(Read Part 1 here)
My first book, A SAFE PLACE, was a story of my mother and father, she an Italian woman who found no joy in her adoptive homeland and he a convicted murderer. They met and married on the island of Ischia and by the time I wrote that book I was in my mid-30s, married and the father of two. And the most comforting scenes of a book that was difficult to write happened on the island I loved and had come to regard as a safe haven away from the madness of my early home life.
And from there it escalated—sections of GANGSTER are set in the much maligned city of Naples and again on the island of Ischia as are chunks of PARADISE CITY. A World War II novel, STREET BOYS, allowed me to tell the tale of the heroic children of Naples who battled the Nazis during the horrible years of a war that destroyed as many families as it did homes.
And then came the thrillers. First MIDNIGHT ANGELS, set in Florence, a city I have been fortunate enough to spend many months in and which houses my favorite place on the planet—the Church of Sante Croce where many of the Renaissance greats are buried. I have spent hours inside that large imposing structure, a statue of Dante greeting all who enter, the tomb of Michelangelo on the right hand side of the wide entryway, Galileo resting on the other end, gazing at the Divine One.
Across the streets of Florence, I was allowed to have my contemporary characters—heroes as well as villains—clash on streets paved with the footprints of history, each stone step once touched by the hand of a master, making the chase all the more thrilling, picturesque and alive, allowing me to blend my sense of that glorious past into the deeds and actions of fictional creations.
And now comes THE WOLF, set primarily in my three favorite Italian cities—Naples, Rome and Florence. Once again, I was allowed to mix the glory of the past with the mayhem that takes place within the confines of my story. I find these settings to be magical as if the contemporary action I’m writing about is set in another time, a more glorious century, in a place where the history is alive enough to reach and grasp, helping to enhance the reality of a thriller pitting international organized crime against an army of terrorists.
There is a palpable link to the past on every street of these places I have chosen to set my stories in and it is almost impossible not to find it. There is also a sense of romance there that crosses centuries, from the Trevi Fountain in Rome to the Uffizi in Florence to the port of Naples, where the lilting sounds of the fisherman can be heard, blending beautifully with the rising sun of a new day. I can think of no better place to have an action sequence than on the cobblestone streets of Naples or the red clay rooftops of Florence or on the Bridge of Angels in Rome. It gives the characters an additional layer of intrigue, allowing them to be engulfed by the ghosts of a majestic past that surrounds their every step.
I have already begun work on my next novel, the bulk of the action taking place in Rome and Paris, yet another city filled with richness and history I so desperately need in order to tell my chosen tales.
Italy has always been and will always remain an important part of my life and the life of my books and stories.
America is where I live and work. It is where I helped my wife raise our two children and where I spend the bulk of my time.
But Italy is where I belong. As do my characters.
It is my home as well as theirs.
The two forever linked.