Ivory Pearl - Jean-Patrick Manchette

NYRB Classics

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Ivory Pearl by Jean-Patrick Manchette, afterword by Gary Indiana / ISBN 9781681372105 / 208-page paperback published by NYRB Classics

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Set in Cuba's Sierra Maestra in the 1950s, in the days leading up to the Revolution--Manchette's unfinished masterpiece with a fearless female protagonist.

Out of the wreckage of World War II swaggers Ivory Pearl, so named (rhymes with girl) by some British soldiers who made her their mascot, a mere kid, orphaned, survivor of God knows what, but fluent in French, English, smoking, and drinking. In Berlin, Ivy meets Samuel Farakhan, a rich closeted intelligence officer. Farakhan proposes to adopt her and help her to become the photographer she wants to be; his relationship to her will provide a certain cover for him. And she is an asset. The deal is struck...

1956: Ivy has seen every conflict the postwar world has on offer, from Vietnam to East Berlin, and has published her photographs in slick periodicals, but she is sick to death of death and bored with life and love. It’s time for a break. Ivy heads to Cuba, the Sierra Maestra.

History, however, doesn’t take vacations.

Ivory Pearl was Jean-Patrick Manchette’s last book, representing a new turn in his writing. It was to be the first of a series of ambitious historical thrillers about the “wrong times” we live in. Though left unfinished when Manchette died, the book, whose full plot has been filled in here from the author’s notes, is a masterpiece of bold suspense and black comedy: chilling, caustic, and perfectly choreographed.

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. 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 went on to produce 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).

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