Potted reviews – Fatale, Knockemstiff and The Wheelman

Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette – Hitwoman Aimee Joubert heads to Bléville and causes trouble by using an impoverished Baron to help her turn the town’s inhabitants against one another so that she can undertake a dastardly plan. As with all good Manchette novels, a lot of carnage ensues.

Fatale feels in a sense like a more subversive play on Hammett’s Red Harvest, which was fairly subversive itself. The Blé in Bléville apparently means wheat or the dough that’s made from it. Dough is obviously an Americanism for money – Moneyville, in other words. It feels kind of like Poisonville (which is the nickname of Personville, the town in Red Harvest). The heroine also plays the various sides against each other in a similar way to the Continental Op and both novels have a similarly jaundiced worldview and large amounts of bloodshed. It’s a weaker novel than both Three To Kill and The Prone Gunman, but considering they’re out-and-out works of genius and this is merely excellent there’s no shame in that. It is incredibly readable and comes highly recommended

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray PollockKnockemstiff is a short story collection set in and around the town of Knockemstiff, Ohio. The stories range from incredibly sad to funny and most of them are as black as a mineshaft at midnight. Pollock’s prose is as lean as a racing greyhound and just as nippy. Some of the characters from one story reappear in another (or get name checked). There isn’t a duffer amongst them and at their best (Knockemstiff and Honolulu, in particular) they damn near took my breath away. Go out and buy it straight away – you won’t be sorry.

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski – Lennon is a mute Irish getaway driver who finds that getting out of Philadelphia is a lot more difficult than he had anticipated. He finds himself pursued by the Russian Mafia, the Italian Mob, an ex-policeman and various other criminals, all falling over each other to get their hands on $650,000 of loot.

This is the first Swierczynski novel that I’ve read but it won’t be the last. It’s a cartoon romp that’s almost too tricky for its own good at times, but it is also a damn fine piece of entertainment that races by at an astonishing pace. It has some excellent moments of black comedy along with some nicely written set-pieces. If you like heist capers you’ll really enjoy this.

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One thought on “Potted reviews – Fatale, Knockemstiff and The Wheelman

  1. Pingback: Review: Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill | The Gamblers

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