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Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri

(Born 6 September, 1925 at Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Died 17 July, 2019 in Rome.)

Andrea Camilleri
Andrea Camilleri
Andrea Camilleri was Italy’s most famous crime writer of recent years. His Inspector Montalbano series, which is set in his native Sicily, has become popular in many parts of the world and has been translated into nine languages. The television adaptations of the books, with the actor Luca Zingaretti in the title role, have been broadcast both in Italy and abroad.

Camilleri wrote 28 novels featuring his engaging if fractious hero, the interval between publication in Italy and abroad being such that readers of the stories in English still had five titles in the series to look forward to even after his death in 2019, at the age of 93.  Translated into 32 languages, they have sold in excess of 30 million copies.

In addition to the Montalbano series, Camilleri wrote more than 50 other books, including collections of short stories and other novels, his prolific output all the more remarkable for the fact that he did not begin writing in earnest until he was in his late 60s.

Until then, Camilleri had enjoyed a successful career in theatre and television, where he had a reputation as a director of considerable talent, even if rather less famous than he would become for his writing.

The latest cover of the first Montalbano story
The latest cover of the
first Montalbano story
Born in Porto Empedocle, a town almost at the midway point of Sicily’s long southwestern coast, a few kilometres from the city of Agrigento, Camilleri’s formal education suffered through his school years coinciding with the Second World War and although he enrolled at university he dropped out without obtaining a degree.

He sold some poetry and short stories as a young author, but it was his successful application for a place at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica in Rome that changed his life.  It opened the door to a career in directing and production that brought him much acclaim. He is credited with being the first to stage a production of a Samuel Beckett play in Italy and after moving into television in 1957 he began to develop an affinity for detective dramas, producing a string of hits.

His writing continued sporadically, and after a couple of novels published in the late 1970s generated only modest sales and interest he put his pen aside for 12 years. This time, his novel La stagione della caccia (The Hunting Season), published when he was 66, turned out to be a best-seller.  Two years later, Inspector Montalbano appeared for the first time in La forma dell’acqua (The Shape of Water), based in the fictional town of Vig├áta, which Camilleri modelled on Porto Empedocle.

Luca Zingaretti plays Montalbano in the TV adaptations of the books
Luca Zingaretti plays Montalbano
in the TV adaptations of the books
By his own admission, the Montalbano books were formulaic - each ran to 180 pages, divided into 18 chapters of equal length - but set themselves apart through being written in a combination of conventional Italian and Sicilian dialect - brilliantly translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli - while readers soon warmed to the idiosyncrasies of Camilleri’s character, with his love of good food and his juggling of work with his long-distance relationship with Livia, his girlfriend.  The series grew so large only because his publisher kept asking for more; Camilleri had felt ready to abandon the character after only the second novel, Il cane di Terracotta (The Terracotta Dog), only for Montalbano to become ever more popular.

The stories also contain an element of social commentary.  After growing up under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, of whom his father was an active supporter, Camilleri moved in the opposite direction, politically. He was a member of the Communist Party as a young man and continued to support radical, left-wing causes throughout his life.  He regularly pronounced his opposition for populists and right-wingers such as Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini, sometimes in the pages of his books.  

Despite continuing to work in television, Camilleri produced books at a phenomenal speed, sometimes completing several in the same year.  Camilleri’s final Montalbano story, entitled simply Riccardino, which is due to be published in English late in 2021 or 2022, was actually written in 2005 and placed in a safe at the offices of his Italian publisher, Sellerio, to be published only when he grew tired of or was not capable of writing more. 

Inspector Montalbano novels (English publication dates):

1.      The Shape of Water (2002)
2.      The Terracotta Dog (2002)
3.      The Snack Thief (2003) Review
4.      The Voice of the Violin (2003) Review
5.      Excursion to Tindari (2005)
6.      The Scent of the Night (2005) Review
7.      Rounding the Mark (2006) Review
9.      The Paper Moon (2008)
10.  August Heat (2009) Review
12.  The Track of Sand (2010)
13.  The Potter's Field (2011)
14.  The Age of Doubt (2012)
16.  Treasure Hunt (2013) 
17.  Angelica's Smile (2014)
19. Blade of Light (2015)
21. A Nest of Vipers (2017)
25. The Safety Net (2020)
27. The Cook of the Halcyon (April, 2021)
28. Riccardino (2021 or 2022)

Montalbano's First Case (2013) – has been written as a prequel to the series.

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