INTERNATIONAL CRIME MONTH Stories by
and Italian sensation
MARCO MALVALDI SCOTTISH NOIR comes to America “After six pints!”:
MARK BILLINGHAM and CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE talk shop
A Q&A with
TA P L K EA E S O E N E
and MUCH MORE INSIDE
FRANCE’S LEADING CRIME WRITER
NAZIS IN THE METRO By Didier Daeninckx
THREE-CARD MONTE By Marco Malvaldi
SINGAPORE NOIR Edited by Chery Lu-Lien Tan
HAITI NOIR 2: THE CLASSICS Edited by Edwidge Danticat
LAIDLAW By William McIlvanney
THE BONES BENEATH By Mark Billingham
BRED IN THE BONE By Christopher Brookmyre
TRAITORS TO ALL By Giorgio Scerbanenco
Held every year in June, International Crime Month is a celebration of crime fiction from foreign shores. Four of America’s most prominent independent publishers— Grove Atlantic, Akashic Books, Melville House, and Europa Editions—have joined forces to bring this vital and socially significant genre to a wider American audience. International Crime Month 2014 highlights new titles from Akashic’s city-based “Noir” series, Europa’s World Noir imprint, Grove Atlantic’s Mysterious Press and Atlantic Monthly Press imprints, and Melville House’s International Crime series. Inside this free publication, which we offer both to fans and soon-to-be fans of international crime fiction, you will find original short fiction, interviews, conversations and profiles from authors featured in this year’s Crime Month: William McIlvanney, Marco Malvaldi, Mark Billingham, Christopher Brookmyre, Didier Daeninckx, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Edwidge Danticat, and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. This month-long initiative will kick off in New York at the very end of May at the annual book industry trade show, Book Expo America, with events open to the public at the Center for Fiction and the Brooklyn Public Library. Please visit the web site below or visit your local participating bookstore (see p. 75) to discover more about events and the exceptional authors featured every year as part of International Crime Month. internationalcrimemonth.tumblr.com 3
Nazis in the Metro DIDIER DAENINCKX FRANCE P U B L I S H I N G D AT E : M A R C H 2 5 , 2 014 PA P E R B A C K , 1 7 6 PA G E S P U B L I S H E R : M E LV I L L E I N T E R N AT I O N A L C R I M E 4
France’s leading crime novelist, has written more than forty books. His novel Murder in Memoriam forced the French government to try Nazi collaborators, led to a conviction of life imprisonment for collaborator Paul Touvier and President François Mitterrand to declare July 16 a day of national reflection on fascism and racism in France. He is also the author of A Very Profitable War. Also a journalist and author of literary fiction, he won the 2012 Prix Goncourt for his book L’espoire en contrabande. 6
ABOUT THE BOOK
A riveting novel of political intrigue, set on the Left Bank of Paris From France’s leading political crime writer comes a novel that delves into the country’s radical political movements on both the left and the right, in the wake of a brutal attack. When an apparently washed-up novelist, André Sloga, with a history of baiting the system is assaulted and left for dead in the basement of his apartment building, the freelance private eye Gabriel Lecouvreur takes on the case. The police consider it a robbery gone wrong, but Lecouvreur, a great reader who admires Sloga’s books, thinks the matter runs deeper than that.
And as he looks into it further, he discovers that Sloga had not in fact quit writing after he was dropped by his prestigious publishing house for his increasingly provocative novels. Instead, Sloga was at work on an explosive book that had led him into extremist political circles . . . until someone put a stop to it. Steeped in the real Paris, where graffiti, squats, and skinheads dominate the streets, Daeninckx’s Nazis in the Metro is a vivid portrait of a side of the city few foreigners see, wrapped in an utterly gripping mystery.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
By Ellie Robins
What inspired you to write Nazis in the Metro?
I wrote this book in 1995, just after the Yugoslav Wars that killed more than 250,000 people in Europe. A very strange phenomenon was taking place then: French intellectuals from the extreme left were defending ultranationalist killers. People like the French-Russian writer Edouard Limonov enlisted in the Serbian army, and then came to the fashionable bars of Saint-Germain in Paris boasting of their triumphs. It was that climate, that shift in the elite classes, that I wanted to describe. Nazis in the Metro tells the story of a writer called André Sloga. Was he modeled on anyone?
Yes, I modeled him on a writer friend of mine by the name of Jean Meckert (1910–95), who published numerous crime novels under the pseudonym Jean Amila. He was violently attacked in the 1970s and lost his memory as a result. He 8
later carried out investigations into his own life, in order to recover the memories he had lost. What drives your detective, Gabriel Lecouvreur?
He has a major flaw for the times we live in: he is devoid of indifference, he’s affected by the suffering of others. If he were a philosopher, he would define himself as an “Unhappy Consciousness.” Which doesn’t stop him from wanting to put everything to rights! Why do you so often take real historical and political events as the basis of your novels?
I think history invited itself into my cradle: I had one pacifist grandfather who was a deserter in the First World War; one communist grandfather who was the mayor of a town near Paris in 1935 and who resigned in protest of the Hitler-Stalin pact; a mother who used to travel secretly into
Franco’s Spain to work with those plotting to overthrow the dictator; a bedroom that served as a hiding place for Vietcong emissaries during the secret negotiations that took place in Paris in the middle of the Vietnam war . . . I had no choice but to investigate all of that, this family history of fighting injustice, of solidarity with people from far away. You’re known as one of France’s most outspoken writers. Have you ever experienced an attack like that on Sloga in Nazis in the Metro?
A few years ago, an extreme-right group, Unité Radicale, tried to kill President Jacques Chirac on the Champs-Élysées in Paris during a military parade. The police found a file on me in this group’s records—my address, telephone number, a write-up of my movements . . . Later, someone emptied many liters of gas on my front door and set it alight. Fortunately, my neighbors alerted me, and my wife and I were able to escape. Periods of crisis don’t tend to calm such passions . . .
“I had no choice but to investigate all of that, this family history of fighting injustice, of solidarity with people from far away.” 9
Three-Card Monte MARCO MALVALDI I TA LY P U B L I S H I N G D AT E : A U G U S T 6 , 2 014 PA P E R B A C K , 2 2 4 PA G E S P U B L I S H E R : E U R O PA E D I T I O N S 10
Marco Malvaldi’s bestselling “Bar Lume” series began with Game for Five (Europa, 2014) and continues with Three-Card Monte, to be published by Europa this August. The series features four garrulous pensioners, regulars of the Bar Lume and obsessive card-players all, whose penchant for gossip turns them into ideal amateur sleuths when their small Italian town is rocked by a number of violent crimes. The series has enjoyed great critical and popular success, has won numerous awards including the Isola d’Elba and the Castiglioncello Prizes, and counts among its admirers the don of Italian crime fiction, Andrea Camilleri. Malvaldi was born in Pisa.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Marco Malvaldi’s Bar Lume series features an investigative quartet nicknamed the “senile squad.” At the Bar Lume, with the exception of the bartender Massimo and his assistant, the beautiful Tiziana, the youngest regular is Aldo, seventy-something owner of the Osteria Boccaccio. Aldo and his cronies sit around at the Bar Lume playing cards, analyzing, postulating, gossiping, and chronicling every event that occurs in their small town, their talk laced with colorful slang
and Italian figures of speech. Massimo, all intuition but tending toward inaction, is obliged to investigate a homicide. The old-timers provide a running commentary and play devil’s advocates to any and all theories concerning the perpetrators of the crime in question. Their cunning at three-card monte has taught them how to see past to the truth that lies beneath appearances. A comedy, a beguiling mystery, and a vivacious portrait of small-town Italy all wrapped into one.
A NEW STORY BY THE AUTHOR
THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS By Marco Malvaldi
On the eve of the feast of the city’s patron saint, the Ponte di Mezzo and the whole river are bedecked with light and wrapped in beauty, and the banks of the Arno become a breathtaking spectacle. Every year, on June 16, the buildings overlooking the river, from the Cittadella to the Ponte della Fortezza, are decorated with tens of thousands of wax candles in glass cups mounted in white-painted wooden frames, which trace the contours of the buildings’ most significant architectural elements, highlighting them with rows of small, tremulous flames. As he looked out the window, Inspector Valente recalled the words of the little Pisa guidebook he had read not 14
Translated by Howard Curtis
long before. He hadn’t particularly liked the guidebook, but in this case the writer had been correct: the banks of the river, bejeweled with candles, were indeed an incredible sight. Valente examined the window, which was framed by a rectangle of rather shabby-looking white wood with simple metal rings that held very simple wax candles, and thought once again of how those little flames, so insignificant seen up close, were able to create such a stunning effect from far away. The river itself sparkles on this occasion, thanks to special candles that are launched on its surface and, borne along by the current, drift through Pisa.
The people too, the inspector thought, are borne along by the current. The banks were overflowing with crowds gathered to see the lights. From above, you could watch them moving at a snail’s pace, worming their way between vendors selling balloons and all sorts of luminescent crap. Here and there you saw balloons swaying about, held by children who were themselves held by overburdened mothers. There was a lot of treading on feet, a lot of more or less involuntary elbowing, a lot of apologizing. The only place that wasn’t packed was a semi-circle of pavement, about ten feet in radius, just below the window Inspector Valente was leaning out of. There was nobody in this semi-circle, except for the one person in the middle, whom Valente didn’t think he could even count, given that this person was lying beneath a white sheet, having died instantly upon impact after falling from the window in question. Valente had arrived thirty minutes earlier, after being summoned on his cell by the stentorian voice of Sergeant Bernazzani. As usual, Brixton, the drug-detecting and carbohydrate-loving dog that Bernazzani took with him everywhere had provided a sonic backdrop to the call. “Where are you, sir?” “Hello, Bernazzani. I’m at the Festival.” “Where exactly?”
