A Private Venus

Howard Curtis

Part of Melville International Crime

The book that gave birth to Italian noir . . .

Milan, 1966: When Dr. Duca Lamberti is released from prison, he’s lost his medical license and his options are few. But thanks to an old connection, he lands a job, although it’s a tricky one: guarding the alcoholic son of a plastics millionaire.

But Lamberti soon discovers that the young man has a terrible secret, rooted in the mysterious death of a beautiful woman on the gritty side of town. The fast cars, high fashion, and chic nightclubs of glitzy and swinging Milan conceal a dirty reality . . . This is no dolce vita.

A Private Venus marks the beginning of Italian noir: Giorgio Scerbanenco pioneered a new type of novel that trained its gaze on the crime and desperation that roiled under prosperous Italian society in the 1960s. And at the heart of this book is Duca Lamberti, an unforgettable protagonist: obsessive, world-weary, unconventional in his methods, and trying hard not to make 
another fatal mistake.

GIORGIO SCERBANENCO is considered by many to be the father of Italian noir and has been called ‘the Italian Simenon’. He worked as a journalist and as a contributor to women’s magazines before turning to crime fiction and noir. The most prestigious Italian literary prize for crime fiction is named after him, and many of his novels have been dramatised for cinema in Italian, Spanish and French. Born in Kiev in 1911, he was a longtime resident of Milan, where he died in 1969.

HOWARD CURTIS has translated over fifty books from Italian, French, and Spanish, including the work of the noir writers Jean-Claude Izzo and Gianrico Carofiglio.

“[A Private Venus] has just been released by Melville House in a crackling new translation by Howard Curtis. I read it in a single sitting… Scerbanenco was a trailblazing radical who pulled the mask off a whole era.” —John PowersNPR’s Fresh Air

“Compelling.” —the Wall Street Journal

“The first four chapters of A Private Venus are as breathtaking and moving an opening as any in crime fiction.” —Detectives Beyond Borders

“The Duca Lamberti novels are world-class noir, and their publication in English is long, long overdue”The Complete Review

“A gem…a vivid portrait of Milan’s seamy underbelly…” —Crime Fiction Lover

“[Scerbanenco can be] as dark as Leonardo Sciascia, as deadpan realistic as Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, as probing in his observation of people as Simenon, as humane as Camilleri, as noir as Manchette…but with a dark, dark humor all his own. The first-ever English translation of his 1966 novel has to be the year’s biggest event yet for readers of translated crime fiction.” —Detectives Beyond Borders