Acquired for 2 Swiss Francs yesterday at the flea market. Given the extremely variable quality of the series, I am trying a new approach: I looked for...moreAcquired for 2 Swiss Francs yesterday at the flea market. Given the extremely variable quality of the series, I am trying a new approach: I looked for the book whose serial number was closest to one I knew to be good, hoping I'd catch the same author a second time. This one is only five places off the excellent Les Amants de Singapour. I will post in due course and say if it worked. ________________________________________
I think I did get the same author! This was another success, and she is a real sweetie. Given that she's been given the job of writing a tacky, exploitative erotic thriller, I was impressed how she managed to make it interesting, funny, and, dammit all, just plain nice. Well done!
In this one, Brigitte, Mémé's wild-child niece and god-daughter, whom we last met in Le Harem de Marrakesh, has resurfaced in San Francisco. She's working as a telephone sex operator and has acquired a crazed stalker who's just tried to kill her in an extremely unpleasant way. Scared out of her wits, she calls Uncle Mémé and his hunky partner Boris to come and rescue her, and within hours the two knights in shining armor are on the plane. She and Boris were romantically involved in the previous book, and they're only too happy to pick up where they left off.
There were many touches I approved of. The author deals sensitively with the fact that Brigitte has feelings for Boris; she suggests that they get more seriously involved, but Boris just isn't physically capable of fidelity, and he tells her so in a kind and caring manner. Brigitte asks him what he would do if she ever turned up in Paris unexpectedly. "I guess pretty much what we're doing now," he replies, without even thinking. As you can see, a principled polyamorist.
The author is clearly homophobic by nature and finds gays repugnant; but she is well aware that this is wrong, and does her level best to be as positive as she can. Hammer, the crooked SF police officer who's been put on the case, is gay and a regular sleazeball, but he's counterbalanced by Jean-Christophe, a tragic and rather sympathetic figure who's dying of AIDS and ends up sacrificing what's left of his life to try and save Brigitte from the killer. Hackneyed, yes, but the author's heart is in the right place.
My special prize went to the obligatory hard-core porn scene, a graphic double penetration which went on for several pages and was almost totally irrelevant to the plot. With considerable ingenuity, the author situated the action in the rare books section of the college library, with shocked asides about the damage they were causing to the musty volumes on the shelves around them. Kids, don't try this at home! I almost forgot who was doing what to whom, I was so worried about the library's priceless treasures.
Bravo, Mademoiselle Whoever-you-were! I hope your stay with La Brigade Mondaine was pleasant, and that you went on to better things. If only I knew what they were, I'd read your serious books. But meanwhile, I'll look out for further Brigade Mondaine volumes in the early to mid 50s.(less)
In response to innumerable queries from MJ and other people, this cheap, tacky PDF edition is now available to people who want to post sarcastic revie...moreIn response to innumerable queries from MJ and other people, this cheap, tacky PDF edition is now available to people who want to post sarcastic reviews without substantially affecting their bank balance.
"... a waste of time... you can read all that stuff for free online" - Paul B
"The future is an endless oneupmanship to see who can write the wittiest, most popular 200-word capsule review on fuck-all. This is Manny’s fault." - MJ
"... call it Rue Vomitorium" - David C
"... good if you read it in the original failboatese" - Vote Whore
"... almost... funny" - Traveller
"Will you enjoy this? In a word, no, unless you are a masochist" - Sean D
"Never in my life I seen a more desperate attempt to get votes" - Alfonso
"... advertising..." - Esteban
"If I'd been drinking I think it could have made me seasick" - Tabitha
"The thing about Manny... he almost never throws feces at random strangers." - Kat
"... explicit ... the author has failed ..." - Scribble
"... rattling a virtual tip jar at every opportunity ..." - Jason P
"Manny, you sure are fascinated with Stephenie Meyer" - Rowena M
"GoodReads in-jokes ... off-putting ..." - Cecily
"... book snob ... insecurity ... stupid ..." - midnightfaerie
"... enough..." - Alan B __________________________________
Over the last couple of years, several kind people have asked whether I'd considered publishing a collection of my best reviews. I always replied that I appreciated the suggestion, but it didn't seem like a sensible thing to do. But, a few weeks ago, I started wondering whether I shouldn't give it a shot after all. If Goodreads unexpectedly folded up - these things happen - it would be so annoying to lose my writing. Self-publishing has become cheap and easy. And I've got a fair amount of experience with type-setting. How much work could it be to implement a few scripts to turn HTML into LaTeX and then upload a PDF file to Lulu?
Well, it's never quite as straightforward as you think, but here is the result. For the benefit of other people who may feel tempted to do the same thing, let me give you the key lessons I've learned from this little adventure:
1. Sign up an editor and some readers. No author can be objective about their own work; they need keen external eyes to tell them both what's good and what's bad about it. It was fortunate for me that notgettingenough, who has long-term experience with publishing, took an early interest in the project and was willing to act as editor. She ruthlessly corrected several of my dumber ideas, forced me to think about issues I'd happily have ignored, and made sure that the book was produced to professional standards. My advisory committee - BirdBrian, Mariel and Ian - read through the manuscript and gave me encouragement and helpful suggestions. They convinced me that it was worth continuing and taking the time required to make it look good. Thank you, guys! You have all been so thoughtful and patient, and I greatly appreciate it!