Brixton’s bark underlined the urgency of the question. “Under the clock. Where do I have to go?” “The Tortorella building. It’s a nasty business.” And he had hung up. The nice thing about dealing with Bernazzani was that you never needed to waste words. “Her name was Celia. Celia Kyrieleison,” Bernazzani said. God, what a name. “Born in Lecce, August 20, 1939. Widow, two children. At about eleven-thirty, witnesses saw her leaning out the window. The light was on in the room, and she was alone. When the fireworks started, she leaned forward over the balcony, presumably to catch a glimpse of those that were going up from the Cittadella.” Valente nodded. Bernazzani, efficient and precise in spite of that voice like a market trader’s, waited a moment then went on: “The two witnesses are unanimous. At a certain point, the woman fell. The witnesses didn’t hear screams or anything else.” “Not surprising, with the fireworks . . .” “It’s not just that. The witnesses both agree that the woman dropped in a limp, passive kind of way. She must have felt faint while she was at the window and fallen.” 15
“Hmm.” For a few moments, Valente said nothing, waiting for the rest. He had known Bernazzani for too long not to know that he never would have bothered him on the evening of the festival just because some poor woman had fallen out of a window. “You remember the victim’s name?” “Yes, I remember. Kyrieleison. They used to give foundlings the most ridiculous surnames, but they could have shown some restraint once in a while . . .” “Not easy to forget, though. You see, sir, the fact is that Signora Kyrieleison contacted us twice in the last few weeks.” “Really? And what did she want?” “Well, to be honest, she wanted to know what we could do to protect her because she suspected her son wanted to kill her.” “Had you known her long, Dr. Ardito?” “For some years, yes. This is the second year I’ve dined at her apartment during the Festival of Lights.” The man standing next to Valente spoke without looking down. He was about seventy, impeccably dressed, with a well-groomed beard. It was clear he was grief-stricken, although he hid it well behind a veil of impeccable oldfashioned manners. 16
“And how would you describe the evening?” “Normal. We had dinner, she and I and her two children. Enrico and Camilla, you saw them earlier. We talked about this and that, but you could sense—” “A certain tension?” “Yes. That’s it. After dinner, we got ready to watch the fireworks. The two children and I stayed in the living room, while Celia went into her bedroom. She always watched them from there, on her own, just like when she was a child, she said. It was an innocent habit of hers.” “And you stayed with the children.” “That’s right.” “With whom there was a certain tension.” “That’s right.” “And do you know why?” Dr. Ardito looked at Valente with a touch of irritation. “Does it matter?” “Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. If you don’t tell me, I won’t know.” Ardito looked around for a moment then made up his mind, although with a certain embarrassment. “You see, Celia and I . . . I mean, it may seem ridiculous at our age . . .” A little, Valente thought. That’s because I’m forty. Maybe in thirty years’ time, it’ll seem natural. “I see. And were you planning to marry?” “That’s exactly the point, I think. Not that there were
“Well, to be honest, she wanted to know what we could do to protect her because she suspected her son wanted to kill her.” arguments or anything said explicitly, but I always had the feeling that Celia’s two children considered me to be a kind of intruder. In fact, I think they thought I was after her money.” “I see. And was there money?” Certain questions should not be asked, said Dr. Ardito’s severe look. You’re not leaving here until you answer me, said Valente’s. “Just look around. This building belonged to her. A lot of people live here. The children wanted it for themselves, but Celia had decided otherwise. We would have moved here, as soon as . . .” Dr. Ardito, in striking contrast to his beard and his Roman senator’s way of speaking, started crying softly. Once the tearful ex-fiancé had been shown out, Valente sent for Bernazzani. The sergeant arrived, as diligent
and efficient as ever, followed by Brixton, who was busy chewing. “Sorry, sir. I was in the kitchen questioning the help, and Brixton saw the leftover fillet steak, practically untouched it was. I tried—” “It’s all right, don’t worry. Well, now, everything here seems to point to an accidental fall. We’ve had a look around, we’ve done our duty. Right?” Bernazzani held his breath. Valente’s “Right?” was usually followed by something else. Valente looked around and then resumed. “But if we limited ourselves to our duty, my dear Bernazzani, we’d still be hunting elk in the savannah with stone axes held together by rope. Don’t you agree?” “Maybe antelopes, sir. Elk live in the mountains. But yes, I agree.” “Congratulations, Bernazzani. So, since you know all about animals, see if you can persuade your hound not to eat candles for dessert.” While the two men had been speaking, Brixton had indeed approached the window circumspectly, placed his muzzle across the sill and started vigorously licking the extinguished candles, his eyes a picture of bliss. With a decisive yank on the lead, Bernazzani regained control of the animal, but not before Brixton had managed to sink his muzzle into the candle, making a complete pig of himself. 17
“Brixton, look at this, it’s disgusting!” Bernazzani said, trying to clean the dog’s muzzle. “Eating a candle . . . after a fillet steak . . .” “I’m not surprised,” the inspector said. “That candle smells wonderful. Almost like peanut butter.” Bernazzani seemed struck by this observation. He moved his finger over the dog’s muzzle—Brixton responded by barking contentedly—and then tasted it. “Not almost,” he said after a moment. “It is peanut butter.” “Great. Perfect. If you like I’ll go in the kitchen and see if anyone has poured some Campari on the floor, then we can have a real hobo’s meal. After which, maybe we’ll get back to work, right?” “I’m sorry, sir, but do you think it’s normal for there to be peanut butter on a candle?” Indeed . . . “Peanut butter? I’d never dream of it.” The help seemed genuinely shocked. As if Valente had asked her to add garlic tiramisù. “So you never use it? Ever?” “Signora Celia couldn’t eat peanuts. She couldn’t even touch them. She was allergic, seriously allergic. She always carried adrenaline with her, in case she had to . . .” But Valente had stopped listening. 18
“Hello, Mastronardi? Am I disturbing you?” “At 1:30 on a Wednesday morning? Come on now . . . No, you’re not disturbing me, you’re just breaking my balls.” “Oh dear Mastronardi, how delicate you are. What are you doing in bed anyway? It’s the Festival tonight. The whole of Pisa’s out on the streets.” “Pleased to hear it. But I was born in Lucca and lived there for forty-two years. And frankly I don’t give a flying fuck about the illuminations, the June festivities, or any of the other Pisan foolishness.” “Listen, Mastronardi, what is that makes peanuts allergenic?” Led to his area of expertise, good old Piergiorgio Mastronardi (who had started off studying law, then having met Valente and a few other guys, switched to medicine, become an allergist) changed his tone. “It’s believed to be proteins. Particular proteins, called storage proteins. They aren’t a defined chemical group, though, there are globulins, vicilins—” “All right, but listen, are these proteins stable in heat?” “These particular ones yes. They can also withstand frying. That’s why an individual allergic to oleaginous seeds mustn’t—” “Sorry to interrupt, but how does an allergy to these proteins show itself? What reaction would I get, for example, if I dipped the wick of a candle in peanut oil or peanut
butter, set fire to it, put it under the individual’s nose and made him smell the fumes?” Mastronardi laughed. “You wouldn’t be doing him much of a favor. Allergies are bastards, you know. It only takes a few molecules to trigger a reaction. In all probability, you’d give him an anaphylactic shock. If he was especially sensitive, he might even go into cardiac arrest.” That was all Valente needed. Enrico, firstborn son of Celia Kyrieleison, confessed that he had killed his mother at about four o’clock that night. And Valente, who was a bachelor and had no children, went to bed happy.
Singapore Book introduction, Noir Is quos repererum aut quam, voluptatas exceaquam aspe omnisciis plaut explaut qui omnimil luptur? Quis debitium eum ne ne E D I Tnon E D B Ynimin rem. Bit quaturibus nonsequatia cus nis invero tet, sapelectas eiur, nem enim eossi ommodit mo beri aut mincimi ncident as cum ut harchil ium cullaborion reped exceatem quam cullaut apedis enda sed mo bea et de et officatem fugiaep uditae eumendi tatiisc ipienis velentempor maior res SINGAPORE P U B Let I S Heaqui I N G D ATcommodit E : J U N E 3 , 2 014 res fugiaec aborio et voluptiusam quaturia PA P E R B A C K , 2 4 2 PA G E S aliam, sa dolore ressimilibea dolorpos etur PUBLISHER: AKASHIC BOOKS
CHERYL LU - LIEN TAN
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is the New Yorkâ€“based author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family. A native of Singapore, she is working on her second book, a novel. A former staff writer at the Wall Street Journal, her work has also appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among other publications. She has been an artist in residence at Yaddo and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. 22
ABOUT THE BOOK
Singapore is exposed in all of its noir glory with scintillating stories from the very best of the cityâ€™s authors Launched with the summer â€™04 award-winning best seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
Brand-new stories by: Colin Goh, Simon Tay/Donald Tee Quee Ho, Philip Jeyaretnam, Colin Cheong, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Monica Bhide, S.J. Rozan, Lawrence Osborne, Suchen Christine Lim, Ovidia Yu, Damon Chua, Johann S. Lee, Dave Chua, and Nury Vittachi.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
Say Singapore to anyone and you’ll likely hear one of a few words: Caning. Fines. Chewing gum. For much of the West, the narrative of Singapore—a modern Southeast Asian city-state perched on an island on the tip of the Malay Peninsula—has been marked largely by its government’s strict laws and unwavering enforcement of them. In 1994, American teenager Michael Fay was famously sentenced to six strokes of the cane after a series of car vandalisms in Singapore. Just the year before in a cover story for Wired magazine, William Gibson criticized the country, calling it constrained and humorless, saying “conformity here is the prime directive.” “Imagine an Asian version of Zurich operating as an offshore capsule at the foot of Malaysia,” Gibson wrote, “an affluent microcosm whose citizens inhabit something that feels like, well, Disneyland. Disneyland with the death penalty.” As much as I understand these outside viewpoints, I have always lamented that the quirky and dark complexities 24
of my native country’s culture rarely seem to make it past its borders. The Singapore in which I was born and spent most of my first eighteen years was safe, yes—so safe that I could wander its city streets without fear at two in the morning as a teenage girl. And its general cleanliness is unrivaled— even now, I feel sometimes that one could, in fact, eat off the streets. Beneath that sparkling veneer, however, is a country teeming with shadows. For starters, it has not just one but several red-light districts. There’s the large designated area, Geylang, which is filled with dozens of narrow lanes and alleys where one can find prewar houses festooned with red lights and prostitutes pacing along blocks, clustered almost as you would find them in a department store—older Indian girls on this end, mainland Chinese sirens a few alleys over, and so forth. And beyond Geylang, there are neighborhoods where one knows to go for Thai, Vietnamese, Filipina, and other girls. (Paul Theroux, in fact, set his 1973 novel Saint Jack amid the bordellos and triads of Singapore—a tale turned
into a 1979 film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, which was banned in Singapore for its unsavory content.) Gambling and its many fallouts have always been an issue in this country, one that was pockmarked with illegal gambling dens long before Las Vegas Sands poured about $6.5 billion into building a casino in the heart of Singapore in 2011. And then there are the ghosts. Singaporeans love nothing better than to tell a good gory tale. And there are many. When I was a child, each time we passed a particular church along Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping street, someone would always whisper: “Curry.” In 1987, police arrested a woman and her three brothers, charging them with killing her husband, chopping him up, and turning his remains into curry, skull and all, in the church caretaker’s kitchen. While the charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence, the story remains widely enjoyed. (Though no one I know has dared to have Sunday supper at that church since.) It could be said that of course noir is alive in a country built on the shoulders of entrepreneurs and rebels. My father likes to note that many of the ethnic Chinese in Singapore are descendents of fortune-seekers from the coast of Southeastern China, an area known, according to him, for “smugglers, pirates, and really good businessmen.” Singapore began humbly, as a knot of tropical Malay
fishing villages located near the equator. Its name comes from Sang Nila Utama, a Sumatran prince who called it Singapura—lion city in Sanskrit—after spotting a frightening beast on its shores while hunting which his men told him was a lion. He officially founded Singapore in 1324, believing the lion sighting to be a good omen. But it was only in 1819 that the island truly started growing—British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles sailed to its shores and established a military post and trading port there. Traders from India, China, and all over Southeast Asia began arriving, then settling. The country gained its independence in 1965 with Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore, serving as its prime minister until 1990. Singapore in recent years has been in the spotlight once again—this time for its “tiger” economy, one that has made this 250-square-mile country one of the wealthiest in the
Singaporeans love nothing better than to tell a good gory tale. And there are many. 25
world. (According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal story, the country had 188,000 millionaire households in 2011—which translates into one in six homes having disposable private wealth of at least one million dollars.) It has become one of the major safe havens for the rich to park their wealth; Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin made international headlines in 2012 when he renounced his US citizenship and became Singaporean. The country now boasts a bar that sells a $26,000 cocktail. Despite recent changes, Singapore is still an Asian polyglot—its five million population is about 75 percent Chinese in ethnicity, 13 percent Malay, 8 percent Indian, among others, which is what accounts for its distinct patois, Singlish: a local pidgin that is a combination of English, Malay, and a hodge-podge of Chinese dialects. Conversations may sound bizarre sometimes because although the words are in English, the sentence structure used may be Malay or Mandarin. The word lah is tacked onto most sentences for inflection—something like okay or man in American slang. And its stories remain. The rich stories that attracted literary lions W. Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling to hold court at the Raffles Hotel (where the Singapore Sling was created) are still sprinkled throughout its neighborhoods . . . In Singapore Noir, you’ll find stories from some of the best contemporary writers in Singapore—three of them 26
winners of the Singapore Literature Prize, essentially the country’s Pulitzer. Set in various locations throughout Singapore, for my story, I chose a setting close to my heart— the kelongs, or old fisheries on stilts, that once dotted the waters of Singapore but are gradually disappearing. I have a deep sense of romance about these kelongs, along with the many other settings, characters, nuances, and quirks that you’ll see in these stories. They’re intense, inky, nebulous. There is evil, sadness, a foreboding. And liars, cheaters, the valiant abound. This is a Singapore rarely explored in Western literature—until now. No Disneyland here; but there is a death penalty.
