The American, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


The locals in the Italian village where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr Butterfly.

He is a discreet gentleman who spends his time studying rare butterflies.

But Farfalla's real profession is deadly. He considers himself an artisan, not for the butterflies he paints but for the guns he creates for assassins.

Farfalla has resolved to make his next job his last.

Then, perhaps, he can settle down comfortably in the Italian village he has grown to love and enjoy the remainder of his life without constantly looking over his shoulder.

But a treacherous circle is closing in on him...


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The narrator of Martin Booth’s “A Very Private Gentleman,” republished as “The American” to coincide with the release of the film, is a man of detail. As a maker of custom sniper rifles used for assassinations, he has to be. Heading into a self-imposed retirement, “Senor Farfalla,” as he is known because of his cover occupation as an illustrator of butterflies, describes the Italian hill-top town where he lives in loving detail, along with the small group of friends that he is attached to – although he cannot confide in them. He muses over – and attempts to justify – his chosen profession and the results. While working on a final a weapon his retirement plans are endangered by a man – a shadow-dweller – who shows up in town and appears to be surveilling him. The story is precisely paced and detailed, which matches the narrator’s character. Although some details differ in the film version, it takes this pacing and precision sensibility from the novel.