The Death Instinct
By Jacques Mesrine, translated by Robert Greene and Catherine Texier
Available from TamTam Books
France's Public Enemy Number One from the late 1960's to the end of the 1970's--when he was killed by police in a sensational traffic shootout--Jacques Mesrine (1936–1979) is the best-known criminal in French history. Mesrine was notorious both for his violent exploits and for the media attention he attracted, and he remains very much a public media figure in France and Europe. In 2008 there were two feature-length films based on his life, one of them starring Vincent Cassel in the lead role. Mesrine wrote The Death Instinct while serving time in the high-security prison La Santé; the manuscript was smuggled out of the prison and was later published by Guy Debord's publisher Gérard Lebovici (who briefly adopted Mesrine's daughter, Sabrina, before being assassinated, a few years after Mesrine). The Death Instinct deals with the early years of Mesrine's criminal life, including a horrifically graphic description of a murder he committed early on in his career and a highly detailed account of the workings of the French criminal underworld--making this book perhaps one of the most intriguing and detailed anthropological studies of a criminal culture ever written.