The wicked go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

 

The Wicked Go to Hell by Frédéric Dard

The wicked go to hell by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Les salauds vont en enfe

Translator David Coward

Source – Library book

I reviewed another novel by Dard a couple of years ago Bird in the cage. Which I enjoyed so when I saw this in the library I decided it was time to try another by this prolific French writer. this was indeed the first of four books he wrote in 1956. This was also made into a film the year before the book came out although the book seems slightly different to the film details when I read them on Wikipedia.this is a tight two-handed tale of two cellmates.

“Our man has got to escape and escape he will … with you!” He looked at me to see my reaction but I’d long been used to letting the sky fall on me without battling an eyelid.

“We’ll lock you both up in the same jail cell … a tough one.. the sort of place that gives kindly old ladies the shivers. The pair of you escape!

“You’ll hole up somewhere and you’ll wait. The breakout will be big news. The head of the organization, knowng thatnhis man has escaped, will want to get him back..At some point or other he’ll break cover..Then , when you’ve got your hands on him”

He made a chopping motion with the dside of his hand.The gesture meant death.

Merin’s boss the old man a scary old chief that sets clear whathe has to do.

The book is set firstly in one of France toughest prison and on cellmates. What we are told about Frank and Hal is that one of them is a policeman called Merins was called in by his boss the old man to trap this spy. So he was sent into the prison to uncover. a spy ring and the overman is an enemy spy and leader of a spy ring that is centered on the prison the two initially don’t get on and fight. Thou in the fighting we see thou the two men Frank and Hal are on different sides of the fence in terms of what side they are on they in personality are similarly tough men as reach accuses the other of being a spy or the stool pigeon. The prison splits them up after a number of fights and sends both men to solitary but they get together in the cell and over time a collective loathing of prison life draws the two together as the plan an escape as they do they get closer. The plan works but leaves Frank worse for wear they land on an isolated island in the southern part of France Carmargue that wetland where there are many small islands. The two hide there till another person from a shipwreck ends up with them drawing the two to a final end. But who was who!

When the bull had gone, the two new men remained standing side by side for a moment, without looking at each other. Then there was a kind of click of release. Time, which had been flowing over them without intruding on the consciousness, suddenly jolted them out of the prisoner’s stupor and swept them up on its aimless way. They looked at each other up with fierce intrest. Like two animals who come face to face. Eventually, one of them – the one with the eye half-closed eye- give a shrug.He looked round the cell. There were three hinged cots, each with a straw mattress and a blanket.The prisoner who couldn’t speak occupid the fatherst one.

The first time they are alone in the cell Frank and Hall weight each other up.

The clever device in this book is Dard not telling you who is Merins the opening chapter sees him get the job and then we are thrown into the cell with Frank and Hal and questioning who is the cop and who is the spy. The story is also a classic take on the buddy film the two initially hate each other but other the courst=e of the book they form an uneasy alliance due to the conditions they find themselves in. Dard lets us know that no one at the prison knows Merins is there as they are not sure how far the spy ring goes in the prison. Dard builds the tension as the strained relationship and violent nature of both men maybe sees them seeing a bit of themselves in the other man. Leading to the escape and the friendship becoming closer as one saves the other from the water to drag him onto the island. As human nature not what side each one is on takes over. A simple story but with a clever few twists. I do hope Pushkin carry on bring Dard’s out he did write nearly 200 books in his time.

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Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

 

 

Bird in a cage by Frédéric Dard

French Noir fiction

Original title – Le Monte-charge

Translator – David Bellos

Source – Library book

This is my third choice for Pushkin press fortnight and the first from the Vertigo range I have read , which is a collection of Crime and Noir novels from around the world . This one really caught my eye after Jacqui’s review . Now Frederic Dard is another like his fellow French language writer Simeon that had written an amazing number of books over 240 , a large number of those are from the series San-Antoine , a french detective whose name he choose by pointing a figure on the map of american and choose the nearest place to his finger he wrote 170 books in that series. Pushkin is translation a number of his books into English.

