June 1929 saw the publication of the first four detective thrillers with a brand new yellow cover design and signalled the beginning of one of the longest-lasting series in international publishing. Since then, in Italy, the only country in the world that uses the term “gialli” (yellow), to describe an entire literary genre, precisely because of the colour of the original covers that not only marked an era, but that continues to the present day.
As Camilleri himself puts it: “The mystery genre is called “giallo” only in Italy. But iit is yellow not for the colour in itself but as a symbol, reflected in the colour of the book covers.”
The first authors to be published in 1929 were: S.S. Van Dine with La strana morte del signor Benson, E. Wallace with L’uomo dai due corpi, R.L. Stevenson with Il club dei suicidi, and A.K. Green with Il mistero delle due cugine.
And they were an immediate success, with sales of over 50,000 copies in the first month. Since then, for 90 years “Il Giallo Mondadori” has continued to come out on newsstands and has published some 3,200 instalments in the regular series, plus an additional 1,400 Classics and another thousand Special editions and extra issues. An authentic world record, that now other regular series has ever matched. After 90 years “Il Giallo Mondadori” still publishes 40 title per year in five active series, with sales of around 150,000 copies.
Among the great names èublished in Italy thanks to the “Gialli Mondadori” are some of the pillars of this literary genre, including: Agatha Christie with Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple; Ellery Queen with the investigator of the same name; Rex Stout with Nero Wolfe; Erle Stanley Gardner with Perry Mason; S.S. Van Dine with Philo Vance; Ed McBain with the 87th Precinct; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, as well as Dashiell Hammett, the creator of Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler, Ruth Rendell, James Hadley Chase and Mike Spillane. Meanwhile, Italian authors include Ezio D’Errico and Giorgio Scerbanenco, Carlo Lucarelli and Loriano Macchiavelli, Danila Comastri Montanari, Sandrone Dazieri and many more.
Now, to celebrate this anniversary, a number of new titles by well-known Italian authors of “gialli” will appear in bookstores, first of all by Anrea Camilleri and followed by, among others, Francesco Caringella, Gianrico Carofiglio, Pietro Colaprico, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Marcello Simoni, Valerio Varesi, alongside reprints of some of the “classics” of the series.
The first will appear on 26 Marzo and is an unpublished novel by Andrea Camilleri entitled Km 123 and as reprints, in a new format and with a new design, by Fruttero&Lucentini – La donna della domenica, Renato Olivieri – Il caso Kodra, Edgar Wallace – I quattro giusti, S.S. Van Dine – La strana morte del signor Benson. Other new titles and reprints will follow later in the year.
Km 123 by Andrea Camilleri
It all begins with a switched off mobile phone. The caller is Ester, the non-responder is Giulio, who has ended up in hospital after a bad crash on the Via Aurelia.
The phone is turned on again by Giuditta, Giulio’s wife, who, obviously, knows nothing about Ester. It could be the beginning of a romantic story, but the tone of this story is decidedly different: in fact, a witness claims that Guilio’s crash wasn’t an accident at all, but a murder attempt, and the investigation passes from the insurance company to the police department…
Andrea Camilleri, the undisputed Italian master of the genre, gives us a mix up that is full of both humour and mystery, in which all of the characters – and we as readers too – are convinced that they have guessed the truth.