Inspector Indelicato dealing with… thorns


By John

Of course, the Sicilian detective story is truly a territory, or rather a bottomless deposit. And it's a bit like Sicilian cuisine, with many hearts and many resources. And, in fact, the inspector is perfectly at ease in one of the hundred Sicilian kitchens Antonio Indelicato, “Nenè” for everyone, a completely new creature, but certainly with a good futureleapt out of the imagination of Gaspare Grammaticoborn in Trapani, but now settled between Turin, where he lives, and Milan, where he works as a TV writer and has been on the team of the «Fratelli di Crozza» television program for years.
Inspector Indelicato, who made his debut together with his author in «A question of balance» (Mondadori, finalist for the Fedeli Prize and the Erice Prize), returns in «Le thorne del ficodindia» (Mondadori), the second adventure of the series which, as Grammatico tells us, it will be followed by a third novel, in which there will be further revelations of this character's life. Melancholic and in love with his Trapani, dedicated to his professional duty as well as that of a single father of the teenager Sara, passionate about cooking and books (two things he savors with gusto), Indelicato has that trait of “cleanliness” that Vice, the Sciascian commissioner of «The Knight and Death», associates «childishly with police». And so when Nenè finds himself faced with crime, as in the first novel with a famous oenologist barbarously murdered in the cellar of his villa, and in the second novel with brutal crimes of which young women are victims, he is disturbed, especially if the evil it mixes almost “naturally” with the effort of facing daily difficulties and dissatisfaction.
Thus, as the investigation progresses Nenè always tries to understand the point beyond which a person – perhaps also a victim of evil – turns into a murderer. And in this he is helped, as well as by a meticulous forensic doctor, by his deputy Salvina Russo, Nenè's complement (“to her – says Grammatico – I gave the gift of the joke”), always ready to defuse the tension and give a tip to her boss when she perceives, with feminine intuition, that he is distracted by thoughts and doubts.
Against the background of the stories, the film rights of which have been optioned by Bibi Film (a company that co-produced «The investigations of Lolita Lobosco»), the amorous geography of a Trapani that Indelicato lives every day, of which he savors the scents of the sea, fish and basil, imposes itself. And Trapani will be the city of choice from which the presentation tour began in its national premiere on 7 June and will touch on many stages of Sicily between June, July and August.
After his debut, Indelicato returns, the same and grown up.
«Yes, he has grown because I am growing as a writer, even if he is always that good and empathetic commissioner, attentive to all people, especially the simple ones. I started this adventure in which I took refuge because writing for comedy, which is what I do regularly, is particularly complex and tiring. It means writing five or six pages where every line and a half there is a line that must not have been said, and must make sense. Writing mysteries was a way of taking a vacation. As a reader I have always been passionate about crime novels, especially Ellery Quinn.”
But how was Indelicato born?
«It has nothing to do with the characters who go to visit the author: the opposite happened to me, the story was born first, then the character. I always had new stories in my head, and among these the one that refers to the first novel kept insisting, but at this point the character was missing. And so I, who have always been a great observer, by profession and by nature, and have cataloged a sea of ​​”human material” in my life, have looked at every nuance of character, attitudes, defects, qualities of people. But when I started writing the story I got stuck because I didn't know this character, so I necessarily started from myself, then I did nothing but add and improve things that perhaps I would have liked to have.”
But why still a commissioner?
«I don't believe in the accidental detective, I believe that even in fiction the detection must be done consistently. Writing about a commissioner is certainly more difficult because there is respect for certain rules which do not give the freedom of movement that some other improvised detective would give. A commissioner investigates with the support of forensics and the postal police and must act in a certain way.”
The great protagonist of your books is Trapani, which was perhaps missing in the rich geography of Sicilian crime fiction. An emotional choice?
«The place, in my opinion, is fundamental to telling a story. I know Trapani well, even though I live between Milan and Turin. But the beauty of Trapani, this still wild beauty, I wanted to tell in every way: a beauty of places, of food, of people, of life, to contrast with the ugliness of crime. The “thorns of the prickly pear” are also the thin ones that stick into the flesh, just as evil does: Nenè suffers this thing, he comes out almost defeated but he resists. The conclusion of his investigations is never consolatory. Talking about these contrasts was particularly interesting for me.”
Indelicato loves reading and loves Trapani cuisine: two things that can be savored and savored.
«Food and book, body and mind. For the “enlightenment” Nenè, books are part of his daily life, and food, repeating the ritual of his father's recipes, typical of our cuisine, is also a memory of his father, rethinking it in the kitchen rather than in the cemetery. And in any case, for me it is an act of love for my land, I need to feel its flavor even from afar and savor it in person when I return.”