Archive for November, 2006


Posted: November 29, 2006 in Uncategorized



A meal always involves…..1. a table, 2. dishes, 3. hunger, 4. food, 5. water

Answer…….. ?**

When you read Massimo Carlotto’s The Master of Knots you realise the harsh perspective that the ex-fugitive, and ex-prisoner has of his Italy. His view is so very different from those of us who thankfully have only experienced her beauty, her history and her delicious food.
His is an angry book, and that anger jumps out at you from the pages. Frankly it is not a “pleasant” book and it probably is not intended to be, due to its subject matter and its general tone.
Marco Buratti [alias the Alligator] an ex-student, ex-prisoner and former blues singer is an unlicensed private detective. He has an obsession with the truth, and calvados, an interesting combination.
Marco and his two associates Beniamino Rossini, an old time gangster, and Max the memory, a left wing radical, take cases that others would reject. Rossini’s criminal connections allow them to go into areas and take the investigations on routes the police would find impossible to travel.
In this book, Carlotto’s second translated into English, Mariano Giraldi asks them to investigate the strange abduction of his wife, the beautiful Helena.
It soon becomes clear that the married couple have become deeply involved in the S&M scene. The Alligator, Rossini and Max must try and find the gang who are producing disgusting videos of women being tortured and killed.
The leader of the gang is known as the Master of Knots, and what seems thoroughly depressing is that these attractive women have entered the S&M scene, because they enjoy being dominated and punished.
At one stage Max, still an idealist, goes off to join the protests at the G8 meeting in Genoa. A description of police violence in a reaction to the demonstrators, who were apparently stirred up by agent provocateurs, gives Carlotto a chance to demolish the police and prison system in general.
Marco and Max have never handled a gun, but Rossini, is a violent gangster prepared to kill a lowlife, but who also sends flowers to little old ladies. He regards himself as some kind of later day Robin Hood dishing out justice, where there is only injustice.
He did remind me of the South London Richardson Gang, who tortured petty criminals, but never touched “civilians”, and used this as justification for their actions.
Carlotto has obviously been scarred by his arrest for murder, his time on the run, his imprisonment and his wait for the eventual pardon. It is deeply ingrained in his work and I don’t think this is a book you are meant to enjoy. But it is a book intended to make you think about politics, crime, society, and justice.
“Probably the best living Italian crime writer” Il Manifesto
** This question was part of an aptitude test for entry to the U.S. Naval Academy.
The correct answer is “4. food”.
But a Cherokee Indian from Oklahoma Ernest E. Evans, from personal experience no doubt and a different perspective answered “3. hunger”.
Evans went on to reach the rank of Commander, and went down with his ship the USS Johnston in 1944 at the Battle of Leyte Gulf earning a posthumous Medal of Honor. [Naval History December 2006]


Posted: November 26, 2006 in Uncategorized

> Those lucky people who can understand Italian have a treat in store at the Camilleri Fan Club website with photos of Vigata and other goodies.
Go to:

and explore.

La Sicilia è terra di forti contrasti, anche dal punto di vista gastronomico.


Posted: November 26, 2006 in Uncategorized


Many crime writers use the experince gained in their work to help them achieve realism in their crime writing.

The classic example of this is Kathy Reich, a real life forensic anthropologist working in Montreal and Charlotte NC, who writes about Temperance Brennan, a fictional forensic anthropologist, who also works in Montreal and Charlotte NC.
P. D. James worked as an administrator in the National Health Service, and then in the Home Office working in the police department concerned with the forensic science service, and clearly used much of the knowledge she gained in such books as Shroud for a Nightingale, and The Dark Tower.

Among others Michael Connelly was a police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and Gianrico Carofiglio is an anti-Mafia judge and this certainly adds to the accuracy of their books.
But Massimo Carlotto has had more real experience of the criminal world than any other author I can think of.

In Padua on the 20th January 1976 a young girl, Margherita Magello was repeatedly stabbed, and left for dead. A young student radical , the 19 year old Massimo Carlotto came to her aid and became covered in her blood. She died and he was arrested, and charged with her murder.

Acquited and then convicted, there is no double jeopardy in Italy, he was advised by his lawyer to flee before the sentencing.
He went underground in Paris, and then South America, but was betrayed by a lawyer in Mexico. He was tortured following a case of mistaken identity, and then extradited to Italy.

