Friday 16 October 2009

Forgotten Book - The Jackals

The Jackals, by Frederic Valmain, is a pretty obscure title dating from 1962, and it certainly qualifies for inclusion in Patti Abbott’s series of forgotten books for Friday. After I discovered a copy at Hay-on-Wye recently, I blogged about the rather mysterious author and it seems as though the Valmain name was a pseudonym.
His novel takes a well-worn theme, and tackles it with pace and verve. A young doctor, Christophe Chalvet, takes up a job in the coastal town of Tizgert-sur-Mer. He hears about Angelo Falcone, a wealthy recluse with a gorgeous wife who lives in a Chinese house in the town, and when one day he saves a beautiful woman from drowning, he discovers that she is Lorenza Falcone. He falls head over heels for her, and soon they become lovers.

Lorenza confides in him that she is terrified of her disabled, yet menacing husband. He has a criminal past, and abuses her dreadfully. The only servant in the Chinese house is a mute negro, and a young man visits each week to deliver drugs to Lorenza’s husband. How can she escape her grim life? The only viable solution, it seems, is murder. The pattern of the story is thus along the lines of classics such as Double Indemnity. But Valmain’s spare prose packs a considerable punch, and the story gains a great deal from its evocative backdrop, in a country on the brink of revolution.

I enjoyed this book very much. The style reminded me of that splendid writing duo Boileau and Narcejac, and if this is an indication of the quality of his work, I’m surprised that Valmain has slipped so completely from view.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like this new take on an old theme. Thanks for pointing this one out, Martin.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

Martin - This seems like quite a find and as always, I'm impressed with the background you offer and your thoughtful review. Some aspects of the novel remind me of a Robert Colby novella I once read called No Experience Necessary. In that story, Glenn Hadlock is hired to be a bodyguard for a beautiful young woman, Eileen Scofield, whose older, extremely wealthy husband is disabled and therefore, can't look after her. When Eileen confides in Glenn that she feels that she's a prisoner in her own home, he's sympathetic. When the the two later become lovers, they hatch a similar plan to the one you describe. Many of the details are different, of course, but the theme seems quite similar. Thanks for introducing us to this book.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. I don't know No Experience Necessary, Margot, or even Robert Colby, but it sounds good and I shall look out for it.