West Coast Blues is not a spy story per-se. The main villain has a shady background (used to be in the Dominican Army as a member of the SIM, the Military Investigative Service), which if I was pushed, I am sure I could twist into an espionage thing, but in reality this is just a tough noir graphic novel. And despite the title West Coast Blues, which makes it sound very American, it is in fact French noir.
The story concerns a gentleman named George Gerfault and he lives in Paris, and it’s a classic ‘wrong place and the wrong time’ scenario. As Gerfault makes his way home from work one evening, a Citroen and a Lancia speed past him. The Citroen swerves off the road and gets wrapped around a tree. The Lancia speeds off. Gerfault stops and helps the smashed-up driver. He drives him to the hospital and dumps him — Gerfault doesn’t want to get involved.
Unfortunately for Gerfault though, he is involved because the two men in the Lancia were hitmen, and now that he has talked to the Citroen driver, well who knows what he may have learned? So now the hitmen have to take care of Gerfault. What follows is the story of a man who has his whole life tipped upside down. The story unfolds over a year and moves from Paris, to the beach, and up into the Alps.
West Coast Blues is a good tough read and very enjoyable. And if you’re a jazz music fan, it is littered with references.
The book should be available by the end of the week.
Jacques Tardi is the author of over 30 graphic novels and considered the leading European cartoonist of the generation that came of age in the 1970s. He lives in Paris, where he is currently working on another Manchette adaptation, Nada, for release in 2010.
Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-1995) authored ten short, highly acclaimed crime novels (two of which have been translated into English by City Lights, including West Coast Blues, under the title Three to Kill), as well as a multitude other books and teleplays.
See Amazon’s entry for Three to Kill for reviews of the original prose version.
“Tardi brings a rough and gritty reality and an existential strangeness that makes his crime stories different than anyone else’s. I’ll read anything he draws.” — ED BRUBAKER