From Nordic Noir to Nero Nostra? Inspector Luca

Nordic Noir

From Nordic Noir to Nero Nostra?  Inspector Luca

As an erstwhile reluctant, then fully converted, follower of the Saturday evening BBC4 slot, the Montalbano series was my ‘chill out with chocolate’ comfort zone.   The all too early ending of the series left a gap which was filled, curiously enough, by Nordic Noir.

Nudged slightly protesting into said Nordic Noir, I started to try to analyse what it was that made the two very different programmes so satisfying.   (Quantifying the unquantifiable?)

The Nordic Noir formula could arguably be defined by the six Ps of politics, passion, power, psychology, press, and place.   On the other hand, Nero Nostra appears to have a slightly different focus encompassing duty, camaraderie, seduction, sustenance, society, survival.   


And so to Luca….  

Expecting something along the Montalbano lines (Mafia power, camaraderie of the job, challenges of outside work relationships, ethical decisions – all dished up in…

View original post 299 more words

DVD Review: Inspector De Luca

Characterized by gritty realism, existential struggles, institutional corruption, political instability, salacious segments and heroes frequently crushed by overwhelming opposition or vanquished by the dark finger of fate, Mediterranean Noir may from a UK perspective be considered a relatively new genre. Distinct in tone and worldview, like its Nordic counterpart, the movement places society under a microscope and critiques its failings. Comprehensively surveyed in Barry Forshaw’s forthcoming book Euro Noir, British and Irish audiences are already familiar with the genre thanks to BBC Four’s screening of the TV version of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels. In literary terms, the authors Leonardo Sciascia and Jean-Claude Izzo have an enlarging English language readership. The vast panoply of authors and TV series currently gaining recognition by a new found fanbase is enlarged thanks to Arrow Films release of Inspector De Luca a series adapted from a trilogy by one of Italy’s best known contemporary crime writers, Carlo Lucarelli.

In the introduction to the Inspector De Luca novels, Lucarelli recounts an incident from his time as a doctoral student that inspired him to write the books and forsake his academic pursuits. Conducting background research for a thesis, he interviewed a former police officer with forty years active service who began his career in 1941 working for the fascist political police. Initially employed to monitor the activity of anti fascist groups before arrest, the political elite were so paranoid they subsequently engaged the services of this officer to conduct surveillance on pro fascist groups due to fears that they may be plotting to overthrow Benito Mussolini. Having conducted his duties throughout the early stages of the war without a blemish on his record he transferred into the partisan police immediately following the allies liberation of the country and served in that force for the remainder of the conflict. Following the cessation of hostilities fresh elections were held in Italy to form a new government, in this new regime the officer was tasked with monitoring and arresting his former colleagues because they were now regarded as dangerous subversives.

Coupling his personal fascination with the latter stages of Italy’s fascist regime and the testimony given during the interview with this former officer, Lucarelli considered how an individual could be so wedded to the concept of policing he would carry out instructions without question irrespective of the political implications or any sense of discontinuity at having to arrest individuals (sometimes former colleagues) for engaging in activities which were previously lawful. Spurred on by the fertile territory he had inadvertently stumbled upon Lucarelli abandoned his thesis and wrote the the Inspector De Luca trilogy; Carte Blanche, The Damned Season and Via delle Oche.

Produced in 2008, the TV adaptation adds a prologue episode set in 1938 to introduce De Luca, his point of view, working methods, relationship to superior officers and demonstrate how ordinary citizens were effected by the ever present struggle between fascism and the leftist groups who sought to topple the regime. Across ten years, in four episodes, De Luca’s pursuit of truth and justice across Bologna and the Adriatic coast frequently places him in trouble with whoever happens to be ruling at that moment. Steadfastly refusing to bend to suit the will of those seeking to quell an investigation, he dogmatically pursues a case despite incidents when it might be more prudent to take a less direct approach or to withdraw. First and foremost a police officer, De Luca is not a political realist or an apologist for any cause, for him the law is all that matters and he has a sworn duty to uphold it no matter what the personal cost may be.