The place was like a fairy grotto piled high with glittering treasures. Christmas tree decorations were stacked on the shelves : glass birds, paper Father Christmases, baskets of fruit made of painted cotton and all those dainty balls as fragile as soap bubbles that help make a tree in a fairy tale.

I was next to be served.There were people waiting behind me

“What can I get you”

I pointed to a silver cardboard birdcage sprinkled with glitter-dust. inside it an exotic bird mak=de of blue and yellow velvet stood on a golden perch

The birdcage but also a dream like feel to the shop .

This is one of Dard’s novel of the night series , a series rather like the Roman Durs of Simeon that look at the darker side of human nature. The novel set in the build up to \Christmas and follows  Albert a man return to his home patch , his mother has died and it is christmas eve and he is back home  in his childhood home for the first time in a long time to bury his mother . He goes to the local area to remind himself of the past , he buys a little silver birdcage that some how reminds him of an image from the past . He then goes for a meal in  a local bar and  he’s meets a mysterious women who  is their with her daughter, but is this woman all she seems   how invites him to her apartment . But is she all she seems and is she leading him into the darkness. and maybe into a trap

She was leaning on me heavily.I could feel her womanly warmth spreading through my body. A troubling desire for her had been nagging me ever since we started walking side by side , with our hips brushing each other.

Ar one point i felt a shiver go through her.

“Are you cold ?”

“A bit”

“Do you want to go into a bar ?”

“i don’t want to see anybody ”

Albert’s  woman as they leave the bar is it a shiver of cold or something else !!

I was remind somewhat of works of David lynch with this where you are never quite sure if you are in a real world or a dream world there is a sense this is maybe Albert’s nightmare world . Did he get to his mothers and fall asleep and all the has followed is a dream. What is the mean of a birdcage , is he cage by his past , of is he now like a wild bird caught in a cage to be an attraction for some else . I kept half expecting a dwarf or a giant to appear like in a Lynch piece  . Dard use the bare bones to guide you through the story rather like Simeon his great friend there is a sense of the darkness with in the human soul . Another writer I was reminded of is Magnus Mills a writer that use the labyrinth of time and being drawn into situations so well in his books I was remind how easily his characters fall into a world they don’t know . I still shocked Dard hasn’t capture the English reader before if this is an example of his novel of the night series of books  I will be visiting the other Pushkin have been publishing as this is a classic dark evening read one of those books you can sit and read in a sitting no problem . Have you a favourite from the Pushkin Vertigo range ?

 

 

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)

The front seat passenger by Pascal Garnier

the front seat passenger

The front seat passenger by Pascal Garnier 

French noir fiction 

Original title – La place du mort 

Translator Jane Aitken 

Source – review copy 

Pascal Garnier was a french writer ,he died in 2010 .I have reviewed  the a26 and Panda theory on the blog I have also read the other two book Gallic books have issued How’s the pain and Moon in the dead eye .So I come this his fifth book keen to see what it was about as I had enjoyed all his other books .This book was reissued just after his death and was originally written in 1997 and was his second novel so is actually the earliest of the novels that Gallic books have translated by him .

From the moment she had left them when Fabien was five ,she was always referred to as Charlotte ,never “Maman 2 .Fabien had never heard his father say  bad word about her ,nor a good word ,he simply didn’t mention her .Like Dreyfus ,he had exiled her to a place in his memory as distant as devil’s island

Fabien had loss early on in his life .  

The front seat passenger follows the usual Garnier trait and that is to take one point and expand it out in the  A26 he took a couple protesting a road being built ,in moon in the dead eye it is a gated community versus gypsies .so The front seat passenger is the story of Fabien his wife is the passenger of the title that died in a car crash with another man ,in the man’s car .It turns out the man was married and the two of the were having an affair and Fabien didn’t know about it.But there marriage wasn’t great but  he didn’t know about the affair  ,Fabien has experience loss like this before when his mother disappeared but did this first loss leave a hole in this man ?He learns that the wife of the other man is called Martine .He decides to find her and have a look  at her and then he starts to stalker her .Now Fabien is lucky he has a great friend  Madeleine whom is trying to help her good friend stay out of real trouble .Well to see how this pans out I would suggest buying the book to find out what happens to Fabian .

