(photo credits: Mary Reagan)
S.J. Rozan introduced Saturday’s “Literary Thrillers” panel, held at the Bowery Ballroom, by saying the subject was “one close to my heart.” And even though the topic didn’t get addressed directly by panelists Kenji Jasper, Henry Chang and Alicia Giminez-Bartlett until the question period (when I played ringer and asked what, exactly, made thrillers literary) the topic permeated the hour-plus discussion, which quickly established that Chang and Jasper care a great deal about having their characters drive the story and basing said stories on their own respective realities (Jasper grew up in inner-city DC, Chang in New York’s Chinatown, where he still resides.) Bartlett delineated the difference between genre constraints and literary expansiveness and how she felt it was, in some way, easier to write crime fiction as a result.
During the signing portion afterwards I finally had the chance to meet Giminez-Bartlett’s panelmates from the previous night’s “Mediterranean Noir” event, Carlo Lucarelli and Massimo Carlotto. Neither Italian writer is comfortable enough speaking English (something I didn’t figure out until my attempt at conversation with Lucarelli) so translator Michael Reynolds intermediated between me and Carlotto, who was also in town for the Edgar Awards (where he was nominated for Best Paperback Original.) When I asked Carlotto if it was odd to have read from “his newest novel” IL FUGGIASCO – really his first, written twelve years ago – he said no because he’s frequently asked to speak about his voluminous legal woes in and around Italy. He did add that the “Carlotto Case,” as it’s known there, is not exactly fresh material for him anymore.