I’ve seen the work of French crime novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette discussed on the Yahoo group Rara-Avis but never read any of his books. I’d never even heard of French graphic novelist Jacques Tardi. So I came to WEST COAST BLUES, a graphic novel adaptation by Tardi of one of Manchette’s novels, with an open mind.
First of all, the title refers to the sort of jazz that’s referenced frequently in the novel, not the setting, since all the action takes place in France. The protagonist is George Gerfaut, a bored, burned-out sales executive who witnesses what appears to be an auto accident. However, a short time later a couple of professional killers begin stalking him, making an attempt on his life while he’s on vacation at the seashore with his family, and Gerfaut figures out that there must have been something more to the accident than he realized at the time. Out of a sense of self-preservation, he begins to investigate the incident, which of course puts him in even more danger.
The story really races along in this book, and although I had to wonder how an ordinary guy like Gerfaut was able to keep escaping from those supposedly competent hitmen, the pace is such that I didn’t question it too much. Gerfaut spends a lot of time brooding and isn’t a very likable hero, but I wound up rooting for him anyway. I didn’t care much for the art at first, either, but ultimately it works very well for the story. Overall, I liked WEST COAST BLUES quite a bit, enough so that it makes me want to search out Manchette’s novels that have been translated into English. If you enjoy hardboiled crime graphic novels, you should certainly give this one a try.