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Three to Kill [Paperback]

Jean-Patrick Manchette , Donald Nicholson-Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Feb. 2 2007 --  

Book Description

Feb. 2 2007
Late one night in Paris, travelling salesman Georges Gerfaut stops to help an injured motorist to hospital. Three days later, while Gerfaut is on holiday with his wife and daughters, he is attacked by two men. Quickly realising the duo?s murderous intent, but perplexed as to their motives, Gerfaut goes on the run, communicating with his family by telegram. Terrified, yet exhilarated by this release from his humdrum life, Gerfaut resolves to turn the tables and track down his pursuers. Jean-Patrick Manchette presents a clash between two opposing worlds: a conventional, middle-class existence cluttered by possessions and responsibilities, and a violent criminal underworld. In Georges Gerfaut we find an unlikely hero, an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances and forced to fight for his life. Three to Kill is another riveting slice of ?70s noir by a masterful stylist, ironist, and social critic.

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From Publishers Weekly

Backed by a tremendous European reputation, one of the stars of Gallimard's [Serie Noir] comes to America with a lean thriller, in a brilliant new translation. Manchette (1942-1995) did translations himself, as well as leftist political writing, potboilers and TV scripts, but his 10 crime novels composed between 1971 and 1982 are considered his masterworks. This 1976 title features the ordinary businessman Georges Gerfaut, drawn by chance into the net cast by two hit men, Carlo and Bastien, working on assignment for the mysterious "Mr. Taylor." For no reason Gerfaut can comprehend, the pair are suddenly trying to kill him, and he must flee for his life. The theme of paranoid man-on-the-run is a staple of B-thrillers, but the author shows such superb ‚lan in handling the material that it almost seems as if he's the first to craft it, using cinematic narrative techniques that switch the perspective backward and forward in time. Manchette makes pop culture references throughout, noting Gerfaut "did have a look of Robert Redford. But, like a lot of men, he didn't much care for Robert Redford." Describing the huge cache of guns Carlo and Bastien lug about in their murderous trade, he asks, "Should such an arsenal be considered impressive or simply grotesque?" The occasional touches of dark humor recall Charles Willeford, the passages of sinewy prose the spare musculature of Richard Stark's early Parker novels. Manchette is a must for the reading lists of all noir fans. (Mar.)Forecast: This edition, supported by a French government grant, is most likely to reach an audience that shares the author's left-wing politics. Manchette deserves a higher profile among noir fans (in the Black Lizard series, for example), but his being a dead non-Anglophone foreigner makes the wider dissemination of his work an uphill climb.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

