The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

How I Write - Edward Attard

Malta Independent Sunday, 19 December 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

In the 1960s I used to read the monthly magazine True Detective and this is the reason why I became addicted to reading and writing about murder. However, my first feature which was published in It-Torċa in 1974 had nothing to do with my favourite subject. The feature was about the legendary bullfighter Manuel Rodríguez Sánchez, “Manolote”, who received his fatal goring in Linares, Spain, in 1947.

In 1976 Superintendent Ernest Spiteri, who at that time headed the Criminal Investigation Department, requested me to join the first editorial board of the police magazine Il-Pulizija. Superintendent Spiteri informed me that Il-Pulizija had to be a monthly magazine and thus he needed someone in full-time employment. At that time I had no interest in becoming a police and crime historian and I was aware that finding the material for the magazine was not going to be an easy task, however, I accepted the challenge without realising that it was a life-changing moment.

To fill up some of the pages of the police magazine I began to research local police history and unearthed material about crime and the prisons in Malta from 1800. I also had to scour for old police pictures and documents as unfortunately the Police force had no archives – and still doesn’t.

Together with the police magazine I embarked on publishing an up-to-date unofficial version of the criminal code which had long been out of print, a task also begun by Superintendent Spiteri. The book was published in 1977, and four years later I published the Traffic Regulations, a much-needed publication which was last published in 1948. The book was distributed free of charge to all members of the force and some advertising and sales made good for the expenses incurred.

In the 1980s I met the historian Gużè Galea with whom I wrote two books F’Ġieħ il-Ħaqq 1 and F’Ġieħ il-Ħaqq 2. However, the two books were published under Chevalier Galea’s name under the auspices of the Malta Police Association with the approval and encouragement of Commissioner Lawrence Pullicino and were a great success. In 1994, on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of the Malta Police Force, Mr George Grech, the then Commissioner of Police, encouraged me to write a history of the Police force. This publication, which covered the period 1800-1956, was launched in July 1994 at police headquarters. Since then I have published two other books on the same subject and have extended my work to 1964 when, under the Independence Constitution, control of the police was vested to the government of the day.

In 1999 I was lucky to meet Tony Gatt, the managing director of Book Distributors Ltd, and asked him if he was interested in true crime publications. Since 1999 BDL have published 17 of my 23 books. My first publication with BDL was Delitti li Jissemmew L-ewwel ktieb. The book deals with murders that took place around the world which shocked the country where they were committed. Ten more books were published in the Delitti li Jibqghu Jissemmew series and the 11th volume deals with kidnapping cases.

After a couple of meetings with Mr Gatt I established contact with Joe Zammit Ciantar who took charge of the Maltese orthography. I learned a lot from Joe and I owe a debt of gratitude to him and Tony.

Tony Gatt also accepted to publish Delitti f’Malta, a book about the homicide cases committed in Malta since 1800, which took about 17 years of painstaking research to compile. The lack of statistics and proper records made my task more arduous than I had expected as I had to comb through the pages of every newspaper published in Malta since the beginning of the 19th century. In this task I also had the assistance and encouragement of Anthony Mifsud Tommasi, who at that time was the Police Academy commandant.

When my work on Delitti f’Malta was completed, Mr Gatt intended to publish it in two parts but later he changed his mind and published the hefty 669-page book, covering the homicide cases, which had been committed in the 200- year span from 1800 to 2000. The book broke all book sale records and in 2004 a smaller volume was published which discussed the homicides cases that took place between January 2000 and August 2004. In 2007 an updated edition of Delitti f’Malta was also published. In 2009 BDL published Murder in Malta, a chronicle of homicide cases from 1800 to 1966, which is an abridged version in English of Delitti f’Malta.

Book Distributors Ltd are also the publishers of the 20 issues of the magazine Delitti u Misteri, which I edit and write, a quarterly magazine which focuses on both local and foreign crime issues. The first number was published in February 2006 and the publication will come to an end in December 2011. At the moment I am working on a publication about the Sicilian Mafia, with the hope that BDL accepts to publish the book.

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