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Michael Dibdin

Michael Dibdin

(Born 21 March, 1947 in Wolverhampton. Died 30 March, 2007 in Seattle.)

Michael Dibdin
Michael Dibdin
British-born crime writer Michael Dibdin was educated in Northern Ireland, England and Canada but moved to Italy to teach English, where he found the inspiration for his series detective, the Venetian–born Inspector Aurelio Zen. Dibdin deploys Zen in a number of different Italian cities throughout the 11 books in which he is featured. The final novel, End Games, appeared in July 2007 following the death of Dibdin in Seattle.

Dibdin's novels attracted praise for their literary quality as well as their storylines, which elevated him to a different level among crime novelists according to some critics.  He confessed in an interview in 2000 that he did not have a series in mind when he wrote the first of his novels featuring Zen, Ratking, the intention of which was mainly to draw on his experiences living in Italy.

The son of a physicist and a nurse, Dibdin grew up in Northern Ireland from the age of seven after his father accepted a lectureship. He became a voracious reader, with a particular love for the hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and later for Sherlock Holmes creator, Arthur Conan-Doyle.

After graduating in English literature at the University of Sussex, he obtained qualifications as an English teacher so that he could travel to Canada, studying for a Masters at the University of Edmonton. In the event, he stayed in Canada for five years, decorating houses for a living while he wrote in his spare time.  His first novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, appeared in 1978, by which time he and his Canadian first wife were living in Chiswick in west London.

The couple divorced not long afterwards, at which point Dibdin moved to Italy to teach English at the University of Perugia, where he witnessed the Italian bureaucracy and corruption that would inform the social and political backdrop to his Zen novels. While working in Perugia, he met his second wife and wrote another novel, A Rich Full Death (1986), set in Victorian Florence.

Three of Dibdin's Zen novels featured in a BBC television series in 2011
Three of Dibdin's Zen novels featured in a
BBC television series in 2011
His first Zen novel appeared in 1988, and although he did not write it with a series in mind, he became fascinated enough with the character, whom he often portrayed as something of an outsider, to want to develop him further, taking him to different parts of Italy for each story, many of which won awards. Dibdin also enjoyed the opportunity provided by the crime genre to write about the real world.

Along with those of Vendetta and Cabal, the storyline of Ratking was adapted for one episode of a BBC TV series featuring Dibdin's character Zen in 2011, starring Rufus Sewell, with the Italian actress Caterina Murino in the role of Tania Moretti, his love interest.

A large man with a noted fondness for food and drink, Dibdin died a few days after his 60th birthday. He had married for a third time - to fellow novelist Kathrine (KK) Beck - and settled in the United States, in Seattle. 

The Aurelio Zen novels:

  1. Ratking (1988) Review
  2. Vendetta (1990) Review
  3. Cabal (1992) Review
  4. Dead Lagoon (1994) Review
  5. Cosi Fan Tutti (1996) Review
  6. A Long Finish (1998) Review
  7. Blood Rain (1999) Review
  8. And Then You Die (2002) Review
  9. Medusa (2003)
  10. Back to Bologna (2005)
  11. End Games (2007)

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