Now the book has made its way into graphic-novel form, as West Coast Blues, adapted and illustrated by Jacques Tardi and published by Fantagraphic Books. The story follows with hallucinogenic clarity a young businessman named Georges Gerfaut (anglicized here as "George") through an accidental encounter that leads to: beating, killing, hit men, privation, wandering then salvation in the woods, sex, revenge, voluntary uprooting from his family, clashes with a Latin American torturer on the run — and then back to the same ring road in Paris where he began, wondering, perhaps, whether it was all real and whether it will happen again. There is no catharsis, no happy ending. There is no sad ending, either. The story simply runs out.
The book is slyly funny without being jokey; thrilling without ever seeming manipulative; cool, distant and ironic in its narrative voice; immediate in its depiction of violence.
What do Tardi's illustrations add? Mostly a crowded sense of daily life, an ironic, sense-sharpening departure from the dark, shadowy atmospherics that sometimes nudge noir toward mere style. Tardi's scenes of Gerfaut and his family at a holiday resort are notable here, full of packed beaches, spilled ice cream, traffic jams, and an attempt on George's life.
(The new title presumably refers to Gerfaut's perferred music, the cool West Coast jazz that Gerfaut listens to as he unwinds and the tension builds.
Here's what I wrote about Manchette last year in a post called "Who is the most influential crime writer?" Here's a roundup of the year's mystery and crime comics from Brian Lindenmuth. And here's what one current crime writer, a admirer of Manchette's who has paid tribute to him in his own work, has to say.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2009