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Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Th Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate. The craziness is just getting started. Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated Fatale, The Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.


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Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Th Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate. The craziness is just getting started. Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated Fatale, The Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.

30 review for The Mad and the Bad (New York Review Books Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest features a California town turned into a bullet-riddled blood bath. One prime French counterpart to this bloody harvest of corpses is Jean-Patrick Manchette’s 1972 The Mad and the Bad, a novel featuring a host of ultra-violent characters, among their number: a super-wealthy architect, a thuggish hired killer and an attractive gal fresh from the mental hospital. In keeping with the author’s rat-tat-tat hard-edged cinema-like prose, below are eight bullets Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest features a California town turned into a bullet-riddled blood bath. One prime French counterpart to this bloody harvest of corpses is Jean-Patrick Manchette’s 1972 The Mad and the Bad, a novel featuring a host of ultra-violent characters, among their number: a super-wealthy architect, a thuggish hired killer and an attractive gal fresh from the mental hospital. In keeping with the author’s rat-tat-tat hard-edged cinema-like prose, below are eight bullets fresh from my Toshiba Satellite L-55: DETAIL OF OBJECTS Cars, guns, desks, chairs, clothing are labeled and described crisply. “Cupboards and shelves were covered by a fine-grained white plastic laminate. Likewise the bed, which had a red blanket. There was no bedspread. A white table and a white chair in the middle of the room completed the décor.” All that whiteness reminds me of the old people’s home in Albert Camus' The Stranger. Alienation, anyone? VIOLENCE AS A MODE OF BEING Like that diner scene in the film Pulp Fiction? If so, you are in for a treat as in: “The man grabbed him by the collar of his safari jacket, jerked him out of the Lincoln, and threw him to the ground. “Stop! Stop!” shouted Julie. The brute paid her no mind, took a run-up and kicked Hartog in the ribs. Hartog groaned. The blood drained from his face. Julie got back in the Lincoln and opened the compartment with the revolver. She trained the weapon on White Raincoat through the car’s open door.” Firearms and violence as the unquestioned baseline of how life is lived; the novel’s characters breath and act in the raw with none of those irksome reflections or philosophic musing, thank you. ALCOHOL, COFFEE, CIGARETTES, PILLS But having to contend with and defend yourself from alienating objects and coarse, loathsome people pushes architect, hired killer, gal and their supporting cast to a constant imbibing; I mean, who could ever think of living for a minute without booze, caffeine, nicotine, uppers, downers, stomach soothers? Get with it, gang - sure, you are reading descriptions of sickness and vomiting on every other page, but you have to admit, these people are hip. THEY'RE MAOISTS! At one point during an outbreak of public violence, someone shouts, “They’re Maoists!” And there are several other oblique references to the political, very much in keeping with the author’s direct involvement with Marxism and politics prior to becoming a novelist. This political dimension is one we do not encounter in Jean-Patrick Manchette’s American forerunners: Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Thompson. ALL THIS BLOOD AND KILLING IS EXCITING! And speaking of Marxism, recall the Marxist dictum: ‘Be happy in your work.” Well, hired killer Thomson is very happy in his work as per this snippet when he is in the middle of his job: “He bounded down an aisle, knocking over an old woman who began to wail in terror. He trotted by Boys Apparel, his mouth full of bile. He heard a deafening explosion and assumed that Coco had decided to open up. Fragments of plastic flew from a display. The store was filled by an immense tumult. This is exciting. I am enjoying this, Thompson told himself as he spat gastric juice on the ground.” Ah, enjoyment! What life is all about. LIFE IMITATING ART One character observes how what they are doing is exactly what a film star did in one of their favorite movies. Funny, reading this novel, I had the distinct feeling the author was filtering life through an action film – art imitating art imitating life; or is it art imitating art imitating life imitating art? DUEL PLOT IN MINIMALIST MODE Unlike the two other novels I read by the author, where every chapter following the one main character, The Mad and the Bad features parallel plots, alternating between hired killer Thompson and hunted gal, Julia -- a most effective narrative technique, especially at the end when the chapters pop back and forth, culminating in a, you guessed it, hyper-violent conclusion. If you think New York Review Books (NYRB) is publishing nothing but stuffy classics, here is a gem that will take your misguided notion and shoot it full of holes. In the mood for a juiced-up fast read? This J-P M is your book. Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942-1995)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    If you prefer noir with a nouvelle vague air—less detached than Godard, less sentimental than Truffaut...something by Chabrol perhaps—then the crime novels of Jean-Patrick Manchette may be just what you’ve been looking for. This novel, in which Julie, an au pair just released from a mental hospital, and Peter her charge, the spoiled six-year-old nephew of a billionaire, are pursued by contract killer Thompson and his crew throughout the French countryside, is a fine example of what the author can If you prefer noir with a nouvelle vague air—less detached than Godard, less sentimental than Truffaut...something by Chabrol perhaps—then the crime novels of Jean-Patrick Manchette may be just what you’ve been looking for. This novel, in which Julie, an au pair just released from a mental hospital, and Peter her charge, the spoiled six-year-old nephew of a billionaire, are pursued by contract killer Thompson and his crew throughout the French countryside, is a fine example of what the author can do. Manchette, who honed his skills writing teleplays for French TV, has a great gift for spare dialogue which suggests more than it tells, and for economical descriptions which are easily visualized. This book could be a fast read, if you want it to be, but there is plenty here to savor and reflect upon too, if you are a contemplative sort of reader. Manchette was a left-winger, radicalized by the war in Algeria, who holds up to criticism—but never in a preachy way—the materialistic values of a society poisoned by money. He does this through his sharp cynical dialogue (learned from Dashiell Hammett) and his talent for describing rooms and the objects in them (learned from the Nouveau Roman novelists like Robbe-Grillet). But if you’re just in the market for a good crime novel, don’t let the political and literary influences worry you. I believe they make his books richer and deeper, but they never interfere with the clarity of his vision, the drive of his narrative, nor the diamond-hard edge of his prose.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    [Edited, pictures added 1/20/22] The blurbs and the introduction over-promise exciting stuff. We are told the author brought the noir style of Dashiell Hammett and William Burroughs to the French detective story. [image error] But most of the book turns out to be the saga of the pursuit of a woman and her nephew by thugs through the French countryside. The four would-be killers stumble and bumble through a keystone cops scenario with gore instead of noir. There is little plot and character develop [Edited, pictures added 1/20/22] The blurbs and the introduction over-promise exciting stuff. We are told the author brought the noir style of Dashiell Hammett and William Burroughs to the French detective story. [image error] But most of the book turns out to be the saga of the pursuit of a woman and her nephew by thugs through the French countryside. The four would-be killers stumble and bumble through a keystone cops scenario with gore instead of noir. There is little plot and character development in this far-fetched scenario. The author (1942–1995, lung cancer) wrote short stories and ten-or-so novella-length crime novels like this one. About half appear to have been translated into English. With hindsight, since I am editing this review after I posted another review of a book by him, I much prefer Fatale. That’s his best-known work, although I also gave that one a ‘3’ for the same reasons. Top photo of Riquewihr in Alsace from travel.usnews.com The author from theparisreview.org

