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The Prone Gunman Paperback – Jun 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (June 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872864022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872864023
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 12.6 x 0.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #79,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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It was winter, and it was dark. Read the first page
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By Dash Manchette on July 17 2004
Format: Paperback
I had previously read Manchette's other translated book, Three to Kill, and gave it a four star review. As The Prone Gunman is even better still, it warrants the full five stars. This is what noir is all about - a lean plot and lots of action. Indeed, I started reading the book one night, lost track of the body count, was amazed at the thrills and was shocked to discover I was only on page 48.
The plot revolves around a hired killer who is looking to retire and hook back up with the girl he had left behind some years before. Of course, nothing goes as planned. The family of a prior hit is after him, his bosses do not want him to retire and our "hero" himself is simply emotionally unprepared for a normal existence. Added to this is that the characters with whom he interacts are all morally vacuous. A reader will not find any sentimentality in this book. He will, however, find a lot of excitement.
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Format: Paperback
French crime writer Manchette's final novel was published in 1981 and now finally appears in English over twenty years later. Unmistakably influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville's brilliant 1967 film "Le Samourai", the story is about Martin, a professional hit man who wants to quit the business and return home to claim his childhood love. However, the mysterious government agency who hires him wants him to do just one last job... Of course this is an old story, and naturally Martin finds it's not so easy to just walk away. Having come from a miserable small town upbringing, he's proven himself in the big bad world and just wants to retire to a quiet beach somewhere with his old girlfriend. But this is the noir world of shattered illusions-as one character puts it, "You're dreaming, there are no more desert islands!" It doesn't take too much reading between the lines to uncover Manchette's larger political metaphor in the story of a kid who hires himself out to do someone else's killing for ten years only to find it's tainted him forever. The book is brutally dark, but if you like the whole nihilist crime thing, it's worth the two hours it takes to read. The lean story unfolds in rapid, flat prose without an ounce of sentimentality and it's not hard to see why Manchette quit writing after this. If your world view is that bleak, there's not a whole lot else to say, is there?
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By A Customer on Dec 1 2002
Format: Paperback
As one reviewer summed it up, this is Dashiel Hammett meets Guy Debord, and it's true; flat, spare prose with a sense of existential nihilism from which there is no escape. Fast, rough, violent reading, told in a matter-of-fact procedural manner. The ending is telegraphed rather obviously, but this is first rate work, and if you're into violent noirs, you should read it. What a film it would make, in the right hands!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant and Disturbing Dec 1 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As one reviewer summed it up, this is Dashiel Hammett meets Guy Debord, and it's true; flat, spare prose with a sense of existential nihilism from which there is no escape. Fast, rough, violent reading, told in a matter-of-fact procedural manner. The ending is telegraphed rather obviously, but this is first rate work, and if you're into violent noirs, you should read it. What a film it would make, in the right hands!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The Bleak World of French Noir March 24 2003
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
French crime writer Manchette's final novel was published in 1981 and now finally appears in English over twenty years later. Unmistakably influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville's brilliant 1967 film "Le Samourai", the story is about Martin, a professional hit man who wants to quit the business and return home to claim his childhood love. However, the mysterious government agency who hires him wants him to do just one last job... Of course this is an old story, and naturally Martin finds it's not so easy to just walk away. Having come from a miserable small town upbringing, he's proven himself in the big bad world and just wants to retire to a quiet beach somewhere with his old girlfriend. But this is the noir world of shattered illusions-as one character puts it, "You're dreaming, there are no more desert islands!" It doesn't take too much reading between the lines to uncover Manchette's larger political metaphor in the story of a kid who hires himself out to do someone else's killing for ten years only to find it's tainted him forever. The book is brutally dark, but if you like the whole nihilist crime thing, it's worth the two hours it takes to read. The lean story unfolds in rapid, flat prose without an ounce of sentimentality and it's not hard to see why Manchette quit writing after this. If your world view is that bleak, there's not a whole lot else to say, is there?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Top Notch Noir July 17 2004
By Dash Manchette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I had previously read Manchette's other translated book, Three to Kill, and gave it a four star review. As The Prone Gunman is even better still, it warrants the full five stars. This is what noir is all about - a lean plot and lots of action. Indeed, I started reading the book one night, lost track of the body count, was amazed at the thrills and was shocked to discover I was only on page 48.
The plot revolves around a hired killer who is looking to retire and hook back up with the girl he had left behind some years before. Of course, nothing goes as planned. The family of a prior hit is after him, his bosses do not want him to retire and our "hero" himself is simply emotionally unprepared for a normal existence. Added to this is that the characters with whom he interacts are all morally vacuous. A reader will not find any sentimentality in this book. He will, however, find a lot of excitement.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Starts off Great, But Ultimately Disappoints July 26 2010
By Lee Goldberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a frustrating book. It starts off great, with some of the leanest, meanest prose you'll ever find in a noir... taking the familiar "hitman on his last job" scenario and making it seem fresh. Terrier is an odd, interesting character...hardly the smooth , self-assured, perfect killer. He's quite possibly nuts. And all of that is great, especially when he returns to his hometown to reclaim his old love. But then, after a short time, the story shifts into a break-neck, almost ridiculous action-adventure before ultimately devolving, inexplicably, into farce. It's a shame, because so much of the book works so well. It's as if the author lost faith his story, or got tired of what he was doing, and decided that his efforts were worthy only of ridicule, but finished it anyway, using his last few pages to insult himself. The book reminded me of The Four-Chambered Villain, an obscure novel about hitman that's played perfectly straight, and also of The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian, which was *meant* to be farce but, to the author's dismay, was taken seriously as thriller (as I wrote in Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads. At least EIGER was consistent in its tone, PRONE GUNMAN is not. But it was intriguing enough for me to buy Manchette's other book, THREE TO KILL. If I judged the book purely on the first 2/3rds, it would have earned four stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Prone Gunman Takes Aims With Its Spare Style Aug. 21 2008
By Loren Eaton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
From ISawLightningFall.com

