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Magdalen Nabb

Magdalen Nabb

(Born 16 January, 1947 in Lancashire. Died 18 August, 2007 in Florence.)

Magdalen Nabb settled in Florence in her  20s after moving from England
Magdalen Nabb settled in Florence in her 
20s after moving from England
Magdalen Nabb is the acclaimed author of the Marshal Guarnaccia detective novels, set in her adopted home city of Florence. There were 14 titles in the series, beginning with Death of an Englishman in 1981 and concluding with Vita Nuova in 2008. There would have undoubtedly been more had she not died from a stroke at the age of 60.

Nabb, born in the village of Church in Lancashire, a mile to the west of Accrington, had a turbulent life. She lost both her parents by the age of 13 and she and her sister were brought up by an aunt in Ramsbottom, attending Bury Convent Grammar School.  She made the bold decision to move to Italy with her young son, Liam, in 1975 at the age of 28, following the breakdown of her marriage.

They settled in Florence, where she had visited on holiday.  At first she worked as a potter in Montelupo, a town on the banks of the River Arno a few kilometres west of Florence, using skills she had acquired at art school in Manchester.  Later, she became curator of the museum at Casa Guidi, the house near the Pitti Palace where Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning once lived.

Her circle of friends in Florence included a Carabinieri officer, Captain Nicolino D’Angelo, based at the Carabinieri station near where she lived, who is thought to have been the inspiration for Marshal Salvatore Guarnaccia.  Nabb’s conversations with D’Angelo sparked in her a fascination with the seamier side of life in Florence, unseen by the tourists.

This was the theme of her novels, which tended to feature the pimps, prostitutes and racketeers who stalked the city’s streets at night, rather than the sightseers and art lovers who thronged the churches and squares by day.  Beloved by her editor for the way she honed her writing to the point that it needed only minimal work to ready it for publication, she won acclaim from the critics for her literary quality and from readers who knew Florence well, for her ability to capture the sights and sounds, even the smells, of ordinary life there in her prose.

Alongside her detective novels, Nabb also wrote a series of childrens’ books featuring Josie Smith, a young girl living in Ramsbottom, which were taken to have been based on her own childhood. 

Like her real-life parents, Nabb was not blessed with lasting good health. In 1994, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralysed, yet recovered to continue her writing career, adding a further five Guarnaccia novels and another six Josie Smith stories.  

An animal lover, she even managed to return to her other great passion, horse riding but sadly suffered another stroke in 2007, which proved fatal.

Maresciallo Guarnaccia novels:

  1. Death of an Englishman  (1981)
  2. Death Of A Dutchman  (1982) Review
  3. Death in Springtime  (1983) Review
  4. Death in Autumn  (1985) Review
  5. The Marshall and the Murderer  (1987) Review
  6. The Marshall and the Madwoman  (1988) Review
  7. The Marshal's Own Case  (1990) Review
  8. The Marshal Makes His Report  (1991)
  9. The Marshal at the Villa Torrini  (1993)
  10. The Monster Of Florence  (1996)
  11. Property Of Blood (1999)
  12. Some Bitter Taste  (2002)
  13. The Innocent  (2005)
  14. Vita Nuova  (2008)

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