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Chourmo [Paperback]

By Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis (Translator)
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Item description for Chourmo by Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis...

"A talented French writer who draws from the deep dark well of noir."-The Washington Post

Chourmo . . . the rowers in a galley. In Marseilles, you weren't just from one neighborhood, one project. You were chourmo. In the same galley, rowing! Trying to get out. Together.

In this second installment of Jean-Claude Izzo's legendary Marseilles Trilogy-which includes Total Chaos,Chourmo, and Solea-Fabio Montale has left a police force riddled with corruption, racism, and greed to follow the ancient rhythms of his native town: the sea, fishing, the local bar, hotly contested games of belote. But his cousin's son has gone missing, and Montale is dragged back onto the mean streets of a violent, crime-infested Marseilles.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   243
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2006
Publisher   Europa Editions
ISBN  1933372176  
ISBN13  9781933372174  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jean-claude Izzo & Howard Curtis

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jean-Claude Izzo was born in Marseilles in 1945. Best known for the Marseilles trilogy (Total Chaos, Chourmo, Solea), Izzo is also the author of The Lost Sailors, and A Sun for the Dying. Izzo is widely credited with being the founder of the modern Mediterranean noir movement. He died in 2000 at the age of fity-five.

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1Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Chourmo?

"We pulled for you when the wind was against us   Dec 27, 2007
and the sails were low. Will you never let us go?" Rudyard Kipling, "Song of the Galley-Slaves"

The title of Jean-Claude Izzo's "Chourmo" is taken from an old Provencal word describing the rowers in Roman galleys. Izzo writes that "In Marseilles, you weren't just from one neighborhood, one project. You were chourmo. In the same galley, rowing! Trying to get out. Together." But the melancholy subtext here is that either by design or fortune (good or bad) all the rowing in the world never gets the characters that inhabit Izzo's world very far from Marseilles. This is not really surprising when you consider that Marseilles never really let Jean-Claude Izzo get away. Izzo was bon in Marseilles in 1945. He died, at age 54, in Marseilles. Chourmo is Volume II in what is known as Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy. Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy) is Volume I; Solea (Marseilles Trilogy) is Volume III.

"Chourmo" reintroduces us to Fabio Montale, Montale, now retired from the force, is content to listen to his music and work on his cottage overlooking the bay he swam in as a child. But his cousin Gelou, asks him to find her son who snuck out of the house one night to see a girl and who has not returned. Montale next sees an old friend gunned down in a low-income housing project. The rest of the story is devoted to resolving how these two seemingly parallel story lines play out. Along the way we are exposed to the many social forces that shape the nature of crime and punishment in Marseilles. Izzo, looking through the eyes of Montale, takes us into a world of corrupt police and politicians, organized crime, and an immigrant population struggling for acceptance in a world in which they are less than welcome.

As has been noted in other reviews the parallel plot lines and the many secondary characters introduced by Izzo diminish some of the force of the story line. In that sense Volume II was not quite as effective as Volume I in terms of sharpness and clarity. However, Izzo's powerful portrayal of Montale and of Marseilles itself more than made up for any flaws in the storytelling. Montale is powerfully drawn and by Volume II I was `sold' on his character. In the best series the reader can get into the head of the main character and Izzo makes it hard for any reader not to get sucked into viewing the world through Montale's eyes. And Marseilles as portrayed by Izzo is a special place. At the end of the day I think a reader's feeling about Chourmo (and the other books in the trilogy) will depend on whether or not they like the idea of a city playing a central role in a story. It worked for me. Izzo does a remarkably good job of giving the reader a sense of place. You can almost feel the dark streets and smell the aromas of the cafes in the harbor as you read the book.

Chourmo is a good story and the enjoyment of reading it was heightened by Izzo's ability to make the "idea" of Marseilles so central to the story. Recommended. L. Fleisig
fascinating and shocking  Aug 27, 2007
I did not read the Total Chaos and now I cannot wait to read the two remaining books. Chourmo spoiled me for other books for at least...a couple of days. I cannot live without reading any longer. Wonderful book full of smells of crime, love, food and wine. Good historical background for a present Muslim - French relations. Touchy and the end will knock you down. A must read for anybody loving a good suspense story. So different from the latest US product of the same type.
"No God or master."  Jan 1, 2007
In the noir novel "Chourmo" former policeman Fabio Montale is minding his own business and enjoying a "well-ordered life" of peaceful retirement when he's dragged back into the ugly world of Marseilles crime. Contacted by his gorgeous cousin, Gelou, Fabio reluctantly begins to investigate the disappearance of Gelou's teenaged son Guitou. Gelou assumes that Guitou has slipped away to meet his Arab girlfriend Naima, but after that, the trail grows cold. Reluctantly, Fabio finds himself treading through the familiar territory of the seedy housing projects and the race problems of poverty-ridden Marseilles, and he crosses paths with old adversaries from the corrupt police department. Also tangled in the search for Guitou are the FIS (Front Islamique de Salut), the National Front, and Mafia hit men.

Jean Claude Izzo's novel is part two of the Marseilles Trilogy, and although Fabio makes references to his past, it doesn't seem necessary to read, "Total Chaos"--the first book in the series before reading "Chourmo." The descriptions of life in the ghettos of Marseilles were very well done, and many of the characters leap to life from the pages--Fonfon, for example, the old socialist bar owner who turfs out customers who upset him.

