Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crime and crime writing in Italy: Matteo Strukul interview, Part II

In Part II of an interview with Detectives Beyond Borders, Italian publisher, author, and editor Matteo Strukul talks about the criminal landscape of northeastern Italy, the literary movement he helped to found, the the crime fiction festival that bears that movements name.

(Read Part I of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Matteo Strukul.) 
Detectives Beyond Borders: In addition to being an author and publisher, you call yourself the founder of a literary movement. Talk about Sugarpulp, its goals, and how it got its name. Who are its other authors, artists, and illustrators? What is uniquely Italian about Sugarpulp?

Matteo Strukul: Sugarpulp talks about territory. Like James Lee Burke’s Louisiana or Joe R. Lansdale’s Texas, for people like me or the Sugarpulp authors (Matteo Righetto, Giacomo Brunoro, Andrea Andreetta, Carlo Callegari, Thomas Tono, Carlo Vanin, Simone Marzini, among others) the northeast of Italy is a kind of state of mind, you know what I mean? 

Swamps, sugar-beet fields, plateaus, but also triads and Chinese mafia or Russian Organisatsyia, political corruption and the slow rhythm of the country. We have many points in common with Texas or Louisiana. There’s a kind of savage cruelty here, a sort of ignorance that raised an entire generation of new-rich tycoons who obtained fortune and fame breaking rules and laws. So a place like the northeast of Italy is one of the best for crime-fiction settings. Of course, Veneto is also wonderful towns full of arts and culture; you know, Venice, Padua, Verona, and one of the most beautiful place in Italy (with Cortina d’Ampezzo and the Italian Alps or the Po Delta, the Valpolicella Valley or the Prosecco Area among others), but at the same time you could find a kind of “American western” approach that really could surprise everyone.

DBB: Sugarpulp is also the name of a crime fiction festival in Padua. What are the plans for the festival in 2013?

MS: Well, we are planning to realize our most ambitious edition. We are working to bring the cream of crime-fiction novelists to Padova this year. Hopefully Don Winslow will accept our offer; we are trying to convince him to come to Padova. Then, we will have Maurizio De Giovanni and Massimo Carlotto, and we would like to have also Giancarlo De Cataldo and Tim Willocks, among others. So, stay tuned ‘cause this year will be the big deal: Sugarpulp or Bust! Ah ah!

DBB:  Northern Italy is interesting politically, a (former) base of support for the Communist Party, for example, and also the home of the Lega Nord. How does the reality of Northeastern Italy find expression in your writing and in the Sugarpulp movement in general?

MS: Mmmm … not very Communist in fact. I think more Lega Nord-oriented. Even if in my hometown, Padua, we have a fantastic mayor, Flavio Zanonato, who belongs for instance to the Left Party, the PD (Partito Democratico) and he is a wonderful person and professional and we are very grateful to him because is one of the most enthusiast supporter of the Sugarpulp Festival and that’s great, really! Anyway, I think that this year everything will change with Beppe Grillo, founder of Movimento 5 Stelle (Five-Star Movement). I think that people are really tired of politicians who promise everything and give you nothing except for taxes.

DBB: Chinese gangsters play a big role in The Ballad of Mila, working with Italians but sometimes contemptuous of them, and trying in their own way to adjust to Italian life. They are more integrated into Italian life, even in a negative way, than, for example, Africans in novels by Andrea Camilleri or Gianrico Carofiglio. Why did you choose Chinese gangs as a subject?

MS: Because they conquered the Northeast of Italy. They destroyed the economy of the region, they worked, and work, for nothing like slaves, and the Chinese Mafia is a real problem here in Padua. They bought all the cafés and bars to recover massive amounts of dirty money incoming from drug dealing, and they are slave-drivers who enslave their people coming from China and forced them to work 20 hours a day in the clandestine textile industry with no respect for persons and for EU rules. 

DBB: Sugarpulp not the only Italian crime fiction closely associated with a city or a region. There are Giorgio Scerbanenco and Milan, Andrea Camilleri and Sicily, Carlo Emilio Gadda and Rome, for example. Is Italian crime fiction tied to its settings more than crime fiction from other countries? If so, why?

