A few months ago I visited the town of Marfa, TX, and realized that I had somehow managed to not bring enough reading material with me to last the week (this particular vacation was the kind that involves a lot of down time, like reading in hammocks--not the kind of vacation I'm used to). So I ventured over to the local book store and came up with this book by Georges Simenon. Like most of his repertoire, it's a slim volume, one of the recently repackaged "romans durs"--dark, noirish, economically written novels.
On his 48th birthday (which no one has remembered), a "successful" Parisian businessman realizes how unsatisfactory his life has become, and on a whim decides to withdraw 300,000 francs from his account and disappear to the French Riviera, where he makes a new life for himself cavorting with prostitutes, drunks, thieves, and other assorted low-lifes. At first he finds himself unaccustomed to this lifestyle, having been used to the finer things for so many years--"and yet there was something pleasurable about this slight pain," as he says. Of course, his old life invades the new one, and he ends up being pulled back, returning as suddenly as he'd left.