BANCO by Henri Charriere

BANCO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sad to say, the late Charriere has turned into something of a bore. Once known as Papillon, also the title of his incredibly successful and exciting (despite Munchausen excesses) first book (1970), this one-time hood from Montmartre, later solid citizen of Venezuela picks up where he earlier left off to fill us in on what's been happening since he escaped (at age 39) from Devil's Island (after fourteen years in French penal colonies on a murder rap he's always maintained was a bummer) through to 1967 when as a 60 year-old man -- and finally without a price on his head -- Papi makes a touching visit home, his first in 37 years. Not that they were uneventful, these Venezuelan years: starting as a door-to-door coffee pot salesman, followed by equally unlikely jobs at a beauty products laboratory, a yogurt factory and as cook on a geological expedition, it wasn't long before Papi owned a hotel (it fell into his lap along with a wife), then a string of bars, later a fishing fleet. And because earlier on he was hell-bent for revenge but thousands of miles from his framers and in need of get-there loot, along the way Papi's occasionally up to his old shenanigans -- a pawnshop heist, swindles at craps -- usually in cahoots with a gang that can't shoot straight. Such episodes could have made wildly comic reading, but like one tunnel that was supposed to get Papi and friends closer to a bank vault, everything here collapses from too much weight. Papi wanted Respectability -- to be ""Monsieur"" -- and that's what's done him in in this self-conscious morality tale. And metamorphized the butterfly to a moth.

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 1973
Publisher: Morrow