From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The term giallo was originally coined to describe a series of mystery/crime pulp novels first published by the Mondadori publishing house in 1929. Their yellow covers contained whodunits, much like their American counterparts of the 1920s and 1930s, and this link with English language pulp fiction was reinforced with the Italian authors always taking on English pen names. Many of the earliest "gialli" were however English-language novels translated into Italian.
Published as cheap paperbacks, the success of the "giallo" novels soon began attracting the attention of other publishing houses, who began releasing their own versions (not forgetting to keep the by-now-traditional yellow cover). The novels were so popular that even the works of established foreign mystery and crime writers, such as Agatha Christie, Edgar Wallace and Georges Simenon, were labelled "gialli" when first published in Italy. Giallo Mondadori is currently published every month, as one of the most long-lived publications of the genre in the world.
This led to the word "giallo" to become, in Italian language, a synonym of the mystery, crime and detective story genre, with a more generic significance than that it has currently in English, especially when it defines the cinema genre (see later).
First four titles of gialli by Mondadori were translations of English-language novels
- La strana morte del signor Benson (1929) - S. S. Van Dine / The Benson Murder Case (1926)
- L'uomo dai due corpi (1929) - Edgar Wallace / Captains of Souls (1922)
- Il club dei suicidi (1929) - R. L. Stevenson / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
- Il mistero delle due cugine (1929) - A. K. Green / The Leavenworth Case: a Lawyer's Story (1878)