Friday, 27 May 2016

Forgotten Book - One Deadly Summer

I've mentioned before my admiration for Sebastien Japrisot (1931-2003), a renowned film-maker who is one of my favourite European crime writers. He conjures up plots as tricky as those of Arley and Boileau-Narcejac, but the stand-out feature of his work is the hypnotic quality of his writing. These attributes are evident in One Deadly Summer (1977), well translated by Alan Sheridan, which was adapted into a successful film starring Isabelle Adjani, which - as yet - I haven't seen.

This is a story with multiple narrators, and Japrisot uses the device cleverly to reveal layer after layer of his psychological melodrama. We start with "Ping Pong", a naive but rather likeable man who is a mechanic and volunteer fireman with a crush on a beautiful but mysterious nineteen year old girl, Eliane, often known as Elle. When Elle sets out to seduce him, we realise that she has an ulterior motive. But what exactly does she have in mind?

From an early point, it becomes evident that this is a story about revenge for an incident that occurred twenty years earlier, but what exactly happened, and who was involved is not quite so clear. Elle is as charismatic as she is scheming, and as she insinuates her way into Ping Pong's family life, we know that something terrible is destined to happen. Japrisot makes the reader desperate to find out exactly what fate has store for his characters.

You'll have gathered that I really admired this book. Japrisot was hugely successful in France, but has never been as well known in Britain, though I came to his work because it was mentioned by Julian Symons in Bloody Murder, such a great source of information back in the 70s. I am, though, much more of a fan of Japrisot than was Symons. It's a real shame that he didn't write more novels; I haven't read a book of his that I didn't enjoy.


Graham Powell said...

I've only read one of Japrisot's novels - I've forgotten the title, though it was a murder on a train - but I have seen the film of One Deadly Summer, and it's outstanding. It uses the multiple narrators by giving different characters voiceover monologues.

seana graham said...

I haven't read this one, but I am a Japrisot fan. I happened to read his non-crime fiction novel about the First World War, A Very Long Engagement, first. I loved it. The movie is faithful to it, but doesn't quite capture an indefinable tone it has. Went on, much later, to read The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, which isn't as ambitious, but still highly enjoyable. I think I have another of his books lying around here somewhere. Will have to get to it.

TracyK said...

Very interesting. I have read two of Japrisot's books: The 10.30 from Marseilles and The Very Long Engagement. I am been looking for The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun. But I had not heard of this one. Now I will be looking for it as well.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, all. I must look out for A Very Long Engagement.

jbilski said...

I've read The Sleeping Car Murders (Compartiment tueurs) as a boy (long time ago) and rather liked it. It is the same as The 10.30 from Marseilles. If I find a copy I will read it again.
I have read also The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun but I didn't like as much as The Sleeping Car Murders. Both were made in films - The Sleeping Car Murders by Costa-Gavras, with Simone Signoret and Yves Montand.