Thursday, May 3, 2018
this Catapult piece by Michael Gonzales on Uptight star Mayfield's novel The Long Night. It's out of print, but I found a reasonably priced one and purchased it.
There's a lot to admire about the writing. With clean, un-fussy prose the twisted first-person account of someone bent on murder enjoying tormenting and debasing his prey is unperturbed and unflinchingly frank about ghastly deeds... like really, really gross stuff - so awful and unapologetic it was a huge bestseller upon initial publication in France.
Vian was a French novelist who wrote the book in two weeks after declaring he could and would write a best-seller. He published the book claiming to have translated it for an African American author named Vernon Sullivan who couldn't get it published in the States. After the book was banned and suits brought against the publisher Vian admitted that he was the author.
The English translation I have includes a note from the French "translator' Vian talking about American 'author' Sullivan's clear debts to James M. Cain and James Hadley Chase - it's a weird little note. Thanks to Kieran Shea for bringing the book to my attention. James Sallis wrote the introduction of the volume I read, but this piece by Scott Adlerberg at Crimereads sums up the weirdness of the thing pretty succinctly:
“'These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!' Perfect last words for a white Frenchman who pretended to be a black American writing about a country he’d never visited, upset that the actors portraying his characters didn’t seem real enough."