2. Think carefully about which reviews to include. Not groaned over my initial selection, which probably took an hour to do and had no structure whatsoever. She encouraged me to group the reviews by style and type of book, after which I saw that some things were grossly overrepresented. Even if bashing Twilight is the Goodreads national sport, I didn't need this many examples of the genre. And much as I love writing about Flaubert, Proust, Wittgenstein and Kasparov, it's likely that the average reader will not share my enthusiasms to the same degree.
3. Acquire at least a smattering of knowledge regarding copyright. As I now understand it, most quoted text that might appear in a Goodreads review should be covered by the rules on Fair Use. I found the following passage from this page helpful:
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied..."
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that copyrighted images are generally not easy to include: the problem is that you'll be using the whole image, rather than just an illustrative part of it. Martha, my talented cover artist, had put together the following very attractive cover:
But, alas, the Estate of E.H. Shepherd thought this was an "inappropriate" use of Pooh Bear's image and politely but firmly refused to grant me permission. I didn't even get that far with Penguin (Jemima Puddle-Duck) or Gallimard (the Little Prince), who still haven't given me any clear answers. Not, in her capacity as excutive editor, made the sensible but painful decision to go for a simpler solution.
So there have been a few rough moments, but all in all I found this an interesting and rewarding experience. And now, I hardly need add, I'm curious to see if anyone is going to buy it! It's available from this Lulu page.(less)
It goes without saying that this series is unadulterated trash, but every now and then you find a surprisingly good episode. For the first 60 pages, I...moreIt goes without saying that this series is unadulterated trash, but every now and then you find a surprisingly good episode. For the first 60 pages, I was hoping that Hôtesse speciale pour jet privé was going to be one of those pearls. The author was having fun, not just grimly turning it out to make the deadline, and the opening sequence was sufficiently bizarre that it got my attention. The sleazy boss of the French multinational media company is throwing an end-of-year sex party for his closest associates, with the help of an airline called Seventh Heaven who provide charter jets with attractive, willing flight attendants of both sexes. The orgy is in full swing somewhere over the English Channel, but then an unexpected event destroys the ambiance. The director has just been given an unusually fine blowjob when the girl suddenly collapses and dies. She's had a massive heart attack, and the reader wonders if it didn't have something to do with the odd lipstick she insisted on putting on just before she started. The director panics and bribes the pilot to reduce speed and height so that he can dump the corpse in the water. "Who's ever going to know?" he asks. No one dares oppose him.
But, of course, the body is discovered and Boris is rapidly called in to investigate. It turns out that the cause of death is highly unusual: a rare poison sometimes used for covert assassinations, which starts a delayed reaction with male hormones to clot the blood and cause a fatal heart attack after a period of exactly seven days. This time, however, the assassin was the first victim, because she was really a transsexual. The mixture of male and female hormones in her blood meant the substance acted much more quickly.
Alas... the author can't build on this fine start and it rapidly goes downhill, with one bizarre and improbable plot twist following another and the obligatory sex scenes becoming increasingly irrelevant to the story. It's harder than you might imagine to write a good dirty book. Even so, it was fun, and I finished it in a couple of days. If anyone else feels like improving their French vocabulary, let me know and I'll be happy to pass it on to you! (less)
After a while, the story began to seem strangely familiar - an attractive but not overly bright young woman is seduced by a hunky guy with a red moust...more
After a while, the story began to seem strangely familiar - an attractive but not overly bright young woman is seduced by a hunky guy with a red moustache, who persuades her to accompany him to a romantic rendezvous in a secluded spot. Luckily, the dogged Boris Corentin is hot on his trail. But, rather than risk dropping any more spoilers, let me present Chapter 1 of my own version...
La Puddle-Duck Jémima
Naked, Jémima swam to the bank and, in one sinuous motion, emerged from the water. She stood for a moment and gazed at the reflection mirrored in the pond's smooth surface.
The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)
In J.P. Donleavy's The Unexpurgated Code, one of the best sections covers correct etiquette when visiting prostitutes. Deadpan as ever, Donleavy tell...moreIn J.P. Donleavy's The Unexpurgated Code, one of the best sections covers correct etiquette when visiting prostitutes. Deadpan as ever, Donleavy tells you, among other things, to agree on terms and services before any stripping occurs. He advises you to drive a firm, hard bargain. "And never accept a tired, bored, couldn't-care-less attitude," he concludes, "even if you are madame's forty-fourth client that day."
I'm afraid I find Donleavy's advice very funny. The reason it's funny, I think, is that Donleavy is saying something that at root is true: even if you have an appalling job, you should try and do it professionally and to the best of your ability. Now, I'm not literally arguing that prostitutes should do their best to please their clients - Donleavy's humour, as usual, depends on comic exaggeration - but if you have a slightly less horrible job, like ghost-writing Brigade Mondaine novels, then I definitely agree with him.
Having read over 20 titles in the series, I find it fascinating to compare the approaches used by different authors. Quite a few of the books, for example Les Amants de Singapour, La Griffe de l'Ange or La Justicière de Strasbourg are written by people who weren't too proud to take their job seriously. They've succeeded in producing entertaining trash novels, where there's a coherent story and the inevitable lashings of explicit sex are in most cases at least marginally relevant. To these people, I say: Chapeau! I raise my hat to you. I hope you enjoyed your time at the Brigade Mondaine stable as much as you could, learned something from it, and went on to better things.
