Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fruttero & Lucentini

Does anyone remember the crime novels of Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini? They remain bestsellers in Europe, but only one was published in the U.S. (The Sunday Woman, translated by William Weaver in the mid-70s, was promoted as a literary novel rather than a crime novel, if I remember correctly--possibly because of the translator and the publisher, Helen and Kurt Wolff). Another title, An Enigma by the Sea, was in print in the U.K. for a while, and a third was promised there but never published. It's difficult to see why these novels have not been a success in English. They're hardly noir, in any traditional sense. They're light and frequently funny, depicting the interrelationships among a group of middle-class Italians in difficult circumstances and various cities. The Sunday Woman is set in Turin (of which we get a significant tour in the novel), and deals with murder (of course) but also sexual pursuit and attraction. The conversation between the detective and the leading lady is funny and true to life, as is the attraction between them (not Bogart and Bacall stuff, more comic and real). There are also gay lovers, hot pursuits through a city market, and langorous conversations in hillside villas. The Sunday Woman is long out of print, but still easy to find second-hand (it must have had a large printing in its first edition, plus a mass-market paperback was done, also in the 70s). Enigma by the Sea deals with a murder among a group gathered together in a country house, but the dynamic is much the same. The novels are charming and addictive, and worth going back to read again. If you're looking for shoot-em-up action, you'll find them frustratingly slow. If character and setting are what you're interested in in a crime novel, they're unsurpassed. I long for more of them to be available in English, since I have little hope of polishing up the little Italian I know enough to read them in the original...

4 comments:

Euro Crime said...

There's also 'The D. Case or the Truth About the Mystery of Edwin Drood'. I take it that 'No Fixed Abode' didn't get published in the end?

spartacus said...

I agree with most of your comments on "A Sunday Woman" though just because it isn't noir doesn't make it light.I'm glad you found it easily second hand. It took me a couple of years to find -Amazon eventually. It also took me a long time to find the excellent Timothy Williams "Commissario Trotti" series. Why did he stop?
Why too did Christopher West stop his Inspector Wang books?

Timothy said...

Spartacus, I have never stopped writing but Gollancz was taken over and the yellow crime paperbacks disappeared.

Timothy Williams said...

I wonder if I still have readers out there. For any one who is interested, I have a new novel that I wrote in French that Rivages in Paris are going to publish in 2011.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Williams_(author)