Gallic Noir

Tough times, anxiety high, friends and family without jobs, virus threatening — where does one turn?

To French fiction, to Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novels of the 1980s, to Pascal Garnier’s novels from the 2010s. Unlike police procedurals, these promise no final and trimumphant unravelling of the mystery. The detective, if there is one, will not live beyond this book. Nor will the murderers. Nor will anyone of import. Our questions as readers are about what is happening? Who are these people? What kind of society breeds and enables people like this?

How do we know these books are worth reading? Because of sentences like these from the first pages of Manchette’s Ivory Pearl:

“Maurer was young, very likely under twenty-five.” This narrator is in the same position as the reader: What you see is what you get. Very likely is what we get.


“And neither the shot nor what followed had made more noise than a man slapping an uncut book on a table and proceeding to cut a few pages.” This narrator is a reader too, a reader who knows books from an earlier time, a literate narrator who compares a gunshot to a reader’s gesture.

These books take readers to a morally simpler, crisper, blacker world. Compared to a world strangled by a vicious virus, Gallic noir cleanses our pallets and returns us, thankfully, to our own knotted complexities.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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2 Responses to Gallic Noir

  1. Markku N. says:

    Brilliant. Thank you for this! I have been reading Simenon and like the world he describes: people make good and bad choices, but in themselves they are rarely neither. They act on their impulses, mostly, and there are no criminal masterminds, only people who have varying level of success in hiding their (moral) failures.


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