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.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011