For the first time in a quarter of a century (ie all my adult life) I am venturing abroad this summer. So after a lifetime of Northumbrian shores and Welsh castles what prompted the change? A book (or two) of course! Last year I read my first Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms. A book set during the first world war is perhaps not the obvious starting point for holiday inspiration, nonetheless it set the seeds of thought. Not wishing to add spoilers for those who have not read the book lets just say briefly that the final section is set in the Italian and Swiss lakes, specifically Lake Maggiore, and I was inspired.
What put me off going however was the flying. I hated airports in the early 80s and I don't suppose they have improved much. The second part of the thought process was the travel inspiration by Graham Greene's Stamboul Train. This action packed 'entertainment' as Greene calls it, is not exactly how I plan to travel but the idea of European sleepers seemed a good way round the airport problem. The night train in question (Paris to Venice) is suitably literary: 'the Stendhal'. So hopefully we will be alighting in Verona in the near future and driving to the Italian Lakes and I can't wait!.
The next question and a joyful problem it is, is what to take as holiday reading. Do I re-read The Name of the Rose? Or John Grisham's The Broker? Or get my paws on a Penguin Dante? What else is out there waiting for me? A gentle surf discovered the most wonderful website especially if you like crime fiction Italian Mysteries. It does what it says on the tin: This site will provide information on over 750 English-language books set in Italy, most of which are mystery or suspense novels. The browse facilities include looking at historical mysteries by era, suspense mysteries, action mysteries, literary fiction, non-fiction, films of books set in Italy, and Italian authors with non-Italian settings. You can also browse by theme or location. The books are neatly dealt with in a five flag review system, which is clearly explained, and as well as assessing a book's general quality also assesses its Italianess, which is great if you want a real flavour of the place. There are author interviews and news snippets too.
So what to pick? Well my short list, inspired by the above site, includes Ellis Peters' Holiday with Violence. Crime fiction on holiday is a good thing but perhaps the title of this one is step too far? Anyway it is set in Venice which we hope to visit. Wilkie Collins' The Haunted Hotel is another possible - and as we won't be staying a hotel has less of a literal application than the Peters' title. I also quite fancy Timothy Williams' The Puppeteer ('What Van der Valk has been to Holland. and Maigret to France. Commissario Trotti could well become for northern Italy') which is actually set in the lakes, specifically Lake Garda, and gets five flags from the webmaster. Finally wanting something written by an Italian I am tempted by Duca and the Milan Murders by Giorgio Scerbanenco which is available in an English translation.
Do most people allow their destination to affect their holiday reading? Or their reading to affect their holiday destination for that matter?