Monthly Archives: July 2008


If you want to know the time, ask a policeman. If you want to know what makes a city tick, ask a crime-writer.

That’s how NPR – America’s answer to Radio 4 – are taking listeners to fascinating places around the world.

I think it’s a brilliant idea. Crime-writers  do explore their cities. Sometimes they define them – imagine a London without Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street, or Los Angeles without Philip Marlowe. For several minutes, at breakfast-time in the summer holidays, you might hear Donna Leon strolling through Venice,  Robert P. Parker talking about Boston, Laura Lippman on Baltimore. It’s called ‘Crime in the City’ and it airs on Morning Edition.

So last week, while in Istanbul again, I spent a great day tramping the streets with NPR journalist Ivan Watson, visiting places and people I know, linking them to passages from the books.

We went underground, into the cisterns of Byzantine Constantinople. We went onto rooftops, with Istanbul spread below us. I did one reading about muezzins to the sound of the muezzins – and another, about the Spice Bazaar, to the sound of hucksters and shoppers in the Spice Bazaar. We talked about Yashim, and Istanbul, and the passage of history – and at the end of the day we went to a friend’s place and actually cooked imam bayildi the way Yashim might have done it, with an indecent amount of virgin oil.

It tasted delicious.

The segment runs the week of August 11th.

Coming out

What happens when the book comes out? Exactly. The Bellini Card went on sale this week, and garnered its first reviews: Jeremy Jehu in The Telegraph writes today that ‘a pervading sense of loss and decline suffuse these rich romps with melancholy intelligence.’ 

I like the Literary Review’s angle, too, not least because The Bellini Card takes us to Venice – and Venice is notoriously hard to tackle. After all, everyone’s written about the place, from Dickens to Casanova, from Henry James to Jan Morris. 

‘Goodwin’s prevous books took us into the alleys and byways of nineteenth century Istanbul. This is an equally vivid and well-informed account of Venice in 1840 .. the plot is lively and interesting: but the real delight in this book is the atmospheric portrait of a fascinating place.’ 

In the meantime I get a call about putting the stories on screen. Hmm, why not?

Then again, who plays Yashim?