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Manchette, Jean-Patrick 1942–1995

Manchette, Jean-Patrick 1942–1995

(J.P. Bastid, J.P. Manchette)

PERSONAL: Born in Marseille, France, 1942; died of lung cancer, 1995, in Paris, France. Hobbies and other interests: Played jazz saxophone.

WRITINGS:

(As J.P. Manchette) Nada (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1972.

(With Michel Martens) Les tours d'angoisse (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1974.

(As J.P. Bastid; with R. Koch) Le passeur basque (novel), Presses de la Cité (Paris, France), 1975.

(As J.P. Bastid; with Michel Martens) Le tapir (novel), J.C. Lattès (Paris, France), 1976.

(As J.P. Manchette) Que d'os! (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France, 1976.

Petit bleu de la côte ouest (novel), 1976, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith as Three to Kill, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

Fatale (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1977.

(With Michel Martens) F.O.O.D. (novel), J.C. Lattès (Paris, France), 1977.

Mélanie White, illustrated by Serge Clerc, Hachette (Paris, France), 1979.

(With others) Cache ta joie, ou, Le théâtre provoqué par le rock (nonfiction), Comédie de Saint-Etienne (Saint-Etienne, France), 1979.

La position du tireur couché (novel), 1981, translated by James Brook as The Prone Gunman, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 2002.

La princesse du sang (novel), Rivages (Paris, France), 1996.

Chroniques (literary criticism), Rivages (Paris, France), 1996.

Spécial manchette, Rivages (Paris, France), 1997.

Les yeux de la momie: chroniques de cinéma (nonfiction), Rivages (Paris, France), 1997.

Also translator of works by others, including Ross Thomas, Alan Moore, and Donald E. Westlake; reviewer of films.

SCREENPLAYS

La peur et l'amour (also released as Torment), 1966.

Une femme aux abois (also released as The Slave), 1967.

Le Socrate (also released as Socrates), 1968.

Ras le bol (also released as Fed Up), 1972.

Folle à tuer (also released as Mad Enough to Kill), 1975.

L'agression (also released as Act of Aggression), 1975.

L'ordinateur des pompes funèbres (also released as The Probability Factor and The Undertaker Parlor Computer), 1976.

La guerre des polices (also released as The Police War), 1979.

Trois hommes à abattre (also released as Three Men to Destroy and Three Men to Kill), 1980.

Les maîtres du temps (also released as (video) Time Masters), 1982.

Légitime violence, 1982.

La Crime (also released as Cover Up), 1983.

Polar, 1984.

Also writer for television series, including Les globetrotters, 1966; "Une dernière fois Catherine," in Série noire, 1984. Author of miniseries Le tiroir secret, 1986, and for television movie Noces de plomb.

ADAPTATIONS: Novels adapted as films include: Nada, filmed as The Nada Gang, 1974; Que d'os!, filmed as Pour la peau d'un flic (also released as For a Cop's Hide and Whirlpool), 1981; and La position du tireur couché, filmed as Le Choc (also released as Contract in Blood and Shock), 1982.

SIDELIGHTS: Jean-Patrick Manchette was an amateur jazz saxophonist, political activist, and film and screen writer who wrote nearly a dozen noir novels, primarily during the 1970s. He was one of the leading contributors to the "polar" genre that incorporated politics and culture into crime and mystery novels. All of Manchette's 1970s novels are set in France. Jon B. Hassel, who reviewed La princesse du sang in the French Review, noted that they "all had in common … the fact that the style in which they were written was as important as what they were about." Manchette published no novels during the 1980s, remained in ill health following his diagnosis with a pancreatic tumor in 1989 and died of lung cancer in 1995. His final novel, La princesse du sang, remained unfinished at the time of his death and was published posthumously. Set in 1956, it incorporates the revolution and invasion of Hungary and the Algerian war, though most of the plot unfolds in Cuba. Hassel wrote that "arms dealers, French and American secret services, and the actual historical events influence all the characters, in a world of manipulation in which it is difficult to know who is manipulated and who manipulates."

Manchette's leftist politics are evident in his writings. As James Sallis wrote in the Boston Globe, "Manchette consistently skewered capitalist society and indicted the media for their emphasis on spectacle. He saw the world as a giant marketplace in which gangs of thugs—be they leftists, terrorist, or socially approved thugs like police and politicians—compete relentlessly, and in which tiny groups of alienated individuals go on trying to cling to the flotsam of their lives."

Two of Manchette's novels were translated and published in English in 2002. In Three to Kill, originally published in French in 1976, middle-aged Georges Gerfaut is being hunted by two killers, Carlo and Bastien, who were sent by a Mr. Taylor. Georges uses this opportunity to leave what is becoming for him a boringly comfortable bourgeois life. "The theme of paranoid man-on-the-run is a staple of B-thrillers, but the author shows such superb elan in handling the material that it almost seems as if he's the first to craft it," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Writing with economy, deadpan irony, and an eye for the devastating detail," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic, "Manchette spins pulp fiction into literature."

Nation contributor Hillary Frey reviewed both Three to Kill and The Prone Gunman, saying that they "are full of nasty, sadistic violence, leavened just enough by irony and black humor to be tolerable." Frey added that Manchette's style is "plain…. It's French. Like Camus … he writes a cool and lean prose; each sentence exists only to advance from disaster to disaster, or to relay some painful moment from the past." Several other critics noticed the author's minimalist style, too, in The Prone Gunman. For example, Katy Munger commented in the Washington Post Book World that "the writing style is so very stark that it comes off as jarring at times, even for noir." Marilyn Stasio said in the New York Times Book Review that "there's not a superfluous word or overdone effect."

The Prone Gunman is the story of Martin Terrier, a hired assassin who continues in his lucrative line of work in order to amass the fortune he feels he must have before he can approach the wealthy woman he has loved since childhood. Martin is planning one last big job that he feels will enable him to approach his love, but she has already moved on to a bigger catch. When he tries to abandon his plan, the people who hired him make him their next target. Munger concluded in her review of the book that the novel "is noir at its darkest. It is a tale of betrayal and violence that transports you to a world far from the madding crowd. By the time it's done, you just might be glad to return to your own world once again."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Boston Globe, September 29, 2002, James Sallis, "Masterworks of Murder Most French Manchette Consistently Skewered Capitalist Society," p. D9.

Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2002, Dick Adler, review of Three to Kill, p. 2.

French Review, December, 1998, Jon B. Hassel, review of La princesse du sang, pp. 366-367.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Three to Kill, p. 146.

Nation, March 15, 2004, Hillary Frey, reviews of Three to Kill and The Prone Gunman, p. 30.

New York Times Book Review, November 17, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Prone Gunman, p. 54.

Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2002, review of Three to Kill, p. 79.

Washington Post Book World, December 1, 2002, Katy Munger, review of The Prone Gunman, p. T13.

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