“‘But what bastard would wish to fuck the widow of an old friend barely chilled in his grave?’ asked the shreds of his conscience. Meet John Shaft, “the” John Schaft, Super Private Investigator (calm down, girls). He is the hero of a series of seven short thrillers by Ernest Tidyman, adapted in the 1970s into TV series, bell bottoms and turtlenecks, and into five films, the last of which, in 2019, featured Samuel L. Jackson in the suit. Strong, built, firm, well armed. Unthinkable to publish the texts today: too many “niggers”, “greluches” and “jiggers”. Le Cherche midi reissues them in its new collection, Borderline: soft books, no bigger than a paperback, as beautiful as SAS. Their mission? To (re)read a few nuggets (Mickey Spillane is in the game), and – it is the intention of the editor – to try to bring back the post-male
Shaft, Shaft, Saft! by Ernest Tidyman. Translated from English (United States) by Jacques Hall (Borderline, 192 p., €15).
The Killer Bit: Shaft was moody, drowsy. There are people who think they’re eagles when they cleave a layer of billowing clouds at an altitude of thirteen thousand meters. It excites them, they believe they are free. He only felt a vague pain in his buttocks from having sat motionless for three and a half hours. The rare vacation that had snatched him from the agency on the third floor of a shabby building in Times Square had always ended like this, in boredom and impatience. Jamaica? The greluches were neither better nor more numerous there than elsewhere. As for the tan, he didn’t need it; to tell the truth, his skin, the beautiful black of a coffee bean, was more sensitive to the bright Caribbean sun than that of most white people. Holidays… bourgeois bullshit, he thought. For him, the only activities likely to induce fatigue were drinking, smoking and fucking – and he never let work interfere with those pursuits. Can we have another one? he asked the plump hostess, handing her a plastic cup. She gave him a plump, synthetic smile. Do pilots wind up the mechanism on these dollies before takeoff? Would the smile persist if an engine failed? There you go, sir. Scotch on the rocks. The voice sounded about as convincing as that of a radio announcer touting a hemorrhoid ointment; Big bet the girl wouldn’t stop smiling as she jiggles at the man of her life. Thank you, Shaft muttered. no man’s land between heaven and earth. Oh shit! he grumbled when the January wind picked him up, split him in two.
Consult our file: the corner of the thriller
Consult our file: Le coin du polar