MS: I could answer with Joe R. Lansdale and Texas, James Lee Burke and Louisiana, James Ellroy and L. A., Don Winslow and California, so what about the United States? I think that the real reason is that, as novelist, you have to be honest with readers and you have to write about what you really know. How could I set a story in Pescara? I’ve never been there, probably today I could set a story in Berlin where I’d like to live for some months every year. So, I think that if you want to be honest and incisive, and if you want to reveal original angles and point of views in your story, well you have to know the set, the place, the territory very well and, more than this, you probably could use the environment and the nature at its very best potential.

(Read Part I of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Matteo Strukul.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Pulp in Italy: An interview with author/editor/publisher Matteo Strukul, Part I

Matteo Strukul's Edizioni BD publishes Italian translations of comics, graphic novels, fiction, and non-fiction by authors including Dennis Lehane, Alan Moore, Joe R. Lansdale, Moebius, Michael Chabon, Warren Ellis, Stan Lee, Kazuo Koike, and Jacques Tardi. The Revolver imprint, of which he is line editor, brings hard-hitting authors such as Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Russel D. McLean, and Victor Gischler to Italian readers, with more to come from the likes of Charlie Huston and Christa Faust. He lives in Padua (Padova) in northern Italy's Veneto region and, when not publishing and editing, he writes. His first novel, La Ballata Di Mila, was shortlisted for Italy's Scerbanenco Prize. In the first of a two-part interview with Detectives Beyond Borders, Matteo Strukul talks about pulp fiction, Italian hard-boiled authors, comics, and his own discovery as an author by Massimo Carlotto. And, proving himself true kin to Detectives Beyond Borders, he has kind words about some of this blog's favorite Irish crime writers.

(Read Part II of the Detectives Beyond Borders interview with Matto Strukul.)

Detectives Beyond Borders: Talk about the Revolver imprint, about the authors you chose, and why you chose them.

Matteo Strukul: First of all, Peter, thank you for the opportunity that you have given to me. It's great to answer your fantastic questions. I’m honored. Now, about Revolver… Revolver is an imprint focused on pulp crime fiction. We love to collect fast-paced novels. Every story has to be a real roller-coaster, a furious, well-plotted patchwork of wit and wise guys, ultra-violence and thrills, and unpredictable, lunatic characters. For these reasons we chose authors like Victor Gischler, Allan Guthrie, Tim Willocks, Christa Faust, Ray Banks. Personally, I love all these authors who are completely crazy and original but all of them have an intriguing, fascinating, irreverent approach to the genre. We want to have authors who have courage enough to break rules and to have faith in their stories and characters, doesn’t matter how crazy and strongly cruel those stories are. 

DBB: Your online biography says you were discovered by Massimo Carlotto. How did this discovery happen?

MS: Well, I was at the international Book Fair in Turin (Il salone del libro) in 2010 and, of course, Massimo Carlotto was also there. I remember that I went to the E/O publisher’s stand and said to him that I have a novel for him. Well, it was incredible when he said that he want to read it, because, man, I was and am a real fanatic of his work. At that time I was press officer with an independent and well-reputed publisher: Meridiano Zero.  I organized press campaigns for authors like David Peace, James Lee Burke, Derek Raymond. So, of course this fact doesn’t mean that I was an author but means, without any doubt, that I had a strong background. For this reason, I mean, he was curious.  I wrote for “Il Mattino di Padova,” my hometown newspaper, so he knew who I was, because Massimo is from Padova, too. So I was very lucky, in fact. Anyway, after some months, Colomba Rossi, who was responsible, together with Massimo, for a new imprint at Edizioni E/O, called Sabot/Age, sent to me an e-mail. I remember she said that my manuscript was fantastic and the character of Mila was amazing. She said also that Massimo Carlotto was really impressed and so, after that, they told me that they want to have me on board as author for the new imprint. It was amazing! 

DBB: Italy has produced some excellent, dark crime writers, such as Leonardo Sciascia and Giorgio Scerbanenco. Besides Massimo Carlotto and Carlo Lucarelli (with the De Luca novels), who are the best modern-day Italian noir, pulp, and hard-boiled writers? And what does the Anglo-American tradition give Italian readers that they will not find in Italian crime writing? Who are your favorite writers, artists, and filmmakers from that tradition?