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    This is my advice: if you want to read a little Noir, but don't want to look slutty while doing so, then try a Noir by nyrb-classics. The cool cover serves as an intellectual beard and, who knows, you might actually be surprised at the quality of the writing. Like this one. I inhaled this - just one more chapter, just one more chapter, just one more chapter...... There's a great female protagonist, recently released from a sanitarium, and you have to admire a cold-blooded killer who rents a car an This is my advice: if you want to read a little Noir, but don't want to look slutty while doing so, then try a Noir by nyrb-classics. The cool cover serves as an intellectual beard and, who knows, you might actually be surprised at the quality of the writing. Like this one. I inhaled this - just one more chapter, just one more chapter, just one more chapter...... There's a great female protagonist, recently released from a sanitarium, and you have to admire a cold-blooded killer who rents a car and uses 'André Proust' as an alias. Those Proust boys, I tell ya. Don't get me wrong. It's still Noir, and could definitely make some bad TV, like shootouts where nobody gets hit. Or, if need be, people only get shot in the arm, or their ear. Nothing which might slow them down. But I had an hour and a half of fun. An intermezzo. A palate cleanser.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Can I drop the f-bomb on this site? I have several questions to ask after finishing this book and they all require the word. This book is crazy. This isn't your standard "psycho bad guy fights moralistic good guy" story, because that's boring. Manchette makes this much more interesting by having everyone just go insane. People are shot, people beaten to death, shopping centers are set on fire. Doesn't that sound like fun? Can I drop the f-bomb on this site? I have several questions to ask after finishing this book and they all require the word. This book is crazy. This isn't your standard "psycho bad guy fights moralistic good guy" story, because that's boring. Manchette makes this much more interesting by having everyone just go insane. People are shot, people beaten to death, shopping centers are set on fire. Doesn't that sound like fun?

