Games, life, whatever: a blog from Steve Lawson

Category: Books

The Prone Gunman, by Jean-Patrick Manchette

I don’t think of myself as much of a crime fiction fan, but I did read Manchette’s Three to Kill years ago. I have also been reading a lot of comics by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and their work on Criminal is reminiscent of Manchette’s novels.

prone gunman

In The Prone Gunman we follow hitman/assassin Martin Terrier as he tries to get out of the business. Predictably his old associates have different ideas and there’s considerable mayhem and bloodshed as Terrier’s situation goes from bad to worse (and worse and worse).

There’s not a lot of emotional depth in the characters, though I did enjoy Terrier’s long lost love who runs away with him and then seems to lose interest in him immediately. The book also has what felt like a pretty abrupt tone shift near the end where I felt it went from mostly straightforward and matter-of-fact to increasingly ironic and absurd. That made me wonder if I’d missed some of that irony all along, perhaps hinted at by the title.

Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

I first encountered Haruki Murakami shortly after I started working at the Tattered Cover in 1993. His current book at the time was Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and I found the title and the cover interesting, and I also was interested in reading Japanese novels. And at the time, I considered anything published by Vintage International to be at least potentially interesting.

I loved that book and then read everything I could by Murakami as it was published in English, even using interlibrary loan to get my hands on books that had then been published in English only in Japan. I think my favorite Murakami books along with Wonderland are Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and 1Q84.


So I’m a bit sad that I have to say Killing Commendatore was a disappointment for me. I felt like it checked a lot of Murakami boxes (people down a well/hole, mysterious young women, connections to the past, supernatural stuff happening to bland male protagonists) but didn’t really go anywhere new. I enjoyed the description of the title painting and the role its subjects played in the book, and I enjoyed the painter’s description of his work. But a lot of it felt repetitive, either in the book itself or over Murakami’s body of work. And I found the story of what happened to the girl unsatisfactory.

Which brings me to the creepiest part of the book–the young teenage girl’s concerns about her flat chest. Bringing that up once would have been a fine believable character moment, but the fact that she brings it up again and again and again really reminds you that she’s being written by a 70 year old man and it goes beyond repetitive and unimaginative to just kinda icky.