And then you have authors like the one who wrote Les Taxis de l'Amour. By the time I was halfway through, I already hated him. (I'm pretty sure it's a him). Yes, Monsieur, I'm aware that you think you're too good for Brigade Mondaine and that you're wasting your talents here. I can see that you wanted to write a stylish snow-noir à la Fargo, with references to Utrillo's White Period and long, elegant literary sentences. (By the way: your long sentences aren't nearly as elegant as you seem to believe).
And then you think, oh yeah, gotta put in some sex to fulfill the terms of my contract, and you just slap it on any old how, without worrying if it makes sense or has anything to do with the story. The jealous wife turns up to murder the Russian actress who's sleeping with her husband and you randomly add some lesbian action, even though it's completely nonsensical and the wife isn't depicted as being bisexual anywhere else. Devoted father-of-three Mémé, who on top of everything else is suffering from a heavy cold, arrives at a brothel to follow up a lead, and you have him fuck the hot waitress because hey, why not, we haven't had any sex for ten pages. Monsieur Smarty-Pants Would-Be-Auteur: are you aware that not one single sex scene is in any way relevant to the plot? You could cut them all out and no one would notice. I'd like to hope that you're ashamed of yourself, but you probably don't even think it's important.
Gaaagh. It's people like this that give French intellectuals a bad name. Thank God there are still a few decent craftsmen left who don't think it's beneath them to turn out a competently written dirty book without whining. Keep up the good work, and never for one moment think your readers can't tell the difference. We can. You guys are terrific. (less)
As nearly everyone said about Sex And The City 2, it was a terrible mistake to move the girls from New York to Abu Dhabi. The same goes for this book,...moreAs nearly everyone said about Sex And The City 2, it was a terrible mistake to move the girls from New York to Abu Dhabi. The same goes for this book, where Boris and Aimé have left their beloved France and set out for - of all bizarre places - Nome, Alaska. A bunch of naked, dead French girls have been discovered in a remote glacier, and Charlie Badolini wants them to investigate.
I'm running out of space on my bookshelf again, so if any lover of francophone trash wants this I'll be delighted to send it to them. In the case of multiple requests, preference will be given to Alaskans. You'll almost certainly laugh a few times at the ludicrous depictions of life in your home state.
Just a short note to say that I read your book, and it wasn't bad at all. You're so much better than your predecesso...moreChère New Brigade Mondaine Author,
Just a short note to say that I read your book, and it wasn't bad at all. You're so much better than your predecessor that it's not even appropriate to compare you.
Given the constraint that you had to produce a Brigade Mondaine novel, I thought you did a fantastic job. I admire your courage in subverting the formula to this extent. The little nods to Ruth Rendell and the Coen brothers were nice, and, even if the ending was slightly too clearly based on Psycho, you pulled it off. You obviously wrote it quickly, but it's stylistically quite okay.
I was impressed with the brutal way you chopped out the gratuitous sex. Absolutely right not to let Boris get any - he's too old to keep on bedding these panting 20-somethings, it was becoming distasteful. But my special prize went to the sequence where Florence is bi-curious. I was 100% sure we'd receive a detailed description of what happened when she went back to Adèle's place. To my astonishment, no! You made her decide that, in fact, she wasn't a lesbian after all. Lady (I assume you're female from the sympathetic way you describe the women), you're a class act.
I hope you don't stay around Brigade Mondaine too long, I don't really think it's good for you. Get what you can out of it and move on, that's my advice. You have talent, and I think you're headed for better things.
I wish I knew your name. When your first real novel comes out, I'd like to read it.
PS That cover. I guess there wasn't much you could do to stop them. Sorry.
PPS I suddenly wondered: maybe you're the female half of the team who wrote Accro Au Plaisir, and you finally managed to ditch your appalling male colleague? If so, congratulations! I hope he took it really badly and is now unemployed and living in an unpleasant suburb of Paris where there's a great deal of racial violence.
With the best will in the world, I can't say I liked the book. The quality of the Brigade Mondaine series is highly variable, and this one was towards...moreWith the best will in the world, I can't say I liked the book. The quality of the Brigade Mondaine series is highly variable, and this one was towards the lower end of the scale. I suppose my suspicions should have been triggered when I noticed that there was a misprint in the cover title. (The spine says "L'AUTOROUTE DU CYBERXEXE" - the copy editor didn't spot that an "S" had accidentally been replaced by an "X"). That's quite rare even for a French trash novel.
But it feels so negative just to criticize it. I'm sure the authors tried; they were probably having an off day or something. And I'd like to stress that this is quite the most accomplished novel I've ever read which features a car whose hood ornament is a dildo containing a webcam. Please don't immediately burst my bubble and point me to a better one. I'm trying to be nice here. (less)
My kids were born slightly too early to become fans of the Tellytubbies, and I never really got to know Tinky Winky and the gang. The depths of my ign...moreMy kids were born slightly too early to become fans of the Tellytubbies, and I never really got to know Tinky Winky and the gang. The depths of my ignorance are revealed by the fact that I had to look up the spelling; imagine not being able to spell "Tinky Winky". But I did observe them occasionally from a distance, and now and then I would read an article about life in the Tubbytronic Superdome. It's always impressive when people who have been very successful are able to quit while they're ahead, and I was duly impressed when the Tellytubbies wound up their operation. I expected that their fans would be begging them to return. In fact, it turned out that the decision to stop making new episodes was driven by a hard-headed calculation. Tellytubbies only appeal to very small children, who can't absorb more than a certain number of episodes a month. The producers calculated that they had made enough to last a normal child until they had outgrown them; at that point, one could just begin the cycle again, with a new audience. I couldn't fault the logic.
