle, a series of novels covering five decades from the post-war period to present times. He died from cancer before completing it.

Starting in 1996, a year after Manchette's death, several unpublished works were released, showing how very active he was during in the years preceding his death.


In 2009, Fantagraphics Books released an English-language version of French cartoonist Jacques Tardi's adaptation of Le petit bleu, under the new English title 'West Coast Blues.' Fantagraphics released a second Tardi adaptation, of "La Position du tireur couché" (under the title "Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot" ) in the summer of 2011, and has scheduled a third one, of "Ô Dingos! Ô Châteaux!" (under the title "Run Like Crazy Run Like Hell") in summer 2014. Manchette himself was a fan of comics, and his praised translation of Alan Moore's Watchmen into French remains in print.

Jean-Patrick Manchette is the author of books: Fatale, The Prone Gunman, The Mad and the Bad, Three to Kill, Nada, La Princesse Du Sang, Affaire N Gustro, West Coast Blues, Griffu, Piovono morti (Eugene Tarpon, #2)

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Author Books

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01
An NYRB Classics Original

Whether you call her a coldhearted grifter or the soul of modern capitalism, there’s no question that Aimée is a killer and a more than professional one. Now she’s set her eyes on a backwater burg—where, while posing as an innocent (albeit drop-dead gorgeous) newcomer to town, she means to sniff out old grudges and engineer new opportunities, deftly playing different people and different interests against each other the better, as always, to make a killing. But then something snaps: the master manipulator falls prey to a pure and wayward passion.

Aimée has become the avenging angel of her own nihilism, exacting the destruction of a whole society of destroyers. An unholy original, Jean-Patrick Manchette transformed the modern detective novel into a weapon of gleeful satire and anarchic fun. In Fatale he mixes equal measures of farce, mayhem, and madness to prepare a rare literary cocktail that packs a devastating punch.
02
Also available in a new, movie tie-in edition, titled The Gunman (Paperback ISBN: 978-0-87286-664-5. Ebook ISBN: 9780872866652). Film opened March 20, 2015 starring Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone, directed by Pierre Morel (Taken).

Martin Terrier is a hired killer who wants out of the game — so he can settle down and marry his childhood sweetheart. After all, that's why he took up this profession! But "the company" won't let him go: they have other plans. Once again, the gunman must assume the prone firing position. A tour de force, this violent tale shatters as many illusions about life and politics as it does bodies. Jean-Patrick Manchette subjects his characters and the reader alike to a fierce exercise in style. This tightly plotted, corrosive parody of "the success story" is widely considered to be Manchette's masterpiece, and was named a New York Times "Notable Book" in 2002. The Prone Gunman is a classic of modern noir.

"For Manchette and the generation of writers who followed him, the crime novel is no mere entertainment, but a means to strip bare the failures of society, ripping through veils of appearance, deceit, and manipulation to the greed and violence that are the society's true engines."—Boston Globe

"There's not a superfluous word or overdone effect . . . one of the last cool, compact and shockingly original crime novels Manchette left as his legacy to modern noir fiction."—New York Times

"For the first time readers can experience in English translation the masterful thriller considered Manchette's finest, proof positive that the French knew what they were talking about when they labeled this sort of novel 'noir'." —Publishers Weekly

"This superbly muscular translation of the late French mystery writer Jean-Patrick Manchette's most celebrated work, The Prone Gunman, is the third volume issued [by] City Lights Noir. The series may prove to be the most needed contribution to contemporary fiction by any publisher in a good long while." —The San Francisco Chronicle

Jean-Patrick Manchette 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. Jean-Patrick Manchette's other work, 3 to Kill is also published by City Lights Publishers.


03
Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate.

The craziness is just getting started.

Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated Fatale, The Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.
04
Businessman Georges Gerfaut witnesses a murder—and is pursued by the killers. His conventional life knocked off the rails, Gerfaut turns the tables and sets out to track down his pursuers. Along the way, he learns a thing or two about himself. . . . Manchette—masterful stylist, ironist, and social critic—limns the cramped lives of professionals in a neoconservative world.