MS: Modern-day Italian noir, pulp, and hard-boiled writers are Giancarlo De Cataldo, author of Romanzo Criminale and many other novels. A bigger-than-life and epic criminal saga, a cruel, merciless, bloody and magnificent tale about Banda della Magliana: a gang of thugs and mobsters that during the end of the seventies created a criminal empire in Rome and Italy. The novel tells the story of the relationship between criminals and corrupted politicians in Italy at that time, with gangs fighting for the control of drug traffic, prostitution and gambling in the different quarters of Rome. Another wonderful Italian novelist that I love is Maurizio De Giovanni, author of the Commissario Ricciardi series set in Naples in the early ‘30s, a fantastic police-procedural series.

DBB: Your own first novel, La Ballata Di Mila, reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill, which was based on a comic book. You also publish a novel by Victor Gischler, whose work sometimes reads like a comic book without the pictures. How do comics influence the fiction you write and publish?

MS: Comic books are a big inspiration for my work. More than this, recently I have written Red Dread, an arc, drawn by international artist Alessandro Vitti (Marvel), with Mila as the main character. The arc was awarded the “Premio Leone di Narnia 2012” as best comic-book arc of the year. But anyway, I love authors like Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Victor Gischler, as I said they are a big influence, in particular I think that Mila has a big debt to Ennis' The Punisher. When you read comics, sequences and cruel feelings like violence, anger, hatred, are literally graphic. I love to study the rhythm, the action, the storytelling. Comic-books and movies are a big inspiration for my work. For instance, Punisher stories like “Mother Russia” or “Barracuda,” by Garth Ennis, or “Welcome to the Bayou,” by Victor Gischler, are stylish visions of hell. You could taste (thanks to the amazing work of guys like artists Goran Parlov or Leandro Hernandez) reasons and motivations, souls and blood, and at the end of the story what you really think is that authors like Garth and Victor are able to go right to the point. No mercy on you, as reader, no fuckin’ cheesy lines.

DBB: A number of the authors published by Revolver write slam-bang, action-packed novels: Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Victor Gischler, and Christa Faust, for example. But you also publish Brian McGilloway, a quieter and more reflective writer than some of your other authors. How does McGilloway fit in with the publishing philosophy of Revolver?

MS: You know sometimes, we have to breathe. As you said, we love to publish action-packed novels, but at the same time we would like to offer different kind of crime fiction, different tunes and tastes, and Irish noir, for instance, is a wonderful new creature that, as publisher, we would like to show to the Italian readers. I hope to publish as soon as I can guys like Adrian McKinty or Stuart Neville but sometimes you cannot publish everything you want.
Practise your Italian at Revolver's Web site and at Matteo Strukul's own site. Read about Italy's best current crime writers, crime in northeastern Italy, and a new Italian literary movement and crime fiction festival, coming soon in Part II of Detectives Beyond Borders' interview with Matteo Strukul.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

The real Horace, plus a question for readers

I had read nothing by Horace McCoy, best known as the author of the 1935 novel They Shoot Horses, Don't They? until a friend send me a link to his story "The Mopper-Up." (Read "The Mopper-Up" free online.)

I'm a McCoy fan now, with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye shooting to the top of my TBR pile.

A posting on the Rara-Avis discussion board says that "the Frost series notwithstanding, many regard a non-series story entitled "The Mopper-Up" to be McCoy's best BLACK MASK submission."  I like the story for its convincing description of an oil boom town; for its telescoping that town's history into a wonderfully short space (I wonder if Scott Phillips likes McCoy) ; for its no-nonsense hero who, despite being a Good Man, is given a strong hint of menace; for its knowing depiction of fear and uncertainty; and for lines like these:
"When he came back downstairs the lower floor was emptied. Employees had deserted Patton in his hour of need and he stood alone and captured by a taxi driver." 
Since a comment above mentions Black Mask, today's question for you, readers is: Who is your favorite 1920s, '30s, '40s, or '50s hard-boiled crime writer not named Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Camus and crime

"There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose— even for transforming murderers into judges.

"Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, would kill everybody on earth in order to possess Cathy, but it would never occur to him to say that murder is reasonable or theoretically defensible. He would commit it, and there his convictions end. This implies the power of love, and also strength of character. Since intense love is rare, murder remains an exception and preserves its aspect of infraction. But as soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism. Once crime was as solitary as a cry of protest; now it is as universal as science. Yesterday it was put on trial; today it determines the law."
My latest adventure in non-crime reading opens with a discussion of crime. The paragraphs above are the opening of the introduction to The Rebel. Camus published the book in 1951, and his subjects were rebellion and revolution. But I say these two short paragraphs contain much to make contemporary crime writers and readers rub their chins thoughtfully.


© Peter Rozovsky 2013


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wolf Hall, kids, and crime

Hilary Mantel's much-honored 2009 novel Wolf Hall opens with a boy being beaten by his father. The scene is graphic but not clinical about the boy's injuries. More to the point for someone who comes to this historical novel from a background of crime fiction, few contemporary crime novels, Scandinavian or otherwise, would make detachment and even humor part of such a scene the way Mantel does:
“`That’s right,' Walter yells. `Spew everywhere.' Spew everywhere, on my good cobbles. `Come on, boy, get up. Let’s see you get up. By the blood of creeping Christ, stand on your feet.'

“Creeping Christ? he thinks. What does he mean?”
The scene's unnamed "he" and point-of-view character turns out to be young Thomas Cromwell, the hero of the book, who, by the second chapter, has grown up to be a lawyer and a confidant of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to Henry VIII on love, marriage, and other matters of the highest state importance. I don't know if the violence of the opening scene will resonate later in Thomas' life, but so far he shows no sign of being haunted or scarred, which I find refreshing and very much counter to the role young victims play in contemporary crime fiction.

Does the story's sixteenth-century setting made it easier for Mantel to write the scene the way she did?
Wolf Hall, which won the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors, is no crime novel. But its early pages include one passage that hints at the sort of intrigue and adventure that might attract crime readers:
“Still, he keeps up with what’s written, with what’s smuggled through the Channel ports, and the little East Anglian inlets, the tidal creeks where a small boat with dubious cargo can be beached and pushed out again, by moonlight, to sea.
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Too Many Cooks, or What would Nero Wolfe have thought about pfoodies?

Too Many Cooks may be the most lavishly praised of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels, “The masterpiece among three or four by Stout that deserve the name,” according to Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor’s A Catalogue of Crime, and winning applause from, among others, Agatha Christie.

I’m less than a chapter into the book, and I’m already floored that Stout could make food a subject about which men can talk seriously without seeming in the least precious, frivolous, or cozy. At the same time, Wolfe, as continental a detective as ever starred in a mystery story, defends American cuisine against the condescension of a European chef. Come to think of it, though, I’m not sure how often the word chef occurs in the chapter; Stout prefers cook.

This is all a bit of a revelation. Not only do we live in an age that worships celebrity chefs — decidedly not cooks — but the city where I live, Philadelphia, has experienced a much ballyhooed restaurant renaissance in recent years, at least one aspect of which would have earned a vociferous Pfui! from Wolfe.

Philadelphia, you see, has restaurant concepts as much as it has restaurants, with names that include Fork, Supper, Jones, and Spice, the last of which has, in a handbill posted in its front window, actually referred to itself as a “concept.” Even the occasional restaurant named for its owner or chef converts the name into a brand. Thus Marc Vetri’s acclaimed Italian restaurant is called not Vetri’s or Ristorante Vetri, as it might have been in Nero Wolfe’s time, but Vetri.

I can imagine Nero Wolfe's disgust at such foolishness. He would have had no truck with restaurant concepts. He'd have glared if you demeaned a great meal by calling it a dining experience. And you can bet that the word foodie would have made Wolfe spit up his saucisse minuit. How about you, readers? Would you rather dine at a restaurant concept, or is a good, old-fashioned restaurant enough for you?
(Read more about Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and more at the Wolfe Pack Web siteRead this article for an apt invocation of P.G. Wodehouse in connection with Rex Stout, though it gives short shrift to Stout's affinity with the wisecracking hard-boiled tradition.)
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

French stories of betrayal, paranoia and manipulation

The 1981 French movie Le Professional stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a French agent dispatched to Africa to kill a president, then left in the lurch to be captured and tortured when the political winds shift, and assassination is no longer called for.