For English-language readers, it seemed that, until recently, the French crime novel was stuck in a Maigret malaise. Why were there no Ian Rankins or John Harveys writing edgy, noir fiction set in France (where the term was born, after all)? Lately, with the appearance in the U.S. of Daniel Pennac's Malaussene novels, we learned that the French mystery wasn't quite as stodgy as we thought. Now, thanks to City Lights Books, the truth dawns: Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-95), the author of 10 romans noir, rescued an entire generation of French crime novelists from the grip of Maigret way back in the 1970s, but he was never translated. In this first of two Manchette novels to appear this spring under the City Lights Noir imprint, the author breathes new life into a popular noir formula: the average man thrown into a nightmare entirely by chance. It all starts when Georges Gerfaut, a middle manager in a Paris company, witnesses a murder and discovers that he is next on the hit list. Suddenly Gerfaut is on the run, his circumscribed white-collar life instantly superseded by a world without rules. Manchette's left-wing politics drive the story in occasionally intrusive ways, but, ironically, what makes the tale come alive is the coldly impersonal narrative style, evoking both Camus and Jean-Paul Melville's exquisitely icy film Le Samurai. Many critics consider Manchette's masterpiece to be The Prone Gunman; City Lights will release it in June. Noir fans will be waiting. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
And sometimes what used to happen was what is happening now: Georges Gerfaut is driving on Paris's outer ring road. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good New Discovery Dec 1 2003
Format:Paperback
Only two Manchette books have been translated into English and this is the first one I read. The book is tightly written and exciting, which, of course, is why one would read a crime noir book in the first place. The lean plot provides enough to explain the episodic spurts of violence contained within, but is not so detailed as to turn the book into a traditional mystery. My complaints, which prevent a five star rating, are that the main character takes a hiatus away from the action which I found a bit unrealistic (I don't want to provide more details and spoil anything) and the ending was a bit more loose and unresolved than the rest of the book. Nonetheless, I look forward to reading Manchette's other translated book, The Prone Gunman, and hope other translations will follow.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still Fresh 25 Years Later July 22 2002
By A. Ross
Format:Paperback
Originally published in 1976, this slim French crime novel has just now been translated into English. The story follows a typical noir theme: an average man thrown into an underworld intrigue entirely by chance. Georges is a mid-level manager in Paris with a wife, two young daughters, and a collection of West coast jazz records. His life has gotten a little humdrum, and so fate thrusts him in the path of two nasty and well-drawn hitmen. After he unwittingly witnesses a murder, the duo track him down in order to tie up loose ends. Although the plot trods a familiar path, Manchette's terse prose, filled with dark humor and ably translated, keeps it fresh and absorbing. And as in much noir, Manchette exhibits an underlying thread of anti-confomism. Manchette wrote nine other crime novels for Gallimard's legendary Série Noir imprint, another of which (The Prone Gunman) is also being published by City Lights.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Fresh 25 Years Later July 21 2002
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Originally published in 1976, this slim French crime novel has just now been translated into English. The story follows a typical noir theme: an average man thrown into an underworld intrigue entirely by chance. Georges is a mid-level manager in Paris with a wife, two young daughters, and a collection of West coast jazz records. His life has gotten a little humdrum, and so fate thrusts him in the path of two nasty and well-drawn hitmen. After he unwittingly witnesses a murder, the duo track him down in order to tie up loose ends. Although the plot trods a familiar path, Manchette's terse prose, filled with dark humor and ably translated, keeps it fresh and absorbing. And as in much noir, Manchette exhibits an underlying thread of anti-confomism. Manchette wrote nine other crime novels for Gallimard's legendary Série Noir imprint, another of which (The Prone Gunman) is also being published by City Lights.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good New Discovery Dec 1 2003
By Dash Manchette - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Only two Manchette books have been translated into English and this is the first one I read. The book is tightly written and exciting, which, of course, is why one would read a crime noir book in the first place. The lean plot provides enough to explain the episodic spurts of violence contained within, but is not so detailed as to turn the book into a traditional mystery. My complaints, which prevent a five star rating, are that the main character takes a hiatus away from the action which I found a bit unrealistic (I don't want to provide more details and spoil anything) and the ending was a bit more loose and unresolved than the rest of the book. Nonetheless, I look forward to reading Manchette's other translated book, The Prone Gunman, and hope other translations will follow.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A richly layered thriller Jan. 21 2010
By Jonathan S. Bernstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An interesting and quick read that goes a long way towards providing social and political context without bogging down the plot. The story itself is very simple, the protagonist a bit more complex, but I loved how the riots of 1968 and France's ongoing labor issues are a persistent background without impacting the plot, it provides a sense of realism and implies a sort of national mood that makes this type of character possible. I also love the way that music is constantly mentioned. American readers might be put off by some of the references if they are unfamiliar with France's history during the 1960's and 70's but even so I think the style and the nature of the protagonist will be appealing for many. I read Jacques Tardi's graphic novel version of this first (recommended below), which is also pretty good, though lacking in much of the background.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the List Jan. 31 2006
By A. McNary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Neo-noir and a touch existentialist, 3 to Kill reads a bit like a Charles Willeford and James M. Cain novel. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I found the veering plotline to be the most satisfying aspect of the novel. Protagonist Georges Gerfaut is a traveling salesman pursued by hitmen--this experience, in isolation, and the choices he makes in response, inform the socio-political critique, albeit an ironic one, of the novel. 3 to Kill is also reminiscent of a story within the story in The Maltese Falcon where Marlowe recounts a missing person case: A man, nearly killed by a falling beam as he walks down the sidewalk turns up missing. When Marlowe finds him he is living in a nearby town with a new life nearly identical to his former one. Marlowe's point, and one of Manchette's as well, is that while our response to a life-changing event might be dramatic, in the end, the change in our character is nominal. This dense, fast-moving read is something that any reader of Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Goodis, Willeford and Derek Raymond will want to check out.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars. April 30 2007
By fluffy, the human being. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
a gloriously fun read this was. jean-patrick manchette is a gas. "3 to kill" is a fresh, startling crime novel, completely free of cliche. georges gerfaut, the main character, is quite unlike any other creation i have encountered in a thriller. i finished this book in one evening, and immediately purchased another manchette book, "the prone gunman." highly recommended to fans of noir fiction.
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