Rating – 6/10
Simon & Schuster
Summary – This obscure, 1968 crime novel is a decent effort from Japrisot, but it’s not his best work.
Review – Ever since I found a dog-eared copy of Sebastien Japrisot’s Trap for Cinderella in a Georgia bookshop, I’ve been a fan of his work. While Japrisot’s novels are inconsistent, he has a terrific eye for detail and devises surprising plot twists.
The first thing to know about Goodbye, Friend is that it’s a “novelization” of a screenplay. Moreover, Japrisot apparently did only a minimal amount of re-writing. This means that the reader – at times – has to work unnecessarily hard. (More specifically, a screenwriter can count on the camera to add visual details for the viewer; a novelist must add these details for the reader and Japrisot did not do it).
The novel opens in Marseilles, where a group of French soldiers disembarks from a ship after leaving France’s war in Algeria. The protagonists are Franz Propp – a mercenary in France’s Foreign Legion and a small-time crook – and Dino Barran – a physician who receives his discharge as the book opens. While Franz is the more dashing character, it is Dino who emerges as the central figure.
As Dino walks down the dock, a young woman named Isabelle Moreau approaches him and asks if he is willing to do some medical work for her company in Paris. Though initially reluctant, Dino is intrigued and falls in with Isabelle – who soon reveals what she really wants from him. Franz, meanwhile, senses opportunity and keeps an eye on Dino.
Believe it or not, the novel is a cross between a “buddy” story and a meditation on whether there can be honor among thieves. While Dino and Franz dislike each other, they become bound by crime. At one point, the men are fighting, but suddenly find themselves separated; here, Japrisot writes –
“There is a kind of regret, an expression of solidarity in their eyes, which must surprise them both” (page 90).
In addition to the main story, Japrisot holds your interest with an arty opening, some nice twists, and vivid imagery.
In the end, I’m lukewarm on Goodbye, Friend. The narrative is in three, very uneven parts. The first section sets up the crime and baits the hook so that you want to keep reading. The second – the crime itself – is only fair, as it is overly long and surprisingly dull. The final section rebounds to bring the story to a fairly-satisfying end.
Goodbye, Friend is worth a look. It’s short, fairly interesting, and you can easily read it in one sitting (unless, like me, you have small children). But if you want to read something by Japrisot, I’d suggest that you start with either Trap for Cinderella or The Lady in the Car with the Glass and the Gun – they’re better novels.