by Jacques Tardi, adapting a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette
I am always up for a Jacques Tardi graphic novel, and got a lot of enjoyment out of reading West Coast Blues, the translation of his book adapting the novel Le Petit Bleu de la Côte Ouest, which was originally released in 1976.
The story is about George Gerfaut, a salesman who one night, while driving around Paris aimlessly and a little drunkenly, sees two cars speed past him, as if they are chasing one another. He follows, and soon finds one of the cars wrapped around a tree. The driver is injured, so Gerfaut takes him to the hospital, and then leaves him there.
Later, when Gerfaut and his family go to the coast for a holiday, two men try to kill Gerfaut in the water. He manages to escape them, but his nerves are shot, and he begins to believe that someone is looking to kill him because he helped that injured driver.
It's not paranoia, though, when you're right. Gerfaut leaves his family and returns to Paris, trying to decide what to do. The two men, Carlo and Bastien are hired killers, employed by Emerich. They begin following Gerfaut, who becomes more and more desperate to escape them, even going so far as to get a gun for protection.
An encounter between the men at a gas station on a lonely stretch of road leads to some killing, and Gerfaut's being completely lost in the wilderness. He decides to abandon his former life and begin living as a hermit, but it's not all that long before he's back in Paris seeking his own personal freedom from Emerich's attention.
This is a well-written noir story, and Tardi does a great job of pacing it, and showing difficult things in beautiful settings. I like the way Tardi (or Manchette) constantly let us know what music the protagonist is listening to, providing a bit of a soundtrack to the book throughout.
The pacing of this story is very different from what one would find in an American thriller, but that's a big part of what makes it work, since it's harder to predict. In all, another very solid (and well-designed) Tardi comic from Fantagraphics.