Didier Daeninckx's 1984 French crime novel Murder in Memoriam (available in English translation from Melville House) has a son looking for his missing father in a novel that "exposed the hidden crimes of a nation."

In the 1970 and '80s, Jean-Patrick Manchette wrote novels whose protagonists are casually used and discarded by the French government. More recently, Dominique Manotti takes up a similar theme in her novels and stories. (Read James Sallis' appreciation of Manchette.)

Paranoia and manipulation were in the air in the 1970s, but did the French have a special affinity for this sort of story? If so, why? What are you favorite stories of a man or woman used, manipulated, and discarded government, corporate, or military power?
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

What's your favorite non-crime crime story?

I've been banging on about The Man Without Qualities for some time now, occasionally highlighting an aspect of Robert Musil's great novel that raised some issue pertinent to crime stories.

By no means are such passages restricted to chapters about the murderer Moosbrugger, and that leads to today's question: What non-crime stories have struck an unexpected crime-related chord? What issues, characters, or incidents have made you think, "Crime writers should be writing about this"?
© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Kafka's diaries: Can one dream without words?

The onlookers go rigid when the train goes past."
Not exactly "Dear diary: Today it rained, so we went in to town," is it? But then, most diarists are not Franz Kafka.

That's the opening line of the diaries Kafka kept between 1910 and 1923, and I thought its dreamlike clarity would make a fine opening for a crime story. Then I wondered: What accounts for that particular image? What were the building blocks of Kafka's dreams?

I'm sure psychologists and other disreputable creatures have expended much ink on the subject, but the key may be simpler. Here's the sentence in the original German, nouns capitalized, according to that language's idiosyncratic spelling rules:
"Die Zuschauer erstarren, wenn der Zug vorbeifährt."
Perhaps the alliteration of Zuschauer and Zug struck a chord. How does a translator express this? In this case, the image is odd enough to work in translation even if it loses something; this is Kafka, after all. But some sonic correspondences must make translators sigh and relegate the explanation to a footnote.

(Read Detectives Beyond Borders' interviews with translators for some thoughts on translation problems.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

AITS ANK, Broad Street, Philadelphia

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pierce Brosnan to star in The Ghosts of Belfast on the big screen

Stuart Neville
Stuart Neville's Ghosts of Belfast has apparently made it out of movie-option limbo, with Pierce Brosnan set to play the lead (a haunted ex-paramilitary hitman named Fegan in the book). Casting is apparently underway, with no roles other than Brosnan's cast as yet.

The movie, to be titled Last Man Out, is scheduled to begin shooting the end of this year, with a script co-written by Ted Mulkerin and Craig Ferguson, the latter of whom had acquired an option on the novel. That probably explains why Neville got a lot more camera and talk time on Ferguson's show than have some of the other crime writers who have appeared.

The Ghosts of Belfast won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, James Ellroy called it "a flat-out terror trip," and Detectives Beyond Borders read it in one sitting. You should, too.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book references in books

I've  just read my first James Sallis novel, Drive, and I can see why Ken Bruen likes this guy. Both authors wear their influences on their sleeve, filling the protagonist's ears and bookshelves with the author's favorite music and crime novels.

George Pelecanos makes it into books by both writers, and Sallis himself finds a place in Bruen's London Boulevard, next to Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford, John Harvey, Andrew Vachss and, naturally, Jim Thompson.

"Driver," the unnamed protagonist of Drive sleeps, for at least one night, next to a nightstand crowded with Richard Stark, John Shannon, and Gary Phillips, in addition to the Pelecanos. Drive's musical references include the jazz guitarists Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson and lo, Sallis has written at least three books about jazz guitar and guitarists.

Quite naturally, given my other recent reading, Sallis also has a character invoke Paul Celan in a conversation that also includes Borges and Don Quixote.

Your question:  If you've read Drive, what do those references add? If you have not, what kind of novel do you think it is, based on this selection of its literary and musical references?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, February 08, 2013

German to leave you squirmin'

Someone must be spying on me. I've been posting about Robert Musil and Joseph Roth, and the good folks at Penguin must be paying attention because a package of books that arrived yesterday included, in addition to crime novels and thrillers, a collection called Tales of the German Imagination.