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    If you've ever been taped or glued inside a piano, where your face was placed just so so that the pounding of the keys in a feroce staccato made the hammers smash into your face repeatedly, then you'll know what it's like to read a Manchette novel. They are fast, bloody, quick, terse to the point of rudeness and you'll feel like about a quarter of an hour worth of violence breezed by you in real time so quick will you read these. The plot is simple: a troubled young woman is taken out of her psyc If you've ever been taped or glued inside a piano, where your face was placed just so so that the pounding of the keys in a feroce staccato made the hammers smash into your face repeatedly, then you'll know what it's like to read a Manchette novel. They are fast, bloody, quick, terse to the point of rudeness and you'll feel like about a quarter of an hour worth of violence breezed by you in real time so quick will you read these. The plot is simple: a troubled young woman is taken out of her psychiatric treatment to be the nanny to a little orphan boy, the nephew of a famous architect. Hired killers appear to kill her and the boy. Lots and lots of people get killed during the ensuing chase. There is also quite a bit of vomiting. It's rare to read a novel that can keep a lively pace like a film of it would, but Manchette definitely nailed that down.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    Eccentric, wealthy businessman, former architect Michel Hartog arrives at a swanky country asylum to collect Julie Ballanger, a young woman who’s lived there, voluntarily, for 5 years. She’s leaving to be employed as a nanny for Hartog’s young nephew, Peter aka “the snotty brat.” Hartog inherited his wealth unexpectedly when his brother and sister-in law died in a plane crash, and their deaths left him in charge of the family fortune and the well-being of his nephew, the heir. Now Hartog has hir Eccentric, wealthy businessman, former architect Michel Hartog arrives at a swanky country asylum to collect Julie Ballanger, a young woman who’s lived there, voluntarily, for 5 years. She’s leaving to be employed as a nanny for Hartog’s young nephew, Peter aka “the snotty brat.” Hartog inherited his wealth unexpectedly when his brother and sister-in law died in a plane crash, and their deaths left him in charge of the family fortune and the well-being of his nephew, the heir. Now Hartog has hired a former mental patient as a nanny. What’s wrong with this picture? If you listen to Hartog’s driver, Hartog has a reputation as a philanthropist for hiring people who have physical or mental problems. Hartog’s home is a “house of defectives.” Julie nodded. The driver handed her the drink. He had poured himself a Ricard. He drank half of it and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Physically, you are better built than Old Polio.” “Old Polio?” “The nursemaid before you. Completely off her rocker. Fifty if she was a day. And an idiot. What about you? What’s your thing?” “I don’t understand at all,” said Julie. “My thing? What do you mean?” “The thing that’s screwy with you.” “I’m cured,” Julie stated. “The hell you are!” exclaimed the driver. “The boss’s way of doing good is over the top. He only hires retards. He sets up factories for cripples to work in, can you figure that?” “Not really.” “Those guys who go around in little motorized wheelchairs? He’s got them working on a production line! In this house it’s the same baloney. The cook is epileptic. The gardener has only one arm, pretty handy for using the shears. His private secretary is blind. His valet suffers from locomotor ataxia–no wonder his meals arrive cold! The snotty brat’s old nanny–well I told you about her. As for you, you must know yourself.” Hartog is certainly very odd, but his first scene at the asylum shows us that he’s not a nice man, so does he hire Julie from some sort of philanthropy or contrariness or is there something deeper at play?….. Julie’s introduction to Hartog’s nephew is not reassuring; Peter is a difficult child, and Hartog, who encourages Julie to drink, is strangely repellent, with a smile which “resembled the coin slot of a parking meter.”Julie is not the only one who hits the booze hard in Hartog’s house; it’s “a drinker’s paradise,” and even the valet downs Guinness with his breakfast omelet. Hartog runs his home in a paradoxical fashion. On one hand, he whimsically expects his employees to be available whenever he pleases, sharply dressed and ready to perform their duties, but on the other hand, he indulges certain vices. Thrust into this new stressful environment, Julie washes down tranquilizers with alcohol. Although we never get the whole story of Julie’s past life, some information is revealed in fragmented hints, but these crimes are only the external projections of something much deeper. Julie who claims to be “allergic” to the police is politically alienated from bourgeois society. Hartog plucks her from an insane asylum, hands her a job, a wardrobe full of clothing and a regular paycheck. He expects her to be impressed and grateful: “What do you think of me?” Hartog asked. “What do you know about me? Do you get the feeling you are in a fairy tale?” “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” “Okay. But what then?” “You are a soap, oil, and detergent magnate. You are rich and you are a philanthropist.” “Let’s not exaggerate.” “You do Good. You are probably trying to compensate for the feeling of being a usurper. Because your wealth is not the fruit of your own labor. Only the death of your brother and his wife made you the owner of it. You must have developed a strong sense of guilt, even if you had no wish for them to die. Anyway, one always wishes for the death of one’s brother at some level.” “Congratulations!” said Hartog in a toneless voice. “Is that what they teach at the asylum?” “It’s not an asylum. It’s an open establishment. I could have left any time I wanted.” “But you stayed there for five years. Why?” “You’ve seen my records. You know why.” While this is a crime story, The Mad and the Bad also contains a socio-political undercurrent. Hartog expects gratitude from Julie for offering her ‘another chance,’ but he also wants to see awe–awe for his wealth and his accomplishments. But Julie is unimpressed. She sees Hartog as an unexceptional human being with the advantage of controlling a fortune: “Quite the little rebel,” he observed. “I know all about you. Pickpocket. Arsonist. Congratulations.” “Of course you do,” replied Julie. “It’s all in my file.” “You, all you poor people, are just too stupid. You go about things in the dumbest way.” “Everyone can’t inherit money.” Hartog shrugged. “For my part I do something with my inheritance. You people wouldn’t know what to do with one.” I’m not going to reveal much of the plot–the back cover of the book reveals more than I intend to address here. But since this is a crime novel, a hit man and his sloppy henchmen enter the scene, and Julie’s brief re-entrance into society comes to a screaming halt. Suddenly, she finds herself back in a life on the run, and all of her old survival skills return. Julie describes herself as looking like a “post-op transsexual,” but this is just a reflection that Julie eschews bourgeois society’s signifiers of the feminine ideal; in reality she’s fit, attractive, handy with weaponry and adept at survival. As the book continues, there’s a parallel metamorphosis that takes place as both Julie and Thompson, the hitman with a nagging ulcer, return to primal behaviour. The Mad and the Bad is a deeply subversive novel and contains the same sharply observed criticisms of bourgeois society that are found in Fatale. As the novel continues, Julie’s ‘madness’ becomes questionable, and as her violent history morphs into her violent present, she is removed farther from society’s norms and sinks deeper into self-preservation. Her past insanity is seen mal-adjustment–a reaction to the hypocrisy of a decadent, materialistic society and a drive to anti-social behaviours; she simply opted to no longer live in the world and voluntarily retired to the asylum where, drugged and removed from aggravation, she was “cured.” Her re-entry into society has turned into a nightmare, and those same anti-social behaviours that sent her into the asylum in the first place, now allow her to survive. Another character, Fuentès, a failed idealist, has also rejected society, and in his case, he’s not locked up in an asylum, but chooses to isolate himself in a bizarrely constructed building whose labyrinth design grants security and is a testament to his individualism. Is Fuentès, another fringe dweller, also mad, or is his abandonment of society a signifier of sanity? There are moments when Julie seems aware of her delusions, but there are other times when she can’t control herself. One scene in which a preacher emphasizes the symbiotic relationship between religion, the government and the police seems to awaken something in Julie: She had to get rid of all these bastards who were out to destroy her. This was no time to lose her head. She would have loved to open fire with a machine gun and create a bloodbath. It’s no coincidence that one of the book’s destructive, brilliantly explosive scenes takes place in a large department store–a temple to consumerism. Violence detonates with a darkly humorous edge as Julie is pushed to extremes in order to shock the customers and shop assistants out of their stupor. Yes, Julie uses the location for her purposes, but as the tranquilizers wear off and she blazes across France, Julie comes alive, all those old skills ignite, and we cheer her on. Manchette shows that while the ‘bad’ are predictable, the ‘mad’–those who reject society–are not. This is the fourth Manchette novel I’ve read, and my favourite to date. Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith & with an introduction from James Sallis.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Duane Swierczynski

