Thursday, March 20, 2014

Scerbanenco is just as good the second time

Giorgio Scerbanenco's 1966 novel A Private Venus is just as good between American covers as it is between British ones, and the best news on the Melville House edition may be the three words above the title: "The Milan Quartet."

A Private Venus was the first of Scerbanenco's Duca Lamerti novels. Melville House will publish Traitors to All later this year, with the books known in Italian as I ragazzi del massacro ("The Boys of the Massacre") and I milanesi ammazzano al sabato ("The Milanese Kill on Saturday") to follow.

The first four chapters of A Private Venus are as breathtaking and moving an opening as any in crime fiction. Here's part of what I wrote when I first read the novel, and to this list I might add the deadpan observation of Italian neo-realism and the compassion of William McIlvanney:
"I can't quite figure out whom Giorgio Scerbanenco reminds me of most. He can be as dark as Leonardo Sciascia, as deadpan realistic as Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, as probing in his observation of people as Simenon, as humane as Camilleri, as noir as Manchette, as hope-against-hopeful as David Goodis, but with a dark, dark humor all his own."
Among its other high points, the book is rendered into English by Howard Curtis, one of the finest translators of crime fiction.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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19 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

This sounds like very good news, Peter. I love Italian crime fiction, though I am nowhere near as caught up with it as I am with Irish crime fiction, and even there I am way behind.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The English-speaking world is catching up along with you; the novel first appeared in 1966. The current translation, published in the UK by Hersilia Press and now in the US by Melville House, is the first in English.

I admit to a bit of an ego boost with this US edition: It includes a review blurb from me. I'm right there on the first page, just under Carlo Lucarelli.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Two good endorsements, then.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The blurb reminded me that is's time to check if Lucarelli ever wrote a fourth De Luca novel.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Let us know what you find out.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

His Web site lists the titles of his novels without description, so I can't tell if any might be a fourth De Luca novel. But it does appear that the three so far are available in English in an omnibus edition. I recommend the novels highly.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oops. Looks like that might be yet another instance of Fantastic Fiction jumping the gun. I find no evidence that an omnibus is available from leading online sellers.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I've read them, so I don't need the omnibus, and I expect Europa will publicize a fourth if they get the English rights.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fantastic Fiction has a picture of the omnibus' putative cover, along with a publication date of 2013. But Europa's Web site does not list the book. So, something may once have been about to happen, and something may someday happen, but nothing appears to be happening now with respect to an omnibus. But I urge readers to scoop up the individual volumes.

March 21, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only three De Luca novels. He has written numerous detective stories and mysteries that have not been translated into English although they are available in French, German and, of course, Italian. The triptych "Judges" with Carlo Lucarelli, Andrea Camilleri, and Giancarlo De Cataldo is supposed to be out shortly, in English.

March 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not heard of that volume. Thanks. Here is some information about the book.

Judges seem to play a larger role in Italian crime fiction than in crime writing from other countries. Leonardo Sciascia will have magistrates as char acters, for example, and Gianrico Carofiglio was himself an anti-Mafia magistrate. Italian crime writers seem especial driven to investigate the nature of justice.

March 22, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Peter, you would be the person to write the book about each country's particular crime fiction's penchants and obsessions if ever anyone was going to write a contrast and compare sort of book or long article about it.

March 22, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I thank you, though I'd have to think of them as specialized monographs. A number of studies have looked at crime fiction as a whole in individual countries. So let's say you have planted a seed in the soil I have instead of a brain. Let's see if the thing germinates!

March 22, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I don't know about monographs, but I think one would have to read a lot from a lot of countries to see both commonality within and contrast with other cultures. And you have, so you'd be suited.

March 22, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I'd be rubbing my chin thoughtfully if I were not typing. I wonder to what extent the stories in Judges take account, explicitly or otherwise, of the murders of the judges Falcone and Borsalino by the Mafia.

March 22, 2014  
Blogger Simona said...

Duca Lamberti has an additional pull on me, as he moves in a city where I lived for 10 years.

Speaking of Italian authors, have you read anything by Maurizio de Giovanni?

March 22, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have not yet read Maurizio de Giovanni, but his name has come up in this discussion, so I have been browsing his books. Any suggestions on where to start?

I spent a few days in Milan years ago, long enough that I recognize some of the locations in A Private Venus. I expect that the near-rural area where the photographers set up their second studio is thoroughly developed by now.

I am thinking about attending the SugarPulp festival in Padua later this year. If I do, I will likely fly into Milan, so I could explore Duca Lamberti country again.

March 22, 2014  
Blogger Simona said...

Start with "I Will Have Vengeance", which is where the background of Commissario Ricciardi is given. The stories are set in Naples during the Fascist era.

March 23, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

They should make for interesting comparison with the De Luca novels. I also recently read La Pelle, by Curzio Malaparte, in English translation, so I have Naples on my mind.

Thanks.

March 23, 2014  

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