Wednesday, 30 August 2017

BEST OF CRIME with Nadia Dalbuono

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME ... 


It would no doubt be more interesting to name some obscure, hitherto overlooked crime writer from a remote island no-one has heard of but I'm afraid my choice has to be Michael Connelly. As far as I'm concerned, he's the master. From plot to pacing to characterisation, he never puts a foot wrong. Apart from creating such strong and compelling characters in Haller and Bosch, I'm still fascinated by the backdrop of LA and the vastly different existences jostling for survival there. 

The Insider by Michael Mann would easily be my first choice. Mann is a superb director and apart from his extraordinary eye for composition, this powerful true story was absorbing in its ability to elicit a range of different emotions, anger being foremost among them. Mann managed to wrestle one of the best ever performances from Russell Crowe as conflicted tobacco industry whistleblower, Jeffrey Wigan - it was an unsanitized, provocative portrayal and at times painful to watch. 

I would contend that the opening scene from the first episode of TV series Billions is one of the cleverest openings in the history of TV pilots! And it just gets better from there on in. Billions is a masterclass in direction, editing and scriptwriting and the silent dance of predator and prey between US Attorney Chuck Rhoades and hedge fund king Bobby Axelrod is fascinating to watch. There is one particular scene where Axelrod stages a fake argument to distance himself from potential insider dealing charges that I believe is one of the funniest/exciting/bizarre two minutes of drama ever made.  

I couldn't ever say I like him but I've always been impressed by Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. The way he leaps so wholeheartedly into despicability with no instinct for self preservation; the way he tries to rouse his fellow 80s zombies from their brainwashed existence; the way he tries to come clean to his lawyer but to no avail. I guess I've always felt sorry for him: he never finds catharsis. All that effort and creativity in his killing but at the end he's condemned to return to the same suffocating existence of materialism, narcissism and greed. American Psycho seems to start out as a comedy of manners with Bateman taking a similar role to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice but then he descends into hell and winds up like Dante in the Inferno - yet with no Virgil to guide him. That's been Bateman's problem from the start: he's totally alone and nobody wants to listen.

Obviously, all this depends on your reading of the book. As unreliable narrator supreme, Bateman may have made the whole thing up and never had the courage to carry out such daring murders... 

It has to be Harry Bosch. Bosch appeals on so many levels: his terrible childhood, his troubled love life, his continued conflict with authority and strong sense of right and wrong, often at the expense of his own career. I feel as if he's become a friend - the unstinting effort he puts into his relationship with his teenage daughter and his relentless pursuit of the truth makes him very real. I think we're about 21 books in now and he still holds my interest. 

I quite liked when Patrick Bateman dropped a chainsaw on Christie from several floors above and I'm sure there are scenes from some Dean Koontz novels which I no longer recall but I think the prize has to go to Hannibal Lecter for his sixth victim who is savagely murdered in his workshop using an array of different tools. (I seem to remember that he is then laced to a pegboard in a manner reminiscent of illustrations in early medical text books.) 

I've read a lot of Lee Child but I have to say the ending to Make Me really freaked me out. I was actually quite angry with Lee because I felt like he'd departed from his usual, more palatable mainstream territory and dragged me unawares into the nightmare niche of the dark web: a place I really wasn't prepared to visit just yet.
Spoiler alert! Why is the end so disturbing? Maybe not so much for the torture as for the callousness, the pure evil of the concept behind it and the fact that so much is left to our imagination. Despite or perhaps due to the deeply chilling finale, Make Me is a great book. The quality of the writing is superb - I think it's his best yet. 

I read Corriera Della Sera frequently for Italian news: there's always a strange little story in there involving organised crime or local politicians that might provide the kernel for a new idea. I also take my breaks from writing by reading Trump's stream of consciousness on Twitter. Twitter is a great way to plumb the depths of the human condition. 

If it's not convincing you, it won't convince anyone else. I've hoodwinked myself on numerous conditions only to regret it later. Also: plan, plan, plan. For my first two books I wrote detailed synopses, for the next two I slackened off a bit and paid the price while I was writing - it felt so much harder. I've now returned to having a detailed scheme to work from. 

Just these two words ‘Writing snacks’ cause me considerable anxiety. When I was pregnant with my second child and writing my second novel, The American, I was hit by extreme tiredness and used to polish off a 100g bar of Lindt milk chocolate by midday just to keep going. The situation got worse and worse and 6 months into my pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes. (No fun, believe me - oatcakes just didn't give me the same buzz.) I now am 7 times more likely to contract diabetes and have to watch my sugar intake. As a result, I no longer snack when I'm writing: a lesson in the pitfalls of poor self-control. 

Nadia Dalbuono worked as a documentary director and producer for Channel 4, ITV and Fox before turning to crime writing. Her Leone Scamarcio novels, The Few, The American and The Hit are set in Rome and follow son of a mafioso Flying Squad detective Leone Scamarcio. The American was longlisted for the 2016 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.
Nadia lives in northern Italy with her husband and two young sons.

Find Nadia Dalbuono on her website and on Twitter - @NadiaJDalby


Publisher's description 
Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a former leading mafioso, has turned his back on the family business, and has joined the Rome police force. He may be one of the last honest men in Italy. 
But when Scamarcio is handed a file of extremely compromising photographs of a high-profile Italian politician, and told to ‘deal with it’, he knows he’s in for trouble. And when a young man is found stabbed to death in Rome, and a young American girl disappears on a beach in Elba, Scamarcio’s job gets a whole lot more complicated. 
Worst of all, every lead seems to implicate the prime minister ― a multi-media baron, and the most powerful man in Italy. As the case spins out of control, and his own past catches up with him, Scamarcio must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society ― only to find that nothing is as it seems, and that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay. 

The Hit was published by Scribe on 9 February 2017.

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