Bandit Love Paperback – Sep 28 2010
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About the Author
Massimo Carlotto's first book, an autobiographical novel entitled The Fugitive, deals with his time on the run in Latin America. Carlotto is one of the most important exponents of the Mediterranean Noir novel and has been called an Italian James Ellroy.
Antony Shugaar is a writer and translator. Aside from Giorgio Faletti s "A Pimp s Notes", his recent translations include books by Simonetta Agnello Hornby, Silvia Avallone, Nanni Balestrini (with an NEA translation fellowship), Fabio Bartolomei, Massimo Carlotto, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Diego De Silva, Marco Mancassola, Gianni Rodari, and Paolo Sorrentino. He is the author of "Coast to Coast" and "I Lie for a Living" and the coauthor, with the late Gianni Guadalupi, of "Discovering America" and "Latitude Zero". He has published with the "Washington Post", the "Boston Globe", and online with the "New York Times", among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about translation for the University of Virginia Press.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It starts with a kidnapping that makes little sense, and moves nonstop into one of the most enjoyable literary treats I've read this year. Even though this crime novel is serious business, there's an air of humor that surrounds a trio of ex-cons and bad guys that are called in to solve the crime. Yep, these guys, having paid their dues as tough guys and retired from that life of crime, now just want to sit back and drink Calvados, eat pasta, and listen to the blues. Except for the lead, Marco Buratti, who also happens to be addicted to home shopping television shows.
The action is non-stop as it crosses through Italy and into the Balkans as the three men try to solve two mysteries. They had previously got involved in a hit that went wrong, the moral of which was, "know who you do business for and why before you shoot someone." Since they didn't obey that rule, they have to backtrack and solve that before the kidnapped woman can be found.
The characters that they run into are just that: characters. Carlotto makes them memorable, with little clues that make them feel much more complicated than just a simple definition of "bad guy". Drug smugglers have egos and their own tragic flaws, of which these experienced searchers exploit, while at the same time they lament,
"Why do Mafiosi always seem to have one useless son?"
This leads to an amusing conversation as they analyze The Godfather and The Sopranos to point out just which characters were intellectually-challenged. The rapport between the three is priceless, as they unquestionably back each other up, which would seem unlikely for the world they live in. And what a world that is, when drug smuggling and police corruption is impossibly powerful, with so many innocents thrown into the conflict.
I can't even begin to explain why this book was so much fun, given the subject matter was serious and at times, appalling. Perhaps it's the universal simplicities that unite everyone-good or bad-the power of a good meal? A view of the sea? The comfort of a regular table at the trattoria?
When Sylvie, Beniamino's belly dancer-lover vanishes without a trace, the three men set to work turning the underworld upside down, finding evidence to suggest that the kidnapping was related to a huge drug robbery from two years ago. The Institute of Legal Medicine of the University of Padua had stored fifty kilograms of narcotics, including thirty kilograms of heroin and ten kilos of cocaine, for toxicological testing of the active principles, and the robbery was clearly an inside job.
Shifting back and forth between the robbery and the present, Carlotto crafts his dark and terrifying story from the viewpoint of Buratti and his friends, none of whom have any qualms about doing whatever is necessary to gain information that will allow them to find Sylvie. They are helped in their investigation by their friendship with Morena Borromeo, a prostitute who has become an informer, a woman who can often get information through pillow talk with influential people. Despite their willingness to use violence and/or murder to accomplish their ends, however, Marco Buratti, Max La Memoria, and Beniamino Rossini somehow remain "human" in the hands of the author. All have ordinary interests that make it possible for readers to identify with them, despite everything else.
Carlotto compresses time throughout this novel, telling what amounts to a three-hundred page novel in fewer than two hundred pages, and readers may find themselves flipping back and forth to the table of contents to remind themselves whether they are in Padua, Grenoble, or Lugano and whether the date is 2004, 2006, 2008, or 2009. Buratti and his associates must investigate criminals and criminal enterprises that cross the boundaries of many countries and territories, all with their own internal Mafias. The Croatians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Turks, Russians, Serbian intelligence services, and Kosovar Mafia are all angling for power in northeast Italy, trying to control the flood of drugs coming from Morocco, Algeria, and elsewhere. Though the action is fast and furious, and the many characters are often hard to keep track of, Carlotto's novel is a satisfying noir achievement, written with insight, intelligence, and passion, even as its characters often seem to be living hopeless lives. Mary Whipple
Poisonville (World Noir)
The Goodbye Kiss
Set in northeast Italy, with Marco The Alligator based in Padova (Padua), the reader is treated to a ringside seat as Eastern European gangsters fight it out for territory and influence in Italy. The Italian gangsters look like amateurs by comparison.
The first person account by Marco The Alligator is written long after the fact, describing an adventure that changed his life, and the lives of his two partners in crime and business: fellow ex-cons Max the Memory and Old Rossini. The narrative style is hard-boiled private investigator.
The overall tone of Bandit Love is jaded, cynical, male humor, but the women in the novel are, surprisingly, both victims and victimizes, but most strikingly the victims of violence.
There is a non-linear timeline that keeps the reader jumping, and there is lots of atmosphere from the criminal world, with gangsters of all sorts and types.
The biggest problem I have with Bandit Love is that there is no ending. There is no satisfying resolution to the "case". Perhaps the author is setting up the next book in the series? This book is only about 140 pages long. I reads more like the first half of a complete book, the second half of which has not yet been released. I don't like books without endings, which is why I gave it only 3 stars.
Please read my full review at Italophile Book Reviews
The problem with Bandit Love is that it's issue-driven. The issue is the corruption of Italian society from top to bottom and from side to side. In the Italy of Bandit Love everyone takes bribes, pays bribes, use drugs, sells drugs, hires illegal immigrants, or is an illegal immigrant. And while Carlotto obviously has a lot to say on this subject, he doesn't have a plot to carry his editorializing along for the ride. The story has "Alligator" (Carlotto's private eye character) helping a friend track down his kidnapped girlfriend. That story is wrapped up halfway through the novel and then Carlotto switches gears and we follow Alligator and his friends as they take revenge against the Serbian mafia boss responsible for kidnapping the woman. Both plots are lazily developed and generate zero tension.
Another sign that Carlotto really didn't have a coherent plan for this novel is that he has Alligator nattering on about jazz and blues, mentioning his favourite songs, and so on. Any time a crime writer has his main character making frequent commentaries about music, films, food or local history, you know the author's treading water because his plot is too thin. If Silvio "bunga-bunga" Berlusconi is any indication I can well believe that Italy is as rotten as it's depicted in Bandit Love, but whining and bitching about it isn't a good basis for a novel. Carlotto should take a look at Dominique Manotti, a French crime writer who effortlessly mixes political commentary with complex, fast-paced, violent plots.
You can read more of my reviews at JettisonCocoon dot com.
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