    Like a Luc Besson movie using 100% of its brain. This is an early Manchette, and doesn't have the brooding existentialism of, say, The Prone Gunman, but it does have enough inventive mayhem for a half-dozen action flicks. This is only the fourth Manchette novel translated into English; I hope the rest follow soon. Like a Luc Besson movie using 100% of its brain. This is an early Manchette, and doesn't have the brooding existentialism of, say, The Prone Gunman, but it does have enough inventive mayhem for a half-dozen action flicks. This is only the fourth Manchette novel translated into English; I hope the rest follow soon.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    An extra star just because this book is completely wacked. True, it's not as good as The Prone Gunman or Three to Kill, but it has the Manchette signature of comic brutality and a messed-up protagonist you want to win – in this case, a tough young woman straight from a sanitarium. Originally published in 1972 as Ô dingos, ô châteaux!, it's finally available in English from NYRB, keenly translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. From the first page, describing a hitman after an ugly murder in the firs An extra star just because this book is completely wacked. True, it's not as good as The Prone Gunman or Three to Kill, but it has the Manchette signature of comic brutality and a messed-up protagonist you want to win – in this case, a tough young woman straight from a sanitarium. Originally published in 1972 as Ô dingos, ô châteaux!, it's finally available in English from NYRB, keenly translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. From the first page, describing a hitman after an ugly murder in the first sentences: The killer resolved to give up his trade. Soon. Every time it was worse. For the last ten hours he had been unable to eat or drink anything. Now that he had killed, hunger gnawed at him in the most repellent way. Eventually he reached the station buffet. He ordered a choucroute and devoured it. He ordered another, which he savored. And just because I had it at hand, I read the equally mad Jacques Tardi version alongside. Two spicy helpings, just like the choucroute.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    Yeah sure, Mad and Bad displays the typical Manchette style, it's a matter of factly violent novel, an indictment of the spurious nature of the petite bourgeois lifestyle, but it's also a little too explicit in its critiques for my liking, reliant on characters that are almost caricature to help make his points about France in the 70s. He wrote ten novels in ten years according to James Sallis in the introduction, an introduction that felt far more interesting and well constructed than the entir Yeah sure, Mad and Bad displays the typical Manchette style, it's a matter of factly violent novel, an indictment of the spurious nature of the petite bourgeois lifestyle, but it's also a little too explicit in its critiques for my liking, reliant on characters that are almost caricature to help make his points about France in the 70s. He wrote ten novels in ten years according to James Sallis in the introduction, an introduction that felt far more interesting and well constructed than the entirety of Manchette's novella.

  11. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    crime fiction and ultra-violence don't typify my literary tastes, but jean-patrick manchette's the mad and the bad (ô dingos, ô châteaux!) is quite a bit of fun. with bullets, bodies, and bloodshed aplenty, manchette's novel moves with a frenzied and furious pace. despite thinly constructed characters, predictable plotting, short chapters, and staccato prose, the mad and the bad is nonetheless an entirely gripping and engrossing read. infusing some political commentary amidst the copious savager crime fiction and ultra-violence don't typify my literary tastes, but jean-patrick manchette's the mad and the bad (ô dingos, ô châteaux!) is quite a bit of fun. with bullets, bodies, and bloodshed aplenty, manchette's novel moves with a frenzied and furious pace. despite thinly constructed characters, predictable plotting, short chapters, and staccato prose, the mad and the bad is nonetheless an entirely gripping and engrossing read. infusing some political commentary amidst the copious savageries, the french novelist and screenwriter's murderous tale is more than mere gratuitous mayhem. dark and deranged, the mad and the bad is a punishing trek through the french countryside. stiff-backed, glass in hand, he left through the side door, and julie hesitated for a moment before pouring herself a brandy, which she downed, standing, in a single gulp, reminded of a time when, freezing cold at dawn, she would stand at a bar and wash down black coffee with four shots of calvados at the start of a day of wandering, tears, fatigue, and despair. *translated from the french by donald nicholson-smith (apollinaire, lebord, vaneigem, lefebvre, et al.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    It's odd to read such a violent book when such violence is happening in another part of the world, but then... it all becomes a spectacle of sorts. Jean-Patrick Manchette's "The Mad and the Bad" is classic violent crime noir. The narration is a woman with mental problems with a rich little boy with a sick hired killer with a stomach problem, who is hired to kill her and the child. It's a beautifully tight book, that has no wasted words or scenes. In a way Manchette reminds me of Richard Stark, i It's odd to read such a violent book when such violence is happening in another part of the world, but then... it all becomes a spectacle of sorts. Jean-Patrick Manchette's "The Mad and the Bad" is classic violent crime noir. The narration is a woman with mental problems with a rich little boy with a sick hired killer with a stomach problem, who is hired to kill her and the child. It's a beautifully tight book, that has no wasted words or scenes. In a way Manchette reminds me of Richard Stark, in that his prose writing is very un-poetic and is tied to a culture that likes it literature violent and absurd. A wonderful book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    “As he closed the door behind him, he had time to recoil at the sight of Thompson standing against the wall beside the hinges. Then Thompson stabbed him in the heart with a rigid hacksaw blade mounted on a large cylindrical hilt with a circular sheet-metal guard. While the guard prevented the blood from spurting, Thompson pumped the cylindrical hilt vigorously, and the homosexual’s heart was sliced into two or more pieces. The victim opened his mouth and a single spasm shook him. His rump struck “As he closed the door behind him, he had time to recoil at the sight of Thompson standing against the wall beside the hinges. Then Thompson stabbed him in the heart with a rigid hacksaw blade mounted on a large cylindrical hilt with a circular sheet-metal guard. While the guard prevented the blood from spurting, Thompson pumped the cylindrical hilt vigorously, and the homosexual’s heart was sliced into two or more pieces. The victim opened his mouth and a single spasm shook him. His rump struck the door and he slumped forward dead.” This is the opening paragraph of Jean Patrick-Manchette’s “The Mad and the Bad”. If the reader thinks that things can only calm down from there, they would be mistaken. Very, very mistaken. I’m not even sure where to begin with this book. There isn’t a whole lot of time for character development other than some early background info on the story’s “heroine”, a young woman recently released from an insane asylum into the care of a millionaire who likes to employ the disabled and mentally ill. We also meet Hartog and Peter. The former is the aforementioned millionaire, the latter his 6 year old nephew left to him after the death of his brother. Lastly, there is Thompson. He would be the charming killer for hire (with an ulcer) introduced to us in the opening paragraph. There is a kidnapping early in the story but after that it is difficult to sum up what happens simply because there is so much chaos. I should say instead that this book takes chaos and wraps it in wanton destruction, finally smothering it in an anarchic secret sauce. Manchette seems to take glee in destroying as much of the landscape he describes as humanly possible while simultaneosly wreaking as much physical damage to his characters as well. What else can I really say. It’s madness, but a very cathartic and fun kind of madness I thoroughly enjoyed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

