Giorgio Scerbanenco, the father of Italian noir — in English
So the release of a Scerbanenco novel in English is a not just an event, but exceedingly rare and welcome. A Private Venus (Venera Privata), the 1966 novel that introduced the defrocked physician Duca Lamberti, is just the second of the series to be translated into English and the first in more than forty years.
What can readers expect? An introduction says that in the two decades after World War II, Scerbanenco was more prolific than Georges Simenon, and the mention of Simenon strikes a chord. The novel’s first ninety or so pages read like a Maigret novel might if the narration examined Maigret’s psyche as thoroughly as it did that of Maigret’s quary – or if David Goodis wrote a police procedural. And that’s good.
That psychological dissection is more to the fore so far than are the vivid evocations of Milan that those who read Scerbanenco in Italian often cite. The opening of Chapter Four, though, gives a tantalizing hint: “Even in Milan, the sun rises every now and then.” And a cover blurb from Carlo Lucarelli says that Scerbanenco wrote “Some of the hardest and darkest pages ever written in a novel.”
A thousand thanks to Hersilia Press for publishing the book, translated fluently into English by Detectives Beyond Borders friend Howard Curtis. I hope the house, which looks to be making much fine Italian crime writing available to readers of English, has plans for more Scerbanenco.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012