Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
VIGATA ON LINE
La Sicilia è terra di forti contrasti, anche dal punto di vista gastronomico.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I have read Citizen Vince by Jess Walter, a book which had fantastic reviews winning the 2006 Edgar.
I set out frankly expecting to be disappointed as I thought it would be just another stock US crime story, and perhaps a bit downmarket from european crime fiction. I was very pleasantly surprised by the clever plot, and excellent pacing of the story.
Citizen Vince begins a few days before the 1980 Carter-Reagan Presidential election.
Marty Hagen is in the Federal Witness Protection Program really by default as he was only small fry and not connected to the mob, except by a large debt.
In his new persona as Vince Camden, a baker in Spokane, Washington State, he remains a petty criminal and runs a clever credit card scam.
But Vince dreams of a better life, and of taking that first step as a citizen by voting in the upcoming election.
Unfortunately Vince's lowlife associates want a bigger cut of the proceeds of his criminal enterprise, and bring in a contract killer to persuade him. When Ray, the killer, eliminates one of the associates, Vince has to go on the run returning to New York to straighten out his situation with the mob.
The Spokane Police send rookie detective Alan Dupree to look for Vince in New York, and the young cop he learns some harsh lessons about life and policing in the Big Apple.
Will Vince survive long enough to vote?
Will he and girlfriend, Beth, a prostitute who is studying for her real estate license, find a new life together?
Who will find Vince first the cops, or the killer?
The book races along with almost as many interesting characters as a Dickens novel. But it lives or dies with the character of Vince, the surprisingly thoughtful crook who reads Solzhenitsyn, and wants to vote for the first time . Frankly you can't help but like Vince, who seems more a victim of circumstance than a real villain.
But as Vince struggles with his problems always in the background is the election, and the hard gritty world of the USA during Jimmy Carter's presidency. The election and the posturing politicians become characters in the novel, and this adds to the sense of place that I feel is essential in a crime novel. I did spend some time in the USA in both 1979 and 1980, and can still remember the feeling of quiet desperation in the air.
General Douglas Macarthur said , "old soldiers never die they just fade away", but old politicians never fade away. They become experts on how to deal with the very problems they singularly failed to cope with when they were in office.
I found this book to be an excellent read and a deep, thought provoking example of good crime fiction. Life can be full of "sighs, regrets and ironies" and we can all make a "string of bad decisions", as have most of the characters in this story.
"People say it's because of the harsh winters in Spokane, which are a cross between upstate New York and Pluto."
Saturday, November 18, 2006
A seventh the French prize winning book Holy Smoke by Tonino Benacquista is set almost entirely in Italy.
"This sort of sadness has always prevailed among intelligent Italians, but most of them to escape suicide or madness, have taken to every known means of escape......a passion for women, for food....above all for fine sounding words."
Ignazio Silone [quoted in The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones]
Friday, November 17, 2006
THE NUN AND THE GUN
Thursday, November 16, 2006
GO WEST YOUNG MAN
Siamo Roma which has an interview with Massimo Mongai on one of its pages, within the culture section.
Mongai is yet to be published in English, but I'm told he's well-known in Italy and that he won the Urania Award in 1997. The interview is mostly about his new crime novel, and the appeal of writing crime fiction set in Rome.
A judge in Palermo, Sicily, convicted them for protecting Provenzano while he was in hiding.
Others were implicated in managing Mafia funds.
Provenzano, 73, spent four decades on the run before being arrested in April at an isolated farm near Corleone, close to Palermo.
Among the 57 convicted people, one group is said to have organised for Provenzano to travel to southern France to receive cancer treatment under an assumed identity.
Nicola Mandala, who was accused of planning the trip, was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
The longest jail sentences of 18 years were given to Benedetto Spera, a Mafia boss who controlled a region near Palermo, and Onofrio Morreale.
The trial was a fast-track one, whereby sentences are reduced when defendants enter a guilty plea. [From the BBC]
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
ART OF PARADOX
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
BETTER IN BARI
TRAVAIL FAMILLE PATRIE
Michael Haneke's astonishing psychological drama/thriller.......
This is how our local cinema billed one of their 10th birthday celebration films at only £1 to members. The film had won a plethora of awards, nominations and critics praise at film festivals from Cannes to Chicago, therefore we decided we must take advantage of the low price and see this French thriller.