THREE-AND-A-HALF STARS

It's customary for Americans to mock the French, but honesty compels us to admit that our continental cousins do a lot of things well. Fine wine, for example, and gourmet cuisine and sixteenth-century theological reformations. Let me add something else to the list -- slim volumes of literary-minded noir. Consider Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Prone Gunman to be Exhibit A.

Noir could be summed up as desperate people doing criminally nasty things, and The Prone Gunman more than owns the label. Its protagonist, Martin Terrier, is a hired killer for an unnamed outfit dubbed The Company and he's good at his job. Need a bare-handed, face-to-face hit or a long shot with a high-powered rifle? Neither are a problem for Terrier, but his heart really isn't in killing. All he wants is to make his mint, marry his upper-crust childhood sweetheart and retire to a south sea island. But once you're in The Company, it isn't exactly easy to get out ...

Manchette's spare style is both his greatest asset and liability. He writes like Hemmingway, penning short, observational sentences that preclude you for his characters' thoughts. This makes for some disjointed jumps in point of view and a few confusing passages where one must decipher the emotional import of Terrier's mannerisms. But instead of turning to overly expository dialogue to communicate feeling, he uses another technique -- repetition. Simple, off-hand observations -- the course of a cold winter wind, a recipe for a mixed drink, a description of abstract art hanging in a condo -- crop up again and again, gradually accreting significance. You see this best in the final chapter. Though it's an almost word-for-word reiteration of the introduction, Manchette turns it just so, makes all the pieces come together and slams you in the chest with it like a sledgehammer.

It's an impressive feat, but also unsatisfying. Downbeat dénouements have their place, but the strong shot of fatalism Machette added to Terrier's violent escapades spoils the mix for me. Of course, I am American and therefore essentially optimistic, a characteristic the French have never minded mocking.

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