Glenn Harper at International Crime Fiction has already written extensively about Domenico Starnone's First Execution (Europa editions). Suffice it to say that the novel is not only an engrossing post-modern crime novel, but one of the best I've read in recent years about the process of writing a crime novel, or, at any rate, a novel about the politics of violence and terrorism. Often a novel about the writing of a novel dies in its own footsteps, but this one works because of the honesty of the writing and its on-the-dime relevance. Here a committed person of the left writing about the danger of disillusionment and the detritus of what was once an apprehensible world. As in the following quote:
"A community is held together by spit. A community is the memory of something that once contained us and which we don't want to admit we have left behind us for good. It is distant laws. Abuses. Thickets of lawyers, magistrates, policemen. An encrustation of the fear of chaos and death. There are bonds of affection, occasional ties of solidarity, but they count for nothing. In contrast, hatred- now there is something endures, is powerful, and cuts like a steel wire. The lust for blood, its pulsing purplish flesh. Theoretically, you can sup on it whenever you like. Hatred and desire lie just under the frosting of good manners, of good morning, be my guest, pardon me, take your time, and thank you. All it takes for a neighborhood soccer team to want to cut the throat of the barista across the street is her sarcastic show of rooting, with a sneer, for the opposite neighborhood team. All it takes is the tenant upstairs who insists on hanging her sheets out to dry, depriving our bedroom of light. All it takes is a racket or a din, music playing too loud after midnight. Just a careless shove in the street. Someone staring a second too long at your woman. A community always knows, deep down, that its members have nothing in common, it's all just unfair competition, market forces, divergence, fracture, illegality dressed up to look perfectly legal, a violent presentation of the balance of power, prison, terror artfully scattered by the government, concentration camps (or stadiums: the horrible Chilean stadium to which the thugs and torturers of the US and Pinochet confined the opposition; all that rebellious fury I savored and gave voice to, that's what that stadium really was, proof positive that Fascism is the remedy when the masses fail to vote as they should)."
As I write this, two men are fighting over a parking place in the lot below while, on TV, hundreds of thousands are on the streets of Tehran.
London-based journalist and author of Pulp Culture: Hardboiled Fiction and the Cold War; Neon Noir: Contemporary American Crime Fiction; and Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood.