by Carol Reid
images of sun-soaked terracotta, fragrant olive groves and gorgeous,
generous women; this collection of self-described Italian noir takes
the reader on a region by region tour of a tired and tawdry Italy
inhabited by varied strata of lowlife and bottom feeders, heavy on
"anti" and pretty much bereft of "hero".
Giancarlo de Cataldo , who also contributes one of the most effective
stories in the collection, charmingly sidesteps his way through an
introduction to these nine stories, each based in the author's home
region. What defines Italian noir? According to de Cataldo, this is
noir because its readership says so. The reader is instructed that
three important themes run through these stories: corruption, the
presence of the foreigner, and an obsession with success, especially of
the material kind.
me the most interesting of these themes is the concept of the
foreigner, the tide of immigrants to Italy from other tired and torn
apart countries. Albanians, Slavs, Chinese, North Africans all speckle
this blasted Italian landscape, their gangs out-Mafiaing the old Mafia,
which is remembered almost with nostalgia. But unlike classic American
noir, it's difficult to discern much similarity of mood or style among
these stories, apart from the cast of decidedly un-simpatico characters
The best of the
collection, such as Carlo Lucarelli's The Third Shot, Death of an Informer
by Massimo Carlotto, or the above-quoted "noir fairytale" The Boy Who Was Kidnapped By The
Christmas Fairy, by de Cataldo,
succeed by suggesting vestiges of more sympathetic character and a time
less bleak and opportunistic than the present. Others read as little
more than shooting scripts for second rate television, offering ciphers
in place of characters and no more interesting revelation than a
pointing finger assigning guilt.
Andrew Brown must have had an arduous task dealing with nine
vernaculars from different regions of Italy. The quality of the
translations sometimes feels seamless but is often rambling and
confusing, perhaps because the stories have been translated from
Italian into what reads like British gangster slang with an Italian
accent. I would love to have access to the original Italian to get more
sense of each author's voice and style.
The appeal of
the best of these stories, like that of 20th century
American noir, is a connection with characters struggling to stay
afloat in a poisoned sea.
Reid has enjoyed crime fiction since the first time she wandered from
the children's room into the adult section of the public library and
picked up her first Agatha Christie.
She lives a quiet, happy life in a small town on the west coast of
Canada and has never been caught digging in her garden after midnight.
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
2008 (First published in Italian by Torino, 2005)
de Cataldo is a judge in Rome, and a writer, translator and author of
books, plays and television scripts.
Authors: Niccolo Ammaniti,
Andrea Camilleri, Massimo Carlotto, Sandrone Dazieri, Giancarlo de
Cataldo, Diego de Silva, Giorgio Faletti, Marcello Fois, Carlo
Lucarelli, Antonio Manzini
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Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
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Achy Obejas(Editor) "Havana Noir"
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