Andrea Camilleri’s Last Leap

In the Los Angeles Times, Sebastian Rotella travels to Sicily to interview the island’s reigning king of crime fiction, Andrea Camilleri, best known for his Inspector Salvo Montalbano novels that appear as paperback originals from Penguin over here. Rotella writes that the bespectacled, gravel-voiced 83-year-old writer “has become a national character as beloved as his Montalbano, a shrewd,

resolutely Sicilian police commander who solves crimes in the fictional

town of Vigata”:

At an age when most people tend to focus on
scheduling medical visits, [Camilleri] gets up every day at 6 a.m. in his
comfortable apartment here, showers, dresses and gets to work. And
enjoys himself enormously. "I spent 30 years in television, theater, where
you must have great physical energy," he says in a study decorated by
images of comic-strip hoodlums. "In theater it's a 24-hour day. . . . I
am accustomed to this kind of rhythm. In fact, writing relaxes me."

Craggy features, a bald dome and a longish fringe of white hair
give the author the look of an ancient eagle. His speech and movements
are jovial and deliberate. He's a chain-smoker, a habit he describes as

"On the other hand, I have made it to 83," he says. "Maybe if I quit cigarettes today, I would drop dead."

  The article touches on why Sicily's produced an inordinate number of notable Italian writers and Camilleri's non-crime output (mostly historical novels), but hat's especially fascinating is that, like Agatha Christie before him, Camilleri has already written the final installment of the Montalbano series, ready for publication should he die or be incapacitated:

<div style="margin-left: 40px;">
  Camilleri wrote it as the result of a conversation in Paris years ago<br /> with two fellow mystery writers: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán of Spain and<br /> Jean-Claude Izzo of France. The three old friends amused themselves<br /> discussing how they would do away with their sleuths one day. Vázquez<br /> Montalbán and Izzo have since passed away.</p> 

    "They both died before their characters, so that made me think how I<br /> get rid of mine," he said. "I do have a bit of a Sicilian thing,<br /> superstition let's say, so I invented a solution. . . . I sent it<br /> immediately to [my publisher] and said, 'Here, keep it.' This is<br /> irreversible and there's no going back. It's not like Conan Doyle, who<br /> had Sherlock Holmes fall into the abyss and then revived him. This is a<br /> literary character, and he vanishes."</div> 

      Considering the clip Camilleri's producing manuscripts, even at his age, it may be quite a while before that book sees the light of day even under such dire conditions..