Saturday, April 16, 2005

3 TO KILL -- Jean-Patrick Manchette

Some of the members of rara-avis have been singing the praises of Jean-Patrick Manchette for a good while now, and I decided it was time to give his books a try. I ordered two of them, this one and The Prone Gunman. I still haven't received TheProne Gunman, and I'm wondering if I ever will. At any rate, I read 3 To Kill with high expectations. It almost lived up to them.

It's the story of a businesman named Georges Gerfaut who helps an accident victim and then finds himself targeted by hitmen. He has no idea why the men are trying to kill him, but he proves to be a lot more resourceful than they expected. He escapes them and hides out in a small village (but not until after he suffers considerable physical and emotional damage). Eventually he's tracked down, and there's a violent shoot-out. There's a bit more violence later on, and then Georges returns to his humdrum life. He's not quite the same, of course.

This is a very short book, and it has some things in it that I liked a lot. For example, I loved it that one of the hitmen is reading a French translation of a Jack Williamson book. I also liked the speed of the narrative and the straight-forward storytelling.

A couple of minor things bothered me. There's a lot of jazz music in the story, and every reference might be entirely accurate, for all I know. Jazz is out of my territory. However, on page ten I ran across this bit about Georges's taste in vocalists: "syrupy American popular singers: Mel Torme or Billy May." Something like that takes me right out of the story. For one thing, I don't think of Mel Torme as being "syrupy." For another thing, Billy May wasn't a singer at all. He was an orchestra leader and arranger. Did a lot of albums with Frank Sinatra. So I start to wonder. Is this the translator's error? Or Manchette's? And why, after several editions of the book, hasn't somebody stepped in and fixed it?

Even more minor is the line on page 84, where "Gerfaut said he could care less." I guess those French are as careless in their speech as Americans.


Tribe said...

Bill, I'm still waiting for Three to Kill, but I got The Pront Gunman in the mail yesterday and read it one sitting last night. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Bill said...

One good thing about both those books is that you can read them in one sitting. No padding. I think The Prone Gunman may be the better of the two, so you have another treat in store.