The prone gunman by Jean-Patrick Machette

I was sent this a couple of years ago by the lovely jacqui after I mentioned I hadn’t read manchette and she had two copies of this book. I wonder why it took so long for me to get to Manchette, I have read so many french writers over the years it was only a matter of time before mine and Manchette’s paths crossed. I’m not sure if his last book was best place to start but it left me wanting to work back through his canon in English.

He was tall but not massive, with a calm face, blue eyes, and brown hair that just covered the top of his ears. He wore a reefer, a black sweater, and blue jeans; he had fake Clarks on his feet. He kept his upper body erect, leaning against the right door of the cab, his legs on the bench seat, the soles touching the left door. One would have taken him for thirty or a little more; he was not quite that old. His name was martin Terrier. an ortiges automatic pistol with a redfield silencer rested on his lap .

Martin described on the first page anyone till that last line and the gun with the silencer on it .

Well this what I love about french fiction when it takes a well-known genre here the hard-boiled crime novel ,  the anti-hero , the chase and oh a a rekindled childhood romance, all thrown in a french blended and given that french Je-ne-sa-quoi . I imagined the french films of the era Diva for example which was made in the same year as the book came out. So we have Martin Terrier are hero/anti-hero is a man at the top of his game as an assassin, but he has just done his latest job and returned home to Paris. He has decide to move back to the South of France and settle down with his childhood sweetheart. He tells his employers this is his plan and they want him to do one last job and Martin refuse and has to escape the clutches and shots of the people sent to bring him back in the fold so to speak.So we see him try to get back to the girl and to a past he once had.

“Well it was only dislocated” said the doctor on duty, whose address Terrier had found on a list in the window of a closed pharmacy. “You straightened it out yourself? seriously? ”

“Yes”

“Bravo. You’re a stoic fellow”

According to the doctor, there was no call to put in a cast.He showed terrier how to use an elastic bandage so that the swollen finger would stay completely immobilized.

“I know,”  said Terrier

Terrier is used to repairing himself like this example where he relocates his own finger.

This is a sparse book  all action no real filler , we see how Martin is trying to escape this world. But he is caught in a world he entered ten years earlier as a very young man and grew to the top of his chosen job Killer   and hasn’t fully grasped the game, he is good at the killing but hasn’t grasped that this means he can’t be let go. Terrier is a man who has seen horrors and now want to turn the clock back but you can’t turn that clock back! I was thought back to the books I read as a Teen  My dads thrillers books like  Solo Jack Higgins for example another cat and mouse crime novel involving a hitman and of course day of the jackal both characters have a detachment I felt from Terrier , why go back to a woman he left ten years earlier , she would be gone. This is good Noir a little far-fetched , fun and fast paced if you look over the fact he seems to have struggled with an ending (but that is more than made up for with the first two/thirds of the book. The book was made into a film by Sean Penn, although it seems to have changed the story some what as Martin Terrier is a lot younger than Penn in the book but I may watch it just see how it turned out.

French fiction

La Position du Tireur Couché original title 

Translator – James Brook

Source – personnel copy (gift)

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whisperinggums
    Jan 19, 2016 @ 04:50:13

    French noir – sounds good. I remember enjoying Diva, but most, I love the description of Martin, including “the fake Clarks” on his feet.

    Reply

  2. MarinaSofia
    Jan 19, 2016 @ 06:22:10

    Glad you became acquainted with Manchette – he really represents French noir to my mind.

    Reply

  3. JacquiWine
    Jan 19, 2016 @ 07:05:11

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Stu. If you’re keen to try more by Manchette, then you’ve got a few treats in store. If I were to pick my favourite, I’d say Fatale (primarily for its feisty female protagonist), but Three to Kill is excellent too. Lots to look forward to there.

    Reply

  4. Max Cairnduff
    Jan 19, 2016 @ 11:09:34

    I reviewed this myself (here: https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/jean-patrick-manchette-the-prone-gunman/). It’s good, as you say, but perhaps the weakest of the Manchette’s I’ve read. That said, it does use the prose marvellously to bring out Martin’s essentially sociopathic nature and it also subtly undermines him a great deal.

    For me that was the key difference to thriller writers. There the reader is invited to identify with the protagonist. Here Martin isn’t actually very bright, and if I recall correctly has issues with impotence. His only real strength is that he doesn’t feel anything when he kills people, so it’s easy for him to do. He’s hardly James Bond.

    A film version with Penn would be odd. The plot would be all that was left, and that’s what’s least interesting here. Martin for me is neither hero nor anti-hero, he’s a somewhat pathetic individual. If I had to get an actor to play him it would probably be someone like a younger Steve Buscemi.

    Reply

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