Book review: Gallic Noir – Volume 1

Gallic Noir 1

Gallic Noir – Volume 1

It is always a new treat when Gallic publishes a new book. This time, this new volume, Gallic Noir – Volume 1,  allowed me to go on discovering the work of Pascal Garnier, this amazing French master of noir. I already presented four novels by him on this blog. Fortunately, I had not yet read any of the three stories included in this first volume.

Yes, Gallic is planning to publish more volumes on Garnier’s work!
Incidentally, it is interesting that gearing to the English speaking world, they feel the need to get a book close to 400 pages, and so they joined three of his novels in one volume.1

I have noticed Americans tend to think a 100 page novel can not really be called a novel.

It may be the case for some authors, but certainly not for Garnier, who has really the knack for starting a novel with some type of normalcy. Quickly though, things change drastically and you end up 100 pages further in a place you would never have expected. And yes, don’t wait for a happy ending.

Even nature descriptions are often gloomy, like:

The countryside, accustomed to low skies and drizzle, looked ill at ease in its Sunday best in the sunlight.
The A26, p.30

This first story reminded me a lot of the claustrophobic and insane ambiance of The Islanders. Even though the title (the same in French) refers to a major highway in France, the story has nothing to do with adventure. The only journey is one of revenge (related to some WWII events) and descent into madness for a brother and a sister. I won’t give you more details, this is a type of writing where you have to surrender.

Another type of suffering is present in the next novel, How’s the Pain? It opens with Simon preparing to hang himself in a hotel room, when Bernard enters. Then the whole book is a flashback on how the two men met and what happened to them. Again here, dramatic decisions have their root in some personal drama that took place a long time before.

The psyche of Garnier’s heroes has usually given up all hope of healing and redemption.

I would be really curious to know if something similar happened to him. I just know he died quite young, but I was never able to know the cause of his death***. I have the feeling that an author writing to noir content can hardly have had a rosy life himself.

As for the third novel, The Panda Theory, this is the weirdest of Garnier I have ever read so far, with a weird plot, weird images, and weird characters!

We meet again the theme of pain, and drunkenness to try in vain to alleviate it. I’m not sure what’s really going on in this one, but it seems that Gabriel’s revenge here is aimed at people who look happy. The story starts with a suicide, and apparently ends with another one.

You got it, this is not very uplifting! Nevertheless, Garnier’s writing is excellent and he has this unique gift at twisting things quickly around. I like his strong and bleak images, and will definitely be most happy to keep discovering his work (he wrote over 60 books) with the upcoming Gallic volumes.

VERDICT:  French noir at its best!

***Note on 5/31: The publisher just sent me the link to an amazing article on Pascal Garnier, published in April in Criminal Element. Read it, and you will have the answer to my question, and much more to better understand his writing.

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Author: Pascal Garnier
Translators: 
Melanie Florence, Emily Boyce & Svein Clouston
L’A26, Comment va la douleur?, La Théorie du panda
US publication: June 2018
by Gallic Books/Aardvark Bureau
ISBN: 9781910477588
exists also as ebook
Pages: 367
Genre:
Crime / fiction

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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book free of charge from the publisher.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

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