“I’m Bravo. And I don’t have a dick.”
I was pretty much pre-disposed to enjoy Giorgio Faletti’s The Pimp (A Pimp’s Notes in America) as soon as I read the opening line and I’m glad to say that my pre-disposition was borne out by what followed.
Giorgio Faletti is a well-known Italian comedian and actor who has also written seven novels, of which four have been translated into English. The Pimp, the most recent of these four, is set in Milan in the late 1970s, at the same time as the kidnapping of the former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, the period when Faletti was a regular at the Derby, a leading Milan cabaret.
The titular character, Bravo, is indeed a man who makes his living from procuring women for his clients. He took up his less than salubrious profession after his own manhood was sliced off with a razor by the minions of a Mafia boss whose girlfriend Bravo had foolishly slept with. His life is relatively straightforward, if sleazy and soul-deadening, until a party for which he has supplied the female company is targeted by assassins who murder all those present. From that moment, Bravo finds himself at the centre of a complex plot that results in him being hunted by the Red Brigades, the police and the Mafia.
The story is told from Bravo’s perspective and in a kind of Euro-Chandleresque voice, combining noir with a penchant for world-weary semi-philosophising, all of which works well unless you pause a moment too long to ponder the meaning of some of his sayings. Fortunately, the plot is engaging, satisfyingly complex and carries the reader forward.
Having said that the plot is complex, it is important to point out that this does not mean convoluted; Faletti creates a spider’s web of seemingly unconnected facts and happenings and manages to weave them together in a way that both maintains the suspense whilst being very clear in its workings. There isn’t a moment where you feel confused as to what’s happening but, equally, the pay-off of the denouement is worth it. Faletti’s other real knack is of planting small and seemingly unimportant nuggets in the narrative that end up becoming surprisingly significant, often in unexpected ways, which adds an extra layer to the enjoyability of The Pimp.
The ending of The Pimp has a little too much neat coincidence for my personal taste but there is much to admire in this book, including a surprisingly emotional and reflective undercurrent in Bravo’s character. Ultimately, The Pimp is a superior thriller, blending a noir feel and a demi-monde setting with Italian politics.
I’d like to thank Constable & Robinson (whose crime list is absolutely first-rate) for sending me a copy of The Pimp for review.