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The Gravedigger’s Bread by Frédéric Dard trsl by Melanie Florence @PushkinPress

September 7, 2018

Source: Netgalley

Publication: 28 June 2018 from Pushkin Vertigo

Pp:160

ISBN-13: 978-1782272014

Blaise should never have hung around in that charmless little provincial town. The job offer that attracted him the first place had failed to materialize. He should have got on the first train back to Paris, but Fate decided otherwise.

A chance encounter with a beautiful blonde in the town post-office and Blaise is hooked – he realizes he’ll do anything to stay by her side, and soon finds himself working for her husband, a funeral director. But the tension in this strange love triangle begins to mount, and eventually results in a highly unorthodox burial…

I love this Pushkin Press venture in which they republish newly translated works of some of the greatest, most iconic crime fiction from around the world together with Pushkin Vertigo Originals which are exciting contemporary crime writing by some of today’s most accomplished authors.

Frédéric Dard is the master of French Noir and a great respecter of Simenon. The Gravedigger’s Bread is not a long novel, but it is beautifully written and wonderfully atmospheric.

Blaise is a bit of a wastrel. He’s been pushed into applying for a salesman’s job in a rubber factory in a small town outside Paris, but it is of no surprise to himself, or we suspect, anyone else that when he turns up to the factory he is too late and the job has been filled.

Blaise has, what in Scotland we would term ‘a guid conceit of himself’.  Too worldly to be drawn into provincial living, he has an eye for a striking lady, so much so that when he sees a  beautiful blonde, he will not stop himself from finding out where she lives.

What follows is a beautifully drawn slice of 1950’s French noir. Set in and around a funeral parlour Dard presents us with a ménage a trois in which there can only be one outcome.

Arrogant, cocky and just the tiniest bit insufferable, Blaise uses his masculinity to persuade the blonde that he is the right man for her, despite the fact that he has accepted a job with her husband.  There are interesting facets to all three of the characters and though they are all flawed, it is possible for the reader to find empathy with them all at different times.

.Tightly plotted, well executed and full of darkness in both the setting and the mood The Gravedigger’s Bread is a tense and oppressive domestic noir.

Verdict: A tale of lust, obsession and lies, this is a gem of a book which plays with human psychology and draws us into its claustrophobic heart,

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About Frédéric Dard

frederic dard

Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) was one of the best known and loved French crime writers of the twentieth century. Enormously prolific, he wrote hundreds of thrillers, suspense stories, plays and screenplays throughout his long and illustrious career.

As one of France’s most popular post-war thriller writers, it may come as no surprise that Dard’s own life was itself full of interesting facts and events.

As one of the most prolific French writers of the post-war era, Dard authored 284 thrillers over the course of his career and sold over 200 million copies of his work in France alone. The actual number of titles that can be attributed to him is somewhat under dispute as he adopted at least seventeen noms de plume, including the mysterious l’Ange Noir and the seemingly breakfast cereal inspired Cornel Milk.

One of Dard’s greatest influences was the renowned crime writer Georges Simenon. Over the course of Dard’s career, a mutual respect grew between the two writers and Simenon agreed to let Dard adapt one of his books for the stage.

Dard peppered his work with the numerous words and phrases that he loved to invent. Over the course of his career, he dreamt up so many new words and phrases that a San-Antonio Dictionary – named after his most famous protagonist – was created to catalogue them all.

Dard drew heavily on his own life’s experiences for inspiration to fuel his enormous output of three to five novels a year. In 1983, his daughter was kidnapped and held prisoner for 55 hours before being ransomed back to him for two million francs; he admitted that the experience traumatised him forever, but he used it as material for a later novel nonetheless. Toward the end of his life, he is reported to have remarked that his only regret was that he would not be able to write about his own death.

From → Crime

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