Friday, December 4, 2009

Amanda Knox and Italian Noir

THE strange case of Amanda Knox -- a cute American exchange student accused of killing her British roomate -- just took a yet stranger turn as she was convicted of the murder as part of a bizarre sex game. (She is sentenced to 26 years in prison; the family will appeal.)

The fact that this took place in Perugia, the capital of the lovely and green Italian region of Umbria, known as the land of the saints -- is only element that makes me think of the consummate Italian noir writer, the late Englishman Michael Dibdin. In fact, Dibdin even taught at the University of Perugia, where Knox studied -- he set his first novel, "Ratking," there -- and settled in her hometown of Seattle before he died in 2007.

Dibdin captured a tone of weirdness and irony so well, and perhaps because he was a foreigner, could see through Italian charm -- and unravel Italian bureaucracy and political intrigue -- like a great cultural critic.

HERE is my LAT story on the author and his work. Part of what's fascinating about Dibdin's career is the way it demonstrates -- as Pico Iyer has so eloquently observed -- the strength and flexibility of the Chandleresque detective novel (born of course in LA) in wide-ranging international settings.

For those new to Didbin's work, I'd recommend that debut, or the more poltical "Medusa."

This Knox case is likely to get stranger still, I'll bet.

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