Haiti Noir 2: Book introThe Classics duction, Is quos repererum aut quam, voluptatas exceaquam aspe omnisciis plaut explaut qui omnimil luptur? Quis debitium eum ne ne E D I Tnon E D B Ynimin rem. Bit quaturibus nonsequatia cus nis invero tet, sapelectas eiur, nem enim eossi ommodit mo beri aut mincimi ncident as cum ut harchil ium cullaborion reped exceatem quam cullaut apedis enda sed mo bea et de et officatem fugiaep uditae eumendi tatiisc ipienis velentempor maior res HAITI P U B Let I S Heaqui I N G D ATcommodit E : J A N U A R Y fugiaec 7 , 2 014 res aborio et voluptiusam quaturia PA P E R B A C K , 3 2 0 PA G E S aliam, sa dolore ressimilibea dolorpos etur PUBLISHER: AKASHIC BOOKS
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the editor of Haiti Noir, and author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner, and the novel-in-stories The Dew Breaker. She has also written several young adult novels and a travel narrative, After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel. Her memoir, Brother, Iâ€™m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 recipient of the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation grant and she lives in Miami. 30
ABOUT THE BOOK
The best anthology of classic Haitian fiction ever assembled, unparalleled in scope The original best-selling Haiti Noir comprised all new stories by today’s best Haitian authors. This new volume collects the true classics of Haitian literature—both short stories and excerpts from longer works—and will be an integral piece to the understanding of how Haitian culture has evolved over the past fifty years. Editor Edwidge Danticat, one of the most respected Haitian writers, has a well-deserved sterling reputation, and with Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, she follows on the success of the original first volume.
Classic stories by: Danielle Legros Georges, Jacques Roumain, Ida Faubert, Jacques-Stephen Alexis, Jan J. Dominique, Paulette Poujol Oriol, Lyonel Trouillot, Emmelie Prophète, Ben Fountain, Dany Laferrière, Georges Anglade, Edwidge Danticat, Michèle Voltaire Marcelin, Èzili Dantò, Marie-Hélène Laforest, Nick Stone, Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell, Myriam J.A. Chancy, and Roxane Gay.
AN EXCERPT FROM A STORY BY THE EDITOR
“The Port-au-Prince Marriage Special” By Edwidge Danticat
“They told me, Madame, that I’m going to die.” I don’t know if it was a dreadful gut feeling that had sent Mélisande to that particular clinic, rather than other healing places, but she’d gone down near the bicentennial park downtown and had gotten her arms pricked and her blood drawn, only to receive a death sentence. She’d been coughing for some time, soft and discreet at first, then more and more thunderously, which had led to my removing my young son from her care. But only this morning when she got a fever and developed a level of sluggishness, which I instantly recognized, from my late father’s battles with various types of respiratory illnesses, possibly as pneumonia; only then did she finally decide to seek medical care. 32
She was sobbing now as she stood in the doorway of my bedroom, her body as flat as one of the doorframe beams. Leaning against the somber wood, she hiked up a flowered silk skirt to wipe the tears from her face. I immediately recognized that skirt as one I’d formerly owned. I had paid about seventy dollars for it at a sale at a fancy boutique in Miami—back when I was in college, before I married a classmate, a fellow Haitian, whose family owned a hotel in Port-au-Prince. “Have you told your mother?” I asked her. She was a child really, a girl, fifteen or sixteen at most. Her mother worked as a cook at our hotel. They had lied about her age so that Mélisande could get the job as one
of our son’s nannies, but given the fact that the mother had six younger children in the provinces, in Léogâne, I figured that Mélisande had plenty of experience for the job. I don’t know why I trusted Mélisande. Perhaps it was because she was from my parents’ hometown. Some of her relatives might have known some of mine. I didn’t trust that many people with my son, but it was obvious as soon as I placed him in Mélisande’s arms and she probed out of him the loudest laugh he’d ever tried, that he loved her. Perhaps what drew him to her were the same things I found appealing about her: her elfin face, her reedy voice, her slightly hesitant walk, as though she was never really sure it was safe to touch the ground. Roland, my husband, had thought that Mélisande should be in school, but we hadn’t forced it or insisted, as we could have, that she go. Or at least that she attend some type of vocational class in cooking or sewing when she wasn’t looking after our son. Sometimes, during her free time, we saw her helping her mother cook or I saw her joke with the hotel maids as she cleaned the guests’ rooms with them. The agreement she had with the maids was that whenever she helped them out, whatever was left behind in the rooms would be split with her. Sometimes, aside from the tips, they’d find small pieces of gold or silver jewelry—mostly earrings and bracelets— that my husband would hold on to for a while and then,
after no one had called or come back to claim them, would allow the maids to sell them to the jeweler down the street who’d pay a few dollars just so he’d melt them again into other pieces to sell back to other hotel guests. This was a bit of extra money that she might not be making if she were in school, I sometimes told myself. But school might have helped with the future. And now she might not even have a future. Shame on me, I think now. I’d kept hoping that she’d find a good night-school or an adult literacy class on her own, but I never did more than hope. I never even talked to her about it, never offered her the evenings off to do it. I was prepared, however, to let her go if she asked, but she never did. Now I would right this wrong. Somewhere between when she came to work for us (or maybe it was before) and now, she had contracted this disease. Perhaps if she had been in class, and had had homework and exams and yearly promotions, it wouldn’t have happened. “Come in and sit down,” I told her. I got up from my bed and walked over to the doorway. I was still in my pajamas, pink silk pajamas that she’d probably inherit from me one day, assuming she wasn’t in fact dying. My son was downstairs with my husband in his office. As I guided Mélisande toward a rocking chair by my bed, she felt extremely light to my touch, almost like paper, cloth, or air. Even though her feet were gliding across the 33
wooden floor, I still felt as though I was carrying her. Her body slid down into the chair where I immediately piled up a few cushions around her. I pulled an ottoman from a corner and pushed it under her feet. Resting my arms on her shoulders, I felt some of the warmth of her lingering fever through her plain white T-shirt. “What did the doctor say exactly?” I asked. “He said,” she replied, with her face buried in her hands, “that I have SIDA. AIDS.” I had been expecting anything but that. Perhaps pneumonia or some bronchial infection, but not that. When she came home from the doctor, I was prepared to lecture her about not waiting so long the next time to get herself checked out. There were things that could kill people in the countryside that could easily be treated here in Portau-Prince. This is what I had prepared myself to tell her. I thought at most she would need antibiotics. “Even with the SIDA,” I was telling her now, “they have all these drugs. People live for years on them.” This provoked a new flurry of sobs from her. Her shoulders were bobbing up and down and I began to panic. My son. My boy. She had touched every part of his body, had washed, had wiped, had kissed and cuddled him. Had they accidentally exchanged saliva, blood? I suddenly wanted to leave her there and run through the hotel and find my son. As usual he had woken up earlier than all of us and 34
my husband had taken him to his office. He was probably even now crawling under his father’s desk, giggling, singing with delight. Mélisande was still sobbing, her face soaking in the pool of tears gathering in her hands. We’d have to get Gabriel tested. And how would we deal with it? How would I live with yet another loss? How would I live with myself— how would I live—if he had been infected? I decided that I would simply let Mélisande cry. Let her get it all of it out of her system before we tried to come up with some type of solution. There were just a few clinics which offered retroviral treatments. Some offered them for free. Others expected you to be a guinea pig in some questionable experiments. The clinic where Mélisande had been tested offered some counseling but no treatment. Why hadn’t I suspected all this sooner? I stepped away from her and staggered to the edge of the bed. I should have urged her to go to the doctor when she first began to lose weight. I should have stopped her not-so-secret flirtations with many of the hotel’s male guests. The concierge, a former brothel manager, had told Roland that Mélisande liked to seek out some particular guests—the fat white ones— who she thought, because they seemed to have never missed a meal in their lives, were rich. It didn’t seem to matter to her that most of the time she had no idea, until they lewdly grabbed some part of her body, what they were saying. The
exchanges of “What?” and “Who?” were a delightful game to her. By repeating the sometimes obscene things they said to her, she thought she was learning English or Spanish or whatever language they spoke. She would disappear for a few minutes with them into their rooms, but it never seemed to me long enough for her to have had sex with them, only to make a rendezvous perhaps for a later encounter, during her free time. Again, I didn’t want to cause trouble for her. There were six young children counting on her and her mother for food, clothes, and school fees back in Léogâne. I thought she was protecting herself, aux moins. She stopped crying for a few minutes because she seemed to run out of tears. And now she had the hiccups, which forced her head to jerk back and forth. “We have to find you a place where you can get a second test performed,” I told her. She raised her head and glared at me, then she opened her eyes really wide as though a beehive or a bird’s nest had suddenly appeared on top of my head. Her eyes were extremely red, the bulging capillaries having taken over her eyeballs. “They told me there was no cure,” she said. “Let me talk to Roland. We’ll find you some care.” I had no idea where to find the best treatment in town, but I knew Roland would. He knew something about nearly everything, especially things that involved
worst-case-scenario types of problems. This was a hotelier’s job, he sometimes reminded me. If someone shows up hungry, you feed them. If they want a drink, you ply them. If they want to be left alone, you make yourself scarce. If they want company, you entertain. If they are lovelorn, you find them love. And if someone shows up sick, you find treatment quickly, before that person expires on your watch. My sigh of relief was as loud as a hundred-mile wind. My son was negative. The same Canadian doctor who performed his HIV test was the one who’d help us get the retroviral drugs that Mélisande needed. The best thing, he told us, was a new one-pill treatment that many of his patients were opting for because it made compliance easier. Someone like Mélisande, he could already tell, was not going to be compliant. First of all, she was claiming that she’d never had sex with anyone, and since she’d never injected herself with a dirty needle and had never had a blood transfusion, all he could conclude was that she was in terrible denial. “If you won’t even own up to the possible ways that the disease might have entered your body,” he’d told Mélisande in French-accented Creole, as she sat across a desk from him, her eyelids fluttering between open and closed, staring, when they were open, at a back wall full of framed diplomas, “how can you hope to treat this disease aggressively?” 35
