|the last mystery story to be published in Italy--at least so long as the Mussolini regime functions|
In 1939 the American detective novelist Todd Downing wrote an Oklahoma friend an interesting letter in which he mentioned that his acclaimed 1934 detective novel The Cat Screams "is to be the last mystery story published in Italy--at least so long as the Mussolini regime functions." According to Downing, the Milan publishing firm of Mondadori had bought the translation rights to The Cat Screams "just before Mussolini issued his decree, and they rushed it into print just under the wire."
|Hitler may have loved Edgar Wallace, |
but apparently Mussolini was not a mystery fan
Downing's friend was highly incensed:
[I]t would seem mystery stories belong to the literature of "escape"....So, no more sleuthing, vicariously, for the Italians. They will be restricted to a literary diet of hero-worship with the fascist big shots in the leading roles, deification of the ancient and modern Italian great, speeches by Mussolini, and novels on the various regions of Italy and her colonies, with the emphasis on the greatness and goodness of everything Italian and the meanness of everything foreign.
For his part Downing confessed that it struck him "that taking a people's detective stories away from them is just about the farthest north of something."
I agree with Todd, as he so quaintly and colloquially put it! So, when you read your next Golden Age detective novel, you'd better appreciate it, even if it's a mediocre one! Just imagine having your reading limited to Mussolini hagiographies!
"Taking a people's detective stories
away from them is just about
the farthest north of something."
|filmed in the United States during World War Two, |
but unpublishable in Italy
So was The Cat Screams really the last mystery published in Italy, at least until after World War Two? I would love to see a copy!