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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,724 ratings  ·  123 reviews
From the authors of the bizarre and extraordinary Q comes this equally bizarre and powerful thriller about
the Cold War.

The year is 1954. The world is divided into East and West. In Naples, Lucky Luciano is busy fixing horse-races and overseeing the creation of the global heroin trade. In Hollywood, members of Her Majesty’s Secret Service have a bizarre and dangerous missi
Paperback, 560 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Arrow Books Ltd (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  1,724 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Set in 1954, Italy, and Yugoslavia (Croatia mostly) at the height of the Cold War with the Russians trying to bring Yugoslavia back to Communism.

Lucky Luciano fixing horse races & dealing heroin. His fixer Steve Cement (after the concrete shoe services) gets picked up for a murder and held 3 months under interrogation. Meanwhile he needs to recover the tv set that he hid the drugs he skimmed, to make his sale and escape out of Italy.

Pierre has lost touch with his father who is in Yugoslavia, but
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
great adventure/crime/political/family saga/historical novel written by wu ming in Italian and translated into english. you'll notice all the slashes, as wu ming is really 5 different authors, so you can imagine the complications that may add. takes place in cold-war italy, but tries to "explain" what;s going on within the context of all that had happened in europe for the past 50 years or so. it's funny how Europeans just assume one knows all about history and geography and they make that integ ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great fun with multiple storylines that overlap against the backdrop of Cold War intrigue, pulp crime, and the political disillusionment of the Italian working class. The scenes in the Bar Aurora are especially wonderful. Frequent changes of location, perspective and the large cast of characters are a bit confusing initially, but don't let those deter you. Other perks - short chapters, which are nice for those who read on public transport. And it's available free for download on the authors' web ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italy
Spring, 1954. Stalin is dead, the cold war is starting to take the shape it would hold for a generation to come, Joe McCarthy is kicking commie ass and taking names, the French are in trouble in Indochina, and in the free territory of Trieste between Italy and Slovenia the big boys are trying to wrap up the last of the unresolved border disputes following WWII. Of course, to do this, it helps if they have Tito on their side. And so the MI6 call in Tito's favourite movie star to convince him... y ...more
Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

Vittorio Capponi sided with Tito's partisans during the war and remained in Yugoslavia afterwards, but spoke in favour of Tito's rivals ....
back in Italy, Pierre, his younger son works miserably in his brother's bar and lives for dancing (and his affair with) ....
Angela, whose doctor husband is a leading light in the Communist Party .....
Fefe, her brother is in a psychiatric hospital, under his brother in law's 'care' ....
Lucky Luciano is kicking his
I can't bring myself to give a rating to a book I never finished, but my god. 200 pages in and I still don't give a shit? This can't just be my fault. ...more
Martin Boyle
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
Change century, change country, change the name of the authors, but keep the same inimical style that intertwines different action lines into a wonderful - and complicated - plot.

Q by Luther Blisset centred on the chaos of reformation Germany. The group of authors formerly known as Luther Blisset returns to the chaos in post WWII Italy, with trips to the US, to Yugoslavia and over the border into France.

The plot is complex, shifts viewpoint and embraces communist schism, horse-race fixing, a Dop
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered the Wu Ming collective when I bought a copy of The New Old Thing: ESP-Disk Free Jazz Anthology. Its liner notes were written by Wu Ming 1 (one of the collective's five writers.)

I like 54's short-chapter format (usually four pages!) The numerous characters and their nicknames lost me from time to time, and there are frequent references to actual events, such as the murder of Wilma Montesi, whose purpose I never understood in the context of the story.

Fans of historical fiction in the
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bold attempt to create a thriller by the collaborative effort of five anonymous writers. They almost succeed, although I thought the book could have been condensed somewhat. What also perplexed me is why they did not write under their own names and why they remained anonymous? Are these already famous-name literary authors trying to make a bit on the side by dabbling in genre fiction? Perhaps their next story will be "Who is Wu Ming?" ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
a fictional history of 1954. a good - albeit long - read, with interesting intersecting plots. the writing is a bit dry - this could be a problem of the English translation. The story behind the writing of the book is possibly more interesting than the book itself.