Once the doctor provided us with a month’s worth of pills from his own private stash—at ten American dollars each—Mélisande was a lot more compliant than any of us expected. I had told her to come and find me every morning so I could watch her take the pill as we ate breakfast together, and she had done it for over two weeks now. Most of the time we ate something quickly on the patio outside my room. Other times we ate in the hotel dining room, with my son at our side. Mélisande was gaining weight, my old clothes fitting her a little better now. She cried less and less too at breakfast, in part, I think, because she knew the staff was watching us. But what she never did again was touch my son, who reached his tubby little arms out to her, contorting his face into a grimace that would turn into wails, then tears, when she simply ignored him or turned away. I stopped bringing my son to breakfast with her after a while. It was too much for both of them. By the time Mélisande had to return to the doctor for another month’s supply, I cancelled the breakfasts altogether and passed on the job of monitoring her compliance to her mother, who from the day she learned that Mélisande was sick never stopped calling her a bouzen, a whore, even as she took a break from whatever she was doing every morning to make sure that her oldest child swallowed the pill and chased it down with at least a piece of bread. Some mornings I’d watch this exchange between them from the bungalow in the hibiscus 36
In the Haiti of my time and place, death was always looming around some corner. In car accidents. Illness. Kidnappings. Suicides. garden where I sometimes sat with my son. The mother was no taller than Mélisande herself, but was a strapping, muscular woman. I could almost see a line of veins popping out under the rolls on her flabby neck as she continuously berated Mélisande, who’d try to put an end to their transaction by swallowing the pill quickly and rushing off. “What are you going to do when Monsieur and Madame stop paying for your 400-gourdes pills?” the mother would occasionally shout, like a drill sergeant hazing a recruit. Her fear was palpable. Her daughter’s survival now completely depended on Roland and me. If we decided to sell the hotel and move elsewhere, her child could die. What if the drug companies, who provided the doctor with the free supply that he unethically resold to us, stopped making
the drug or no longer sent it to Haiti? What if that doctor took off as well? If any part of the chain that ran from the creation of the drug to our ability to get our hands on it broke down, she could lose her daughter. One morning, I heard her asking Mélisande as she was taking the pill, “What if the white man starts keeping all of the pills for himself? What if Monsieur and Madame are killed in a terrible car accident?” “You will never have a healthy child,” she told her another day. “You will never have a husband.” “You should talk to her,” Roland said to me after overhearing this too. “All illness involves state of mind as well as state of body. It can’t be helpful for the poor girl to be treated that way.” I felt like a coward for not intervening sooner. “Where do you want to be buried?” the mother said soon after. “You better start saving now if you want a fancy coffin.” In the Haiti of my time and place, death was always looming around some corner. In car accidents. Illness. Kidnappings. Suicides. Unlike the rest of us, Mélisande’s mother could not afford the conditional optimism this tiny little pill allowed. I could easily imagine myself in the mother’s place. I’d probably have many of the same concerns and fears. That morning, after Mélisande had gone off to breakfast,
I asked to have a word with her mother, who as soon as I closed my husband’s office door behind us, began to cry. “Mèsi, mèsi,” she sobbed, grabbing my hand. “Thank you for not throwing her out. Thank you for not letting her die.” “There are people all over the world being kept alive in this way,” I said, gently tugging my hands out of her grasp. “Besides, you’re wasting precious time with your daughter. You can help her the most by not cursing, but loving her.” “Love her?” She frowned and her eyebrows nearly became one. “Yes, love her.” It must have sounded like an order. “You must love her.” I knew what she was thinking. These silly half-assed outsiders, these dyasporas with their mushy thinking, why does it all come back to love with them? Love the world. Love life. Love yourself. Love your children. Don’t yell at them. Don’t hit them. Don’t give them away. Don’t these dyasporas know that there are many other ways to show love than to be constantly talking about it? “Of course I love her” she replied, spreading both her arms wide as if to prove it. “That’s why I am so rough with her.” Sitting on a cushioned bench near the office door, she looked unconvinced, but also ashamed that I, on top of everything, now had reason to scold her, ashamed that she 37
had no choice but to sit there and take it. I too felt ashamed for having made her feel that way. Pressing both her hands down as if she’d suddenly realized how much they protruded from her body, she then responded to what I had not said. “You loved your mother too, didn’t you?” she said. “I saw you. I saw you the day she drowned herself.” I moved from behind the desk and closer to her. Both our faces were now soaked the way Mélisande’s had been the day she’d made her announcement to me. Sitting across from her, our protruding knees nearly touching, I said, “You did?” “Wi. I was in the kitchen cooking when I heard your scream. I rushed out and saw her floating facedown in the pool. It was unkind of her to come all the way from Miami to kill herself in your new husband’s pool.” I didn’t know whether she was being unkind, but I wanted to tell her that this is what had happened. My mother had never been a good swimmer, neither in Miami nor in Léogâne. She had only gone near streams and oceans and pools when my father was with her. When he died, she had no one to protect her from water. “I saw you with her body in your arms,” she continued, her eyes fixed on her worn-out sandals, on her feet, on the floor. “When I heard you scream, I thought the sky would open up and it would start to rain because I thought even God would have no choice but to cry with you.” 38
It did rain that night, I reminded her (“Ou sonje?”), a torrential rain that caused mudslides that pulled dozens of houses from the hillside shantytowns into trash-strewn ravines all over the capital. God had shown, I now said, that his tears only brought further losses. Still, I hadn’t been able to feel sad for the others. I felt no solidarity with the mudslide victims, the mothers and fathers and babies whose bodies were engorged by the red earth like my mother’s had been by the meticulously maintained pool water. Why should I be the only one grieving? I had thought. Why should my mother be the only one to die? I had not felt truly bad for even one person’s loss since, I realized. Until I’d learned about this woman’s daughter. I didn’t want Mélisande to die, I told her. I didn’t want her to cry to the heavens for her daughter the way I had for my mother. I didn’t want another type of sky to open again and carry others away. “Okay,” she replied, somberly, giving in to my tirade. I knew that even after our talk there would be no reconciliatory embrace between her and Mélisande. There would be no apologies . . . At the end of the month, just when Mélisande needed another refill of the drugs, the doctor mysteriously left Haiti and moved back to Montreal. As Mélisande’s supply dwindled to nearly nothing, Roland called everyone he knew
but couldn’t track the man down. Mélisande had no choice but to start seeing another doctor, a Haitian woman this time, who ordered a new series of tests, dredging up the distressing diagnosis, the counting of T cells, which I could tell, when Mélisande came back with now several bottles of pills, had taken away whatever illusion she might have harbored that she was getting well. The new regimen did not agree with her. She had stomachaches, diarrhea, and nausea, and spent her days in bed. It would take time for her body to get used to the new drugs, the doctor said. Roland made a few more calls and we found Mélisande yet another doctor to confirm that she was indeed getting the right treatment. She wanted the one-pill treatment back, Mélisande told the third doctor as he examined her on the small cot in the bedroom of one of the hotel’s workers’ bungalows, a small wallpapered room that she shared with her mother. Fishing out an old prescription bottle from one of my old purses, she handed it to the doctor, a tall Cuban man who spoke Creole with only a slight Spanish accent. “Ay!” the man exclaimed when he saw the Canadian doctor’s name. “What’s wrong?” I asked from where I was standing by the door. It turned out, the Cuban explained, that what Mélisande had first gotten from the Canadian doctor was a placebo. It
was more or less aspirin. It had not been doing anything for her at all. The doctor who had prescribed and sold them to us had suddenly fled Haiti because he’d been discovered selling useless pills to unsuspecting patients all over town. “Your long-term treatment begins now,” the Cuban told Mélisande as her tiny body sank deeper under the thin cotton sheets on the bed. “You must be vigilant about it.” I saw Mélisande’s eyes sink along with her body. She had lost precious time, he was telling her. The disease had probably advanced further. “He was playing with her life,” the doctor told me as we walked out of Mélisande’s room. She turned her face away from us, burying it in her pillow while I pulled the door shut behind me. What would it have cost me to have trusted less? This is what I would have done for my son. I would have questioned, made deals, insisted, yelled. “We’ve gone way beyond the call of duty,” Roland said when I met him for lunch under a sun umbrella by the pool. “How? By getting her a quack?” “We tried to give her a chance,” he said. “We tried to do everything we could have done for our own child.” Our own child, whose second test by another doctor was also negative, could have left the country. If a quack had intentionally fed our child a placebo instead of treating him, Roland himself would have hired the hit man . . . 39
Book introLaidlaw duction,
Is quos repererum aut quam, voluptatas exceaquam aspe omnisciis plaut explaut qui omnimil luptur? Quis debitium eum ne ne non nimin rem. Bit quaturibus nonsequatia cus nis invero tet, sapelectas eiur, nem enim eossi ommodit mo beri aut mincimi ncident as cum ut harchil ium cullaborion reped exceatem quam cullaut apedis enda sed mo bea et de et officatem fugiaep uditae eumendi tatiisc ipienis velentempor maior res SCOTLAND P U B Let I S Heaqui I N G D ATcommodit E : J U N E 3 , 2 014 res fugiaec aborio et voluptiusam quaturia PA P E R B A C K , 2 5 6 PA G E S aliam, sa dolore ressimilibea dolorpos etur P U B L I S H E R : E U R O PA E D I T I O N S
WILLIAM M C ILVANNEY
William McIlvanney like the great French author Jean-Claude Izzo, produced a series of three books that, through their sheer power and beauty, single-handedly founded an entire genre of crime fiction: Tartan Noir. The writers who credit McIlvanney with being a key influence and an inspiration include crime fiction giants Val McDermid, Denise Mina, and Ian Rankin. He counts among his admirers Mark Billingham, the late great George Higgins, and Maj Sjowall, author, with Per Wahloo, of the Martin Beck books. McIlvanney is the winner of the Whitbread (now Costa) Award, the CWA’s Silver Dagger (twice), and Glasgow Herald’s People’s Prize.
