Caroline is wrapping presents, Mimi is helping as best she can and I’ve got a hefty list of people to send e-cards to. But that can wait until I’ve written a brief roundup of the year. Or, not so much a roundup, more a list of what I’ve enjoyed reading, watching and listening to this year.
Music : well, you know about my new obsession with Italian prog. But there wasn’t just that, although Caroline might tell you otherwise. I listened to a lot of Monteverdi, mainly as background to writing “The Venetian Masquerade”. Hawkwind’s 49th anniversary album “The Road to Utopia” divided fan opinion, but I found it utterly charming (not a word I’ve ever applied to a Hawkwind album before), mariachi-style arrangements and all. I’ve also gone through a bit of a 70s krautrock phase with Neu and Cluster. I think Caroline and Mimi prefer this to Italian prog but, given that they insist I listen to it in a different room, I can’t be 100% certain.
Cinema : I rarely go to the cinema these days. I might try and rectify that at the next film festival but, on the whole, most of the films I enjoyed this year were old ones, and mainly classic Italian horrors or gialli. So I took in a retrospective of some of the works of Mario Bava. ‘La maschera del demonio’ is probably his masterpiece, but there’s much to enjoy in ‘Sei donne per l’assassino’ and ‘I tre volti della paura’ as well. Much more to explore next year. I also undertook to rewatch of all the films from Dario Argento’s great period (which, according to me, runs from 1970’s ‘L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo’ to 1987’s ‘Opera’). If I get the time I might write a little more about this next year.
Books : it may surprise you, but I don’t actually read all that much about Venice. I did enjoy ‘First Spritz is Free’, edited by Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, a fascinating collection of contemporary writings about the city (disclaimer : one of them is by me). Elsewhere, I thoroughly enjoyed Gregory Dowling’s “The Four Horsemen” (literate, funny and informative in equal measure) and Scott Stavrou’s elegant “Losing Venice”. But most of my time was spent on reading Italian crime. Two reasons – (1) to improve my Italian, and (2) having started writing crime, I feel I really should read more of it. Gianrico Carofiglio is an old favourite of mine, but I was a little underwhelmed by the relatively brief ‘La regola dell’equilibrio’. Carlo Lucarelli’s ‘Peccato Mortale’, set in fascist-period Bologna, makes the most from a brilliant central idea which I won’t reveal here. But my real discovery has been the late Giorgio Scerbanenco, sometimes referred to as ‘the Italian Simenon’. ‘Venere Privata’ is utterly gripping, and Scerbanenco’s prose is lean and compelling. More to explore in his back catalogue next year.
Writing : well, in an exciting two-month period next year, I have not just one but two (2 – count them – two!) books coming out. “To Venice With Love”, an updated and improved “Venice Project” with stacks of new material, will be out in March, with the third Nathan Sutherland novel “The Venetian Masquerade” following in April. And, post-Christmas, I really should settle down to Book 4 – the title of which I could reveal, but won’t just yet!
It has been some year. The Nathan Sutherland books took off in a way that none of us – myself, my agent and my publisher – had ever expected. I’ve written more about this elsewhere on this blog so I won’t repeat it all. Suffice to say, it was a year in which everything changed.
I’ll sign off with thanks to my agent and publisher, and to Caroline for her infinite patience. But, above all, thanks to all of you for the messages I’ve received. I’m flattered, honoured, and just a little bit surprised that so many of you have wanted to get in touch. I do reply to every email, but I apologise if sometimes it takes a bit of time.
It has been the best of years, and it couldn’t have happened without all of you. Thank you so much.
With all good wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas, and the best of New Years.
Philip and Caroline
(and not forgetting Mimi…)