Set in 1963 Florence, Marco Vichi’s Death in August introduces Inspector Bordelli.
How did you become a writer?
The first time I tried to write a novel I was nine or 10 years old. Over the following years I continued to write little stories and poems—more than anything I used writing to escape from difficult moments of adolescence or youth. When I was about 20, I would sometimes make an older friend read something I’d written. One day he said to me, “So do you want to keep playing, or do you want to be a writer?” I returned home and decided to give it a serious go. I did it in secret, shutting myself in my room, without telling anyone anything, almost as though I was ashamed, perhaps because I was worried other people would laugh at this innermost dream of mine. And after 19 years of reading and writing wildly, my first novel was published.
How was the inspector born?
It happened one afternoon in 1995, four years before my first [stand-alone] novel was published, after 15 years of filling my drawers and cupboards with stories of every genre, type of language, and length—but never turning my hand to police procedurals. Despite appearances, I am not at all a fan of classic crime or mysteries, but after reading Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s police novels—real masterpieces from a writer who has little to do with the crime/thriller genre—I felt encouraged to make my own attempt at the genre, to talk about all sorts of things without getting completely embroiled in the “mechanics” and plotting.
Why name your lead Bordelli, which translates to Brothels?
It’s not a real surname, and in some sense alludes a little to the inspector’s character... certainly not because of any passion for brothels, but just because of his disorderly life.
Why set the first book in 1963?
The ’60s are very close in terms of time, but incredibly distant in cultural and social terms and also in the worldview and aspirations of that era. That time period, so soon after 1945, allowed me to transfer some of my father’s war stories into the inspector’s memories. It’s been nice to be able to preserve those stories. After the war, things changed very quickly. The desire to forget the horror and the rush toward modernity were very strong. The ’60s was the decade of turmoil and great change, where the children of the bourgeoisie struggled against the 19th-century strictures of their families until they finally managed to destroy them by creating a new, more modern, and often nastier, middle class.