Thursday, February 02, 2006

Massimo Carlotto and Jim Thompson

The latest of Massimo Carlotto's crime/noir novels to be translated is The Goodbye Kiss. The first two (see earlier posts) are in a series about club owner/private detective "Alligator" in Padua, but Giorgio, of The Goodbye Kiss, is not in that series (though there is an alligator, very early in the novel). Alligator and Giorgio share a background in radical Italian politics (as does the author, and Giorgio shares a good deal of the author's life story, including a time spent in exile after fleeing prosecution in Italy for a political crime, eventual return to Italy, prison time, and ultimate "rehabilitation" under the law. But The Goodbye Kiss is an old-fashioned noir thriller like those of Jim Thompson (and a little like the more recent ones of George Pelecanos, except that Pelecanos's heroes are never as amoral and ruthless as Giorgio). Like Thompson's novels, this one has less a plot than a sequence of events that follow one after the other. And like Thompson's novels, this onesequence demonstrates a descent, murders leading to murders and suspicions leading to the necessity of more murders. But Giorgio is so unlikable that his increasing difficulties in his effort to reach a stable life in Italy seem beside the point. He only seeks the illusion of stability, while having every intention to live as ruthless a life, dominating the women around him in particular, as ever. The ending is less a conclusion than merely a pause in this career. On the positive side, Carlotto's novel is carefully placed in the context of Italian politics, particularly the violent political events of past decades. To look upon the bleakness of this novel's story and it's "hero" as positively as possible, one could say that the author has portrayed the realities of a heartless postmodern Italy, with its turbulent politics replaced by rampant greed and self-interest. Maybe it's too much for me to ask for a little more entertainment, even of the pulp variety such as Jim Thompson would have provided, along the way.

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