Jean-Patrick Manchette's 'neo-polar' noir
Jean-Patrick Manchette's 'neo-polar' noir

Jean-Patrick Manchette’s “The Mad and the Bad” (released last week by NYRB Classics: 164 pp., $14.95 paper) starts with a murder: A British hit man named Thompson stabs a pederast in the heart. Thompson has a bad stomach – “The cramps had him almost doubled over,” Manchette tells us – until he kills, at which point “hunger gnawed at him in the most repellent way.” Conscience? The need for redemption? Not in Manchette’s universe, where violence begins with what we do to ourselves. Nor should his victim’s predilection for children lull us into thinking Thompson has a sense of ethics; his next job, around which this...