Get closer to the Mediterranean, and food is life. Here's an example from The Terra-Cotta Dog, Andrea Camilleri's second novel about Inspector Salvo Montalbano. A sympathetic journalist friend rescues the hapless Montalbano from the ordeal of a press conference that follows the mysterious arrest of a mobster named Tano:
And just to make things even harder, there were the adoring eyes of Corporal Anna Ferrara, staring at him from the crowd.And there the chapter ends.
Niccolò Zito, newsman from the Free Channel and a true friend, tried to rescue him from the quicksand in which he was drowning.
"Inspector, with your permission," said Zito. "You said you met Tano on your way back from Fiacca, where you'd been invited to eat a tabisca with friends. Is that correct?"
"What is a tabisca?"
They'd eaten tabisca many times together. Zito was simply tossing him a life preserver. Montalbano seized it. Suddenly confident and precise, the inspector went into a detailed description of that extraordinary, multiflavored Italian pizza.
No authors combine food and crime with greater zest than Camilleri, Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and Jean-Claude Izzo. And few crime writers can have been as committed men of the left as these three. Izzo wrote with great sympathy of Marseilles' Arab population, and he worked for Pax Christi, a Roman Catholic peace movement. Vázquez Montalbán was active in anti-Franco movements. Camilleri joined the Italian Communist Party, and his books are filled with funny, bitter denunciations of Italian politicians and their service to the Mafia.
This must seem especially exotic to American crime-fiction readers, for whom the words food and mystery are likely to evoke thoughts of cozies with recipes, and for whom commitment of any kind is likely to seem antithetical to anything so hedonistic as good food.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009