ABOUT THE BOOK
“Laidlaw is a classic of the genre,” wrote The Guardian about the first book in the series, to be published in June. The series “changed the face of Scottish fiction,” in the words of Val McDermid. “Patricia Highsmith had taken us inside the head of killers; Ruth Rendell tentatively explored sexuality; with No Mean City, Alexander McArthur had exposed Glasgow to the world; Raymond Chandler had dressed the darkness in clever words. But nobody had ever smashed those elements together into so accomplished a synthesis.”
In Laidlaw, we are introduced to Jack Laidlaw, a hard-drinking philosopher-detective whose tough exterior only partly hides a rich humanity and keen intelligence. Laidlaw’s investigation into the murder of a young woman brings him into conflict with Glasgow’s hard men, gangland villains, and the moneyed thugs who control the city.
A P R O F I L E O F W I L L I A M M c I LV A N N E Y
FOLLOWING THE DEMON By Hugh MacDonald
The writer shuffles towards the bar, throwing off the chill of the evening with a shrug and warming himself with the anticipation of a hauf. A voice mutters somewhere to his left: “It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare.” William McIlvanney smiles. It is his duty. The opening lines of his second Jack Laidlaw novel have just been recited by an innocent bystander. Laidlaw, laid delicately but not irrevocably to rest in Strange Loyalties more than two decades ago, has again been brought to life amid the fumes of a pub. It is further unnecessary evidence that McIlvanney is pursued by the figures of Laidlaw, a troubled intellectual—is 44
there any other kind?—and members of an Ayrshire mining family called Docherty. He may succumb to the chase. Laidlaw was the hero of three groundbreaking McIlvanney novels, and the Dochertys featured in two works, Docherty and The Kiln, that articulate brilliantly what may be called modern Scottish history. McIlvanney accepts that these characters speak to his past, but he may be compelled to give them a voice in the future. Sitting in the basement dining area of a Glasgow Italian restaurant, he suggests: “I have a few ideas for Laidlaw. I would not advise anyone to hold their breath, but these are vestigial thoughts I may take further.” The casual
softness of the words cannot detract from their import. A comeback for Laidlaw would make the Lazarus business look routine. McIlvanney is fit for the task of resurrection. He uses a walking stick to accommodate a back condition as he makes his way towards the table, but, at 76, he retains an eerily youthful aspect in appearance and vigour. The next case for Laidlaw might be to divine McIlvanney’s secret of youth. The answer may be found in a picture in the attic. The stares in the restaurant and the words in the pub testify to McIlvanney’s enduring place as a beloved Glasgow author. Now living in the city’s south side, the boy from Kilmarnock grew to be the philosopher of these mean streets, and should Jack Laidlaw once again take up his woes and walk, there will be a congregation of jubilant believers. Something has been sparked in the writer as Canongate prepares to publish his body of work after years of neglect, and in the U.S., Europa Editions prepares to do the same. McIlvanney now talks of a website that will collect his journalism and of further expeditions for his intriguing policeman and for the Docherty clan. It does not require a detective to divine that both Laidlaw and Docherty take something from their creator. “Laidlaw allowed me to say something to a wider audience,” he says. “He has an abrasive voice, but he is dealing with hard things. You are saying things about real people in a real city.
If it has a philosophy, it is about surviving with dignity and decency in the main.” Be assured, it has a philosophy. McIlvanney heads off discussion of the crime genre with an admission: “I do not read thrillers.” Thriller writers, of course, read him. He was the standard-bearer of tartan noir and has had an enduring influence on American crime-writing. The genre gave him room to manoeuvre and he used it. The crime is detailed in the first pages of Laidlaw, the murderer named on page 23. “It is not a whodunnit but maybe a why did he do it,” says McIlvanney. “Laidlaw gave me the chance to say things about society. I sort of held him up as a mirror to what was going on. He was a good man dealing with bad things. He gave me the capacity to approach what I wanted to write about from another angle. He could come in the back door in a way.” He adds: “My reading is mostly re-reading. I am not one for contemporary novels. I do not have a deliberate pursuit of the modern. I read Montaigne’s essays, Proust and Shakespeare—possibly because he is the best in the business.” There is no apology or bombast in any of this. It is just a matter of fact. Laidlaw would approve. In The Papers Of Tony Veitch, the character reflects: “The only climate is the truth.” The police officer also has words of censure against 45
academics who “use literature as an insulation against life rather than an intensification of it”. This is a detective who keeps the statutory bottle of whisky in a bottom drawer, but only under a tome of Kierkegaard. Laidlaw is a rebuke against the triteness of moral certainty, an evangelist of the sanctity of doubt and a preacher on the necessity of love. Laidlaw is the product of a tough but inspirational life but so is William McIlvanney.
“Mammies is great.” —Jack Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch The writer pauses and a smile that demands to be described as rueful passes across his face. “There are times in life when I could be said to have made an arse of it. My mother would then say, ‘That’s not what you do, son.’“ The shuddering impact of that deceptively gentle rebuke causes him to shake his head. The character of McIlvanney was formed in an extraordinary childhood and his mother was crucial to his development in word and deed, in example and in determination. Helen McIlvanney left school at 12 to work in a mill, woefully robbed of a formal education. She became a wife 46
to a miner, Conn, and the mother of four children: Betty, Neil, Hugh and William. She was also a serene presence in a turbulent household. “We argued all the time and about anything. Politics, films, books. There was always an argument and you learned it was always worthwhile making your point.” Laidlaw describes such discussions as a way of getting to know oneself and Mclvanney does not disagree. There were quiet moments. The writer remembers coming home from the dancing to find his mother sitting up, waiting for him with a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in hand. There is nothing overly sentimental in this reminiscence, just an acceptance of living in a house where books were to be devoured in between arguments. Helen McIlvanney, too, made an intervention that changed the course of her youngest child’s life. “There are great moments that seem casual at the time but become definitive,” says McIlvanney. “There was one when I was 14 or 15 and I was in the lobby and I heard my mother and father talking. You know that way there is a recognition, you say to yourself, ‘They are talking about me.’ “My father was saying, ‘Willie should leave school, get a job and bring money into the house.’ I heard my mother: ‘Do not even dream about it.’ My father just murmured: ‘Aye, all right.’ Now, that was important. Because I would not have minded going out to work. I would have said: ‘Why no’?’ ”
Of course, his elder brother, Hugh, became a peerless sports journalist and author without a university education, so surely William would have written too without a further, formal education? “I think so. I was writing poems at 14 and showing them to [my elder brother] Neil because he was the one in the family who would have given me the kindest words,” he says with a smile. “But in more ways than one my mother was the key. In my first month at university my father died, and my mother went back to work in a mill to help put me through it. She was 49. Later, I gave her money when I was earning for I do not know how long. Then one day she said, ‘That’s it, Willie, no more money.’ But at least I gave her something for a wee while.” There was another gift. “I wrote her a poem as a sort of thanks, I suppose, maybe more precisely a celebration of her life. Liam and Siobhan [his son and daughter] also wrote her letters or sent her postcards from their travels. I learned later from one of her friends that my mother would take out the poem and these letters and read them every night in her bed before going to sleep.” She was 95 when she died. The woman starved of formal education was a matriarch of a line of learning. McIlvanney graduated from Glasgow University and Liam, an academic in New Zealand and
Siobhan, who lectures in languages, earned doctorates at Oxford. McIlvanney, too, became a teacher of English. “I went into teaching without any missionary zeal,” he says “It was about paying back for the education I got. I said I would do it for a couple of years and the world kind of lost my address. It did not beat a path to my door but what simultaneously happened was I discovered I loved teaching.” He taught for 17 years. “When I packed up, I thought I had paid my dues,” he says.
