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Journal of Modern HistoryWalker blazes an important new path, and for this historians of the early modern world are much in his debt.
— Elizabeth Horodowich
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.
Johns Hopkins University Press
— Elizabeth Horodowich
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.
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.
Map of the Italian States ix
Map of Modern Venice x
1 Between the Columns-sets the scene 1
2 Why Vano Matters-identifies the man responsible for a famous miscarriage of justice 4
3 Dissection/Resurrection-compares historians with pathologists and mediums 12
4 The Hero-provides more information on our protagonist 14
5 Idiolect-celebrates Vano's peculiar writing style 19
6 Odd One Out-comments on Vano's use of repetitive motifs 22
7 Caffe Rosso, 7.00 p.m.-dialogue: Why were the Venetians afraid of the Spanish? 26
8 The File-describes our major source, Vano's spy reports 34
9 The Inquisitors of State-introduces Vano's employers 39
10 Diplomacy-contains basic information on seventeenth-century embassies and diplomats 43
11 Honour Among Spies-two men die to advance Vano's career 47
12 Da Baffo, 8.45 p.m.-dialogue: What could you buy with a ducat, and how much did spies earn? 65
13 Rivals-compares Vano's career with that of other spies active in seventeenth-century Venice 73
14 Alchemy-Vano turns lead into gold 88
15 Winks and Blinks-discusses the relationship between signal and noise in spy reports 92
16 Special Delivery-analyses the subtexts of two spy reports 97
17 Fiddler's Elbow Irish Pub, 11.00 p.m.-dialogue: Were ordinary people aware of spies? 100
18 Running Alternatives-explores the hidden connections between an attempted assassination and a convoluted conversation 107
19 Trace-suggests that walking and reading are related activities, and analyses the handwriting of some of our protagonists 122
20 Paradiso Perduto, 12.05 a.m.-dialogue: What is missing from spy reports? 130
21 Street Theatre-compares spying withmelodrama 135
22 Desire-considers spying as a form of seduction 141
23 2 + 2 = 5-the noble Antonio Foscarini is unjustly condemned to death 143
24 Da Aldo, 1.10 a.m.-dialogue: Were the Venetians good at spying? 161
25 Spying and Modernity-Vano is revealed as a key figure for understanding the latter condition 170
26 I Spy, with My Little Eye-draws some preliminary conclusions 176
27 Interrupted Sentences-Vano dies, and questions remain unanswered 178
28 Pistols! Treason! Murder!-the clock is turned back, and Vano enjoys one last triumph, while Giulio Cazzari prophesies his own death, and thereby brings it about 181
29 Legacy-Foscarini has a street named after him, and Vano does not 200
30 General of Spies-Vano is unofficially promoted 203
31 Doctor Frankenstein-everybody dies 206
Cast of Characters 208
A Note on Conventions 212
About the Illustrations 214
Select Bibliography 217