RENÉ MANZOR’S STORIES
René Manzor’s stories begin like an itch or a craving, then become viral and feverish, hooking you into a juggernaut of action, emotion and suspense that does not relent until its cathartic yet shattering conclusion.
Though we’ve never met, his work contains such a powerful intimacy that I feel an almost otherworldly tie with him and it. In every possible way, it stirs my most instinctual urges.
Readers and viewers encountering Manzor’s work doubtlessly feel the same way, having propelled his first novel to the top of best-seller lists, and made him a sought-after director/writer in French TV and film. His stories begin like an itch or a craving, then become viral and feverish, hooking you into a juggernaut of action, emotion and suspense that does not relent until its cathartic yet shattering conclusion.
Any American reader would immediately comprehend the impact Hollywood has had on Manzor. Both an acolyte and mentee of George Lucas, he cut his teeth as a director working on the “Indiana Jones” saga, and from there went on to a wide range of cinematic work as a writer/director. And as an author, although he’s writing in French, and elegantly so, his sparsity and unwavering focus on both the seen and felt create the illusion, because of his choice of Anglo-Saxon settings, that he’s actually writing in English. But there’s no distracting commentary here or treason to his native tongue. Rather, his literary tradition I think has instilled him with a unique empathy toward both wrongdoers and the wronged.
A “heroine’s journey,” à la Silence of the Lambs, is typically the starting point, and in Manzor’s début thriller "LES ÂMES RIVALES" (Rival Souls), Cassandra, who like her mythical namesake possesses both morbid clairvoyance and an odd twinning, is literally running for her life. From the spirit or the thing that won’t give her a moment’s peace. Her whole world literally dies around her until she herself is accused. This “thing” haunts her every move, thought, and feeling. Her one solace, Father Liam, is both an unsteady savior and a keen scholar of her torment.
Juxtaposed with this mystery is another, a world away in Brooklyn, where Thomas, a math teacher and single father, struggles with hallucinatory blackouts. These two lost souls collide on the Brooklyn Bridge, of all places, where Cassandra, overcome by her ghostly stalker, succumbs to the ultimate despair.
Manzor’s latest novel, "CELUI DONT LE NOM N’EST PLUS" ("He whose Name is no more"), begins with a strange fascination about possession as well, but ultimately it’s an adult thriller about grief. Set in London, the brimful morbidity within the principals—never mind the weather—conjures up a highly nuanced emotionscape of white to black that is rapidly punctuated by the bloody death toll mounting around them.
The lifelong family servant of a top U.S. diplomat there is suddenly discovered to have murdered him in the most grisly way. And in a trance-like state, the ex-governess is found in broad daylight at a public crossroads, conveying the organs that she had extracted from his still-living body.
Detective McKenna, gruff yet porous, is the best person Scotland Yard has, despite his taxing home life as a widowed father of four, to put on the case. Given its high-visibility though, an American expert in ritual killings and cults, Dr. Dahlia Rhymes, is recruited especially from the F.B.I. to work with him. And though she seems to travel attachment-free, her abusive hyper-religious upbringing is never entirely out of mind.
Because, in unconventional ways, Manzor writes about crime. American publishers seeking high-quality yet surely commercial material would be fools not to add Manzor to their roster. Cinematically, his style spans Hitchcock to Tarantino, with a hint of Roth thrown in, even as his writing could justifiably be charted somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Patricia Cornwell.
Alexander C Totz, My French Library, August 7, 2014