Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Sebastien Japrisot - and Advertising

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, by Sebastien Japrisot, and translated by Helen Weaver, has languished in my to-be-read pile for a very long time indeed. I’m not quite sure why this is so, since I enjoyed his far-fetched but gripping thriller Trap for Cinderella some years back. Perhaps the cumbersome title put me off. Now I’ve finally read it, I must say I enjoyed it a good deal, with just a few reservations.

Dany is a blonde, beautiful and myopic woman of 26, who borrows her boss’s Thunderbird car on impulse and sets off for the sea. But a series of mystifying events disrupt her journey – people she meets tell her that she made the same trip the day before, when in fact she was in Paris. She is attacked, and left injured, and then discovers a body in the boot of the car. What on earth is going on?

This vivid premise really is terrific, and reminiscent of the work of Boileau and Narcejac, though Japrisot probably has more pretensions as a “literary” writer. The snag, inevitably, is that the unravelling of the truth is rather cumbersome. Japrisot, like a number of his contempories (Catherine Arley and Herbert Montheilet spring to mind) sometimes struggled for a credible resolution to the dazzling puzzles that he created. All the same, this book didn’t deserve to wait as long as it did to be read.

Dany and her boss work in advertising, and so for a time did Japrisot (his pen-name was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name). Advertising and PR has supplied a good many crime writers not only with settings but also with business experience. Dorothy L. Sayers, Julian Symons, David Williams, John Franklin Bardin, Leighton Gage, Elmore Leonard, David Goodis and Alan Furst are examples, and I’m sure there are plenty of others. I’m not sure if anyone has ever written about the connection between working in advertising and crime fiction; perhaps it’s a subject worthy of further exploration.


Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this review. This does indeed sound really interesting. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

seana graham said...

I have some of the same experience with this book. I've had it forever and even started it and liked it, but didn't finish it. Or maybe I did finish it and don't remember how it resolved?

In any case, my favorite book of Japrisot's is A Very Long Engagement, and maybe one of my favorite books ever.

On the other hand, my coworker told me he threw it across the room, so there you go.

Patrick said...

Don't feel bad about abandoning stuff on Mount TBR. French author Rene Reouven highly recommended Japrisot's ONE DEADLY SUMMER to me, and although I have it on my book pile I still haven't been able to get around to it! If I don't do so before the year is up, someone please slap me.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for your comments. Seana, I'm interested that you rate A Very Long Engagement so highly. What was it that appealed to you so much?

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Patrick, good to hear from you. I'm afraid Mount TBR has now reached Himalayan heights!!

seana graham said...

Well, it's a war story for women, for one thing. It has one of the most implacable female protagonists you will ever want to meet. And it's beautifully written. It isn't a lot like his other work, but I'm sure he used his skills to build a very complex tale.

The movie was very faithful to the book, but the thing that is lost is the sense of patience it took, because a two hour movie inevitably speeds up the quest.

I notice on Good Reads that the ratings are all over the place on this one, but I think I'm right on this one.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks, Seana - you've sold it to me!