Which brings us to Les Amants de Singapour, and the Brigade Mondaine series in general. In its heyday (see my review of Le Monstre d'Orgeval for general background), Brigade Mondaine was inspired trash. You could almost feel at times that you were being entertained by Scheherazade's less talented and sluttier sister; all you had to do was pick up one of the books, and you'd get a pleasantly deranged mixture of sex and violence, which somehow still managed to come across as, I don't quite know how, basically nice. Good was rewarded, evil punished, and, despite all the girls he bedded, you could see that Boris was at heart a kind and well-meaning person. The person or people writing them had some talent. But the quality started to slide, and, by the time I read Accro au Plaisir a year or so ago, all the fun was gone. They were just nasty and distasteful bits of porn. I decided I was finished with Brigade Mondaine.
However, looking at the Geneva airport bookstall yesterday evening, I saw there was no new Brigade Mondaine on sale; instead, they had a reissue of a volume that had originally appeared in the early 80s. It seemed that they had come to the same conclusion as the producers of the Tellytubbies. There are now almost 300 Brigade Mondaine titles; even if you consistently read one a month, a ludicrously high rate of consumption, that would last 25 years. So I hope that they're going to do the sensible thing, and restart the cycle. If we're lucky, they'll even focus on the best ones.
I read about a quarter of it on the plane before I started feeling sleepy, and so far it's great. Boris and Ghislaine have gone off to spend a couple of weeks in Singapore, staying at the upmarket Shangri-La hotel. As usual, it opens in media res: Ghislaine is walking around the room wearing nothing but a miniscule pair of lace panties, and the reader is given a good chance to ogle her. But Boris is doing no such thing; he's reading the copy of Lost Horizon that's provided free to each guest. I love the irrelevant little bits of information that they always managed to feed you. Ghislaine hates being ignored, and her mood doesn't improve when the gorgeous Malaysian waitress (you can see her on the cover) flirts outrageously with Boris all through dinner. Suddenly, they're in the middle of a huge fight. This ends with Boris going off with the waitress, while Ghislaine allows herself to be picked up by the cute guy who's been staring at her all evening.
But, the next day, Boris goes back to their room, and Ghislaine's disappeared! It gradually becomes clear that she's been kidnapped. There's been a misunderstanding; it turns out that Boris looks remarkably like the famous movie star "Allan Dilone" (I suppose they changed the name slightly for legal reasons), and, um, the Triads or something have decided that M. Dilone ought to be willing to pay a million dollars to get his girlfriend back in one piece. I'm sure I'll find out in due course. And where do the snakes come in? If they can just stick to their new policy, I think I'll start reading this wonderfully silly series again!
About half-way through. I strongly suspect that this one was written by a woman. The female characters are described very sympathetically, and, in the one explicit sex scene we've had so far, Ghislaine has to go down on one of the bad guys, who moreover insists on her doing the job properly. It's described as comme engloutir un oursin, ("like swallowing a sea-urchin"), a remarkably circumstantial description for this kind of book. Then, a chapter or two later, we get detailed advice on how best to sew on a missing button.
OK, not quite conclusive yet, but I'm convinced...
Finished. Definitely one of the best books I've read in this series! My favorite scene was about three-quarters of the way though. For various complicated reasons, Boris has to impersonate the real Alain Delon at a press conference - it's all part of his clever plan to rescue Ghislaine, who's still in the hands of the bad Chinese guys and being threatened with death by poisonous water-snake. Aleha, the cute Malaysian waitress that Boris has been carrying on with, fixes his hair and make-up so that he'll look as much as possible like the star. But then it's suddenly all too much for her:
Il racrocha et se leva.
- Aleha! fit-il, remué. Tu pleures!
Il s'avança vers elle et la prit dans ses bras.
- Pardonne-moi, Boris, Boris, je suis idiote, ça a été plus fort que moi. Tu comprends, tu bats pour sauver une autre femme et c'est moi qui t'aide.
Il lui caressa la tempe avec affection.
- C'est une amie, tu sais, rien de plus, mais elle est en danger. Ce n'est pas normal d'essayer d'aider les amis?
Elle se haussa sur ses talons et voulut lui attraper les lèvres avec les siennes, mais s'interrompit net:
- Ah, non, ton maquillage...
Elle redoubla de larmes.
- Tu vois, je ne peux même pas t'embrasser.
Poor Aleha, I really felt for her. And even though Boris and Ghislaine have a very free and open relationship, I didn't think that, for once, he was being entirely straightforward. "Une amie, rien de plus" was somewhat disingenuous. I hope he was at least telling the truth when he said he would never forget her. Well, as we're often told, Boris has an exceptionally retentive memory...