John Defrog
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
That’s ‘54’ as in 1954, not the NY nightclub, and the name “Wu Ming" allegedly means “no name" in Mandarin. In fact, “Wu Ming" isn’t a Chinese writer at all, but a collective of four or five writers in Italy. It’s pretty fascinating – you’ve got the Cold War, Lucky Luciano, Italian postwar Commies, the KGB, Cary Grant on a mission for MI6, and a brilliantly named McGuffin Electric television set. Rich detail, thoroughly engrossing, and definitely not recommended for anyone not prepared to see Co ...more
Barbara Bagatin
Magnificent novel about Italian contemporary History. I loved a lot Gen. Serov, and the reconstruction of Cary Grant. The end is amazing, justice triumphs, and even if in tragedy, heroes become themselves for what they have lived, as succeds for Ettore Bergamini. Furthermore, this book is a declaration of love for people and the city of Bologna, which has been the only Italian city where partisans fought in its centre against fascists and nazists: the "Battle of Porta Lame", in which Ettore was ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wu Ming is a writing conglomerate from Bologna with a yen for history, crime, Hollywood films of the fifties, and, of course, large quantities of jazz. It is several years after the Second World War, and there are machinations galore between the Allies and the new Italian government about handing control of Trieste to the Italians. Lucky Luciano has cornered the racketeering market by being tougher than the local mafiosi, and by being (sort of) in the pay of the US Government. There are signs th ...more
May 20, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read the English edition. An ambitious book but fell flat in the delivery. Did enjoy all of the historical contexts and such. However, because of the amount of points of view that the book is read from, the overall plot was very muddled and not exactly clear-cut; then again one can argue it is a complex story. The stories start off separate, but comes together, almost seamlessly in the end. In my humble opinion, when the different stories come together should happen sooner and not when the boo ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: balkans
This is SO right up my alley, an absurd fictionalization of history featuring several wildly different storylines with dozens of colorful characters crossing paths. Some characters are real historical figures (Josip Broz Tito, Cary Grant, Lucky Luciano) some are fictional, a couple of the best are fleshed-out bit players from newsreels and films. Hollywood, the Balkans, Soviet espionage, the Mafia, intergenerational family drama, post-WWII history, Italian tabloid headlines… the sort of story th ...more
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I had a frustrating time with this book. The 'anti-novel' elements from Q are ramped up, with frequent shifts in perspective, tense and voice, often from sentence to sentence. There are various pop culture references that allow for sly self-depreciation - Cary Grant commenting on the ludicrousness of Casino Royale while on a secret spy mission for instance. At one point a character even comments on how convoluted the plot is getting.

While this might be intellectually interesting, it's not terrib
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
54 is a strange novel that mixes the likes of Cary Crant, Lucky Luciano, assorted fictional characters, Frances Farmer (remember her?) into a cohesive whole.
The author(s), Wu Ming, is really five people (four of them have written another book together previously). Wu Ming mean "no one" in Chinese--the mystery is why they have chosen this name since none of the five is Chinese.
At any rate, 54 is a fascinating book set --mostly--in post-WWII Italy, with forays into Hollywood and yugoslavia. Go rea
Armel Dagorn
I found 54 a bit messy - too many characters (going by different names), too many plot lines, too many point of views... The point of view especially bugged me, it is all over the place, with first, second and third person used in turns. A good few of the plot lines didn't really interest me either.
I wonder about the collective writing: did each writer come up with an idea, and they sewn it all together then? I does feel that way at times.
Evie Maiolo
The storyline is a bit jumbled at times, this book is difficult to get into, but if you persist, it comes together in the end. There are sections in the first half that seem unrelated to the story and are difficult to digest... until you read a lot further and the threads are picked up again. Not a book that 'grabs' the reader's interest from the outset. ...more
Jul 05, 2014 rated it liked it
For the reader willing to put in the time, this book is very fun and interesting. Hard to follow initially due to the many Italian names which can be hard to keep track of. But stick with it and a fascinating read weaving Italian post war politics, Cary Grant as James Bond, and Lucky Luciano's drug smuggling into a a delightful brew. Not as good at Wu Ming's Q but still very good. ...more
Iain McNab
Entertaining example of the New Italian Epic, a historiographic metafiction, I believe is the term, about what's going on (specifically in Italy) in 1954. Cary Grant has coffee with Tito and drops acid too. ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
a good book - with multiple strands coming together. i liked the way that arcane corners of history is woven into the plots

a literery read, with knowing references to history and culture interspersed throughout
Nov 25, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Uneven but i liked it and was especially amused with the Cary Grant storyline.
Looking back, this reads like the 1st in a sequence, and is a bit loose compared with the stunning Q.. ...more
Wtf? That's all I kept thinking. I think I have PTSD from Cryptonomicon. It was a gift but I don't know if I have the heart to finish it. ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as Q, but interesting. Also it talks about a time that i didn't know very well, so as Q, i learnt history with it ...more
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished, narrativa
Teri Cooper
Aug 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on-it
What a load of old cobblers!
Sue Whitt
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
written by 5 authors under the pseudonym that may mean "Who Knows." Set in Italy in 1954, the novel has many strains. Former partisans, Lucky Luciano, even Cary Grant. ...more
Anna Rowland
Serves me right for being sucked in by the Cary Grant angle but his was a major disappointment.
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Wu Ming (extended name: Wu Ming Foundation) is the collective pen name of four Italian writers: Roberto Bui, Giovanni Cattabriga, Federico Guglielmi and Riccardo Pedrini, respectively known as "Wu Ming 1", "Wu Ming 2", "Wu Ming 4" and "Wu Ming 5". "Wu Ming" means "anonymous" in Chinese. Although their real names are not secret, the four authors never use them. The quartet was a quintet until 2008, ...more

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