Sunday, March 07, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 32 (3/7) -- West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi

The book cover credits this to Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette, who wrote the original novel (Le Petit Blue de la Cote Ouest) that Tardi adapted for the graphic novel. However, since Tardi didn't start work on this project until nearly a decade after Manchette was dead, I tend to think of it as a straight adaptation rather than as a collaboration. (Not that my opinion should overrule the author's or publisher's....)

West Coast Blues is a noirish crime story, in which George Gerfaut, a salesman in his late '30s, accidentally stumbles into a dangerous world and ends up on the run. It's told in a stripped-down, matter-of-fact style reminiscent of David Goodis; the length of the adaptation (barely seventy pages) also adds to the terseness, as scenes follow each other quickly and occasionally confusingly (as, for example, the vast bulk of the book is an extended flashback). At the same time, Tardi has extensive captions, which seem to be taken straight from the third-person narration of Manchette's novel.

The plot of West Coast Blues is nearly as aimless and random as the act that landed Gerfaut in the sights of a couple of mobsters -- things happen to him, and he reacts by running, repeatedly. He's never running to anything, or otherwise showing much initiative; Gerfaut is pretty good at staying alive, but we don't otherwise see him having much in the way of skills or abilities. He falls into danger, stumbles around in that danger for a while, and then manages to get out the other side, more or less the same.

Tardi's art, though, is clear and expressive, with odd hints of humor around the edges -- particularly when the comic characters that one of the mobsters likes to read about come to life and talk to him. West Coast Blues might be an off-kilter story of insufficiently motivated violence and random ennui, but it's a gorgeous-looking one.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Lowfish - Things Fall Apart
via FoxyTunes

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