Another bizarre adventure in the Brigade Mondaine series. The Evil Doctor has operated on the attractive female patient, and she's still out cold. "Sh...moreAnother bizarre adventure in the Brigade Mondaine series. The Evil Doctor has operated on the attractive female patient, and she's still out cold. "She looks exactly like La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty)!" he says to his sleazy sidekick. And within minutes they're taking advantage of the lady's unconscious condition.
Soon afterwards, he tells his friends about the incident, and they start arranging parties. They pick a suitable patient, and give her a little more anesthetic than usual. Then they all go and put on their Prince Charming costumes (hence the title of the book), and have their wicked way with her. But, needless to say, something eventually goes wrong, and Boris is called in.
I think the unnamed franchise author was getting a bit bored, and wondering how far he could go before they fired him...
Notgettingenough was just telling me about the controversial new movie Sleeping Beauty, when it suddenly occurred to me that the basic premise sounded familiar. I don't want to start speculating unduly, but could director Julia Leigh have ripped off the idea from this Brigade Mondaine novel? Remember you read it here first.(less)
One of the hardest things about reviewing is that sometimes you find yourself writing what you believe you're supposed to feel, rather what what you a...moreOne of the hardest things about reviewing is that sometimes you find yourself writing what you believe you're supposed to feel, rather what what you actually do feel. This book is a good example. There's a central point in the later Brigade Mondaine series that I've been carefully skirting around in my reviews, because I couldn't bring myself to say publicly what I knew I felt in my heart. But I've decided to come clean. I don't think Géraldine was a good idea.
There! I've said it. I feel better already. I know, it just sounds so crazy. And don't misunderstand me, I love her character. Given the general nature of the series, who could possibly not love this adorably zany wise-cracking lesbian redhead? But... the very things that make me like her are also the problem. For example, it was extremely amusing when she and Boris were both interested in the same bisexual chick, and she won. The scene where the two of them made out was satisfactorily hot. The thing is... I don't know how to say this without coming across as an unreconstructed male chauvinist pig... the thing is that it was just wrong for her to upstage Boris like that.
Let me try an analogy. Suppose this were a Sherlock Holmes story. How would you feel if Conan Doyle added a new detective, as a regular member of the team, and had him, time and again, figure things out before Holmes did? And worse, if he gave him some quirky personal touches that started to make Holmes's violin and cocaine seem a little dull and passé? You'd be shocked, right? Because when you read a Sherlock Holmes story, you expect Holmes to star, and Watson to support, and everyone else to miss the point completely. This new detective would just screw everything up, and the better he was the worse you'd feel.
Well, that's where I am with Géraldine. I have nothing against her. I have nothing against hot lesbians, or women in general. Quite the opposite! It's just that she's muscling in on Boris's turf, and she shouldn't do that. The mere fact that I'm feeling sorry for Boris is more than I can bear. So, Géraldine, let me put this as nicely as I can. You're a terrific chick. You're so good that you can carry your own series, and attract a loyal fan base. Just hand in your resignation tomorrow, give Boris a big wet ambiguous kiss (you know you have feelings for him, you're not fooling anyone), and go out to show you can cut it on your own. It's the right thing to do, and you won't regret it. Just let the Brigade Mondaine series get back to what it used to be, and I'll buy their books and yours too. That's my best offer, and I hope you'll think seriously about it. And now I need a large pastis.
The premise for this book is about as ridiculous as usual for a Brigade Mondaine. A mad English scientist (les anglais!) has developed some kind of po...moreThe premise for this book is about as ridiculous as usual for a Brigade Mondaine. A mad English scientist (les anglais!) has developed some kind of potion or gene therapy or something that can transform people into their Neanderthal ancestors. Well, since I don't think that homo sapiens is actually descended from Neanderthal man, that can't be quite correct, but let's not quibble about details. The important thing is that, as everyone knows, Neanderthals were sexually very active. So when he injects his serum into some hot young women, things start working out the way they usually do in these novels.
Boris and Aimé (see my review of Le Monstre d'Orgeval for background) are soon on the trail of the mysteriously disappeared victims. But here's the sad part, that I at first could scarcely believe. Poor Boris is so busy tracking down the mad English scientist and his Stone-Age orgies that he, himself, never manages to get laid throughout the whole course of the book! I was shocked, and really worried for him. It was a clear sign that all was not well with the series.
Maybe they fired their good writer shortly before this book came out. I hope he (or, for all I know, she) comes out with an erotic roman à clé some time, in which all the characters are based on his or her former colleagues. It would serve them right, and I'd buy it in a flash. Even in hardback. Are you out there, former star Brigade Mondaine author? I'm talking to YOU!
Jordan complained that Choupette's review was in French, so she still didn't know what this book was about. Here's most of what I can remember...
Anoth...moreJordan complained that Choupette's review was in French, so she still didn't know what this book was about. Here's most of what I can remember...
Another sublimely ridiculous story in the Brigade Mondaine series (see Le Monstre d'Orgeval for general background). The book opens with the down-on-her luck chick accepting a pretty dubious offer to star in an erotic movie. More, I think, by misfortune than by design, she ends up getting herself killed during filming. The director now has a snuff movie on his hands, not to mention a fresh corpse. He dumps the body somewhere in the mountains... if I recall correctly, in a glacier, but then how could it be found just a few months later? In Ian Fleming's short story Octopussy, where a similar trick is used, the stiff doesn't surface again for 15 years. Well, the important thing with Brigade Mondaine is not to fixate on the details. Probably global warming is to blame, or something like that.