    If the Monty Python team could ever be induced to write a noir novel, this is the kind of novel they might write. I don't mean that it's full of jokes -- although there are a few, and I found that, despite myself, I was grinning much of the time as I read -- but that it has the same sort of manic, over-the-top inventiveness that we came to associate with the Pythons. Michael Hartog is a fabulously wealthy architect whose wealth and success are entirely due to the fact that his elder brother, heir If the Monty Python team could ever be induced to write a noir novel, this is the kind of novel they might write. I don't mean that it's full of jokes -- although there are a few, and I found that, despite myself, I was grinning much of the time as I read -- but that it has the same sort of manic, over-the-top inventiveness that we came to associate with the Pythons. Michael Hartog is a fabulously wealthy architect whose wealth and success are entirely due to the fact that his elder brother, heir to the family fortune, died with his wife in a plane crash. Unfortunately, this left Hartog with not just the money but his seven-year-old nephew, the brattish, tantrum-wielding Peter. Getting rid of Peter would render Hartog's life a whole lot rosier . . . So he hires the flaky Julie straight out of mental hospital to be Peter's nanny and sets up with the obsessive English hitman Thompson an elaborate scheme whereby the crazed Julie, out of custody after all these years, will seem to kidnap Peter and then kill both the little boy and herself. Of course, the scheme goes wrong. Julie may be crazy but she's not nuts -- and she's not stupid either. Moreover, neither of the bad guys has reckoned with the strength of the bond she almost immediately forms with Peter. Julie fights back with devastating effectiveness, and soon Thompson and his two thuggish heavies find themselves pursuing nanny and child across France. As with the other Manchette novels I've read, this is pretty short and, as the action almost never flags for more than a fraction of a second, it's a quick read. Add in that Donald Nicholson-Smith's translation is really quite superb and it's no wonder that I enjoyed The Mad and the Bad so very much.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    After the extreme elegance and precision of Fatale, this feels rather eratic. But its' inventive-erratic -- startlingly harsh and odd sequences come out of nowhere, the protagonist tends to behave in much more interesting ways than many of her contemporaries, and the plot thrashes wonderfully. Super-weird villain too. So, very quick and readable, but it definitely feels like it was written earlier in his career. Lacks something in nuance and development. And what's with the -- I'm pretty sure -- After the extreme elegance and precision of Fatale, this feels rather eratic. But its' inventive-erratic -- startlingly harsh and odd sequences come out of nowhere, the protagonist tends to behave in much more interesting ways than many of her contemporaries, and the plot thrashes wonderfully. Super-weird villain too. So, very quick and readable, but it definitely feels like it was written earlier in his career. Lacks something in nuance and development. And what's with the -- I'm pretty sure -- computer generated blood pool on the cover? Much tackier than this requires.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Quick, brutal, addictive, too predictable, fun, Hammetty, over-the-top.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vedant

    Why is everyone profusely sweating?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    The Mad And The Bad is a suspense novel about a newly discharged mental patient hired to be a nanny to a rich young orphan. Shortly after the nanny starts her new job she and her young charge wind up running all across the French countryside dodging gunfire by a quartet of hired killers. It's par for the course that suspense novels have people chasing each other firing guns relentlessly, but in order for it to be done well there needs to be some humor or romance or some character development in b The Mad And The Bad is a suspense novel about a newly discharged mental patient hired to be a nanny to a rich young orphan. Shortly after the nanny starts her new job she and her young charge wind up running all across the French countryside dodging gunfire by a quartet of hired killers. It's par for the course that suspense novels have people chasing each other firing guns relentlessly, but in order for it to be done well there needs to be some humor or romance or some character development in between the gunshots. Well, it doesn't happen here. It's just a lot of running around and little else. I also knew the novel was in trouble when the only character in the book with any depth was the British killer Thompson. He had more personality than the nanny when he wasn't throwing up blood every three pages. And the kid was a dud, too. How someone can be six years old and never once mention his newly deceased parents defies reality.

