In British author David Hewson's fourth crime novel, The Lizard's Bite, Rome detective Nic Costa gets exiled to Venice, where he investigates the murder of a glassmaker.
How did you come to write a series set in Italy?
I'm from the north of England, and I never traveled abroad until I was 21, but at the library I read about Italy and Greece and grew up dreaming of the Mediterranean.
You feature mainly Roman characters in your books, but in The Lizard's Bite a sinister Englishman plays an important role.
I don't write about a lot of English people, and I thought, if I'm going to have an Englishman in my book, he's got to be a really "bad guy." I quite enjoyed him.
Do you plan to use Venice as a setting again?
I don't want to do another Venice book in the foreseeable future. My characters are Roman, and I think, while it's nice to take them out of Rome for a while, I don't want them to be away too long.
How do you manage to make your Italian backgrounds so authentic?
One of the things I did when I decided to write books set in Italy was to go there and go to language school and study beside nuns and doctors and people from all over the world. You see a different country then, when you take the time and get inside it. There's a whole part of Rome that people don't know about, a whole other city that's literally underground. I spent one winter going into places that were sometimes quite scary and astonishing. My next Nic Costa novel, The Seventh Sacrament, is set in that underground city. It was a fun book to research and write, but I have to tell you that after six months, I didn't want to go underground anymore.
Do you still work as a journalist?
I gave journalism up a year ago to focus completely on books. Over the past two years, I've picked up so many foreign deals. I'm published in Italy now, which I take as a huge compliment, because that's the hardest sell of all—when you're a foreigner writing about their country, normally they won't touch you. They'll look at a book and say this is all wrong, so it's great that an Italian publisher should have picked it up. I always wanted to write books that were international, so it's nice to see that beginning to happen.