Cekebrity interview: Donna Leon

Author Donna Leon, whose work is inspired by living in Venice.
Author Donna Leon, whose work is inspired by living in Venice.
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She’s lived in Venice for more than 30 years, bringing its intense flavours, sights and sounds to the page in her 22 murder mysteries featuring the world-famous detective Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Indeed, American crime writer Donna Leon has done for Venice what Ian Rankin has done for Edinburgh and Colin Dexter did for Oxford, not only highlighting the lesser-known nooks and crannies of the city, but amassing legions of fans who want to follow in her hero’s footsteps.

Tourists can take a well-trodden path through Brunetti’s Venice, starting at La Fenice Opera house – where the first Brunetti novel, Death At La Fenice, began – and ending at the iconic Rialto Bridge.

They can visit the detective’s favourite eateries, go from his home in San Polo to the Questura in Castello where he works, cut through Piazza San Marco and accompany him on the vaporetti out to more remote parts of Venice.

You sense Leon’s indifference to the unauthorised tourist trails her work has attracted and her amusement at the German TV adaptations of her novels which have been running for more than 10 years.

“They are very German,” she has said. “The actors dress like Germans [rather than Italians]. They do not touch one another. In Italy, Italians are always touching. It’s just contact.”

Leon, 70, has been in negotiations, for more than 12 years, with a US film producer about an adaptation and is still in talks with the BBC about making a series on Brunetti.

“I think it’s a great idea. I have great faith in the BBC. I’ve seen many of its productions.”

She suggests, though, that she would want some control over any film project, rather than just signing over the rights.

“I would like to be able to read the scripts before they’re made because I don’t want them to get the Venetian stuff wrong.”

But she has no idea who she’d want to play her fictional detective.

“You see, I don’t have a television and I don’t go to the movies so I don’t know who any of these people are. I don’t do social networks.”

In the haven of Venice, she prefers to go out to dinner with friends, or to the opera, or to get involved with several orchestras of which she is patron.

Her 22nd novel, The Golden Egg, sees Brunetti investigate the death of a deaf-mute young man who worked at his dry cleaners. While an empty bottle of pills points to suicide, Brunetti remains unconvinced.

* The Golden Egg by Donna Leon is published by William Heinemann, priced £17.99. Available April 4.