Fabio's character has to be the very best part of the book--he's a burned out ex-policeman who knows all-too-well how things operate within Marseilles. His career in a corrupt police department has left Fabio adrift in the moral void: "I didn't believe in cops and I didn't believe in robbers. Those who represented the law had lost all sense of moral values." Fabio's retirement is an unacknowledged admission that he can no longer cope with the evils and corruptions of modern society, but he's still ultimately an idealist struggling to survive in a corrupt and amoral world. In Fabio's former world, the only ideals that are permitted to exist are twisted and hate filled--thus the extremes of The National Front and the FIS are pitted against one another--both fighting for dominance in the poverty-ridden ghettos of Marseilles.

Some of the characters are very well drawn, but others are not. While searching for Guitou, Fabio ends up searching for other characters--creations that involve plot complications that never really materialize. Heroin addict Pavie, for example, becomes the focus of a search, but she only really exists as a complication--a red-herring character that never pays off enough to justify her literary creation. Ultimately, although the novel contains an interesting story, the plot was overly complicated, full of too many superfluous characters, and left too many loose ends at its conclusion--displacedhuman
Vol. 2 in the "Fabio Montale" Trilogy  Sep 12, 2006
Those who haven't read "Total Chaos", the first book in Izzo's Marseille-set trilogy, needn't worry that they are missing crucial information. This second book (whose title is a slang term referring to the slaves who rowed in Roman galleys and is used to express the sense of solidarity felt by those in the slums), picks up the life of Fabio Montale about a year after the events of "Total Chaos" and only refers to them in passing. Since being drummed out of the corrupt Marseille police force following that adventure, Montale has been mostly sipping wine at home while watching the sea, or out fishing on his little boat. This tranquility is broken when his beautiful cousin Gelou, whom he hasn't seen for twenty years, comes seeking his help.

It seems her teenage son has gone missing and probably came to Marseille to meet an Arab girl he became sweet on. Alas, a prologue shows the reader the tragic outcome of this assignation, and it doesn't take Montale long to discover that the boy was shot to death -- possibly in connection with the killing of an exiled Algerian intellectual. Meanwhile a social worker who spent a lot of time in the projects and was a friend of Montale's is killed before his eyes in a drive-by shooting. It's the book's one significant weakness that these two seemingly unrelated victims both happen to have ties to Montale, since this coincidence is what allows the plot to unravel in the manner it does.

As in "Total Chaos", things get very convoluted very quickly as Montale runs around Marseille getting entangled with all kinds of characters. There are racist cops, fundamentalist Algerian immigrants with ties to the civil war back home (the book was originally published in 1996), a cruel junkyard owner, a Vietnamese vixen, a struggling heroin whore, and various mafia bosses. The coincidence noted above puts Montale in the driver's seat, as he's the only person with the access to all these different strata who has the drive and desire to put all the pieces together. With a rather sympathetic police detective backing his play, Montale runs amok, disrupting the plans of several groups of people in his drive to get at the truth.

Like his protagonist, the author was born and raised in the seedy city of Marseille, and watched it turn from a Southern European melting pot to a post-colonial melting pot of 1.5 million people. Like his protagonist, he had a front-row seat (as a journalist) to the major social and economic shifts of the last several decades, and the xenophobia they have engendered. As in "Total Chaos", Izzo conveys a very Gallic sense of disenchantment and fatalism. It's a complicated portrait of a city, loving and nostalgic, yet sad and angry. In that sense, the book works much better as a social portrait of a city than it does as a crime story. I'd really recommend it much more to those with an interest in Southern France or who might be visiting Marseille, than I would to crime buffs. It would also, along with the film Hate, be useful for those seeking to understand the last year's Paris riots.
Thrilling and melancholic crime story.  Sep 12, 2003
I read Chourmo in the german edition on a friend's recommendation and I swallowed it within 48 hrs. It's a witty, fast-paced and quite grim detective story - but first of all it's a love declaration to one of the most thrilling cities in Europe: Marseille.

The story centers on ex-cop Fabio Montale, who's spent most of his service in the suburbs of Marseille, the dangerous boiling pots of the poorest of poors and unliked immigrants from Africa and other former french colonies. He's seen it all - organized crime, racial discrimination, the rise of racist organisation 'Front National' and most of all death and loss. And many of the dead have been friends of Fabio Montale. Yet he can't let loose from this city of poison and charmes and when his beloved cousin Gelou asks him to investigate the disappearance of her son, he doesnt hesitate - simply because he's still too much of a detective at heart.

In the course of events, Montale gets mired in between the activities of religious fanatics, ambitious and corrupt police officers and dangerous mafia thugs as he stumbles rather coincidentally over several strings of crime that only get linked together due to his own interference. But Izzo doesnt disappoint his readers at this point, cuz he manages to fit all loose ends nicely together.

But overshadowing all these plots are the spirit of southern France (for example you can almost grasp the taste of french wines and food - hmmm...yummy) and the omnipresent fascination of Marseille: A city where "the exciled of the world are meeting" and in which the only achievement that counts is to survive. And that's the final resume also for Fabio Montale as he is just glad to survive all this mess along with a few friends who were simply luckier than many other peoples encountered...

Two thumbs up for Jean-Claude Izzo, who himself died way too early, for this melancholic and exciting novel.


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