God I loved this little book.
In post 1968 Paris a bunch of anarchists of varying levels of commitment plot to take an American ambassador hostage. It doesn’t go well, for anyone. The violence is nearly nonstop and none of the characters is particularly likeable. Still I couldn’t put it down. This is peak noir writing set in a world of anarchists, Marxists and intelligence agencies. Basically, candy for someone with my interests.
Manchette is among the best noir crime writers the world has ever seen. After I finished this, I went out and bought all his other books that have been translated into English. His writing is extremely sparse and direct, what details are included are pitch perfect – the name of the novel a character is reading, the make of a jacket. The action is nonstop and propulsive. We learn the inner lives of the characters by their actions, not by ruminations. The grizzled revolutionary takes action, even when it is ill advised, the hopeless intellectual meanders and drinks, even when action is required. This book, like most of Manchette’s has no heroes, just broken, deeply flawed people flailing through a violent mess. I ate it up.
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