He was imprisoned from 1985 to 1993, when he received a pardon from the President.
On his release he then wrote a semi-autobiographical novel Il Fuggiasco, the Fugitive, covering the almost 18 years between his arrest and his pardon.
He then went on to write some very hard nosed noir introducing the principal character Marco Buratti (alias Alligator) a former blues singer and prisoner, now an unlicensed detective, with an obsession for the truth and a taste for calvados.
In Italian crime novels while you may find the truth, you probably won’t find justice.
“Sicilians like Jews speak by allusion, in parables or in metaphor. It was if the same circuits, the sociological process operates in both their minds.
A computer of distrust, of suspicion, of pessimism” Leonardo Sciascia

Coming soon a review of the Master of Knots…….
sourced from www., The Observer, Tobias Jones;London Review of Books


Posted: November 24, 2006 in Uncategorized


I may not be posting as much over the next few weeks. Because over on the far side of the world there is a contest taking place that will take a lot of my attention.

Today, in the eyes of many, he has become Australia’s foremost folk–hero and a symbol of national pride. Certainly, Ned possessed qualities that far surpassed the other bushrangers of his era. He was an expert with a “running-iron” on stolen, unbranded stock and was a deadly–accurate shot with a revolver or a rifle. Despite being a largely self–educated man, he was surprisingly articulate, boasted an almost poetic turn of phrase and a sardonic sense of humour. Ned’s family meant everything to him and he was the man of the family at the age of twelve. He was fiercely loyal his friends and supporters, to the extent that he would risk his own skin to ensure the well-being of an ally.

“Surprisingly articulate” Australians may well have a lot to talk about ………It will be up to England’s cricketers to cope with the “poetic turn of phrase”.
I thought they called that “sledging”?


Posted: November 22, 2006 in Uncategorized


Not European Crime this time, but a first rate American crime novel.

I have read Citizen Vince by Jess Walter, a book which had fantastic reviews winning the 2006 Edgar.

Winning the Edgar in a quiet year is an achievement, but the other nominated novels in 2006 were by Michael Connelly, Thomas H Cook, Tess Gerritsen and George Pelecanos, a real group of heavyweights.

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.

In fact I thought it was a far tauter book than either of the last two Edgar winners that I have read.[2005California Girl, T Jefferson Parker; 2004 Resurrection Men, Ian Rankin].

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.

The climax of the book keeps you on the edge of your seat as the tension mounts, and mounts so I won’t spoil it for you.
By the way some of the dialogue might not be that used by your maiden aunt, but mobsters, and cops, have a limited vocabulary, and I am sure it is accurate.

“People say it’s because of the harsh winters in Spokane, which are a cross between upstate New York and Pluto.”


Posted: November 18, 2006 in Uncategorized


I have noticed the last twelve crime books I read included six which are Italian.

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]

Perhaps crime fiction reading is my escape………….food and women are too exciting.


Posted: November 17, 2006 in Uncategorized


Detectives beyond Borders Peter is involved in an interesting discussion, some of it in Italian, over whether Rome is tranquillo or not.

“Mongai says in the interview that Rome seems like a tranquil city, where one can live a pleasant life.”

So I could not resist showing two faces of this beautiful city. The city of religion and the city of heavily armed police.

Mongai sounds like another author I will have found through Detectives beyond Borders recommendations.
Of course the credit for the original contact is due to It’s A Crime (or a mystery…)


Posted: November 16, 2006 in Uncategorized


I am not abandoning my eurocentric focus, but thought I should take a brief sabbatical to read Citizen Vince by Jess Walter.

This novel did win the Edgar beating out Thomas Cook’s Red Leaves, and Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer and with reviews like these……..

“Utterly inventive … excruciatingly breathless … you just have to read it.” WASHINGTON POST
“It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book as compulsively, indeed greedily, as I read Citizen Vince.” RICHARD RUSSO
“Wonderfully written … hard to forget.” LOS ANGELES TIMES”
Citizen Vince is fast, tough, thoughtful and funny. I loved this novel.” NICK HORNBY
I am ready for something exceptional.


Posted: November 16, 2006 in Uncategorized

>Thanks to It’s a Crime (or a mystery…) for this news about :

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.


Posted: November 16, 2006 in Uncategorized


Fifty-seven Mafia members who were close to supremo Bernardo Provenzano have been jailed for a total of 300 years, Italian media say.
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]
Gianrico Carofiglio discusses the “fast-track” trial in his first book Involuntary Witness, and I expect he knows the ” Judge in Palermo”; a good title for a crime novel?
These anti-Mafia task groups are certainly very brave people.