Monday, December 16, 2013

3 to kill (Jean-Patrick Manchette, 1976)

Wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time plus revenge story. Usually not my cup of tea but this one was pretty special. Not (just) a thriller but also a weird mystery about what the hell is going on inside our main protagonist's head. He acts and reacts totally unpredictable and Manchette never really bothers to explain his odd behavior. A few hints are dropped every now and then, but we don't really know (until the end) whether Georges Gerfaut was a bit mental from the very beginning or was it this whole violent affair that pushed him over the edge.

And this "confusion" is beautifully complemented with the writing style. There are sections of totally dialogue-less text (opening ten!!? pages), pace alters from the rapid action scenes to static and (more or less) none-eventful periods lasting months, most chapters are about Georges but sometimes narration moves to hit-man Carlo or his asshole employer and so on. Pretty wild and incoherent but still cool and very enjoyable. So if poor Georges is confused about what the hell is happening to him, we are confused about what the hell we are reading and what kind of twist the next chapter will bring us.

Language used is also pretty unique. It's told in a third person with narrator using very minimalistic and sparse vocabulary that just serves facts and avoids any emotions. Maybe a bit hard to follow at the beginning, but once I had gotten into it, I enjoyed it a lot and laughed my ass off on few occasions. Just check out the "Cool Lines" section below and you'll see what I mean. And btw, I loved the fact there was no family shit - we don't even get to know the names of his two daughters.

Another thing I liked about 3 to Kill was its autobiographical aspect, it made Georges more real and probably a bit more sympathetic. He is described as a jazz lover and "leftist militant in his distant youth" and Manchette himself was political activist and saxophone player. There are numerous references to jazz music and musicians and it's too bad I don't know shit about the genre because it seemed to me that they were chosen carefully to give specific atmosphere when used. This book is so cool and weird that it wouldn't surprised me if guy attempted to create a soundtrack for it.

One last thing before I wrap this up. Don't let you my blabbering about style, jazz and psychological crap fool you - this is still a first class hard boiled stuff!! Check out the "Body Count" section and keep in mind that this little jewel is less than 150 pages long.



Salesman Georges Gerfaut

Paris, briefly at the seaside town Saint-Georges-de-Didonne and countryside town Vineuil and some remote village in the Alps 

Body count
8 and not counting Raguse (died of wicked cold). Plus bull mastiff Elizabeth 

Raguse' grand-daughter Alphonsine and Georges' wife Beatrice aka Bea: Catholic on one side and Protestant on the other, Bordelaise on one side and Alsatian on the other, bourgeois on one side and  bourgeois on the other.

Yes, one - when he gets thrown from the moving train

Cool sounding but not very accurate. Georges certainly didn't plan to kill 3 people and hit-men planned to kill just one or - including Georges - two at most.

Cool and iconic picture of Paris metro station. But again, not very accurate because not much of this novel actually takes place in Paris.

Cool lines:  
From the aesthetic point of view the landscape was highly romantic. From Gerfaut's point of view, it was absolute shit.[The Coolest!]

Alphonsine and Gerfaut were having almost nonstop fun. Between the two of them, things were going well. They were delighted to have engaged at last in sexual congress and intended to repeat the experience as often as possible. 

"You bastard!" Gerfaut cried. "You stinking dirty shit! Son of a bitch of a son of a bitch of a bastard!"[The Coolest!]

But then they had run into this moron Georges Gerfaut. A travelling salesman, though, is usually very easy to kill. Carlo ad Bastien were well placed to draw comparisons because they had exercised their skills in the most varied social milieus, They were beginning to get quite angry with Georges Gerfaut.