Rediscover: Andrea Camilleri

Italian writer Andrea Camilleri, who died last week at age 93, was best known as the author of 27 novels and multiple short story collections starring Sicilian police officer Inspector Salvo Montalbano, many of which take place in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicily. Camilleri based Vigata on his home town of Porto Empedocle, which honored the popularity of the Montalbano series by officially changing its name to Porto Empedocle Vigata between 2003 and 2009. Camilleri didn't write his first novel until he was 53 years old. His first two were unsuccessful, but his third, The Hunting Season, became a bestseller. His fourth novel, The Shape of Water, was the first story with Inspector Salvo Montalbano. From 1977 to 1997, Camilleri was also the chair of film direction at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica in Rome.

Camilleri's most recent book was Il cuoco dell'Alcyon. However, this is not the last entry in the Montalbano series. Thirteen years ago, Camilleri wrote a final Montalbano novel in which the inspector is irretrievably killed, to avoid the fate of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. The name Montalbano is a tribute to Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (1939-2003), whose Detective Carvalho was also a gastronome and used to highlight local culture and issues (with Catalonia replacing Sicily in Carvalho's case). The Montalbano books are extremely popular in Italy and have been adapted into a long-running TV series. Camilleri has sold some 10 million copies, with increasing sales of Stephen Sartarelli's English translations. In 2013, Penguin Books released a 700-page paperback called Death in Sicily, which collects the first three Montalbano mysteries ($22, 9780143123682). --Tobias Mutter

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