Boris and Mémé somehow connect the corpse and the snuff movie, and get to work. The movie's decor looks strangely familiar, but they can't place it... until, breakthrough! Mémé's twin daughters are huge fans of a TV series which features a lot of attractive young teenagers hanging around in the South of France. The movie appears to have been made on one of the sets used in the TV series! So Boris has to go and interview a bunch of hot young teenage starlets, with the usual consequences. Just in case anyone feels queasy about him having sex with girls who are half his age and barely legal, I believe a couple of them virtually rape him... it was all their idea, you see, so that's alright then.
There's another twist later on. But wild horses, or hordes of bikini-clad teenage nymphomaniacs, could not persuade me to reveal what it is!
To adapt one of Roger Ebert's best phrases, this book gives you everything you could reasonably expect, given of course that it's not reasonable to ex...moreTo adapt one of Roger Ebert's best phrases, this book gives you everything you could reasonably expect, given of course that it's not reasonable to expect very much. It opens in media res with the guy humping the hot chick we see top right. By page two, the dog has turned up. A bit later, there's something about using mirrors to cause cars to crash on mountain roads (a trick the A.F.R. use in Infinite Jest, though I think this book was written before Jest was published). I sent my copy to Choupette, so she'll have to post a review if people want more details!
PS In case you're wondering what the title means, mante religieuse is "praying mantis". (less)
This book has one of the most outrageously ridiculous plots I have ever seen. A porn magnate transparently based on Larry Flynt rapes an attractive yo...moreThis book has one of the most outrageously ridiculous plots I have ever seen. A porn magnate transparently based on Larry Flynt rapes an attractive young female journalist who's come to interview him. Well, sort of... she more than slightly provokes him by offering him a very foolish bet. Afterwards, while he's asleep, she takes a razor out of his bathroom closet and gives him the Lorena Bobbit treatment, then runs out of the hotel carrying the missing piece of his jigsaw. She packs it in ice and gives it to a friend to look after. Pretty soon, a gang of militant lesbians find out what's happened, and join in the hunt for the "missing trophy" of the title. I can't quite remember what happened next... but in case you're worried about Larry Flynt/John Wayne Bobbit, by the end of the book he's back in one piece.
The Brigade Mondaine series used to be insanely entertaining! Such a shame that it has since declined. (less)
Many of the Brigade Mondaine novels are fun, and a few even manage to be vaguely uplifting. But the bad ones are horrid. This is one of the bad ones,...moreMany of the Brigade Mondaine novels are fun, and a few even manage to be vaguely uplifting. But the bad ones are horrid. This is one of the bad ones, and I'm sure I don't know what the author was trying to do. The only possible value the book has is as aversion therapy for people who want to kick a BDSM habit. After you read the opening scene, in which someone gets painfully strangled to death when a bondage session goes wrong, I can promise you'll think twice before asking to be tied up and humiliated.
Well, now that I write this down, I see that the book could have its uses... I'm reminded of the relevant page in Zep's Happy Sex, referenced in my review. If your partner speaks French and likes this kind of thing a lot more than you do, buy a copy of L'île aux femmes and leave it carelessly lying around. You never know, it might work! (less)
This Brigade Mondaine (background on whole series here) features the same basic plot device as Marjane Satrapi's wonderful Embroideries... surgeons ca...moreThis Brigade Mondaine (background on whole series here) features the same basic plot device as Marjane Satrapi's wonderful Embroideries... surgeons carefully turning women back into virgins for reasons which, I must admit, I can't at all bring to mind. In fact, just about the only thing I can recall is a scene near the end, where Boris and some hot woman are in his car, and need to be somewhere very urgently... I think I remember that Mémé's life was in danger! None the less, they still stop en route for a quick blow-job. I was shocked. I mean, Mémé's supposed to be his best friend. Perhaps I'm misremembering it. I certainly hope so! (less)
I think the "Brigade Mondaine" series used to be better than it is now. This one wasn't in fact bad at all. Or is it just that I appreciated the first...more I think the "Brigade Mondaine" series used to be better than it is now. This one wasn't in fact bad at all. Or is it just that I appreciated the first few, but after a while got bored because the formula became predictable? I am trying to find objective criteria. The last few seem carelessly put together and just nasty... in particular, most of the female characters come across as disposable dolls to be raped and killed (if they meet a bad guy), or seduced and dumped (if they meet Boris). I didn't get that feeling with "Mirage". You're made to feel that the girl's death at the beginning is fairly tragic, and you are to some extent emotionally involved in Boris's quest to avenge her. The baddie is also treated with a little more respect, and is not quite as one-dimensional as they are in the later books. I speculate that they may have had an above-average author working for them around this period.(less)
Even by the low, low standards of the Brigade Mondaine series, this is a terrible book: sloppily put together, negligible characterization, haphazard...moreEven by the low, low standards of the Brigade Mondaine series, this is a terrible book: sloppily put together, negligible characterization, haphazard plot, and writing all over the place. The authors constantly throw in huge irrelevant dollops of sex in a desperate attempt to fix the obvious flaws, but without success; it's not even worth reading as porn. Once upon a time this series was sort of amusing, but it seems that those days are, alas, no more.
