What does the Italian/ American mafia, the Italian Communist Party, Cary Grant, Field Marshal Tito, the KGB, and a McGriffin TV have in common? Well read this book and you will have a find out. All these are marvellously and skilfully interwoven into a rich plot that spans 541 pages of compelling reading.
What makes the story even more enthralling is the fact that it is written by a collective of authors, going under the name of Wu Ming. Previously known as Luther Blisset, a famous black footballer transferred from Watford to Ac Milan in the 80s, and who became a cult figure. Despite some vicious racism thrown his way. Wu Ming mean anonymous in Chinese. What is also unclear, is how this collective can seamlessly interweave their work into such a cracking story, and fascinating read. But they do.
The story is set in post World War 2 Europe, which is badly damaged but recovering. The main part of the story is set in Bologna in southern Italy, and revolves around a bar, that is run by two brothers. These characters are fictitious, but very life like in many ways. The younger, whilst political, like a dance and has a complicated love life. Other characters are known to us in history. Like Bristol boy done good, Archie Leech. Known better by his stage name, Cary Grant. Grant’s obsession with himself is infuriating, but also explained in a very human way. Boy from back streets of Bristol, with fame. Who will go to absurd lengths to remain a star. Then he is thrust into a post war Yugoslavian adventure, where Tito’s main objectives are to avoid the totalitarian tentacles of Moscow, just post Stalin. Whilst also trying to play off the Western powers. All these cold war manoeuvrings become human with the rich characters invoked.
Also prominent from history is Lucky Luciano, the American/ Italian mobster, with a multi million lira heroin business under his control, but he does not touch. You meet the runners, the dealers, and a very interesting muscle head, who is the main enforcer.
In the middle of this, with their paths inter crossing at regular intervals are the two brothers, and the Italian communist party comrades, who frequent their bar. They both miss their father, but in different ways. The father was an Italian soldier who deserted, and joined the Yugoslavian partisans. Fighting with distinction, and gaining the confidence of Generalissimo Tito himself. The younger brother wants to find his Father, and finds himself in many complex situations as he strives in his quest.
And then there is the 17” McGriffin television. The model is modern state of the art, and prized in post war Italy. It crosses many hands, but doesn’t work. All the same many of the book’s characters still struggle for possession of it. Why?? Read the book, and you will find out. Also, I strongly believe that you will not be disappointed.
Snuff September 2015
For Bristol Radical history Group