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Thursday, March 04, 2004

To all my hardboiled buddies 

And you know who you are:

Run, do not walk, to get a copy of Massimo Carlotto's THE COLUMBIAN MULE, which is not available in the US but for cryin' out loud, it oughta be.

I'd mentioned a few days back that I'd picked up the hardcover edition during my Toronto trip, and I'd eagerly awaited some time to settle down and read it. Was I ever glad I did. You want noir? Can't get much more than this. A hapless Columbian drug-runner is arrested at the airport with cocaine in his belly, and an Italian man, Nazzareno, is arrested for orchestrating the crime even though he's innocent. But in Italy, the law's used more to settle scores than to find truth and justice. That job's left to the likes of the Alligator. All he wanted was to be a blues singer, but a stint in prison changed all that. Now he's out and has turned detective, with the help of his friends Rossini and Max the Memory. They are hired to find out who's really trafficking in Columbian cocaine and of course, get themselves waist-deep in grudges, bent cops going after other bent cops, seedy swingers clubs, vengeful traffickers, and much more.

All in about a hundred and fifty pages. There is not a wasted word here. The translation is only a wee bit stilted (I think an American English version would smooth out some of the inconsistencies) but overall, Christopher Woodall did a fabulous job in capturing Alligator's quest and the underbelly of the Italian criminal world. I want more. And luckily, there is such to be had, as THE COLUMBIAN MULE is actually the fourth in the series (five overall) and Orion is planning on releasing at least a couple more in the next year or so.

Carlotto's history is even more fascinating than his novels; born in 1956, he was a leftist radical as a young man when he came across the body of a woman, brutally murdered in his neighborhood. Instead of going to the police, he tried to save her and got his clothes covered in blood. The police didn't buy it and had him arrested for the crime. Just when it looked like his appeals would run out, Carlotto's lawyers advised him to run, and so he did, staying a fugitive all over the world until he was found in Mexico thanks to some petty betrayals. After serving five years in prison, Carlotto was pardoned in 1993 due to some international campaigning. He then turned to writing novels, all with a theme of searching for truth and justice in a brutally amoral world. He's also written a standalone, ARRIVEDERCI AMORE CIAO, the synopsis of which seems to make Jim Thompson's books seem like cozies by comparison.

Hurry up and get Carlotto's books translated, please; I am so on the bandwagon now.

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