Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Badfellas by Tonino Benacquista (Bitter Lemon Press, 2010; 2004 in French)
Badfellas is for the most part an enjoyable comic crime caper. Benacquista tells the story in an easy, engaging style, with a good dose of black humour. The characters, whilst mostly caricatures, are well developed, fun and credible - I like, for example, the way that Fred is consistent in his vision of the world, pre and post witness protection programme). The plot is reasonably predictable, but entertaining, with some nice intertextuality, and I can easily see Badfellas being made into a movie. There are, however, a few shortcomings that a decent edit could have addressed – the narrative often tells rather than shows, wanders off on unnecessary tangents, and some of the story lacks credibility even for a yarn that asks you to suspend disbelief in general (for example, a man has two arms broken in a house under 24 hour FBI surveillance and yet no-one heard or saw a thing and heaven knows who collected his van; nobody seems to know that a FBI team is occupying the house opposite; a factory polluting the water table is blown-up and miraculously the water runs clean straight away and no-one comes to investigate in a post-9/11 world; a shop is set on fire by someone acting completely out of character and again there is no aftermath). To some degree this is all minor stuff, but it was enough to slightly sour the read for me, in what was otherwise an amusing way to pass an evening or two. I expect to see the movie in due course.