J-P Manchette

By: Lucy Sante
December 19, 2011

JEAN-PATRICK MANCHETTE (1942-95) was a French writer of crime novels. In certain ways he seems like a throwback: he was an unstoppable producer of manuscripts of every sort, including soft-core porn, science fiction, collaborative one-offs, comic books, screenplays for movies and television, and translations (of Donald Westlake and Ross Thomas, among others). On the other hand he was a pure product of his time and milieu. Radicalized by the Algerian war in 1962, he was an ultraleft militant until he encountered the ideas of the Situationist International, which informed everything he did subsequently, in particular the serious novels — nine completed and two fragmentary — he wrote after 1968. Joining an approach ultimately derived from Dashiell Hammett to a classical “cold” style appropriated from Flaubert, he set about writing the criminal history of his era — that is, the history of his era viewed as a long series of crimes, including such matters as the still-unsolved disappearance of the Algerian revolutionary Ben Barka in Paris in 1965 (L’Affaire N’Gustro) and the chaotic work of the direct-action militants in the early ’70s (Nada). Three of his books have appeared in English, fittingly translated by former S. I. member Donald Nicholson-Smith: 3 to Kill and The Prone Gunman, both of which violently demonstrate the links and parallels between corporate culture and the underworld, and the more experimental, classically seductive Fatale, the only one of his novels turned down by the Série Noire for “lack of action.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Maurice White.

HILO HERO ITEMS by LUC SANTE: Dashiell Hammett | Pancho Villa | James M. Cain | Georges Bataille | Félix Fénéon | Émile Henry | A.J. Liebling | Jim Thompson | Joe Hill | Nestor Makhno | Hans Magnus Enzensberger | Captain Beefheart | William Burroughs | Ring Lardner | Lee “Scratch” Perry | Serge Gainsbourg | Kathy Acker | Arthur Cravan | Weegee | Alexander Trocchi | Ronnie Biggs | George Ade | Georges Darien | Zo d’Axa | Petrus Borel | Blaise Cendrars | Alexandre Jacob | Constance Rourke | Damia | J-P Manchette | Jean-Paul Clebert | Pierre Mac Orlan | Comte De Lautreamont | André Breton | Robert Desnos | Arthur Rimbaud |

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian generation (1934-43).