Jean-Patrick Manchette


Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942–1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. Born in Marseille to a family of relatively modest means, Manchette grew up in a southwestern suburb of Paris, where he wrote from an early age. While a student of English literature at the Sorbonne, he contributed articles to the newspaper La Voie communiste and became active in the national students’ union. In 1961 he married, and with his wife Mélissa began translating American crime fiction—he would go on to translate the works of such writers as Donald Westlake, Ross Thomas, and Margaret Millar, often for Gallimard’s Série noire. Throughout the 1960s Manchette supported himself with various jobs writing television scripts, screenplays, young-adult books, and film novelizations. In 1971 he published his first novel, a collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bastid, and embarked on his literary career in earnest, producing ten subsequent works over the course of the next two decades and establishing a new genre of French novel, the néo-polar (distinguished from traditional detective novel, or polar, by its political engagement and social radicalism). During the 1980s, Manchette published celebrated translations of Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novels for a bande-dessinée publishing house co-founded by his son, Doug Headline. In addition to Fatale (also available as an NYRB Classic), Manchette’s novels Three to Kill and The Prone Gunman, as well as Jacques Tardi’s graphic-novel adaptations of them (titled West Coast Blues and Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, respectively), are available in English.

Books
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    The Mad and the Bad

    The “French Raymond Chandler” is back with this story of an assassination gone wrong and a manic, murderous cross-country road trip. “For Manchette … the crime novel is no mere entertainment, but a means to strip bare the failures of society, ripping through veils of appearance, deceit, and manipulation to the greed and violence that are the society’s true engines.”—James Sallis, The Boston Globe

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    Fatale

    J.P. Manchette transformed the modern detective novel into a weapon of gleeful satire and anarchic fun. In Fatale, we watch with alternating horror and fascination as the deadly Aimée drifts into a sleepy provincial town, poised to make a killing.