No Room at the Morgue - Jean-Patrick Manchette

NYRB Classics

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No Room at the Morgue by Jean-Patrick Manchette, translated by Alyson Waters / ISBN 9781681374185 / 188-page paperback published by NYRB Classics

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Inspired by the works of Dashiell Hammett, No Room at the Morgue is Jean-Patrick Manchette's unparalleled take on the private eye novel — fierce, politically inflected, and finely rendered by the haunting, pitch-black prose for which the author is famed.

No Room at the Morgue came out after Jean-Patrick Manchette had transformed French crime fiction with such brilliantly plotted, politically charged, unrelentingly violent tales as Nada and The Mad and the Bad. Here, inspired by his love of Dashiell Hammett, Manchette introduces Eugene Tarpon, private eye, a sometime cop who has set up shop after being kicked off the force for accidentally killing a political demonstrator. Months have passed, and Tarpon desultorily tries to keep in shape while drinking all the time. No one has shown up at the door of his office in the midst of the market district of Les Halles. Then the bell rings and a beautiful woman bursts in, her hands dripping blood. It’s Memphis Charles, her roommate’s throat has been cut, and Memphis can’t go to the police because they’ll only suspect her. Can Tarpon help?

Well, somehow he can’t help trying. Soon bodies mount, and the craziness only grows.

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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