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.
In short, the first-ever English translation of his 1966 novel A Private Venus (Venere Privata) has to be the year's biggest event yet for readers of translated crime fiction, and I hope its status as a new book in English makes it eligible for the big crime-fiction awards in the U.S. and U.K. next year.
Here's a passage that sums up the novel's intriguing mix of involvement, alienation, social observation and wry, dark self-awareness:
"Everything was going wrong, the only thing that worked was the air conditioning in those two rooms in the Hotel Cavour, cool without being damp and without smelling odd; everything was going badly wrong in a way that the confident, efficient Milanese who passed, sweating, along the Via Fatebenefratelli or through the Piazza Cavour couldn't begin to imagine, even though they read stories like this every day in the Corriere. For them, these stories belonged to a fourth dimension, devised by an Einstein of crime, who was even more incomprehensible than the Einstein of physics. What was real was going to the tobacconist to buy filter cigarettes, so that they didn't feel so bad about smoking ... "
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"