The panel consisted of Mariusz Czubaj from Poland, Marco Malvaldi and Ben Pastor of Italy and Montenegrin Andrej Nikolaidis, who were interviewed by Jake Kerridge, journalist and crime fiction critic for The Telegraph.
Although connected by the crime theme it soon became apparent that the four authors had quite different approaches to the genre. Discussions ranged from the importance of place for the novels, which also took in some of the cultural differences between the countries, to their own diverse backgrounds.
Marco Malvaldi has an interesting background and told a very amusing story about his reports when he was studying chemistry at university. It sounds like he has quite a strong interest in food, with his crime fiction series featuring Massimo, the “barrista”, as well as an historical mystery featuring the real-life character of Pellegrino Artusi, a world-renowned author of the cookbook “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene”. Malvadi shared some interesting insights on life in Tuscany, much to the amusement of the audience.
Mariusz Czubaj unfortunately struggled more with the language barrier than the other authors, which is by no means a criticism as I’m sure most of the us would have struggled to speak any Polish. However, it did mean that he was less able to express his thoughts about his current book and on the setting, culture etc. What did come across was his sense of humour (although the less said about his Jimmy Page reference the better). He is a real-life cultural anthropologist and his first crime novel, 21:37 (at the moment around £2 on the Kindle), features profiler Rudolf Heinz. What we did miss out on were his views on the relationship between his own role as an anthropologist and that of his protagonist as a profiler – I think that if you could speak Polish he had some really interesting things to say!
Andrej Nikolaidis is a journalist and novelist, who spoke about his book ‘The Coming’. His detective has a quite unusual position on investigation – wanting to give the customer what he wants rather than pursuing the crime to uncover things which they would rather leave hidden. I can think of a few books which would have come to an early end taking this approach! The book itself is more of a novella and deals with some intellectual issues – finding favour with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. He also mentioned that the book is accompanied by a Spotify playlist (I’m now trying to remember is this is how we got on to the subject of Jimmy Page…).
Of the four I was probably most drawn to Ben Pastor (Ben is short for Verbena) who has a series of books set during the Second World War and whose main protagonist is Martin Bora, a Wehrmacht officer. She was very engaging, her opinions made a lot of sense and she has a ‘thing’ for men in uniform.
This was a very entertaining evening attended by around 100 people – no mean feat in the London Review Bookshop! In truth I would be interested to try the books by any of the authors. Many thanks for all who organised the event and sponsored it, allowing us all to have an illuminating event for free.
You may also be interested to read the Stu’s account on his WinstonsDad blog about the related lunch the following day.