The Prone Gunman Paperback – Jun 1 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
A legend in Europe for the spectacularly tight and innovative thrillers he wrote for Srie Noire beginning in 1971, Manchette (1942-1995) retired from the field after this tour de force of violence and the absurd appeared in 1981, apparently feeling he had reached the apex of his art. Martin Terrier plans on quitting his career as a paid assassin and marrying his childhood sweetheart, Anne, but his bosses in the gun-for-hire trade refuse to accept his resignation. Terrier's naive expectations that his girlfriend will have chastely waited for him are ridiculous, of course, but no more so than his ex-boss's idea that this human killing machine can be forced to perform one last contract on a visiting politician without profound collateral bloodshed. Terse behaviorist prose-"Terrier drew back a little on his seat and stopped pressing the barrel of the HK4 against the throat of the young man"-drives the narrative relentlessly and even gleefully forward. Absolutely nothing goes as planned, while the hit man knocks off anyone who gets in his way even as Manchette mercilessly (and amusingly) chronicles the impotence unexpectedly plaguing Terrier's love life. For the first time readers can experience in English translation the masterful thriller considered Manchette's finest, proof positive that the French knew what they were talking about when they labeled this sort of novel noir.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
French hit man Martin Terrier wants to quit the killing-for-francs business and go home to marry his childhood sweetheart. Those in charge want him to assassinate one more person--the Arab sheik Hakim--and, confiscating Terrier's savings, coerce him to do so. Learning that his assignment is actually a setup that will truly be his final mission, Terrier foils the plot just in time, gets his revenge, gets the girl, and starts a new life in the Ardennes. Fin? Non. Terrier's blissful retirement and our happy ending are spoiled by the leftover bullet lodged in his brain and his unsavory new tendency to blabber. His lack of savings forces him to work as a waiter, and his wife, tired of poverty and three-minute coitus, eventually leaves him. Originally published in France in 1981, this taut, fast-paced novel flexes with all the standard noir elements: mysterious motives, a gritty hero, detailed technical descriptions of firearms, and a high corpse-to-page ratio. Its ironic denouement also tempts us to interpret it as a commentary on French politics and on the noir genre itself. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
So Martin Terrier has to go on the run, trying desperately to free himself from the life decision he made a number of years ago while he was a soldier somewhere in Africa (likely the Sudan). Along the way he ends up killing a slew of less proficient operatives on his tail and loses a few close friends, colleagues, even a cat along the way. If anyone is prone to trouble this guy is.
Manchette has a way of pulling violence and brutality literally right out of the air. Just when you get to know one of Martin's acquaintances, grisly, bloody hell breaks loose. This of course is his style and no one is spared in the murky world of Parisian agents, spies, crooks and and other assorted riffraff.
Anyone who likes noir crime thrillers will admire this work. It moves along at a breathless pace, with descriptions of cars, guns, and villainous thugs bar none. There is some humour and genuine craziness in the story beyond the unrelenting violent nature of the tale, plus everything bubbling slightly below the surface of covert assassinations gets revealed.
I guarantee you won't slip into the prone position while reading this short book and when you get to the end you'll see this is one lone gunman who didn't take his job lying down.