“When you lose touch with the front line, you’re dead.” —Jack Laidlaw, Laidlaw The writer pauses to put a dash of water in his whisky. It is almost time to move on. With the referendum on Scottish independence only a year or so away, a nation, too, is wiping its feet on the door of an uncertain future. “I was outspoken in my support for the parliament, and I am glad I did that,” he says, recalling his prominent involvement in the 1999 home rule campaign. “My inclination is to vote yes next year, but I do not think we know enough. I would want more precise details on separation. One of my reasons for wanting a parliament is that Scotland voted Labour for 47
generations but still got a Tory government. I want the socialist dimension of this country to have more power but there isn’t a Labour Party any more.” He is dismayed by the politics of Britain. When asked about his political heroes, he replies, “They would not be very contemporary, that’s for sure. Keir Hardie, for certain. But now we have a sort of paramedic politics and paramedics cannot cure a cancer. The National Health Service, along with the emancipation of women, was one of the greatest acts of the 20th century yet there is now a process to dismantle it. Politics should give a serious view of how to save a society, how to cure its ills. It seems to me that all politicians can offer today is an Elastoplast.” He is not downcast, rather quietly defiant. He defends the state of the nation. “In Scotland there survives some amount of mutual concern, which I think is the key to a healthy society. There is also a refusal to be dazzled by money and status. “I believe in people. My heroes are the people and I still believe the sort of values that I talk about in Docherty survive, maybe in a piecemeal way.” These involve a compassion that understands and celebrates the inter-dependence of people while emphasising the need for the individual to discover then walk a true path. McIlvanney is poised at a junction. Will he stride down 48
the mean streets with Laidlaw once again? The detective made his first appearance in 1977. Famously, McIlvanney was urged to bring out a Laidlaw every year with promises of riches. He chose the road less travelled. “I had other things to do. I did not want to be defined by Laidlaw. I never wanted to write to demand,” he says. Any regrets? “No,” he replies immediately. “I might not have written The Kiln, of which I am quite proud. In any case, I have always written from compulsion. I cannot even write to my own order, never mind anyone else’s.” He has been accused of what some see as the sparseness of his output since Remedy Is None was published in 1967. “Nine novels and a book of short stories. It’s not bad,” he says. The criticism, of course, is absurd, clumsily applying the imperatives of industrial output to the mystery of creation. “It might be laziness, but I don’t think so,” he says. ‘’I taught, I did some journalism, I did a bit of TV.” This banishes the heretical thought that a dilettante could be conceived in Kilmarnock. “The ideas about going back to Laidlaw are in an early stage. I am liable to go walkabout.” This is a reference to his propensity to write what he must rather than what publishers say he should. “I never like to talk about ideas before they are fully formed.” There is a spark that is needed to detonate any further
creative explosion. “I need the compulsion. It is about following that demon. I think if I had written other Laidlaws just because the market wanted them I would have lost the sense of my own commitment, and I would have been defined by commercial demands. I would not have liked that. I don’t like that.” There is no ferocious protest in any of this, just a measured, sober assessment of the way he works. There is no harsh judgment either. McIlvanney may have entered the age of self-acceptance, but he has retained a quiet optimism all the more admirable because it does not shirk the cold wind of reality. He once had Laidlaw meditating thus: “It was about hope—about trying to begin again because he had no option.” McIlvanney awaits the tyranny of compulsion that may find him arm in arm with Jack Laidlaw or Tom Docherty striding down a path not yet cleared, not yet defined. But first, he drains his whisky, gives thanks for dinner, takes his stick and strides to the door of the basement restaurant. It opens on to a landing 15 feet below Laidlaw’s beat. He turns and faces the steps. It was Glasgow on a Tuesday night, the city of the stair.
First published 5 April 2013 in The Herald Scotland.
T H E S A N TA R E L L I F A M I LY C E L E B R AT E S A CENTENARY OF WINE
Veduta dell 'azienda agricola Casale del Giglio alle Ferriere
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The Bones Beneath A Tom Thorne Novel
MARK BILLINGHAM UNITED KINGDOM P U B L I S H I N G D AT E : M AY 2 7 , 2 014 H A R D C O V E R , 4 0 0 PA G E S P U B L I S H E R : AT L A N T I C M O N T H LY P R E S S 50
Mark Billingham is one of Englandâ€™s best known and top-selling crime writers. He has twice won the Theakstonâ€™s Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel, and has also won a Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British writer.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Bones Beneath, the twelfth novel in the internationally bestselling Tom Thorne series, shows Thorne facing perhaps the most dangerous killer he has ever put away, Stuart Nicklin. When Nicklin announces that he wishes to reveal the whereabouts of one of his earliest victims and that he wants the cop who caught him to be there when he does it, it becomes clear that Thorne’s life is about to become seriously unpleasant. Thorne is forced to accompany Nicklin to a remote island off the Welsh coast which is cut off from the mainland in every sense. Shrouded in myth and legend, it is said
to be the resting place of 20,000 saints, and as Thorne and his team search for bones that are somewhat more recent, it becomes clear that Nicklin’s motives are far from altruistic. From an author deemed “a world-class writer” by Karin Slaughter and “one of the best crime novelists working today” by Laura Lippman, The Bones Beneath throws us into the twisted scheme of a dangerous and manipulative psychopath, which will leave Tom Thorne with the most terrible choice he has ever had to make.
AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
‘It’s a game,’ Thorne said, the moment Brigstocke had paused for breath. ‘Same as it always is with him.’ CHAPTER ONE You want the good news or the bad news? That’s what Detective Chief Inspector Russell Brigstocke had said to him back then. Eating his biscuits and trying his patience. Sitting cheerfully on the edge of his bed in that hospital as though they were just old mates chewing the fat. Like Thorne hadn’t almost bled to death a few days earlier, like what he laughably called his career wasn’t hanging in the balance. Delivering the verdict. Good news. Bad news . . . 54
Now, six weeks on, Tom Thorne glanced at his rearview mirror and saw the huge metal doors sliding shut behind him as he drove into the prison’s vehicle compound. Pulling into the parking space that had been reserved for them, he glanced across at Dave Holland in the passenger seat. He saw the apprehension on the sergeant’s face. He knew it was etched there on his own too, because he could feel it twisting in his gut, sharper suddenly than the lingering pain from the gunshot wound, which had all but faded into the background. Like a scream rising above a long, low moan. Wasn’t it usually some kind of a joke? That whole good news/bad news routine?
The good news: You’re going to be famous! The bad news: They’re naming a disease after you. Whichever way round, it was normally a joke . . . The bad news: They found your blood all over the crime scene! The good news: Your cholesterol’s down. Thorne killed the engine of the seven-seat Ford Galaxy and looked up at the prison. Walls and wire and a sky the colour of wet pavement. This place was certainly nothing to laugh about at stupid o’clock on a Monday morning in the first week of November. There was nothing even remotely funny about the reason they were here. ‘He wants you to take him,’ Brigstocke had said. Back in that hospital room, six weeks earlier. The pain a damn sight fresher then. A hot blade in Thorne’s side when he’d sat up straight in his wheelchair. ‘Me?’ ‘Yeah, it has to be you. That’s one of his conditions.’ ‘He’s got conditions?’ Brigstocke had jammed what was left of a biscuit into his mouth, spat crumbs on to the blanket when he’d answered. ‘It’s . . . complicated.’ A few minutes before that, Brigstocke had announced that, despite conduct during an investigation that could easily have seen Thorne removed from the Job altogether, if
not facing prosecution, he was being recalled to the Murder Squad. Miraculously, his demotion to uniform was being overturned and, after four miserable months working in south London, he would be heading back to God’s side of the river again. He would remain an inspector, but once again it would be preceded by the one-word job description he had been struggling to live without. Detective. ‘I’m guessing that’s the good news,’ Thorne said. A nod from Brigstocke and a nice long pause and the DCI could not quite maintain eye contact as he began to outline the reason for this unexpectedly positive outcome. As soon as the man’s name was mentioned, Thorne tried to interrupt, but Brigstocke held up a hand. He raised his voice and insisted that Thorne allow him to get at least a sentence or two out before voicing his understandable objections. ‘It’s a game,’ Thorne said, the moment Brigstocke had paused for breath. ‘Same as it always is with him.’ ‘It checks out. The timings, the location.’ ‘I don’t care what checks out, he’s up to something.’ Wishing more than anything that he was still wired up to the morphine pump, Thorne wheeled his chair a few feet forward, then back again. ‘Come on, Russell, you know what he’s like. What the hell are you all thinking?’ 55
‘We’re thinking that he’s got us over a barrel,’ Brigstocke said. Thorne listened as Brigstocke continued to explain how the man they were talking about—a convicted murderer currently serving multiple life sentences with no possibility of parole—had established contact six months earlier with the mother of a fifteen-year-old boy who had gone missing twenty-five years before. He claimed that he had once known the boy, that they had both been residents at an experimental retreat for troubled teenagers. After several months of communication, he confessed to the woman in a letter that he had in fact murdered her son and buried the boy’s body. ‘That much I can believe,’ Thorne said. ‘So far, that’s the only bit that makes any sense.’ Brigstocke ignored him and ploughed on. He described the series of desperate visits and phone calls during which the woman had begged the murderer to reveal the whereabouts of her son’s grave. How she had contacted the press and written to her local MP, urging him to get involved, until eventually, after a concerted campaign, the prisoner had agreed to co-operate. He would, he had promised, show the police where the teenager had been buried. Then, Brigstocke had made eye contact, but only for a moment. ‘And he wants you to escort him . . . ’ It had gone back and forth between them for a while 56
after that: Brigstocke urging Thorne to shut up and listen; Thorne doing a lot more shouting than listening; Brigstocke telling him that he’d burst his stitches if he didn’t calm down. ‘So, what the hell are we supposed to do?’ Brigstocke had finished the biscuits. He screwed up the empty packet and attempted to toss it into the metal wastepaper basket in the corner of the room. ‘You tell me, Tom. The chief constable’s got this MP on her case. The papers are all over it. This woman needs to know about her son, to get . . . closure or whatever and as far as I can see there’s no good reason we shouldn’t be doing this.’ ‘Him,’ Thorne said. ‘He’s the reason why not.’ ‘Like I said, we’ve checked dates and records and it looks like he’s telling the truth.’ Brigstocke walked to the corner, picked up the packet and dropped it into the bin. ‘He was definitely there when he says he was and that was the last time anybody saw this missing boy.’ Thorne pushed himself back towards the bed. ‘He never does a single thing that he doesn’t want to do. That he doesn’t have a very good reason to do.’ He eased himself gingerly out of the chair and on to the bed, waving away Brigstocke’s offer of help and staring at him, hard. ‘Never . . . ’
‘So, what do you reckon?’ Holland asked now. He unfastened his seat-belt, turned and reached into the row of seats behind for his overcoat and gloves. ‘A couple of days?’ ‘Yeah,’ Thorne said. A couple of days until they found the body or it became clear they were being taken for idiots. He reached back for his own coat, for the case containing all the paperwork. ‘With a bit of luck.’ ‘Nice to get out of London,’ Holland said. ‘I suppose.’ ‘I mean, obviously I wish we were doing something a bit less . . . you know.’
Bredintroin Book duction, the Bone
Is quos repererum aut quam, voluptatas exceaquam aspe omA Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod Novel nisciis plaut explaut qui omnimil luptur? Quis debitium eum ne ne non nimin rem. Bit quaturibus nonsequatia cus nis invero tet, sapelectas eiur, nem enim eossi ommodit mo beri aut mincimi ncident as cum ut harchil ium cullaborion reped exceatem quam cullaut apedis enda sed mo bea et de et officatem fugiaep uditae eumendi tatiisc ipienis velentempor maior res SCOTLAND P U B Let I S Heaqui I N G D ATcommodit E : M AY 6 , 2 014 res fugiaec aborio et voluptiusam quaturia H A R D C O V E R , 4 1 6 PA G E S aliam, sa dolore ressimilibea dolorpos etur P U B L I S H E R : AT L A N T I C M O N T H LY P R E S S
Christopher Brookmyre has established himself as one of Britainâ€™s leading crime novelists since his awardwinning debut novel Quite Ugly One Morning. He has worked as a journalist for several British newspapers and is the author of twelve novels, includingÂ Where the Bodies Are Buried, One Fine Day in The Middle of the Night, and Not The End of The World. 60
ABOUT THE BOOK
Blood stains. Ties bind. Violence is bred in the bone. Bred in the Bone is the stunning third novel in Brookmyre’s series featuring private investigator Jasmine Sharp and Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod. Set in the grisly underworld of Glasgow—a place where countless old scores are always waiting to be settled—Bred in the Bone is a masterful mystery novel that will appeal to readers of Denise Mina, Val McDermid, and Ian Rankin. In Bred in the Bone, the murder of big-time Scottish gangster Stevie Fullerton leads to unexpected consequences for Jasmine and Catherine. Jasmine’s father was murdered before her birth, and when his killer,
Glen Fallan, is arrested in connection with Fullerton’s death, she is forced to confront the criminal realities of the world from which she has sprung. Meanwhile, Catherine McLeod has one major Glaswegian gangster in the mortuary and another in the cells for killing him—which ought to be cause for celebration. But she is not smiling. From the moment she discovered a symbol daubed on the victim’s head, she has understood that this case is far more dangerous than it appears on the surface, something that could threaten her family and end her career.