I suppose that, even here, one should bear in mind Nabokov's injunction to identify with the author, not with the characters. I do in fact have a hypothesis in this regard: I think it was written in tandem by two people, one male and one female, and that the team did not get on at all well. It's all very speculative, but, for what it's worth, here's my analysis.
Certain parts, particularly near the beginning, are significantly better written. There are also some passages where male characters are described from the female point of view in a tone of absolute disgust, and one of the very few episodes which had any sort of emotional resonance involved a smart, sympathetically presented woman who has been kidnapped and forced to sexually satisfy the bad guys. Well, if you are an aspiring female author who has somehow ended up working for the Brigade Mondaine stable, that's not a bad metaphor for how you might feel. The female detective, Valerie, is also initially described in positive terms, as a strong woman well in control of the situation.
A good half of the book, however, is quite different both in terms of tone and construction. The language is startlingly unpolished, and the presentation is from an almost exclusively male point of view. In these parts, the women, including Valerie, are presented in the most vulgarly pornographic way possible as simple prostitutes; the change in Valerie's character is particularly surprising. I thought that these parts had been written by the male team member, whom I disliked more and more as the story progressed.
The oddest thing was the ending. The authors seemed to have lost all interest in the story, and abandoned any attempt to maintain tension or narrative flow. You felt they just wanted to get the damn thing over as quickly as possible, so that they would never have to speak to each other again. I wouldn't have believed it was possible for the quality of the writing to deteriorate very much, considering that it was already so bad, but I turned out to be wrong. Actually, things can always get worse, and they did.
Yuk! This is the worst book I have read for at least two years, and left a very nasty taste in the mouth. And I thought it would just be some harmless fun. I'm disappointed!
Do you know, I believe the Brigade Mondaine series has been wound up. I haven't seen a copy on sale at the Geneva Airport bookstall the last half dozen times I've been there. And after more than 300 numbers! Even though the last few, like this one, were unspeakably horrible, it's rather sad.
I've reviewed several books in the Brigade Mondaine series (see my 'trash' shelf), but never really explained what the series as whole is about. This...moreI've reviewed several books in the Brigade Mondaine series (see my 'trash' shelf), but never really explained what the series as whole is about. This was the very first one - I was fortunate enough to find a used copy at a flea market in France. It was astonishing to see that they already had the formula pretty much complete right at the start, and just copied it faithfully for a couple of hundred more books. Recently, misguided people at the franchise have tried to modernize it, with disastrous results. La Société Internationale des Amateurs de la Brigade Mondaine has done what it can to bring them to their senses, but I fear that it's already too late. So treat this review as a piece of nostalgic history.
The two main characters in the books are Boris Corentin, ace detective at the Paris Brigade Mondaine (vice squad), and his faithful partner Aimé ("Mémé") Brichot. It's a kind of Holmes and Watson deal. Boris is the dashing, ruggedly handsome athlete, permanently 35 and showing just a few gray hairs around his temples. He is, needless to say, célibataire: this doesn't in any way mean that he's celibate, just that none of his numerous conquests have yet managed to trap him into marriage. There's a long-term girlfriend called Ghislaine, with whom he has a non-exclusive on-and-off relationship, so don't imagine he lacks emotional depth. He's also got a great knowledge of French poetry, which can come in useful in the most surprising circumstances; indeed, in La Griffe de L'Ange, his timely recollection of a verse from Baudelaire even saves his life. An all-round kind of guy, as you can see. No wonder the chicks find him irresistible.
Mémé is about the same age, but shy, balding, and married with kids. He's devoted to his wife, Jeannette. I thought at first that he was completely faithful to her, but in fact he occasionally finds one of the gorgeous women who throw themselves at him a little too tempting to pass up. He worships Boris, but would die rather than admit it. One of the endearing conventions is that the books always refer to Boris as his flèche, including a footnote early on which explains that this word means "senior partner in a team of two detectives". (In general, the series loves footnotes, which are sometimes absurdly long and informative). Another detail I like is that, despite the fact that they have known each other forever, and Boris is frequently invited around to dinner, Boris and Jeannette always call each other formally vous. I suppose that if they ever slipped into using the informal tu, one thing could lead to another, with consequences I don't even want to think about. It would be worse than Bond having a fling with M.
The Boris/Mémé opposition is, in my humble opinion, the main reason why the books are so successful. I imagine that most readers are, like me, hunky athletes besieged by a constant stream of strikingly attractive, barely-dressed women; they identify with Boris, and dream of happy domesticity with a loving wife like Jeannette and some cute kids. The books do a good job of describing the terrifying, soul-shattering monotony of Boris's romantic life. Try as he will, every woman he gets involved with is exactly the same: their jambes are always fuselées (generally gainées de noir under a mini-jupe ultra-courte), their croupes are always rebondissantes, and their generous poitrines, as a rule barely concealed by un T-shirt tendu à craquer, are always deux têtes d'obus. If they stay the night, they invariably insist on waking him up too early en lui faisant une pipe. Boris shows great courage in stoically enduring this existentialist nightmare, and I can't recall a single time when I've heard him complain. As already noted, he's an admirable person.
If I haven't sold you on the series by now, I never will. I have far too many old Brigade Mondaine sitting on my bookshelf; if you promise to review them, I'll be happy to pass them on to other people who want to improve their French vocabulary. Two adventurous GoodReaders have already availed themselves of this positively unrepeatable offer. Hurry while stock lasts!
