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Ven­ero Ar­manno was born in Bris­bane but his Sicilian par­ents came from the foot of Mt Etna and the vol­cano has fea­tured more than once in his nov­els. Not that this should im­ply rep­e­ti­tion. Black Moun­tain, his 10th adult novel, is his first spec­u­la­tive fic­tion. It is well rooted, how­ever, in both re­al­ity and lo­cal­ity, in­cor­po­rat­ing har­row­ing de­scrip­tions of the lives of Sicilian sul­phur min­ers and par­tic­u­larly the en­slave­ment of young or­phans. Ce­sare Mon­ten­ero (lit­er­ally “black moun­tain”) is crip­pled and sees weaker boys killed by the work and the bru­tal­ity of drunken masters.

Ce­sare is given his name by the young scion of hated lo­cal power­bro­kers, a man who saves his life in dra­matic cir­cum­stances and then in­tro­duces him to a life of cul­ti­va­tion, both lit­eral and fig­u­ra­tive, that is the an­tithe­sis of ev­ery­thing the boy has

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