The book includes "tales of melancholy and madness, nightmare and fantasy" going back 200 years from the Brothers Grimm, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Heinrich von Kleist, Peter Alternberg, Rilke, Kafka ("In the Penal Colony"), Paul Celan, and many more — including Musil.

Kafka and Celan certainly have much to teach crime writers about atmosphere and grim, grim humor. Your question: What can crime writers learn from tales of nightmare, fantasy, and angst?

(Find the table of contents of Tales of the German Imagination here.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Problems of a blogger with a post to write

I predicted that The Man Without Qualities would have something to say to readers of crime fiction (as this greatest of twentieth-century novels does to anyone), but, somewhat to my surprise, the passage I think likeliest to interest readers of the kind of crime fiction I write about here has nothing to do with the sex killer Moosbrugger and nothing to do with murder.

Rather, the pertinent reflections come in a chapter titled "Problems of a moralist with a letter to write," as the protagonist Ulrich and his sister contemplate a financial crime:
"It occurred  to him right at the start, for instance, that whenever he had taken a `moral' stance so far, he had always been psychologically worse off than when he was doing or thinking something that might usually be considered `immoral.' This is a common occurrence, for in situations that are in conflict with their surroundings these ideas and action develop all their energies, while in the mere doing of what is right and proper they understandably behave as if they were paying taxes."
 The same chapter disposes humorously of good/good and bad/bad people, proposing that only those in between, the good/bad and the bad/good, make "purposeful moral efforts." The disposition of the bad/bads might bring a blush to readers of crime novels whose villains dispose of their victims in especially graphic or artistic ways:
"For bad/bad people, who can so easily be blamed for everything, were even than as rare as they are today."
The Man Without Qualities is often cited as one of the greatest European novels of the twentieth century, and I've never read a better. As for one of its rivals, I once read that a humorous slogan once declared that "Marcel Proust is a Yenta." And, to tell the truth, the man could go on.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Detectives Beyond Borders reads London Boulevard

A recent discussion here at Detectives Beyond Borders touched on the relative merits of laconic and expansive prose. Ken Bruen can write both.

He's better known for his machine-gun verbal outbursts. A fair parody of Bruen on paper would include

Short sentences.

Idiosyncratic paragraphing.


Mordant, rapid-fire jokes that bounce off the page like hailstones.

But London Boulevard is also chillingly laconic in the matter of its protagonist's reactions to the violence he inflicts, experiences, and has experienced. And that makes this 2001 novel more than just a revenge odyssey or damaged-hero story, though it is both.

It also is the author's version of Sunset Boulevard and, with a possible quibble about a surprising personality switch on the part of the Erich von Stroheim character, that aspect of the novel holds together beautifully and without intruding on the novel's suspense and mystery. Discussion of Bruen tends to focus on his raw emotion, tragic humor, and this like—on feeling rather than craft. But London Boulevard shows he’s capable of a well-crafted mystery while retaining all the rawness you’ve come to love. And that's why it's probably my favorite, and maybe the best, of the seventeen or so of his novels that I've read.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

I review Nesbø in the Philadelphia Inquirer

The novel is Phantom, ninth of Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole novels, and my review begins thus:
"I once suggested that some Nordic crime novels are Jackie Collins or Harold Robbins with enough mildly leftist musing thrown in to make readers feel intellectually respectable."
More than in my previous reviews, I write about why I think Nesbø made some of the choices he made. The man has a living to make, after all.

Read my guesses about Phantom, Nesbø, Nordic crime, and why readers read it in the complete review here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Friday, February 01, 2013

The Man Without Qualities and you, plus ill-matched book covers

"Ulrich retorted:`A particularly fine head on a man usually means that he's stupid ... in literature, talents not much above average are usually regarded by their contemporaries as geniuses.'"
Whom, authors or otherwise, does that remind you of?

"Ulrich, thinking he was the first to have realized that the man under the window was one of those sick people who through the abnormality of their sex lives attract the lively curiosity of the sexually normal..."
What scandals or crime novels does that remind you of? And how many schillings would you care to bet that Musil smiled when he wrote that passage?
Odd Musil cover note: One edition of The Man Without Qualities bears reproductions of paintings by the Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele — odd because the novel as well as commentaries to Musil's essays make it clear that Musil was wary at best of the Expressionists' tempestuous emotions. What covers have you thought particularly ill-matched to their books?

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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