<JohnGabree.com (Some) Writing>

One Deadly Summer
by Sebastien Japrisot
Review by John Gabree

By now, we have become familiar with the elements of the Japrisot thriller: the Rashomon-like shifts in point of view; the heavy psychological bias; that pathologically passive women whose presence, like Lizbeth Scott's or Barbara Stanwyck's in '40s films noirs, stirs the darker sides of men; the humid sexual atmosphere; the transformation of the everyday world into a sinister nightmare. They have worked before -- in "The Sleeping Car Murders," "Trap for Cinderella" and "The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun" -- and they work again in "One Deadly Summer."

Eliane is beautiful, intelligent and probably crazy. The byproduct of a rape, she schemes revenge against her mother's three unidentified attackers. Although it is ingeniously plotted -- the finale is shocking and heartbreaking by turns -- the novel's greatest strength is its people. Eliane joins a Japrisot gallery of deeply alienated young women, acting on primal needs and desires. The principal narrator Fiorimondo Montecciori -- he is known as Ping-Pong -- and his brothers sweat, swear, work, love so realistically they continue to live in the mind long after the story is over. Even the minor characters, especially the brothers' deaf aunt, are startlingly alive.

Although he is the more elegant writer, Japrisot is very much like James M. Cain. Each is fascinated by the blind power of human passion. Their characters usually come from the lower classes, are suspicious of book learning, and think more often with their hearts or their genitals than with their brains. None of the characters is as dim as he first appears, but neither is any a genius. Japrisot also believes, with Georges Simenon, in the force of psychological determinism, though the younger writer is more circumstantial and specific.

I bring up Cain and Simenon not to suggest Japrisot is derivative but to entice readers who may not yet know of him. Japrisot is a writer of scope and originality who will appeal to readers not normally attracted to the crime/thriller category. "One Deadly Summer" is more like "The Postman Always Rings Twice" than like a police procedural or a spy story. The translation is a little awkward, preserving intact too many colloquialisms, though translator Alan Sheriden has caught perfectly the tone and mood of musky premonition. "One Deadly Summer" is fascinating, touching and chillingly real. (1981)



<home> - <bio> - <creativity> - <links> - <writing>

I accept payment through PayPal!, the #1 online payment service!