"Manchette has appropriated and subverted the classic thriller [with] descriptions of undiluted action, violence and suspense [and] a perspective on evil, a disenchanted world of manipulation and fury . . . ." —Times Literary Supplement

"The petty exigencies of the classic thriller find themselves summarily reduced to cremains by the fiery blue jets of Jean-Patrick Manchette's concision, intelligence, tension, and style." —Jim Nisbet, author of Lethal Injection and Prelude to a Scream

"Manchette is a must for the reading lists of all noir fans. . . . Manchette deserves a higher profile among noir fans." —Publishers Weekly

"Manchette . . . performs miracles within this simple story. His style is very matter of fact, stark and almost cool like the jazz his hero or anti-hero Gerfaut devours at every opportunity. Yet in this short novel there is no lack of atmosphere, excitement, characters or descriptive writing, it is just the total lack of unnecessary material that makes the story seem so lean and mean." —Norman Price, EuroCrime

"A social satire cum suspense equally interested in dissecting everyday banalities and manufacturing thrills. Writing with economy, deadpan irony, and an eye for the devastating detail, Manchette spins pulp fiction into literature." —Kirkus Reviews

"While there isn’t much that’s obviously moral—in the good-versus-evil sense—[this novel] demonstrate[s] why Manchette is hailed as the man who kicked the French crime novel or “polar” out of the apolitical torpor into which it had fallen by the time he started publishing his “neo-polars” in the 1970s. . . . Grim and cerebral as they feel, it’s remarkable how comic—in an absurdist, laugh-or-you’ll-cry way—these books are, as if Manchette had decided that poking fun at the products of the capitalist system were the fittest way to attack the system itself." —Jennifer Howard, Boston Review

"The pace is fast, the action sequences are superb, and the effect is just as striking as it must have been when the book was first published in 1976." —Laura Wilson, The Guardian

"[T]he novel is brilliantly written, replete with allusions to art, literature, and music, papered with the very texture and furniture of our lives. Manchette is Camus on overdrive, at one and the same time white-hot, ice-cold. He deserves much the same attention." —James Sallis, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942—1995) rescued the French crime novel from the grip of stodgy police procedurals — restoring the noir edge by virtue of his post-1968 leftism. Today, Manchette is a totem to the generation of French mystery writers who came in his wake. Jazz saxophonist, political activist, and screen writer, Manchette was influenced as much by Guy Debord as by Gustave Flaubert. City Lights has published more of work, including The Gunman.


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Henri Butron, piccolo delinquente sfaticato e buono a nulla, fa tutto quel che può per mettere paura al mondo. Ma continua ad annoiarsi, malgrado donne, furti, aggressioni, un po' di guerra d'Algeria e un po' d'attivismo di estrema destra. Così, quando una giornalista, madre di una sua compagna occasionale, gli propone di scrivere a quattro mani un articolo sulla sua vita, Butron accetta. E in casa della sua biografa incontra uno strano gruppo di africani. Loro hanno bisogno di una mano per organizzare qualcosa in grande stile, e Butron ha bisogno di azione...
10
C'è un farmacista sospettoso: forse un dipendente gli ruba soldi dalla cassa. C'è anche una madre in pena: sua figlia è scomparsa e bisogna assolutamente ritrovarla. Eugène Tarpon, perennemente alle prese con finanze disastrate, accetta di occuparsi di entrambi i casi. Come a volte succede, i due imbrogli ne nascondono un terzo, ben piú articolato e pericoloso. L'azione si fa subito perdifiato, e coinvolge personaggi imprevedibili: poliziotti corrotti, nazisti bretoni, reduci della guerra di Spagna, moderni santoni piú o meno imbevuti di misticismo. Tarpon però sembra avere capito la lezione della sua precedente avventura: la migliore difesa è l'attacco. E allora, davvero, si salvi chi può. Come in Un mucchio di cadaveri, alle prese con la figura più classica del poliziesco americano, Manchette distilla l'irriverenza del suo approccio in un romanzo dal ritmo scatenato dove non mancano inseguimenti, sparatorie e violenze di ogni tipo, e dove i cadaveri si ammucchiano con sorprendente rapidità, come piovuti da un cielo gonfio di nubi.