The addition of an original introductory episode to complement the three adapted from Lucarelli’s novels creates a balance in terms of the series’ structure. Translating the novelist’s work to screen with due respect for the source material, the creative team have masterfully brought to life a well written trilogy with such insight and reverence it is impossible to detect a stylistic shift in the “new” prelude. The first two episodes are set during Mussolini’s reign and the subsequent instalments take place in a period when recriminations sat alongside reconstruction. Throughout one of the must tumultuous periods in modern European history the geographical, economic, social, and political turmoil is integral to communicating the series’ fictional milieux. The core theme of justice needing to be maintained in difficult times ensures that despite being a period drama, the series’ central message resonates.

In the newly written opener, An Unauthorized Investigation, the body of a sex worker is found washed up on the beach close to Mussolini’s summer home. Fearful of the consequences should the leader’s holiday be disturbed, the authorities demand that the case be solved swiftly. De Luca’s methods clash with his superiors when he starts investigating some of Mussolini’s acquaintances.

The second episode, based on the first book, Carte Blance, sees De Luca fall under the watchful eye of the fascist elite when he is placed in charge of trying to apprehend the murderer of a wealthy bachelor. At this stage in the war the Italian government was co-operating with Nazis and the palpable paranoia felt throughout this edition is accentuated as it becomes apparent that allied forces may storm the area at at any moment.

A dramatic change in tone throughout The Damned Season and its follow-up Via Della Oche demonstrates De Luca’s descent from trusted public official to despised collaborationist who must pose as a partisan. Unable to stand down from his duty, De Luca’s stubborn refusal to bend with the wind and seek an alternate lifestyle is no longer a virtue.

A turbulent era is brought to life with brio in a series blessed with intricately researched historical detail, sympathetic cinematography, and scripts that elevate the admittedly excellent source material to the level of near greatness. Recommended.

Inspector De Luca can be ordered from Amazon:

Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw is available from Amazon and all major book retailers:

Leigh Russell – Blog Tour

Leigh Russell’s latest book Fatal Act, the sixth DI Geraldine Steel mystery will be published by No Exit Press on the 29th May 2014. I’ve been a huge fan of Leigh Russell’s novels since a friend pressed a copy of her first book Cut Short into my hands and said that I would enjoy this strong new voice in British crime fiction. I am honoured to host the penultimate date of her first ever UK blog tour.

Leigh graciously took time out of her schedule to answer some of my questions about the relationship between literary crime fiction and its small screen counterpart.

* Is the present trend for increased female representation in TV cop series impacting on the writing/publishing process?

This is a hard question to answer, because much of the writing process operates on an unconscious level. Television may have increased readers’ appetites for fast moving, episodic narrative. Certainly many contemporary books have very short chapters to create an effect that events are happening in different places simultaneously, very much as some television works in very short scenes to give that impression. My own writing might have been influenced by television to produce this kind of structure because I write very short chapters, in an attempt to show what different characters are doing at the same time. Although I didn’t deliberately do this to be televisual, it would be a mistake to think authors can escape the influence of television altogether. Even an author who never watches television would be aware of readers’ changing tastes.

In the same way that television influences the contemporary fiction writer, the popularity of female television detectives must be having an impact on the industry as a whole. Publishers are naturally, and rightly, keen to exploit current trends, and female detectives are clearly very popular. But while there are increasing numbers of series featuring female detectives, more male detectives are appearing on our screens as well. So I suspect the impact on the writing and publishing process has more to do with the popularity of crime fiction as a genre, regardless of the gender of the detective.

* Are TV producers drawing from an already existing literary trend or are book writers emulating their small screen counterparts?

