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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Noir Novels: ROME

"see a location through an author's eyes"

Two noir novels set in Rome, with colour co-ordinated covers! (Are cerulean blue and 50 shades of grey the workaday colours of the noir genre, we wonder?) Dark, dark city, murder, back alleys, sinister characters - these all feature in abundance, taking you to the places in Rome that as tourists we are (happily) unlikely to encounter.

Any Human Face by Charles Lambert is set in the bleaker backwaters of Rome, on the edges of the gay community, each chapter like a snapshot in black and white. The Leitmotiv throughout the novel is a collection of photographs of convicts, which passes from one hand to another and eventually ends up in the possession of Andrew Caruso, who runs a delapidated book shop La Piccola Libreria, in the city. Moving between the 1980s and 2008, the photographic quality of the chapters serves to highlight the intrinsic isolation of many of the colourful characters who breeze in and out of the storyline, all the while set against a lurking presence of menace. The storyline and characters sometimes have a Pasolini-like quality, which really anchors the novel in the Eternal City.

And from this book we discovered  the restaurant “L'obitorio" un classico di Trastevere which serves pizza "piu' buona di Roma” - Bruno and Alex drop in early on in the book. Has anyone been there, what did you think?

"Even today, after two years of Roman vacations, I get lost in the center of the city as soon as I leave the perpendicular line of the Corso. For someone accustomed to the perfect symmetry of Manhattan, the twisting streets of the Italian capital seem a labyrinth of squares and narrow alleys, all the same: a fountain, a column, a flaking wall, a café, a market stall, a wild dog, a motorcycle, a beggar, a group of American or Japanese tourists, another fountain" (extract from Roman Holidays, Rome Noir short story, by Enrico Franceschini).

Recognise Rome from this short description? The lovely indecipherable impenetrable city with a history going back two and a half thousand years; and this is just one of many descriptions that pepper the book of short stories Rome Noir edited by Chiara Stangalino and Maxim Jakubowski. A cocktail of 16 stories set around the capital from Stazione Termini to the Via Appia Antica, Fiumicino to the Villa Borghese. Some stories are like gossamer veils enveloping and captivating, some are downright dark, and others culminate in murderous intent. Others are visceral in their storyline, some are seamy, but there is something for everyone. Tour the city through this collection and get to know areas off the beaten tourist track and experience the stories through the eyes of its citizens.

Share your choice of Rome set noir novels with us below in the Comments Box - novels that bring a place to life  (oh, and any suggestions for any good, out-of-the-way eateries?).

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