Monday, 10 January 2011

Italian Noir and Surviving Midsome


Having recorded the BBC4 programme on Italian Noir crime fiction just before Christmas, I’ve finally watched it, and I did find it interesting, even though I was much less familiar with the authors discussed than with the Scandinavian writers who featured in Nordic Noir, which I talked about recently. The talking heads included Maxim Jakubowski and Barry Forshaw, who are both articulate commentators and very knowledgeable about Eurocrime.

Predictably, the major contemporary writers Camilleri and Lucarelli were considered, and interviewed, and I found myself tempted to try their work – perhaps Camilleri’s in particular. But I was especially interested in mention of a writer from the inter-war years, Carlo Gaddo, whose book That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana sounded quite fascinating. I do think that crime novels of the past often cast a very significant light on crime novels of the present, and Gaddo’s book sounded well worth acquiring. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has read it.

I’ve also watched Surviving Midsomer, an entertaining account of mayhem in the long-running Midsomer Murders series. The TV version derives from books written by Caroline Graham, a very amiable author whom I met a number of times in the 90s, but who (I think) is not at present writing any more crime fiction, no doubt in part because the massive success she has achieved has removed any financial need to do so.

I enjoyed Caroline’s early books very much, and although I gave up on the TV series after a year or two, I do think that the formula that was devised, with witty methods of murder, attractive locations and the very agreeable performances of John Nettles as Barnaby, made the shows effective light entertainment. And this spin-off programme encouraged me to watch a bit more of the Midsomer saga.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - I have to admit; I liked the Caroline Graham novels much more than I liked the Midsomer Murders series. But then, I'm a purist...

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago the BBC screened some of Italian television's feature-length adaptations of Camilleri's Montalbano stories. We fell in love with them and managed to get all four series on DVD - 18 films in all. Much as we enjoyed the Krister Henriksson Wallander series, the Montalbanos are a wonderful antidote to all that Nordic angst, not to mention the British weather. Good mysteries, excellent cast and a real sense of joie-de-vivre (or whatever the Sicilian equivalent is!).
The only downside is that we find the BBC's own Italian foray, Zen, unwatchable. The locations are fine, but the British actors are, well, just that: painfully un-Italian.

Deb said...

I loved Caroline Graham's Midsomer mysteries--in fact, WRITTEN IN BLOOD (handed on to me by my mother-in-law in 1996) was the first "modern" mystery I read, after exhausting my supply of golden age reads. I have wondered why she hasn't published anything in a while. I only watched a few Midsomer TV shows--I just couldn't get into them, and I found the character of Troy all wrong.

bookwitch said...

We may laugh at Midsomer on television here, but the Swedes are crazy about the series. That should tell you something, considering how avidly the British now read and watch the Nordic noir style crime.
We all want the opposite of what we've got. Or something.

Dorte H said...

I wish we could see that programme about Midsomer. I do admit that the series is a bit far out, but we watch it for two reasons. One is John Nettles, of course, but the second is the British village environment. If you love in the ´wrong´ country and can´t have the real thing, Midsomer is a very cosy substitute.

I have read two of Graham´s stories in English and enjoyed them a lot, but the flavour does not translate well.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks. I completely missed the BBC Montalbanos, alas.
I haven't watched Zen - yet. I really liked the books.