Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores

I've been meaning for some time to read more contemporary crime fiction from Italy.  Besides the Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, I've read very little of it, but recently, I received a Massimo Carlotto book to review, his 2017 novel, recently translated for Europa Editions, Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores.  When I requested the book to review, I was wondering to myself, Is Carlotto the one who...?  And indeed he is.  

There's a good documentary from BBC Four on recent Italian crime fiction which I watched a couple years ago and where I learned Carlotto's story.  I've included the doc here if anyone is interested.  It's an enjoyable hour, full of good interviews with Italian crime authors as they give their thoughts on Italian noir and how it has developed over the last 25 or 30 years.

But back to Carlotto's story: in 1976, during the "Years of Lead" in Italy, a period of violent political strife committed by both the Left and the Right, Carlotto was a 19-year-old student and left-wing activist.  A 25-year-old-student, Margherita Magello, was found dying in his home with 59 stab wounds in him.  Carlotto is the one who happened upon the body.  As he says in the doc, he went to the police to report the murder, but because he was a "political militant of the revolutionary left-wing movement", he was quickly arrested and charged with murder. Carlotto insisted he was innocent, and in his first trial he was acquited for lack of evidence by the Criminal Court of Padua.  Upon appeal, however, the Court Call of Venice sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a sentence upheld by the Italian Supreme Court. 

Carlotto fled, becoming a fugitive first in Paris, then in Central America.  After five years on the run, he was captured in Mexico - where police tortured him - and then sent back to Italy and prison.  This began a long legal battle to clear his name, a saga that involved a large segment of the public taking up his cause and many prominent Italian figures signing a petition on his behalf. Due to the case's many convolutions, Carlotto became, in his words, "the most prosecuted Italian citizen for a single crime", and the case made him into a famous case - The Carlotto Case.  The case dragged on for years.  Carlotto's health suffered, and he went through a lot of psychological stress.  Finally, in 1993, with public opinion on his side, the Italian President pardoned him, and Carlotto was released from prison.  

Il fuggiasco, The Fugitive, in 1995, was Carlotto's first book, a novel based on his time on the run.  That was made into a successful movie.  Now he's 15 or 20 books on, and I'll be getting acquainted with him through the one I mentioned, Blues for Outlaw Hearts and Old Whores.

Well, great title for a book and quite a background for a crime writer.  Can't wait to get started reading...

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