Georges, who hosts a TV literary review, receives packages containing videos of himself with his family--shot secretly from the street--and alarming drawings whose meaning is obscure. He has no idea who may be sending them. Gradually, the footage on the tapes becomes more personal, suggesting that the sender has known Georges for some time. Georges feels a sense of menace hanging over him and his family but, as no direct threat has been made, the police refuse to help....
I hate being negative about any creative project, because no one deliberately sets out to make a bad film, or write a bad book.
But frankly this film was boredom taken to such a new level that almost the entire audience had nodded off, when something extremely shocking happened after about 90 minutes. They were then able to resume their catatonic state as the film slowly meandered on to a very welcome conclusion.
There is a difference between the subtle use of atmosphere to create tension, and the self indulgent use of such a slow lethargic pace that even I could follow the sparse French dialogue without the subtitles.
I am still dazed by the whole experience and I was not alone..........even Juliette Binoche could not rescue this dire rubbish, and I assume it was the political message and the pseudo artistic "atmosphere" that won it the awards.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
This step will bring our awards into line with similar rules for other literary awards – which in some cases charge considerably more. The cost of organising the Dagger Awards currently costs the CWA several thousand pounds, an outlay which we are finding increasingly difficult to meet. The income generated by these charges will not cover the full costs of the Dagger Awards, and the CWA will pay the remainder. While publishers and authors can clearly benefit from being shortlisted for – and particularly winning – one of our Daggers, the CWA gains no benefit. We cannot expect any of our sponsors to help with these expenses.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Friday, November 10, 2006
Involuntary Witness is the debut novel of Gianrico Carofiglio, an anti-Mafia judge in the southern Italian port city of Bari.
The book, another from the clever publishers at Bitter Lemon Press, has won a number of literary awards such as the Marisa Rusconi and the Rhegium Julii prizes, and is the basis of a television series in Italy.
Guido Guerrieri, a 38 year old lawyer recently seperated from his wife and in the midst of a nervous breakdown is asked to defend Abdou Thiam, a Senegalese peddler, on the charge of murdering a 9 year old boy.
The book tells the powerful story of Guido's struggle both to straighten out his own life, and also to prevent Abdou being sent to prison for life.
It is a unusual book for a crime novel, because there is only a very superficial attempt to investigate the crime. While called a "powerful attack on racism" on the back cover it seems equally to be an indictment of the Italian judicial system.
The key to the book is the character of Guido, as someone who is both believable and extremely likeable. The first person narrative format is not my favourite but in this case you are immediately drawn in to Guido's world. You become really involved in his hopes for a future, while he changes from hard cynical loser into a caring human being.
I could identify easily with someone whose life changed so dramatically at 38, and there is the genesis of a romance in the book.
Guido is a lawyer who finds he has a heart after all.
This is a very intelligent literary novel, full of humour, and although I was slightly disappointed by the ending I jumped right into the sequel "A Walk In The Dark".
"What the caterpillar thinks is the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly." Lao-tzu, The Way of Virtue
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
A GUIDO IN THE SOUTH
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Have a mystery set in the Southwest? Looking to get it published? Then this contest might be the one for you:
WORDHARVEST Writers workshops and Thomas Dunne Books will present a new annual award for mystery fiction, The Tony Hillerman Prize, in 2007.
The first winner will be announced in November, 2007 at the fourth annual Tony Hillerman Writers Conference: Focus on Mystery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The award will go to a first mystery novel set in the Southwest written by a previously unpublished mystery author. The winning novel will be published by Thomas Dunne Books.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Thomas Dunne Books, a publisher long known for its passion for mysteries, to honor an unpublished author who uses the Southwest as his or her setting,” Anne Hillerman said. “We look forward to joining forces with Thomas Dunne Books and recognizing a new award winner at our banquet for years to come.”
Monday, November 06, 2006
I was particularly intrigued by this charming passage:
1968 - The Laughing Policeman*
1970 - Murder at the Savoy
Sunday, November 05, 2006
HOW SWEDE YOU ARE
Roos, Malmstrom and Mohren are planning one huge robbery before they retire to enjoy their ill gotten gains.