That’s a really interesting question. Where do these trends in fiction originate? If it was possible to predict success, Harry Potter would never have been rejected by a bevy of publishers reluctant to take on such an original manuscript. There are hundreds of examples of bestselling authors who struggled to get into print at all because publishers like to ‘play it safe’. This is understandable. They are investing a lot of money in producing a new book, and need to feel confident they are at least in with a chance of seeing a return on their money. When I signed my first three book deal in the UK, my publisher recommended researching police procedure. ‘It’s what readers want,’ they said. At that time, Jane Tennison was popular, and everyone was keen to tap into that trend. Now we’re told readers are no longer interested in police procedure. They want psychological thrillers. But who dictates these fashions? Is it the readers, the publishers, television – or even, dare I say it, authors themselves?

Like publishers, television broadcasters are all looking for the next big hit. They might promote a particular series but viewers, like readers, vote with their feet. The last thing any television broadcaster wants is an expensive failure. Ironically, murder stories are ‘safe’, so it looks as though detective series will be with us for a long time. And that means we’ll be seeing more female detectives on our screens. Changes in crime fiction, to some extent, reflect what is happening in society. With around 30% of senior police posts now held by female officers, the expansion of the female detective on television was inevitable. But whether the television producers or publishers tapped into the current interest in female detectives first is difficult to unpick, as each responds to the successes of the other.

* Do you feel that authors may be thinking about the sale of film and TV rights when drafting a manuscript?

Any author who is earning a living from writing fiction would surely love to see their characters on the small screen. Apart from the kudos and thrill, it offers a whole new and quite generous income stream, for very little time and effort. The work of writing the book has already been done. Even so, I can’t imagine any author seriously considering the elusive the sale of television and film rights when writing a book, because the chances of seeing a book televised are very slim. When I’m writing I might think about my readers, what to tell them and what to keep hidden, and what their expectations might be. Engaging readers must be the priority for any writer. I suspect any author would say that when they’re writing they’re thinking about their readers rather than possible television or film deals. But I don’t suppose any author would complain if they were offered the chance to see their creation on television!


Fatal Act

The Sixth and Latest DI Geraldine Steel Mystery

A glamorous young TV soap star dies in a car crash. Returning for her sixth case, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is baffled as the driver of the second vehicle miraculously survives – and vanishes. Another young actress is murdered and, once again, the killer mysteriously disappears. Geraldine unwittingly risks her sergeant’s life in their struggle to track down a serial killer who leaves no clues.


All she wanted to do now was get home safely. She drove slowly, looking out for a side road she could turn into. With luck she could slip away before her pursuer realised what she was doing. She passed a turning on the right, displaying a no entry sign. She braked abruptly. Her phone flew off the passenger seat. The van slowed down behind her. Worn out and stressed, she couldn’t even remember why she had been so angry with Piers. It had been a stupid argument in the first place. She wished she was back at home, away from the road at night and its wildness. Leaning forward to retrieve her phone from the floor, she punched Piers’ speed dial key. His phone rang, but there was no answer. She glanced in her mirror and glimpsed the other driver, his face a black mask in the darkness.


Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuths; Suspense; Crime

Published by: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 29th May 2014
Number of Pages: 320pp
ISBN: 978-1-84344-204-2
Series: DI Geraldine Steel #6; Stand Alone


Leigh Russell studied at the University of Kent, gaining a Masters degree in English. For many years a secondary school English teacher, she is a creative writing tutor for adults. She is married, has two daughters, and lives in North West London. Her first novel, Cut Short, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award in 2010. This was followed by Road Closed, Dead End, Death Bed, Stop Dead and Fatal Act, in the Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel series. Cold Sacrifice is the first title in a spin off series featuring Geraldine Steel’s sergeant, Ian Peterson.




Stop Dead by Leigh Russell has been nominated for 
The People’s Book Prize
Do please take a couple of moments to visit thisPeople’s Book Prize link and cast your vote in support.

Fatal Act by Leigh Russell
Blog Tour 2014!