I’m writing this week about two examples of “Noir” crime fiction. On Monday I featured Severe by French writer Régis Jauffret. Today my featured book is an example of Italian Noir, A Private Venus by Giorgio Scerbanenco published by Italian crime fiction specialists, Hersilia Press. Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) is described in the introduction as “the father of the Italian noir tradtion”.
As well as being a successful magazine editor, Giorgio Scerbanenco was a writer of novels, more prolific than Georges Simenon. In the introduction to A Private Venus, Giuliana Pieri says that Scerbanenco pushed Italian novel writing “towards a new realism and, to borrow a metaphor from the other single most important influence on this genre, gave it the rapid rhythm of a nouvelle vague film which conveyed, on a linguistic and syntactic level, the frenetic pace of the industrialised world and the frenzied tempo of consumer society”.
A Private Venus was first published in 1966. It is set in Milan, a city which, in his novels, Scerbanenco almost created as a capital of crime to rival New York and Los Angeles. As the book opens we meet Duca Lamberti, a doctor newly released from prison having served three years for practising euthanasia on an elderly patient who was begging him to end her life.
Lamberti was struck off the doctor’s register because of his crime and needs to find a job. Through an old contact in the police he is referred to a wealthy plastics engineer, Pietro Auseri who is looking for someone to cure his son of chronic alcoholism. The engineer has tried everything to cure his son, including physical violence, but now;
. . . I’d like to make one last attempt,’ Auseri said, ‘put him together with someone who could be both a friend and a doctor, who’d use any method he wanted to make him stop drinking, who’d stop him physically every minute of the day, even in the toilet. I don’t care if it takes a year, or what means he uses, he could even beat him to death, I’d rather he was dead than an alcoholic.