Jean-Patrick Manchette’s Cabinet of Wonders

Howard A. Rodman at The Paris Review:

No Room at the Morgue and its sequel, Que d’os!, are the only two of Manchette’s novels to feature a private eye as protagonist. Though in Manchette there’s never a shortage of killers for hire, killers for the hell of it, casual psychotics, mercenaries, and the corruption of each and every institution, there are relatively few police in his policiers, and very little mystery about the who in whodunit. The Tarpon novels are in some sense a throwback to a time when the genre was more tightly defined, its tropes less problematic. We’ve got a down-at-heels PI here, and bad guys, and a femme-more-or-less-fatale, and a couple of cops either of whom could be played by Lino Ventura. But Manchette certainly isn’t slumming, or doing a genre turn to please his fans. As Manchette asks, “What do you do when you re-do [the classic American crime novels] at a distance—distant because the moment of that something is long gone? The American-style polar had its day. Writing in 1970 meant taking a new social reality into account, but it also meant acknowledging that the polar-form was finished because its time was finished: re-employing an obsolete form implies employing it referentially, honoring it by criticizing it, exaggerating it, distorting it from top to bottom.” Or as he put it more bluntly (and more flamboyantly): “The overtures of the ‘neo-detective novel’ have been progressively conquered by literary hacks (of Art) or by Gorbachev-loving Stalino Trotskyist racketeers.”

more here.