  19. 5 out of 5

    fetid wretched deviltry

    A violent neo-noir potboiler with radical political overtones which was so much fun to read that I finished it in one sitting. The plot concerns a recent releasee from a psychiatric institution who is brought into the employ of a wealthy and mysterious magnate and his aloof son with the charge of serving as the boy's nanny. Through a series of twists, she finds herself caught up in a ransom scheme led by a grizzled hitman in a perpetual state of gastrointestinal distress. The plot is taut and gr A violent neo-noir potboiler with radical political overtones which was so much fun to read that I finished it in one sitting. The plot concerns a recent releasee from a psychiatric institution who is brought into the employ of a wealthy and mysterious magnate and his aloof son with the charge of serving as the boy's nanny. Through a series of twists, she finds herself caught up in a ransom scheme led by a grizzled hitman in a perpetual state of gastrointestinal distress. The plot is taut and gripping and is underlied by a vicious anticapitalist commentary which remains incisive without ever being too on-the-nose. A fantastic late scene in a small-town grocery store reads like it jumped straight out of an action film, or maybe a comic book. It's no surprise that Manchette's works have been translated into graphic form on a number of occasions. If Guy Debord wrote fiction with Elmore Leonard by way of Roberto Bolaño, it might look something like this. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Garnette

    Rarely have I so thoroughly disliked a book. I was looking for something light and entertaining, with a flavor of a different place and culture from my own. This just seemed senseless, a bloodbath of gratuitous violence. The characters seemed cartoonish, acting without normal human motivations of affection or even self interest. The introduction compares Manchette to Hammett or Chandler in the U.S., out to demonstrate that the crime novel could be "the great moral literature of our time." I foun Rarely have I so thoroughly disliked a book. I was looking for something light and entertaining, with a flavor of a different place and culture from my own. This just seemed senseless, a bloodbath of gratuitous violence. The characters seemed cartoonish, acting without normal human motivations of affection or even self interest. The introduction compares Manchette to Hammett or Chandler in the U.S., out to demonstrate that the crime novel could be "the great moral literature of our time." I found nothing in this book that grappled with the larger moral questions nor did I find it to be particularly French. I could easily imagine the same story set in America. Maybe I missed something but I'm certainly not going to spend time trying to figure out what...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    Manchette translated Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake, and Watchmen; for this NYRB reprint James Sallis wrote a new intro and Ellroy blurbs "We must revere him now and rediscover him this very instant." Jesus what a book. Written in '72, in the general milieu of Simenon, Wahlöö/Sjövall, and Claude Chabrol. The French title, with its warping of a classis Rimbaud line, is better: Ô dingos, Ô chateaux! Another French title of another Manchette book I am sure to pick up soon: Laissez bronzer les cadavres Manchette translated Ross Thomas, Donald Westlake, and Watchmen; for this NYRB reprint James Sallis wrote a new intro and Ellroy blurbs "We must revere him now and rediscover him this very instant." Jesus what a book. Written in '72, in the general milieu of Simenon, Wahlöö/Sjövall, and Claude Chabrol. The French title, with its warping of a classis Rimbaud line, is better: Ô dingos, Ô chateaux! Another French title of another Manchette book I am sure to pick up soon: Laissez bronzer les cadavres.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Jones

    This book describes a violent ride through the French countryside. The thin plot is dressed up with a few sentences of Marxist rhetoric and philosophic theory and overtones of existentialism to cover what was a badly written and senseless work with poorly drawn characters. Maybe the work was better in the original French - but crowning this guy the Raymond Chandler of France is way overblown. Mr. Chandler could write.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Meh. It started strong and petered out for me. It reminded me of Godard- not the playful, heartfelt, early stuff but the later 70's stuff like Weekend and Tout Va Bien and Every Man for Himself where his radicalism has curdled and become myopic, misanthropic, and nihilistic. Meh. It started strong and petered out for me. It reminded me of Godard- not the playful, heartfelt, early stuff but the later 70's stuff like Weekend and Tout Va Bien and Every Man for Himself where his radicalism has curdled and become myopic, misanthropic, and nihilistic.

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    Manchette's The Mad and the Bad, first published in 1972, has recently been translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith and published by New York Review Books. It is a taut crime thriller which opens as wealthy Parisian architect Michel Hartog springs Julie Ballanger from a New Age mental hospital and hires her to look after his nephew, Peter, a boy of six or seven whose parents died in a plane crash. Meanwhile, Thompson, a vicious hit man with a queasy stomach, eats choucroute after a particularly gri Manchette's The Mad and the Bad, first published in 1972, has recently been translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith and published by New York Review Books. It is a taut crime thriller which opens as wealthy Parisian architect Michel Hartog springs Julie Ballanger from a New Age mental hospital and hires her to look after his nephew, Peter, a boy of six or seven whose parents died in a plane crash. Meanwhile, Thompson, a vicious hit man with a queasy stomach, eats choucroute after a particularly grisly job. Very soon Thompson is recruited by a mysterious client to kidnap Julie and Peter and kill them, making their deaths look like the work of the mentally unstable nanny. While the kidnapping takes place the wheels begin to go off their operation fairly soon as Julie and Peter escape, and are pursued across France by Thompson and his thugs. This noir thriller is particularly violent and graphic with a plot that takes place at a very high speed. Readers more familiar with France than I may better appreciate the landscape covered by the pair chased by the hired killers. Will Julie discover who hired Thompson in time to turn the tables, or will the nanny and her charge succumb to the seeming inevitable? With the addition of social criticism typical of the dissipated left-wing malaise of post-’68 France woven unobtrusively into the well-paced plot this book is entertaining for all but the squeamish.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Will McGrath

