Saturday, January 21, 2012

Five best French noir novels

R.J. Ellory's novels include the bestselling A Quiet Belief in Angels, which was the Strand Magazine's Thriller of the Year, nominated for the Barry Award, and a finalist for the SIBA Award. His novel, A Simple Act of Violence, won the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year Award.

He named his five best French noir novels for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
The Prone Gunman
by Jean-Patrick Manchette (1982)

The romanticism of anonymity, the banality of violence—here we have the life of the assassin Martin Terrier in "The Prone Gunman." Jean-Patrick Manchette's terse prose moves like the swift, almost automatic methods and mannerisms of his protagonist. The novel's opening establishes the pragmatic and unemotional attitude that Terrier applies to all his assignments: He follows a man named Dubofsky, waits for him to leave a movie theater, then stops him on a public sidewalk. "Dubofsky opened his mouth to shout. Terrier shot him once in his open mouth and again at the base of his nose." The victim was on his way to an assignation with a young woman; Terrier shoots her, too, "the silencer against the girl's heart." How can he do such things with such equanimity? Manchette said that the crime novel was 'the great moral literature of our time," but he left us with a punishing look into a brutal world. It is not easy reading, but then we do not read crime fiction for comfort.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue