Saturday, August 27, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

Chris Ewan's Good Thief's Guide to Venice does what Ernst Lubitsch did at the beginning of his great 1932 movie comedy Trouble in Paradise: It shows the gritty side of a fairy-tale city.

In the Lubitsch, we get a crane shot of a canal at night, palazzi in the background, complete with a gondola or two, and perhaps opera being whistled on the soundtrack. The travelling camera then reveals a trash collector picking up canalside refuse and dumping it into his garbage gondola.

In Ewan, we get damp, dark alleys, cold rain, and freezing rooms (yes, Venice has winters), a setting at times more like Carol Reed's Vienna than like Venice. This provides an unexpected background for the novel's comedy, and it helps make the menace believable. This is a crime novel, after all, albeit one whose protagonist combines the unlikely careers of crime writer and thief.

Hmm, the two chief characters in Trouble in Paradise are also thieves.  Did Ewan have the movie in mind when he wrote the book? I'll have to ask him during the “CRANKY STREETS: WHAT'S SO FUNNY ABOUT MURDER?” panel, which I'll moderate and of which Ewan will be a member, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 11:30 a.m.-12:30, at Bouchercon 2011.  
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The illustration to the left in this post is a first edition of The Maltese Falcon. Such a book figures prominently in Ewan's novel.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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6 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

It sounds like every single episode of Murder She Wrote or Hart to Hart. Underneath the glittering veneer beloved by the naive tourists lies skullduggery and murder...

What I would like to see is someone transposing the tropes of tourist Venice with say modern day Manhattan using Venice's winged lion symbol (the sign of St Mark) as a kind of running motif with the idea of virginity, sexuality and renewal. Oh wait someone's already done that too.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Naw, it doesn't take itself that seriously. It's not a gritty expose, any more than Trouble in Paradise is. And we don't get ironic juxtapositions of glorious sights with squalid alleys.

August 27, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I thought Guido Brunetti showed some of the criminal side of life in Venice and the injustice of it all, as the rich and well-connected are not caught and punished. It's not a seamy, sleazy picture, but it does show many crimes, the inaction and corruption by government officials and the negative effects of tourism.

And if we, who can't go to Bouchercon, hear/read any more about these panels, we'll be picketing with signs or flooding their web site, demanding web conferencing or audio and videotapes, or dvds of the entire event!

August 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Bouchercon Web site mentions a company called VW Tapes under the heading "Audio recordings of panels." There's nothing yet about Bouchercon on the VW Tapes site, so I don't know how or when recordings will be available, or whether all panels will be available or just selected ones. I'll keep you posted. I wouldn't mind some recordings of my own panels.

August 28, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Does the conference have a website email and a phone no.?

August 28, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, here’s the company’s Web site. I see no mention of Bouchercon 2011 on it yet.

August 28, 2011  

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