    Overrated. I picked up this 1970s French "neo-polar" based solely on the NYRB Classics label, who re-issued the book in 2014. NYRBC has introduced me to some of my favorite books of recent years ("A High Wind in Jamaica" and "Speedboat" come immediately to mind), as well as some totally bonkers books that, while I didn't really enjoy, I was happy to have interacted with (looking at you, "That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana"). But "The Mad and the Bad", a crime thriller by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Overrated. I picked up this 1970s French "neo-polar" based solely on the NYRB Classics label, who re-issued the book in 2014. NYRBC has introduced me to some of my favorite books of recent years ("A High Wind in Jamaica" and "Speedboat" come immediately to mind), as well as some totally bonkers books that, while I didn't really enjoy, I was happy to have interacted with (looking at you, "That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana"). But "The Mad and the Bad", a crime thriller by Jean-Patrick Manchette, is just dull. Woman and child on the run from a hitman. You know the story. The great depths of characterization here involve the fact that the hitman has an ulcer. Manchette apparently re-invigorated the French "polar" genre of crime novel (and invented the "neo-polar" in the process) by writing through a leftist political lens - that's the critical take, from what I understand - but the only way this manifests in the book is that the villain is a rich capitalist. So...revolutionary, I guess? The book is brisk, at least, and occasionally bursts into manic life, but generally reads like a paraphrase of that paraphrased-to-death Hobbes quote (nasty, brutish, and short, etc etc). Go watch "The French Connection" or "Assault on Precinct 13" instead.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tuck

    a bit juvenile when compared to the standards manchette set with his other titles , especially the super tight plot of prone gunman The Prone Gunman but have to admit that the assassin in mad/bad who is forced to kill and eat raw fish and chickens because of his stressed induced bad stomach is a nice touch. some how james sallis is convinced in his introduction that much of this wacked action novel is a leftist jab at the ruthlessness of capitalism, but manchette's mads and bads aint got shit on a bit juvenile when compared to the standards manchette set with his other titles , especially the super tight plot of prone gunman The Prone Gunman but have to admit that the assassin in mad/bad who is forced to kill and eat raw fish and chickens because of his stressed induced bad stomach is a nice touch. some how james sallis is convinced in his introduction that much of this wacked action novel is a leftist jab at the ruthlessness of capitalism, but manchette's mads and bads aint got shit on the oilys of 21st century. ooooh we miss and need another manchette The Prone Gunman

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    DNF @ pg 23. A revolver with a safety (admittedly possible but highly unlikely for the year), greeting a woman with "Nasty bitch!," asking a woman what she's drinking "Another Scotch?" when she just enters the building (clearly something excised from first draft). I don't care if it was written by a communist "bon vivant." Sloppy and sophomoric, the only thing I like about noir is how quickly it reminds me I should be spending my time reading other things. NYRB does have some stinkers. They're f DNF @ pg 23. A revolver with a safety (admittedly possible but highly unlikely for the year), greeting a woman with "Nasty bitch!," asking a woman what she's drinking "Another Scotch?" when she just enters the building (clearly something excised from first draft). I don't care if it was written by a communist "bon vivant." Sloppy and sophomoric, the only thing I like about noir is how quickly it reminds me I should be spending my time reading other things. NYRB does have some stinkers. They're few and far between but they're there.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ed [Redacted]

    Pretty good book, not as good as "The Prone Gunman" though. There were some excellent parts and some very good action scenes interspersed with some less interesting bits. As a whole, it is a worthwhile read. Pretty good book, not as good as "The Prone Gunman" though. There were some excellent parts and some very good action scenes interspersed with some less interesting bits. As a whole, it is a worthwhile read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Here's a life hack: if you read a trashy, violent crime thriller that's thin on character development, thick on action, and comforting in its predictability, but it's written by an ascot-donning French guy and published by New York Review Books, you can pretend that it's highbrow literature. Here's a life hack: if you read a trashy, violent crime thriller that's thin on character development, thick on action, and comforting in its predictability, but it's written by an ascot-donning French guy and published by New York Review Books, you can pretend that it's highbrow literature.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jape

