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» Who’s your favorite fictional detective? And the best villain?

Michael Connelly: It’s got to be Philip Marlowe as the detective. He had an unmatchable mixture of sardonic humor, weariness and resolve. I’ll go with Francis Dolarhyde from Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon as the villain. He remains in the shadow of Hannibal Lecter, but I find him more realistic and a reminder that these sorts of killers are more banal than genius. That makes them scarier.«

Michael Connelly

By the book: A Q & A with writer Michael Connelly (latetest novel: The Gods of Guilt). Read more at The New York Times.

» Q. You’ve said that the detective novel is a barometer of narrative production in any country. By that metric, where does Italy rank?

A. Narrativity presumes a special taste for plot. And this taste for plot was always very present in the Anglo-Saxon countries and that explains their high quality of detective novels. It is absolutely true that until recently there was nothing in Italian similar to Agatha Christie or Ian Fleming, not to speak of Sherlock Holmes. But there is something new. As in the Swedish culture, where there was an enormous birth of crime stories, in Italy for the past 20 years, there’s been a great production of good-quality detective stories. It’s a miracle — suddenly the Italian culture discovered the art of the plot.«

Umberto Eco

Exploring imaginary lands with one of Italy’s masters of fiction: Stephen Heyman in conversation with Umberto Eco about fiction and Mr. Eco’s latest book The Book of Legendary Lands (dt.: Die Geschichte der legendären Länder und Städte). Read an excerpt of the conversation at The New York Times.