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THE PRONE GUNMAN by Jean-Patrick Manchette Kirkus Star


by Jean-Patrick Manchette & translated by James Brook

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 0-87286-402-2
Publisher: City Lights

The second English translation of the late Manchette (Three To Kill, p. 146). In Liverpool, cool hitman Martin Terrier (known to his bosses as Christian) needs extra effort to take out nervous target Marshal Dubofsky, who flees at the sight of him. A mod redhead passerby in black plastic boots further complicates the job. Terrier dispatches both with close range shots. It’s the first time he’s killed a witness, but no matter. On this tenth anniversary, he’s resolved to quit the life. He plans to return to his native France and retire with Anne, the girlfriend of his adolescence. (They made a promise to each other a decade ago and have since communicated irregularly, by letter.) Terrier’s decision meets with resistance from every quarter. Lover Alexa throws a tantrum and trashes his apartment. He leaves both her and faithful tomcat Sudan behind when he goes home. Cox, the man who pays him on behalf of “The Company,” tries unsuccessfully to engage Terrier for one more job with the lure of an astronomical fee. Anne is married, albeit indifferently. She’s intrigued by Terrier’s sudden reappearance in her life, but skeptical. Is killer Terrier just an old-fashioned romantic? Another threat comes from the overwrought Rossana Rossi, sister of one of Terrier’s victims and bent on revenge. Somebody sends Terrier a sealed aquarium, full of water and the gutted body of his tomcat Sudan. And Cox undertakes a campaign of more palpable persuasion. The tables have definitely turned.

Manchette (1942–95) is a master of both economy and irony. Brutal and bracing: Terrier’s tale fascinates even as it chills.