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Garnier masters multidimensional manipulation

Gallic Books in London has translated another of Pascal Garnier’s little gems of noir fiction entitled Moon in a Dead Eye. It is a wonderfully eerie and darkly humorous account of the first couple and the two following residents who move into a gated retirement community depressingly under construction near nothing or nobody needing to be gated out.

The cheaply paved, uniformly beige stucco dominating every sightline, and the newly opened leisure center commanded by an ex-hippie waitress is, in Garnier’s hands, like a Hasbro board game: Tokens of pretend value are moved around according to invented rules as people do one thing or another, with outcomes more bizarre as the dice and life roll on.

Fiction written by Garnier is a multidimensional manipulation that worries every synapse of a reader’s entrenched habits of engagement because unreal people and events seem so real and innocent.

It’s so very simple, nearly simplistic, but in no time at all, we’re into this world that Garnier creates while we weren’t paying attention – a world that’s even more confounding than our own, and that we too easily imagine ourselves in and do indeed find ourselves in just about the same time we realize our feet are cold and our breathing became shallow.

Garnier is deceased now, so we can think about his enigmatic style as extinct. In fact, Moon in a Dead Eye and his most recent translation, The Front Seat Passenger releasing this month, have been published posthumously, and we won’t see any more of the shell games Garnier is so gifted at.

Garnier and his predecessor Georges Simenon created – singularly and taken together – an oeuvre that changed the face of fiction on the continent and soon after in the U.S.

All of our early hard-case crime fiction was informed by Simenon and Garnier, where nobody wins, and everyone gets what he didn’t want but clearly deserved. These men institutionalized the antihero and dared the reader not to have affection for him.

The Front Seat Passenger is about a man in a quarreling marriage who loses his wife to a gruesome auto accident where the driver of the car, he later learns, was his wife’s lover. Just imagine the subtleties to explore in an intrigue like this.

The man begins to stalk the widow of his dead wife’s dead lover with an ill-conceived idea of revenge for being cheated on and personal retribution for not caring that his wife is dead.

This is the stuff of novels, as pure as it gets. Garnier writes noir at 99 percent pure, and it can’t fail to test your understanding of fiction and make you a better, smarter reader. It’s brilliant stuff.

Both of these books are short – 150 pages – and like dark chocolate. Too much dark chocolate or too much noir fiction this pure is pernicious. Go to Maria’s and buy these two books. They cost barely more than 10 bucks apiece, and they’re keepers.

Jeff@jeffMannix.com. Jeff Mannix is a local journalist and author.

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