Saturday, September 30, 2006

An Italian writer ...

... sends notice of Giallografia, an online crime-fiction magazine. Contents are mostly Italian, though the home page links to an English version of the author's Twenty rules for writing a detective novel, a "modern re-write" of S.S. Van Dine's twenty rules. Visitors to the site will notice lots of yellow, and there's a reason for that: giallo is the Italian word for yellow -- and also the term for crime writing. A crime writer is a giallista in Italian.

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Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks for the link to Twenty Rules, Peter.

I don't feel quite so bad about not liking two of the British CWA Dagger award winners of the last few years, that in my opinion broke these rules.
The Athenian Murders[Jose Carlos Somoza} and Blacklist [Sara Paretsky] were not my cup of tea. They had to alter the CWA rules to stop the European continentals from winning. By the way have you read Fred Vargas and if so which of her books do you recommend?

October 01, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for your note. I haven't read Fred Vargas. I did read an enthusiastic review of one of her novels recently, though I don't remember which one.

I also read a cry of alarm about the altering of the CWA rules and, I believe, creation of a separate award that continentals could be eligible for. How did those winning books break the rules?

Speaking of rules, do you know the Ten Rules of Father Knox (
) -- and Josef Skovercky's entertaining book Sins for Father Knox (
), in which the author challenges the reader to figure out which rule is broken in each story? (He provides answers at the back of the book.)

I'm not sure I'm much of a rules guy, and readers like me are probably frustrating to lovers of classic detective stories. I do, however, think that the Brazilian writer Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza cheated in one of his novels. I won't say which one, in order to avoid ruining the pleasure of anyone who should read the book!

October 01, 2006  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

A good detective novel doesn’t have any other meaning; so it’s pointless singing the author’s praises for highlighting significant social problems of today or for its subtle semantic qualities. A good detective novel must be judged, solely and exclusively, on the quality of its criminal plot and on the fluidity with which it is built into the story.

The solution to a detective novel must be unequivocal; there MUST only be one truth upon which the facts are based. This is also a key condition when judging the quality of the plot.

The solution to a detective novel must always be within the grasp of a capable reader.

Blacklist broke number 1 and I just did not like the flow of the book. I know Italian corruption is endemic, so I don't mind that in novels. Italy without corruption would not be Italy.
But I am not keen on political diatribes in books set in the UK or the USA.

The Athenian Murders broke number 2, and was in my very humble opinion complete rubbish. The author just got too big for his boots and tried to be too clever.

I also am not a rules guy but I could pin a rules failure on both these books that I did not enjoy.

I might say that the CWA diid pick some great books in the last few years.
2001 Gold,Sidetracked: Henning Mankell and silver: Forty Words for Sorrow:Giles Blunt

2005 Silence of the Grave: Arnaldur Indridason

I hope I have not been too harsh on the Paretsky and Somoza but I did hate them. I am ratty today because my son borrowed the second of our two very small cars, and got hit by a bus. He is OK but sorting out insurance is going to be a problem as the bus did not stop!

October 02, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks for the note. I'd been thinking of putting the rules question to readers in a separate post, and I just may go ahead and do so now.

You picked two good rules. I'd say the first is decidedly true and may well hold true even if one substitutes crime novel for detective novel.

The one-truth rule is valid as well, as long as one remembers that the one truth need not lead to a solution. or rather, that the solution may be open-ended.

You mentioned Italian corruption.
In several of Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels, the one truth is corruption, and the solution is that there is no "solution," at least not in the wrap-it-up-in-the-last-scene sense of classic detective stories. I can think of French crime novels where the situation is similar.

I wonder also if apparent breaches of the first rule may be failures of execution rather than conception. A story fails not so much because an author includes political and social material that doesn't belong in a crime story, but because he or she failed to integrate it well.

October 02, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

And I hope that insurance situation resolves itself without becoming too much of a bother. Given the nature of the problem, perhaps I shoud refrain from recommending Giampiero Rigosi's Night Bus, whose protagonist is a bus driver in Bologna.

October 02, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

I wouldn't say that "it’s pointless singing the author’s praises for highlighting significant social problems of today or for its subtle semantic qualities" -- as long as those qualities don't overwhelm the criminal plot.

October 02, 2006  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

As in the Dibdins in some of Donna Leon's books Brunetti accepts he is not going to bring the perpetrator to justice.
In Blacklist I think the political point did overwhelm the plot, but that political stance was very popular in the UK with many people, therefore it won the Gold Dagger.

Thanks for you good wishes on the insurance problem, and I will give Night Bus a miss until I find out that the bus company admits liability, and I don't lose my no claims bonus.

October 03, 2006  
Blogger Peter said...

I was just kidding in my comment about Night Bus. You may be torn between your love of novels set in Italy and your current aversion to buses, but I hope that does not prevent you from reading a book you might like.

I haven't read Blacklist, but I wonder if crime writers outside the U.K. and the U.S. "do" political crime novels better than their American and British counterparts. This is a field for endless speculation, and I'll save it for a separate post.

October 03, 2006  

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