Fabien was astonished at how fast he was getting over his loss .When he forced himself to think about Sylvie ,like an invalid testing the progress of their convalescence, he felt as if he were looking back on someone else’s memories .Perhaps that was what as meant by ” turning the page ” the blank whiteness of the new page gave him vertigo .So he began to darken the page by writing ” Martine  Arnoult , 45 Rue Charlot , Paris 3rd 

Has he got over her or is his grief taking a darker turn ?

Well as ever Pascal Garnier is shining a light in the darker place of the human soul loss ,grief ,betrayal .Fabian is shocked when he finds out about Sylvie his wifes accident and even more so when he finds she had a lover .The way he deals with it in becoming a stalker and trying to get some revenge this  isn’t the usual way people would deal with this ,but this is the beauty of Garnier and his books the twists they take ,this isn’t the first of the last twist this book takes .The book is written in short chapter and is only 140 pages long so is one of those books that can be quite easily read in an evening . If you like your stories dark with a couple of twists this is the book for you .

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Total Chaos by JEAN-Claude Izzo

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

French crime fiction

Translator – Howard Curtis

Original title – Total Khéops

Source – Review Copy

Early on, in this blog I reviewed on of Izzo’s   stand alone novel by Jean-claude Izzo ,A sun for the dying that wasn’t a crime novel ,I really fell for Izzo prose style ,he was very good at atmosphere .So when the offer to review the Marseilles trilogy came from Europa editions , as part of their new imprint World Noir ,I couldn’t say no .Jean-Claude Izzo was born and died in the  City of Marseilles ,He was initially sent to technical school in Marseille as he was an immigrant ,but then took a job in the book  shop got involved in a movement for peace  involved in the catholic church  called Pax Christi   ,then he did his military duty  in 1964 in France and Africa during this time he started to write for a military paper and published his first novel in 1970.This book was published in 1995 Europa have published five of his books in English .He died sadly in 2000

The gun .A present from Manu , for his twentieth birthday .Even then , Manu had been a bit crazy .He’d never parted with it ,but never used it either .You don’t kill someone like that .Even when you were threatened .That had happened to him a few times , in different places .There was always another solution .That was what he thought .And he was still alive .But today he needed it .To Kill a man

Manu was always the wayward on in the group of friends .

Well Total chaos follows three old friends Ugo ,Manu and Fabio ,these three all grew up on the streets of Marseilles close almost you could say blood brothers , but as they grew there lives took different paths Ugo and Manu were drawn to that dark underbelly that the city is well-known for and joined a gang ,on the other hand Fabio went into the police and is now a detective .Then Manu is killed ,Ugo who has been living away from the city comes back to find out who killed his friend and does and in that classic gangster way like in the bible for  it’s a body for a body  in Ugo’s view ,but he is captured by the police in what seems to be a bit of a set up , then steps in Fabio ,like his friends he is an immigrant child of this dark city  . Fabio is drawn by a promise the three boys made to watch out for one another no matter what feet he treads on or what rules he may break ,this draws him into the dark heart of the city he lives in as he finds who wanted  his friends dead !

The aroma of coffee woke me .That was something that hadn’t happened in years .Since long before Rosas getting her out of bed in the morning was no easy matter .Seeing her get up to make coffee was little short of a miracle .Carmen maybe ?

Izzo is so good at setting the scenes in the book places and smells .

Well I thought I try this book  before I get to the latest big French Crime Novel Alex ,because Izzo is considered the father of the modern French Noir novel .This book lives up too that our hero Fabio is a flawed man .We have a women Lole she is maybe the classic femme from a classic noir film two of the men have been involved with her .Then we have the city itself and in this book it is a character ,Izzo is the master of setting the city comes alive as a place of dark corners seedy cafe and bars ,inhabited by a cast of what seem like extras from every gangster movie you’ve ever seen .You come out of  the other side  of the book wanting to know  where the story goes in the next two books ,but also feel like smoking a packet  Gitanes,having a glass of wine in one of the seedy bars in the background .

Have you Read Izzo ?

Do you have a favourite Noir novel ?

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