Sunday, November 13, 2005

Book: Total Chaos, by Jean-Claude Izzo (1995)

I bought this book on impulse because it’s a handsome object. Europa Editions did a bang-up job. I’d never heard of Izzo before – this marks his first American publication – but the jacket copy made the novel sound right up my alley.

When I finished it, I almost turned to page one to start over. I haven’t been tempted to do that since I read my first Lawrence Block novel, EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, in a single sitting on a lazy high school afternoon.

Police detective Fabio Montale grew up on the mean streets of Marseilles. His two closest friends never really left them behind. When they’re both killed, only Fabio is left to seek justice, even if it means going outside the law: “I wasn’t thinking like a cop. I was being swept along by my lost youth. All my dreams belonged to that part of my life. If I still had a future, that was the way I had to return.”

There’s a satisfyingly twisty plot, but it’s practically beside the point. Izzo’s descriptions of Marseilles make the city the book’s protagonist. Or they would, if Montale weren’t so vital a guide. CHAOS veers between that uniquely Gallic brand of romantic fatalism and a desperate sensuality. There’s even a touch of the prophetic about it, considering that much of the action unfolds in the largely Arabic slums around the city that have been in the news lately.

When I closed the book I knew that I’d want to return to its world. Izzo died in 2000, but CHAOS is the first book in a trilogy. Europa plans to publish the next two installments in 2007. (Before that, they’ll be bringing out a new edition of Patrick Hamilton’s suspense classic HANGOVER SQUARE.) A quick check of the IMDb reveals that there’s a movie version of CHAOS, as well as a TV series based on the entire trilogy with the great Alain Delon as Montale. Only problem: they’re not available in the U.S. yet.

2007 is a long ways off. I may have to read CHAOS again. It’s simply that good.

Movie: Last Best Chance (2005)

This short film about atomic terrorism, made with the support of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, is playing on HBO. Going for that scary “it could happen here” vibe, it casts politician-turned-actor-turned-politician-turned-actor Fred Dalton Thompson as the President of the United States. But the most frightening thing about it is the prospect of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE’s Uncle Rico as National Security Advisor.

Miscellaneous: Links

A terrific interview with KISS KISS BANG BANG auteur Shane Black. And Dave Kehr remembers the late character actress Sheree J. North.