Friday, July 1, 2011

Author challenges

The way that the name of Europa Editions came to my attention symbolizes exactly what I treasure about this imprint: I realized that the same publisher was the source of both dark, well-written crime fiction that had been translated into English, and one of the most fascinating, satisfying novels I've ever read: Jane Gardam's Old Filth.

Well, any imprint that publishes this wide a range of fiction, a range that matches my own interests, is one to remember. So the Europa Challenge is an exciting opportunity for me to explore even more of what has been a reliable source for fascinating fiction that's not the same as every other book on the shelf.

Although I am signing on to the Perpetual Challenge of reading all of Europa Editions's catalog, my intial focus will be on works by three authors that showcase the variety and the quality of this imprint:

Carlo Lucarelli is a distinctive Italian crime fiction voice, and his remarkable De Luca trilogy is a terrific introduction. Set in the waning days of the Facist regime at the end of WWII, it features a policeman who has to navigate both crime and politics, and their inevitable collaborations, to solve his caseload. The three novels are Carte Blanche, The Damned Season and Via Delle Oche.

The next stop on this fictional itinerary is France, for Jean-Claude Izzo's haunting Marseille trilogy. This hard-boiled threesome is built around the saga of Fabio Montale, and comparisons to Chandler and Ellroy are not off-base. The titles are Total Chaos, Chourmo and Solea. I may include two more Izzo titles in this particiular segment of the author challenge: The Lost Sailors, also set in Marseille, and his last novel, A Sun for the Dying.

Rounding out this authorial challenge will be the novel that made me a Europa Editions complete fangirl, Old Filth, and Gardam's follow-up, The Man in the Wooden Hat. The latter chronicles the early years of Old Filth and his wife, Betty. Old Filth, which stands for "Failed in London Try Hong Kong", is a character who reminds me of those in Staying On, the coda to Paul Scott's Jewel in the Crown quartet, plus any number of characters on the periphery of Iris Murdoch's tales.

I've set no time limit for this author challenge because of continuing ed, work and other review commitments,but will be posting here and at Lynne's Book Notes. If I can write intelligibly about the books as they're finished, I should complete the Europa Haver or possibly the Europa Amante challenge for 2011. It's a journey I'm excited to be making; I hope some of you will be making your own travels through this imprint's titles as well.