Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Crime novelist Dibdin dies at 60

Sad news in today, British author Michael Dibdin, known for his Italian detective Aurelio Zen, has died aged 60, his publisher says. The Wolverhampton-born novelist published his first book, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, in 1978.

His first Zen novel, Ratking, was inspired by four years spent teaching English in Italy. It won the Gold Dagger award for crime fiction in 1988.

He is survived by third wife, Katherine Beck, a daughter from each of his first two marriages and three stepchildren.

Dibdin's family moved extensively around the UK while he was a child.

He went to school in Northern Ireland and later studied English Literature at Sussex University before travelling to Canada to take a master's degree at the University of Edmonton.


Dibdin was passionate about crime fiction. His first novel was an affectionate parody of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which took the form of a confessional manuscript by the detective's long-suffering sidekick, Dr Watson.

It was not the only time Dibdin paid tribute to his predecessors. The Dying Of The Light, published in 1993, was an homage to Agatha Christie's country hotel murder mysteries.

But it was the escapades of Inspector Aurelio Zen that brought the author his greatest fame.

Dibdin's first novel was a pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories
After the success of Ratking, he wrote a further 10 novels starring the world-weary detective, including his most recently-completed story, End Games, which will be published posthumously.

The series often paints an unflattering portrait of modern Italy, as Zen is confronted with political cover-ups, petty bureaucracy and Mafia murders.

The books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, although Dibdin admitted they did not sell well in Italy.

"Italians take a very elitist approach to anything that could be labelled as a genre or crime fiction or mysteries," he told January magazine in 1999.

"There's only one publisher that does them and in fact they're sold at newsagents rather than in book shops. But it's the same thing for anyone. That's just the way it is over there."


The author continued to write novels outside the Zen series, winning accolades for 1991's Dirty Tricks, a story of greed and betrayal in Thatcherite Britain.

He also reviewed regularly for The Independent newspaper, and edited two collections of crime fiction in the 1990s.

Dibdin met third wife Beck, herself a mystery writer who uses the pen name KK Beck, at a writers' conference in Spain in 1993.

Having spent much of his writing career in Oxford, he moved to live with her in Seattle, Washington - which provided the setting for his first American-based novel, Dark Spectre in 1995.

He died in the US on 30 March after a short illness.

Hat tip: BBC News

No comments: