Massimo Carlotto – At the End of a Dull Day

Dulldaypic_1383942569This is the second book in a month that I’ve read where the violence has made me wince. But, like in Pierre LeMaitre’s Irene, the level of violence in At the End of a Dull Day seems proportionate to the setting and the oeuvre within which Massimo Carlotto writes.

Georgio Pellogrino, a protagnist in an earlier Carlotto novel, is leading a relatively straight existence running a popular restaurant in the Veneto area of Italy. Frequented by politicians and other members of polite Italian society, the restaurant comes under threat when Pelligrino discovers that a popular politician with Ministerial ambitions has lost two million of Pellegrino’s Euros in a Ponzi style scheme. He swears revenge and discovers a lost appetite for violence and killing.

Although, at 192 pages, this is a relatively short book, the narrative is densely packed in terms of both plot and characterisation. Pelligrino is an anti-hero of the traditional kind. His capacity for violence, especially towards women, is shocking but there’s a world weariness to him too. As readers we’re both shocked by the contempt with which he treats the women in his life and he absurd justifications he makes for doing so.

I found the narrative to be completely compelling and read it in virtually one sitting. In many ways this isn’t the style of book I normally read but I could only sit back and enjoy the stark brutality of Carlotto’s writing.

Thanks to Europa Editions for my review copy. The translator was Antony Shugaar .

Crime Fiction Events – February Round-Up

I don’t often update readers of this blog on what I get up to outside my reading activities. However, I’ve been to a few crime fiction events over the last week or so which has brought up things of interest to readers of the genre. There’s a lot going on in the London crime fiction community at the moment which I think you’ll be interested in. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been up to, with a couple of questions I’d like you to think about thrown in.

Anya Lipska Book Launch

AL doAnya’ s excellent début novel Where the Devil Can’t Go, available for most of last year as an e-book, was published in print by The Friday Project this month, with a launch at Daunt Books in Marylebone. The book was one of my top 5 crime reads last year and I’m delighted that it will be reaching a wider audience. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to give it a go. My review is here.

Murder in the Library Exhibition

The British Library has an exhibition on at the moment which is curated around an eclectic A – Z of crime fiction. I’m sure there were some interesting discussions as the team decided who or what to put under each letter.  There were a few notable omissions (where was Ruth Rendell?) but it made for a thought provoking visit. A highlight for me was the original 1926 manuscript of the Sherlock Holmes short story The Adventure of the Retired Colourman. If you can get along to the exhibition before it finishes in May I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

The Story of Crime Fiction BL event

An event at the British Library to complement the above exhibition featured a panel moderated by Mark Lawson with crime writers PD James, Henry Sutton and Jason Webster. The authors discussed who had been an influence on their own works – which brought up an interesting mix of writers including Dorothy L Sayers, Jospehine Tey, Micahel Didbin and and Raymond Chandler. A wide-ranging conversation ensued with one rather contentious point made. The panel agreed that in general women writers find it easier to create male characters, while male crime writers largely are unable to write convincing female protagonists.

Do you agree? I thought about this afterwards and an example I would use to argue against this would be Adrian Hyland’s Emily Tempest. However, the fact that I’m struggling to come up with many more suggests this is the exception that proves the rule. Does anyone have any other examples?

Italian Crime Fiction

Belgravia Books, a great bookshop about five minutes walk from Victoria station, hosted an event to celebrate Italian Crime Fiction last Thursday. Writer and journalist Barry Forshaw was in conversation with Ilaria Meliconi , the founder of Hersilia Press to explore the genre from Visconti to Camilleri. The interesting discussion encompassed both books and films and I especially enjoyed the comparisons of the TV series of Montalbano and the Camilleri novels.Belgravia Books event

Italian (and other Mediterranean) crime fiction doesn’t enjoy the popularity of its Scandinavian counterpart in this country. It was posited that perhaps the British psyche identifies more with Scandinavia than with Mediterranean countries. I think this is almost certainly true – but hasn’t stopped British readers enjoying the books of other hot climes such as Tony Hillerman or Adrian Hyland. Any suggestions as to why that might be the case?

So some interesting events and there are more in the pipeline. It’s always great to meet in person people I only know through their blogs or on twitter. And apologies for the terrible photos to accompany this post. Photographing these events usually involves me waving my iphone in a shamefaced way while the discussion is taking place. The next morning I’m usually dismayed by the quality of the result – for obvious reasons. I do promise to try harder.