A C O N V E R S AT I O N B E T W E E N M A R K B I L L I N G H A M AND CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE
Chris, to repeat the searing and controversial opening gambit from the chair of an event we did together recently . . . you’re Scottish! Will this make things tricky for your American readers? I can only presume that Bred in the Bone will come with some kind of glossary. Or perhaps readers will be encouraged to download a translation app . . . MARK:
You’ve got me bang to rights there, mate. No point in denying it: I am Scottish. I’m not anticipating this posing any major cultural obstacles for my American readers, however, as Bred in the Bone doesn’t lean so heavily upon dialect and colloquialism to give a flavour of its location. It’s a book that traces the way organised crime has evolved in Glasgow since the eighties, but its themes are pretty universal, such as the moral question of how far you’d be prepared to go to protect the people you love. Universal themes keep me on safe ground when it comes to the transatlantic rift CHR IS :
and the problem of two nations divided by a common language. I’ve been conscious in my writing to avoid the unintentional ambiguities that can arise due to divergent American and British interpretations of the same words. For instance, when we say “pants” we mean underwear, whereas the Americans are referring to trousers. And when we say “tea party” we mean a social gathering with scones and cakes, while for the Americans it’s a collective noun for subliterate sociopathic racists. You have to be very careful with these little nuances. Anyway, I gather you’ve got a Celtic flavouring of your own with The Bones Beneath. Am I right that it takes Tom Thorne to Wales? Well, yes, but not just run-of-the-mill Wales as in Cardiff or Swansea or even Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (that’s there just so that people can have some fun trying to pronounce it). Not MA RK :
ordinary Wales. This is Super Wales, as in a remote island off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. Thorne finds himself stuck on this island—which is steeped in myth and legend and is supposed to be the resting place for 20,000 saints—with a dangerous psychopath and no way back to the mainland, so chances are things are not going to go well. Obviously it gives me the chance to make predictable jokes about how Welsh is the only language that makes speakers sound as though they are trying to cough up furballs, but the location does actually give me the opportunity to cut Thorne off in a number of different ways. It’s not just the mainland he becomes remote from as things begin to fall apart. I HAVE made a rod for my own back, however, as I will be called upon to record the audiobook sometime soon and if there’s one accent that’s always a challenge, it’s Welsh. I have a number of scenes featuring a group of threatening, flint-hard men from North Wales, and I know very well that within moments of me starting to read, they will all sound as if they’re from Calcutta. Have you ever been tempted to do your own audiobooks? I’ve seen you read your stuff in front of audiences often enough . . . I think I can pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, but only after six pints of Eighty Shilling Ale and a dodgy kebab. I did think that one of the supposed benefits of Wales getting their own CHRIS:
parliament was that the vowel shortages would abate, but evidently there’s been little improvement. I have been asked many times about whether I’d be interested in narrating my own audiobooks, but unlike yourself, I am not a trained actor, and people fail to appreciate the versatility and range that is required to pull off such a project. I have developed a reputation over the years for being a lively and humorous reader of my own work at events, and I get invited to lots of literary festivals largely on the promise that I’ll lighten up the programme by making the audiences laugh. However, when I’m selecting a single passage to read aloud, it’s usually easy to find one that is particularly suited to live performance and that allows me to showcase the things I do well. Reading the entire novel would merely showcase my limitations. For one thing, Bred in the Bone is largely narrated from the point of view of its two women protagonists, and I don’t think that the female sensibilities I strived to bring to bear in my prose would be terribly well served by hearing them in my voice. Those feminine perspectives were particularly important in Bred in the Bone, as it is about the consequences of violence for those who have carried it out, as much as for its victims. I sometimes find that there is a tendency among male writers to be a little too impressed by tough guys, so writing about that world through the eyes of two women was vital in defusing that. It’s not a charge that could be levelled at you, however. I 63
once heard Val McDermid praise your work on the grounds that while other authors write about what violence looks like, you write about what violence feels like. This it not to imply that you are highly experienced in having your arse handed to you, I hasten to add. Maybe I should translate a little for U.S. readers at this point and let them know that “having one’s arse handed to one” means being on the receiving end of a good beating. No, thankfully it hasn’t happened very often, just the once in fact, but that was plenty, thank you very much. It happened when a friend and I were attacked and taken hostage in a hotel room and held captive—bound and gagged on the floor—for three hours. Not something I would ever want to go through again, but the experience did feed directly into the books, I think. Having been through that, I felt well qualified to write about fear, and yes, what violence feels like. That said, the books have become far less graphically violent as time has gone on, and I’d like to think that’s because I’ve become a better writer. I think, early on, you’re tempted to throw the kitchen sink in there, and it’s only with experience that you learn that less is more. That it’s all about nudging the imagination of your reader into the darkness rather than laying it all out there. For me, the image of a single drop of blood on a pristine kitchen floor is far more powerful than blood spattered up the walls. That’s MARK:
certainly the case with The Bones Beneath. It’s all about building the suspense, letting the reader’s imagination go to work with the dark possibilities. And hopefully surprising them. Thorne is reunited with the most dangerous killer he’s ever put away in rather uncomfortable circumstances. So the reader knows there’s something bad coming, but hopefully they will be shocked when it actually happens. For all the darkness, I should probably emphasise that like you, I’m all about trying to entertain audiences at events, and we’ve done a great many together over the years. What have been the most and the least enjoyable events you can remember? I think one of the worst events I ever had to struggle through was when I took part in the inaugural Winnipeg Book Festival in 1999. I think it was also the final Winnipeg Book Festival, but I may be mistaken. Whoever organised it had evidently never been to a book festival before, and decided that rather than programme several events, it would be better if all the authors just spoke one after the other in the same lecture theatre over the course of about four hours. I was jet-lagged by the seven-hour time difference and recall nipping my own skin in order to stay awake as I sat interminably on the stage in full view of the audience. Without doubt, the most enjoyable events have been when we’ve done our two-man show, “Billingham and CH RI S :
Brookmyre Are Indiscreet,” because it’s exciting to be able to bring something different to a literary festival. And by different, I obviously mean grossly offensive and unapologetically juvenile, but we’ve played it to full houses up and down the country (i.e., my country) and never had any complaints. Admittedly, this might be related to the fact that part of the show involves us reading out people’s complaints, but I think the point is that by that time we’ve got their money and we don’t care. Do you think the time is right for us to unleash it upon the Americans? Do you think anyone would dare invite us?
the “indiscreet” shows when we get a chance to do them. As you say, it’s our chance to give an audience at a literary festival something a little different. Is America ready for it? I’m not sure. Put it this way: Were it ever to be shown on U.S. network TV, I think an awful lot of it would be pixellated out! As we draw our natter (chat, conversation) to a close, have you any urgent or profound message for your U.S. readers (apart from the obvious one about them pronouncing aluminium wrong)? Pixellated out? You mean the twerking bit? Oh no, I get you now: the giant projected swearwords bit. Yeah, that would have to be on HBO. Signing off, I do indeed have a profound message to our American cousins. As a Scot, I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise for the Bay City Rollers, Wet Wet Wet, Sheena Easton, and golf. CH RI S :
As we talk about “events from hell” in our show, you know very well what my worst-ever event was. At the so-called “inaugural European Crime Writing Festival” in Paris some years ago, I was badgered into taking part in a “book slam.” I thought this would simply involving reading passages from my latest book in front of an audience. It wasn’t until I’d started that I slowly became aware that I was sharing the stage with an interpretive dancer doing his thing and a DJ who was “scratching” on twin record decks as I read, the pair of them bringing my words to life, each in their own unique fashion. As if this wasn’t bad enough, at the end of the reading, people in the audience held up marks. I was beaten into second place by an Italian who had dyed his beard blue. It was humiliating. I hugely enjoy MARK:
And on the same note, may I take the opportunity to apologise sincerely for Fifty Shades of Grey, One Direction, and Downton Abbey. But only if you guys consider putting that missing syllable back into aluminium. On behalf of Chris and I, we very much hope you enjoy our new books . . . MARK:
Traitors Book introduction, to All
Is quos repererum aut quam, voluptatas exceaquam aspe omThe plaut Milano Quartet nisciis explaut qui omnimil luptur? Quis debitium eum ne ne non nimin rem. Bit quaturibus nonsequatia cus nis invero tet, sapelectas eiur, nem enim eossi ommodit mo beri aut mincimi ncident as cum ut harchil ium cullaborion reped exceatem quam cullaut apedis enda sed mo bea et de et officatem fugiaep uditae eumendi tatiisc ipienis velentempor maior res I TA LY P U B Let I S Heaqui I N G D ATcommodit E : J U N E 3 , 2 014 res fugiaec aborio et voluptiusam quaturia PA P E R B A C K , 2 5 6 PA G E S aliam, sa dolore ressimilibea dolorpos etur P U B L I S H E R : M E LV I L L E I N T E R N AT I O N A L C R I M E
Giorgio Scerbanenco is considered by many to be the father of Italian noir, and has been called â€œthe Italian Simenon.â€? He worked as a journalist and as a contributor to womenâ€™s magazines before turning to crime fiction and noir. The most prestigious Italian literary prize for crime fiction is named after him, and many of his novels have been dramatized for cinema in Italian, Spanish, and French. Born in Kiev in 1911, he was a longtime resident of Milan, where he died in 1969. The first book in the Milano Quartet is A Private Venus. 68
ABOUT THE BOOK
One balmy spring evening on the outskirts of Milan, a Fiat with two passengers plunges into a canal. At first, their deaths are registered as an accident. But Duca Lamberti, the doctor-turned-detective of Giorgio Scerbanenco’s legendary series, suspects there’s more to it than that. Because that same canal has been the scene of other deaths, and all the incidents have one man in common: a lawyer with a murky past stretching all the way back to World War II—a man who, in fact, once shared a prison cell with Lamberti.
