The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator)

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The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator)

Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A tight little thriller, and an eminently readable one, although one that struggles at first with its own conceit, then shades into the realm of dodgy sexual politics.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: August 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo
ISBN: 9781782271963

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The Wicked Go to Hell… and so do the police, or they do in this tight little novel. Two men start life in a prison cell together, one with too much info for the cops to ignore, but who just won't spill the beans, and the other a policeman tasked with going into an unaccountable world, where he has to befriend the other, break them both out and thus flush Mr Big out into the open. Frank is the more petulant one, while Hal very quickly says the wounds on Frank's face are either fake or too conveniently on show – but which of the two is which man – which innocent, which guilty? And how long will that distinction last?

That's the puzzle of this book, but it is an awkwardly conveyed poser, in that from the off you're forced to concentrate on that one issue at the sake of everything else. With a snappy style, and short sentences of dialogue, often not completely attributed, it's hard to get a full grip on the two men's characters, making it hard to work your mind around the issue and enjoy the book to the full.

But then there are words along the lines of 'two weeks later…' and we're much more comfortable. By now the escape plan has been formed, and the story has its obligatory drive, thrusting us away from the who-is-who quandary towards high drama. Things are much more entertaining from here on out, and this is sustained until the end, with one further important caveat. It's hard to discuss without giving spoilers, but too much of the drama, while trying to question the morals or lack thereof for both our 'heroes', tries to be sultry and sassy but only ends up in making them lumpen, grunting blokes. It's as if Dard looked back at the beginning, saw the problem of it being A versus B, and went with those letters and not real people. We don't get rounded characters towards the end, but types, tropes and unappealing basic/base entities. It will cause problems for many.

Having said that, it is a surprise that Dard had the time to look back at what he had written as I suggest, for he knocked out a whopping 300 thrillers in his writing career, by some accounts. But look back at this he did – it started out as a play of his, that he adapted for the cinema, before changing it a lot to make this novel. The creative zest of the man must have been singularly eminent. A lot of this book has that same, slightly haphazard, pell-mell thrust, which is to its benefit in the end – despite my issues here and there this is a strong entertainment. I have it in the back of my mind that I read it decades ago, but this is a brand-new-for-2016 translation, and it's a great thing to have it newly on the shelves for people to discover.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

This same series also has his Bird in a Cage, which is a superior novel – to many, in fact.

Buy The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wicked Go to Hell by Frederic Dard and David Coward (translator) at Amazon.com.


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