    Both my love of crime fiction and its general popularity seem to me born of the vicarious thrill of the amoral, something we have been turning to literature for at least since the Marquis de Sade as is testified to with unsurpassable theoretical exhaustiveness in Georges Bataille's authoritative 1957 treatise LITERATURE AND EVIL. That the crime novel would seem attractive to the anarchist temperament makes sense. This is testified to nowhere better than in the beastly, combative work of Jean-Pat Both my love of crime fiction and its general popularity seem to me born of the vicarious thrill of the amoral, something we have been turning to literature for at least since the Marquis de Sade as is testified to with unsurpassable theoretical exhaustiveness in Georges Bataille's authoritative 1957 treatise LITERATURE AND EVIL. That the crime novel would seem attractive to the anarchist temperament makes sense. This is testified to nowhere better than in the beastly, combative work of Jean-Patrick Manchette, whose terse and ferocious novels are concerned above all else with the rote hypocrisy underpinning the social compact. Or hardly underpinning it. As Manchette would seem to have it, we are grotesque and craven right at the surface. The appetites of his callous and fundamentally denuded human constructions are utterly base, the society that corrals them little more than a pyramid scheme of criminal enterprise. In his introduction to the New York Review Books edition of THE MAD AND THE BAD (the delightfully wacko original French title was Ô DINGOS, Ô CHÂTEAUX), James Sallis invokes the precedent of only two American crime writers, ex-Pinkerton man Dashiell Hammett and tragicomic L.A. master Raymond Chandler, excluding many other stalwart practicioners of the idiom, major little industry that it was over there across the Atlantic, with no shortage of genuine masters stretching back at least to the marvelous James M. Cain. (Of course Georges Simenon, one of the great crime writers and, hell, just a spectacularly great novelist, was a Belgian writing in French.) The best part of the introduction is an excerpt of Chandler addressing how crime fiction is born of pervasive venality: "The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the fingerman for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket; a world where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket, where the mayor of your town may have condoned murder as an instrument of moneymaking, where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practicing ..." Damn straight. The prevalence of crime fiction (and the appetite for scintillating true crime stories) beginning in the 1930s in part led to the rise of a species of films in post-war Hollywood that would retroactively come to be known as film noir. American crime novels and films noir were very, very popular in France. They were a huge influence on the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, a lover of all things American, who wore a stetson and cowboy boots, drove big American cars, feasted on American gangster stories, and had originally appropriated his famous nom de guerre during his years in the French Resistance, borrowing it from one of America's greatest writers. Then there were the industrious young film critics who would eventually begin to secure financing and get their hands on equipment, comprising the vanguard of the French New Wave. These young men intent on reinventing the medium had a presiding fondness for American crime novels and tawdry B-pictures. The enterprising François Truffaut would choose to adapt SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER, his remarkable second feature, from a lowly David Goodis novel. Jean-Patrick Manchette would begin publishing just after the first decade of the New Wave's ascendency and has to be thought of as at least in part something of a fellow traveler. He would even adapt one of his own novels, about the implosion of an anarchist cell, into a screenplay for a 1974 film called NADA for New Wave gourmand Claude Chabrol, the director generally considered to have made the first New Wave feature. If Manchette's trajectory lined up with that of the New Wave it also couldn't help but intersect with radical politics and the tumult before, during, and after May '68. Manchette also came to be associated with Guy Debord and the Situationist movement of which the latter was at the forefront. Debord wrote treatises and made films. He focused on alienation in the age of spectacle and the commodification of daily life, introducing concepts like détournement and dérive as means to regain autonomy and to undermine the apparatus of cultural subjection. To a certain extent I think that we need to understand Manchette's crime fiction as an extension of practices related to détournement. Debord used détournement in his own works to take existing cultural objects, images, and forms, repurposing them in order to use spectacle against itself. A novel like THE MAD AND THE BAD strikes me very much as exciting the impression that a renegade is hijacking the freighter of pulp fiction. It is bombastic, brutal, and crazed. At no point does the reader lose the sense of witnessing a sophisticated ironic manipulation, a popular form and its attendant tropes being maliciously wielded like a cudgel. It is a rollicking tale, outlandishly grim, hurtling forward but riven with entropy and fragmentation. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's recent film adaptation of LET THE CORPSES TAN--Manchette's debut novel, written in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bastid--captures not only the increasing entropy and hyper-fragmentation of his form (exaggerating these elements to the point of sublimity), but the sense that the characters are terminal, alienated cyphers, zombie consumers at a banquet of orgiastic violence. The characters are grotesque, the violence is grotesque, the world is grotesque. The profane society calls for burlesque feats of profanity productive of utter waste, mindless destruction, redemption of the irredeemable. I am reminded of the pistol-whipping tabloid headline cinema of American director Samuel Fuller, who started out as a sixteen-year-old New York crime reporter and did time as a writer of quick and slick paperback yarns before he became an Second World War infantryman then independent-minded Hollywood maverick ensconced in Beverly Hills. Manchette is a bit like Fuller. Fuller as anarchist and, you know, turned up to 11. I do not remember being quite as enthusiastically won over by Manchette's FATALE when I read it a number of years back. Certainly not as much as I am won over by THE MAD AND THE BAD. I don't remember exactly when I read FATALE. There is a good chance I was deep in active alcoholism at the time. I might not have been in the best shape. I recall recognizing in FATALE an exuberant vulgarity that I found both charming and vaguely inept. I do not recall experiencing anything quite like the rich and hyperbolic mayhem I have just encountered in THE MAD AND THE BAD. It is a chase thriller of the kind we know all too well. Or think we do. But it is also a gifted novelist playing at smash and grab. Perhaps its most elementally Situationist passages relate to the raucous despoiling of a department store, where vile killers, led by the Englishman Thompson (named after crime novelist and alcoholic subversive Jim Thompson?), have chased the young woman and child at the center of an insidious red-headed capitalist's ludicrous self-destructive campaign of extermination. Not only bloodshed and fire, but a scrupulous liquidation of consumer goods. The consumer goods in Manchette have at least as much personality as do the characters. There is much attention to the make of automobiles, weapons, ammunition. There is a very sublime kind of teasing poetry in things like “Manufrance 4 x 60 C buckshot cartridges,” speaking as it does to a marauding caustic intelligence with no patience for horseshit pieties. The irony is persistent and scalding. The novel's last line is hilarious and perhaps a little sickening, foregrounding what has to be understood unabashedly as critique, as such dutifully emblematic.

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