I posted this review nearly a year ago, and several people wrote in asking for French trash. I duly sent off copies, and I'm delighted to say that Choupette has now posted two French trash reviews of her own (Que La Bête Meure and La Villa Du Cap D'Antibes). Bravo Choupette! I still have books left if anyone else is tempted...
Obviously, these books are all rubbish, but they have an inexplicable charm. Here, the author suddenly abandons the sex and violence for nearly a page...more Obviously, these books are all rubbish, but they have an inexplicable charm. Here, the author suddenly abandons the sex and violence for nearly a page to give you a detailed explanation of how a radar speed-trap works. Apparently there are two different kinds...(less)
In her review of La Mante Religieuse, Choupette points out the strange paradox of this series: although you know you ought to be appalled, you somehow...moreIn her review of La Mante Religieuse, Choupette points out the strange paradox of this series: although you know you ought to be appalled, you somehow can't help feeling that they're better than they deserve to be. La Justicière de Strasbourg is a fine example. The guy is a hot-shot politician at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, but he has a dark secret. When he was a teenager in Algeria, he once saw his father having sex with a young Algerian girl. He keeps fantasising about it (Freud, you know...) and in the end decides to turn his fantasies into reality. He picks up an Algerian teenager, takes her to a deserted house in a bad part of town, and tries to seduce her. But he's picked the wrong girl; she resists, he's too excited to let her go, and he ends up strangling her.
The story continues in typical Brigade Mondaine fashion. She has a hot sister or cousin or whatever - you can see her on the cover - who figures out the identity of the killer and vows to get even. For some reason, she can't just go to the cops. Instead, she lands herself a job with the politician, and uses her proximity to start an affair with him. Needless to say, everything they do is described in minute detail. And she has a plan. After the usual toing and froing, she organises a party one evening with the politician and several of her friends. They tie him up, force-feed him a huge quantity of Viagra, and intend to subject him to various kinds of sex until his heart explodes. By the way, if any doctors are listening: would this work? I really have no idea...
Anyway, Boris is on their track, and arrives at the last possible moment. He saves the dodgy politician from his fate. But, surprise ending! The girl, unable to contain her disappointment that her victim has escaped, has a mental breakdown. The politician, whose career is now over, is finally stricken with remorse. He has become very fond of her, and volunteers to pay for the best possible psychiatric help, so that she can one day be cured.
It's actually quite sweet, and I almost had to wipe away a tear when I got to the last page. As Choupette says: despite everything, they have their hearts in the right place. I would love to know who really wrote these books. (less)
One of the best Brigade Mondaines! There's this pair of gorgeous twins, Angèle and Angélique, who hail from Belgium. (They talk with un point délicieu...moreOne of the best Brigade Mondaines! There's this pair of gorgeous twins, Angèle and Angélique, who hail from Belgium. (They talk with un point délicieux d'accent Bruxellois. Even a Brussels accent is delicious when you're a hot blonde, don't you know?) Obviously, there is a Good Twin and an Evil Twin, and since this is a Boris novel it goes without saying that they have an incestuous lesbian relationship. The Evil Twin hangs out with this bad guy who, if I remember correctly, is involved in some pedophile network... anyway, he's doing something seriously illegal, which has gone wrong and involves silencing various potential witnesses.
So far, we're more or less within the bounds of credibility. But now I want you to get on your bench-press and see if you can suspend disbelief long enough to accept what comes next. The Evil Twin is a nightclub entertainer, and, under her stage name Griffe De L'Ange, she does this act where she uses a pair of gloves with razor claws. When they need to silence the witnesses, she and her lover set a honey trap; they suggest a threesome with the victim, and in the middle of it she puts on one of her razor gloves and cuts their throats.
I hope you're keeping that disbelief suspended? Good! Boris is tipped off about one of the victims, and arrives just a few minutes too late. He's lying there in a pool of blood, but, before he expires, manages to whisper the fatal words "Griffe De L'Ange". Boris has a terrific memory and a lot of contacts, so before long he connects the crime to the nightclub entertainer. She's under heavy suspicion, but that doesn't stop Boris from getting involved with her romantically. However, he has somehow missed the fact that there are two of them.
So, (you knew what was going to happen, didn't you?) when the next murder is committed, Boris believes that it occurred while he was in bed with the Evil Twin. Of course, it's really the Good Twin, whose existence he doesn't yet suspect. And, as I'm sure you also guessed, while the Evil Twin is just using Boris as an alibi, the Good Twin falls in love with him.
In the end, Boris figures it out, and there is a bloody showdown. The Good Twin somehow gets hold of the other razor glove, and, in the critical scene, Boris is faced with two identical hot women, each wielding razor gloves. This might freak you out, but it's the kind of thing he has to deal with every day. Just in time, he remembers a useful verse from Baudelaire, which, with that logic peculiar to bad crime novels, tells him infallibly which twin is which, and allows him to join the fight on the right side.
So the Bad Twin dies and the Good Twin lives. But, tragic ending! The thought that she's been responsible for her sister's death is too much, and she goes mad. Boris visits her in the psychiatric hospital at least once. But he's got a busy schedule, and he's a guy, so by the next book he's forgotten all about her. Remember that next time you're tempted to get involved with a hunky French detective, even if he is good at quoting poetry. And if you're still suspending disbelief, you can put it down now.