Monday, November 8th, 2010
I would venture to guess that most of my readers (yes, I have more than one) have never heard of this name. I think that I ran across his name in a New York Times article that surveyed a number of writers who wrote mysteries in other languages. Since this is an Italophile blog there is no need to guess where he is from and where his settings are. Of course his name is a good clue to start with. His setting is a relatively small town in Sicily and his protagonist is the middle aged Inspector Salvo Montalbano. He’s a thoughtful man struggling with the vicissitudes of middle age. He loves food and eats well. He can be crude and kind. He understands his environment well, including the corruption of the government officials and the constant backdrop of mafia influence. He’s a commitmentphobe with his long suffering girlfriend Livia who lives in Genoa and visits regularly. There are a host of wonderful characters. I especially like Catarella. He is one of the guys at the station who, at least in the English translations, has the distinct accent of someone from, say, the Bronx. He butchers words, names and complete sentences.
Andrea is no newcomer to writing and in fact didn’t really start out as a writer. He worked for RAI the Italian TV network for twenty years and wrote his first novel in 1978. The list of his writing aside from the Montalbano series fills up my complete computer screen but I don’t think that any of them have been translated into English. He only started the Montalbano series in 1994 and has cranked out about one a year. My Italian teacher thinks he’s terrific but says that it is hard even for an Italian to read some of the Montalbano books in Italian because they include a fair amount of Sicilian dialect. I know that there was (and possibly still is) an Italian TV series on Montalbano. I tried watching some of it but it was hopeless with my limited command of Italian. In fact I am trying hard to forget what the character in the series looked like because it was quite different from my mental image of him.
Andrea has written a bunch of these books with Montalbano and I think that I have read every one that has been translated into English and am anxiously awaiting the next one that is due imminently. My favorite I think is “The Patience of the Spider” and runner up would probably be “The Terra-Cotta Dog”. Do, by all means, seek him out. I give him my highest recommendation. At least where I live a number of his books are also available in the library.
One last note – for some reason mysteries in Italian are called “gialli” – “yellows”. Maybe I’ll ask Gabriele why that is.