Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blogger shows author some love, or More about Michael Dibdin

I got on Michael Dibdin’s case yesterday; today I’m pleased to pass along a thoughtful article from Booklist via the Librarian's Place that says his Aurelio Zen series “launched what eventually would become the still-flourishing renaissance of the Italian crime novel.”

But Dibdin was even more influential than that, according to author Bill Ott: “(W)ith Zen came the distinctive world-weariness that eventually would define the new European procedural, not only in Italy but also in Scandinavia.”

That, readers, is big. And Ott just might be right. The dates work. Dibdin published the first Aurelio Zen novel in 1988. That predates Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander and Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano. Ian Rankin published his first John Rebus novel in 1987, but the series did not hit its stride for a few years. In sum, Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen may be the most influential crime-fiction character of the past twenty years.

What do you think? Who is more influential as a world-weary fictional detective than Aurelio Zen? If you haven’t met Zen, who are your favorite such detectives?

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Michael Walters said...

It's an intriguing question, though the causation of these things probably always remains mysterious. On the international stage, I suppose it's worth noting that Manuel Vazquez Montalban's Carvalho series - which certainly influenced Camilleri, as his detective's name attests - began a few years before this. I'm also intrigued by the fact that Dibden's Zen, Rankin's Rebus and John Harvey's Resnick, who between them form something of a UK template for the world-weary detective, all first appeared within a year or two of each other in the late 1980s. Maybe it was something in the air, or the declining latter-days of Thatcherism. I also wonder about the contribution of Inspector Morse - not so much Colin Dexter's books as John Thaw's TV depiction of the grumpy, beer-drinking cruciverbalist copper, which first came to the screen in (I think) 1987.

October 18, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

For some reason I've never thought of Pepe Carvalho as world-weary. Perhaps that's because I think of other things when I enumerate attributes: the author's political commitment, the stories' noirish tinge and the character's personal chef. I did know that Camilleri honored Vazquez Montalban when he created Salvo Montalbano.

On the other hand, I did include Pepe Carvalho in a post I made some time back about loner detectives (http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/02/deadline-in-athens-part-ii.html), so who knows?

I've only read a non-Resnick short story by John Harvey. Any recommendations on where to begin reading Resnick?

October 18, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Couldn't it be argued that Sam Spade was the world-weariest of them all? Or Spillane's Mike Hammer?

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

One could make the case for Sam Spade, though the article does specify that the Zen's influence extends to the new European police procedural, none of which includes Spade.

Mike Hammer was not world-weary, he was a a fulminating sociopath.

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Grins. But in Stacy Keach's hands, such a good one!

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

I've heard good things about Keach's performances. My comments were based on my brief Mickey Spillane kick of a few years ago. I read one of the novels and liked it, My Gun is Quick, I think.

I then ordered an omnibus of three more of the novels, started reading one, and was revolted by the rat-tat-tat monotony of the political rants. It was like being trapped in an elevator with a caffeine-fueled street preacher.

I did like several elements of the books, but other writers did them better. To be fair to Spillane, perhaps those writers went on to do them better after Spillane showed the way. Still, he's not the first writer I'll pick up when I set out to rediscover American crime classics.

October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Michael Walters said...

With regard to John Harvey, in my view all his Resnick books are worth reading - well-written, strong characters, good plotting, tight dialogue. I'd be inclined to start at the beginning, with 'Lonely Hearts', partly because Harvey's very good at creating a sense of an emerging wider world behind the novels (for instance, Resnick appears in walk-on parts in Harvey's more recent Frank Elder series - come to think of it, Elder's probably an even more world-weary character).

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

And what could be a better name for a world-weary character than Frank Elder?

I've heard and read such good things about John Harvey, who seems to a part of everybody's mental crime-fiction landscape. Reading the books in series order would be a novelty for me, too. Thanks for the recommendation.

October 19, 2007  
Blogger Pat Miller said...

I couldn't agree more with Michael Walter's comments about John Harvey's Resnick series. Don't overlook the excellent Resnick short story collection, Now's the Time.
Another world-weary protagonist to keep in mind is Marshall Browne's Inspector Anders who has been duelling with some extremely wearying crime figures in his 3 novels to date. Anders is also based in Italy and his cases throw a particularly noirish light on current European political issues.

October 29, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Thanks, Pat. The only Harvey story I read was a non-Resnick story that was especially striking because it was only peripherally about a crime. So, yes, I'm prepared to believe that his Resnick stories are also worth reading.

What can I tell you, other than that you've added to my book list? Marshall Browne also sounds worth looking into, especially since my latest question to readers concerned authors who express strong political opinions.

If you like crime stories set in Italy, you might like the Italian Mysteries Web site at http://italian-mysteries.com/.

October 29, 2007  

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