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Pistols! Treason! Murder!

, 288 pages

21 halftones, 35 line drawings

July 2009



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Pistols! Treason! Murder!

The Rise and Fall of a Master Spy

Short-listed for the NSW Premier's History Awards 2007 and the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2008

The year is 1622. Anxiety is high in the city of Venice. Rumors of treason flourish. The noble Antonio Foscarini stands accused and pays the ultimate price. Gerolamo Vano, General of Spies, provides the evidence. But who is really guilty? By the end of the year, Vano is swinging from the gallows in Piazza San Marco, while Foscarini is absolved posthumously. Pistols! Treason! Murder! uncovers the shadowy world of seventeenth-century espionage and the truth behind the most infamous miscarriage of justice in the history of Venice.

Including vividly illustrated comic strips, accounts of the author's bar tour around contemporary Venice, and painstaking detective work, Jonathan Walker’s story of the rise and fall of a master spy is compelling and highly original.

In untangling the career of the master spy Vano, Walker invites the reader into the historian's task of piecing together evidence from incomplete archival sources, making sense of motives, coming to terms with the story, and knowing when the job is done. Aspiring historians will find the methods Walker used to uncover this fascinating story invaluable in their own historical quests.

Jonathan Walker is a senior research fellow in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. Together with Dan Hallett, he has recently finished an "illuminated novel," Five Wounds, which will be published in 2010. He is also working on a photographic essay on Venice entitled Let Us Burn the Gondolas: Venice as a Modern City.

"A remarkable book, indeed a work of history of quite astonishing originality and brio. It is history that speaks to the tastes of the young of today in a way that few modern or postmodern histories have managed. It is a book that breathes new life, shape, and vigor into a discipline that has become flooded with stock and derivative studies."

"Walker handles the telling of this complex tale quite brilliantly through a series of varying narrative, graphic, and typographic techniques. This is an exhilarating and learned book, properly adventurous, pleasurably readable, likely to make its mark (and lift the occasional eyebrow)."

"A fascinating read for anyone interested in the seventeenth century, in Italy, or in the history of the spy business in general."

"In this highly original study, Walker uses conventional narrative together with comic-book graphics, varied type-faces, interview transcripts and quotes from contemporary plays to explore the process of history writing."

"This book will infuriate as many scholars as it excites, but it is original, well written, and good. It should intrigue anyone who likes reading history."

"Walker's diagnosis of the Venetian underworld is canny and his trespasses across the boundaries between author and subject lighthearted and fun."

"Walker blazes an important new path, and for this historians of the early modern world are much in his debt."

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