Winner of the most prestigious European crime prize on its original publication in 1966, Traitors to All is classic noir by one of the greatest writers of the genre-a book that lays bare the connections between Milan’s troubled history during the war and its swinging sixties affluence, as well as an utterly absorbing tale of betrayal and revenge.
The amazing life of
GIORGIO SCERBANENCO × Born in Kiev to an Italian mother and a Ukrainian father, but grew up in Italy × Travelled to Kiev during the revolution to find his father, but after learning that
× Didn’t finish elementary school, but pursued his own interests in philosophy and literature in his evenings after work × Convinced one person not to commit sui-
the communists had already killed him,
cide in his time as an advice columnist, but
escaped back to Italy through a heavily
failed to convince another
mined harbor × Worked as an orderly for the Red Cross in
× Fled over the Swiss border during WWII with nothing but a camel-hair suit and the
Milan, which provided inspiration for his
manuscript of a romantic novel, and was
character Duca Lamberti
saved by a peasant woman who alerted him to the Germans nearby
AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
It isn’t easy to kill two people simultaneously, but she stopped the car at the exact point she had studied many times and knew almost to the centimetre, even at night, and could recognise because of the curious, gothic, Eiffelesque little iron bridge that spanned the canal, and, as she stopped the car in the exact square centimetre she wanted, like an arrow hitting the dead centre of a target, she said to the two people sitting inside, the two people she intended to kill, ‘I’m getting out to smoke a cigarette, I don’t like smoking in the car,’ and got out without waiting for a reply, although the two people, made sluggish by their big dinner and also by their age, did grunt, yes, she could get out, and once free of her presence they arranged themselves as if to sleep better, old and fat as they were, both of them in
white raincoats, the woman with her woollen scarf around her neck, the scarf a similar liverish Havana brown colour to her neck, which made her look even fatter, her face resembling that of a big frog, even though, millions of years earlier, when the war wasn’t over yet, the Second World War, she had been very beautiful, so they said, this woman the girl was about to kill, together with her companion: this woman officially known as Adele Terrini, although in Buccinasco and in Ca’ Tarino, where she was born and where they knew a lot about her, they called her Adele the whore, whereas the girl’s father, who was American and stupid, had called her Adele la Speranza: Adele Hope.
The girl was American, too, but she wasn’t stupid and, as soon as she got out, she closed the car door behind her, locking it, just as all the other doors were locked, and then she lit her cigarette and looked across at the other side of the canal, the main road to Pavia, where, given the hour, there weren’t many cars passing, which was another thing she had calculated, and then, as if strolling, she came up behind the car, a modest, lightweight Fiat four-seater: she didn’t know what model it was, but she had sized it up and knew it was ideal for her purposes. Anyway, there in the middle was the canal, called the Alzaia Naviglio Pavese: it was quite a difficult, incomprehensible name for her, as she was an American and her Italian teacher in San Francisco, Arizona—nothing to do with the other San Francisco—hadn’t stooped to explaining such niceties as the fact that alzaia was the name of the rope used for towing boats and barges against the current of a river or a canal and referred to the fact that they rose slightly as they were towed, alzaia deriving from alzarsi, to rise. It wasn’t the etymology or philology of the name that interested her, though, but the fact that the canal was perfectly situated between two roads, and the fact that in that season the waters of the canal were high, and the bigger of the two roads, the tarred one, was an A-road—she had carefully noted the official name, it was State Highway 35, Strada dei Giovi—while the other, the untarred one, still touch72
ingly rustic, was the old canal road. And between them was the canal. And canals contain water, if they haven’t been drained, and this one hadn’t, and what’s more, this one didn’t have railings or ropes or posts of any kind: on a dark night, a car could fall in without anything to stop it. And so all she had to do was push it slightly, this Fiat of which she didn’t even know the model, and everything was straightforward and easy, everything happened easily in a few seconds, as she had predicted—she had set it all up, the position of the front wheels, which she had left turned slightly to the right, towards the canal, and the engine idling, so that it was like pushing a cart down a slope—and the car, with those two people inside it, made sluggish by the chicken with mushrooms and the gorgonzola and the baked apples topped with zabaglione and the dark Sambuca, all paid for by the American girl they probably thought was as stupid as her father, who had been a past master at stupidity, the car with Adele the whore or Adele Hope and her companion inside it slipped with wonderful ease into the canal, into the high waters of the canal, and that fall into the water happened exactly when she had planned it to happen, in other words, when there were no cars passing on the main road on the other side of the canal—State Highway 35, the Strada dei Giovi—and it was almost completely dark, and all you could see was the lights of cars approaching in the distance.
I N T E R N AT I O N A L C R I M E M O N T H 2 014
Tuesday, May 27 7:00pm The Center for Fiction New York
Thursday, May 29 4:00–5:00pm Book Expo America At the Melville House booth #2738
Discussion and Reading with authors Marco Malvaldi and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, moderated by Jonathan Santlofer. Free and open to the public.
“International Crime Month: What’s it all about?” Meet authors, editors, and publishers at an informal information session. Galley and International Crime Month Journal giveaways. Open to BEA pass holders only.
Wednesday, May 28 3:00–3:50pm BEA’s Global Market Forum “The author—the translator—the editor.” Three dialogues on three different angles on translation, with authors Mariusz Szczygieł and Marco Malvaldi, Sal Robinson (editor, Melville House Publishing), Michael Reynolds, (editor in chief, Europa Editions, and translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Open to BEA pass holders only. Wednesday, May 28 7pm Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn Discussion and Reading with authors Marco Malvaldi and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, moderated by Michael Reynolds. Free and open to the public.
Thursday, May 29 11:00–11:30am Book Expo America, Uptown Stage “BEA Selects” presentation of Marek Krajewski’s The Minotaur’s Head, the final volume in the acclaimed Eberhard Mock series. Followed immediately by a giveaway of the book at the Melville House booth, #2738. Open to BEA pass holders only. Friday, May 30 12:00 pm BEA, at the Italbooks/Italian Trade Commission booth #1513 Book signing with Marco Malvaldi. Open to BEA pass holders only.
I N T E R N AT I O N A L C R I M E M O N T H 2 014
Tuesday, June 3 7:00pm The Mysterious Bookshop New York Singapore Noir NYC book launch event featuring editor Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and contributors to the anthology: Colin Goh, Damon Chua, and S.J. Rozan. Complimentary beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres. Free and open to the public. Wednesday, June 4 3:40pm New Jersey Library Association Conference Atlantic City Panel: Claire Kelley, Melville House; Johanna Ingalls, Akashic Books Wednesday, June 4 5:30pm Embassy of the Republic of Singapore Washington, DC Singapore Noir DC book launch event featuring editor Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and contributor Suchen Christine Lim. Contact Akashic Books for more details. Free and open to the public.
Thursday, June 12 7:00pm Asian American Writers’ Workshop Panel discussion featuring Singapore Noir editor Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Singapore Noir contributors Colin Goh and Damon Chua and Delhi Noir editor Hirsh Sawhney. Free and open to the public.
WITH THANKS TO
PA R T I C I PAT I N G S T O R E S
Our partners in International Crime Month 2014 are eighty independent bookstores around the country that will display the books featured in this magazine. Visit these stores to buy these titles and other great international crime fiction.
The Concord Bookshop Concord, Massachusetts
Mystery Lovers Bookshop Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Community Bookstore Brooklyn, New York
The Mysterious Bookshop New York, New York
The Booksmith San Francisco, California
Mysteries & More Nashville, Tennessee
Kepler’s Books San Francisco, California
Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza Albany, New York
Murder By the Book Houston, Texas
Main Street Books St. Charles, Missouri
Aunt Agatha’s Ann Arbor, Michigan
Lemuria Books Jackson, Mississippi
Literati Bookstore Ann Arbor, Michigan
57th Street Books Chicago, Illinois
Left Bank Books St. Louis, Missouri
Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore Minneapolis, Minnesota
Tattered Cover Book Store Denver, Colorado
Harvard Book Store Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Regulator Bookshop Durham, North Carolina
Square Books Oxford, Mississippi
Changing Hands Bookstore Tempe, Arizona
Shakespeare & Company New York, New York
Porter Square Books Cambridge, Massachusetts
Weller Book Works Salt Lake City, Utah
Loganberry Books Shaker Heights, Ohio
Parnassus Books Ketchikan, Alaska
Watermark Books & Café Wichita, Kansas
Island Bookstore Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Page & Palette Fairhope, Alabama
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, Washington
Flyleaf Books Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The Odyssey Bookshop South Hadley, Massachusetts
Quail Ridge Books & Music Raleigh, North Carolina
Fireside Books Palmer, Arkansas
Octavia Books New Orleans, Louisiana
Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts Berkeley, California
PA R T I C I PAT I N G S T O R E S McIntyre’s Fine Books Fearrington Village Pittsboro, North Carolina Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café Asheville, North Carolina Inkwood Books Tampa, Florida Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore Forest Park, Illinois Books Inc. San Francisco, California Book Passage Corte Madera, California Book Court Brooklyn, New York Bank Square Books Mystic, Connecticut R. J. Julia Booksellers Madison, Connecticut New York University Bookstore New York, New York Copperfield’s Books San Rafael, Montgomery Village, Napa, California Boulder Book Store Boulder, Colorado WORD Brooklyn, New York and Jersey City, New Jersey 76
Vroman’s Bookstore Pasadena, California
Greenlight Bookstore Brooklyn, New York
Book Soup West Hollywood, California
Farley’s Bookshop New Hope, Pennsylvania
Stories Books and Café Echo Park, California
Elliott Bay Book Company Seattle, Washington
St. Mark’s Bookshop New York, New York
City Lights Books San Francisco, California
Skylight Books Los Angeles, California
Brookline Booksmith Brookline, Massachusetts
Seattle Mystery Bookshop Seattle, Washington
Boswell Book Company Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Rainy Day Books Fairway, Kansas
Books & Books Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Florida
Prairie Lights Books & Café Iowa City, Iowa
BookPeople Austin, Texas
Politics & Prose Bookstore Washington, DC
The Book Cellar Chicago, Illinois
The Poisoned Pen Scottsdale, Arizona
Andover Bookstore/HugoBooks Andover, Newburyport, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Newtonville Books Newton, Massachusetts Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore San Diego, Redondo Beach, California Murder on the Beach Bookstore Delray Beach, Florida Joseph-Beth Booksellers Cincinnati, Ohio
Find out more about these great indie bookstores at www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder
Published on May 20, 2014
Held every year in June, International Crime Month is a celebration of crime fiction from foreign shores. Four of America’s most prominent i...