Saturday, March 18, 2006
New Italian noir from Giampiero Rigosi
The newly translated Night Bus by Giampiero Rigosi (from the UK's Bitter Lemon Press) is a wild ride, a combination of Pulp Fiction and the Pink Panther. The story, with a large cast of characters, is told in short blackouts that weave the strands of the plot around and around, tightening the chararcters in the web that Franz, a bus driver who is perhaps the only innocent in the whole lot, sees in the streetmap of the city of Bologna that he navigates on his bus route. Night Bus should actually come with a warning label--Rigosi is so good at keeping the story (and the suspense) going that the book is hard to put down. I actually could not pick it up and start reading unless I knew I had a substantial block of time to give to it. At every turn, a new complication or twist pops up to keep the story going at its breakneck pace. It's obvious that Rigosi is a skilled writer, and that his aims are above the level of pulp, but he never condescends to the reader or the genre. As dark as the story is, and as many corpses as do pile up, the comedy remains at a high level. And while you may think you see a particular resolution coming, Rigosi manages to keep surprising the reader by avoiding plot cliches that are irresistible to most mainstream thriller and mystery writers. I regret that it will take a while to get any further novels from Rigosi translated, and that we're at the mercy of boardroom decisions about whether and when we'll see any more at all (maybe I should brush up on my Italian). But for now, Night Bus is one of the best noir thriller's I've read in a long time, and clearly the best of Bitter Lemon's fine list of translated noir fiction.