Friday, November 19, 2010


I was recently interviewed for David Wisehart's blog, Kindle Author, and he questioned me about the research I'd done for my novel, "A Touch of Deceit."  In the book a Sicilian FBI agent recruits his Mafia cousin to help him track a terrorist.  Well of course I mentioned how I interviewed FBI agents and local law enforcement to get a good idea of how the bureau worked.  But for the Mafia part I had to think--what research had I really done?

Then it occurred to me.  I'm Sicilian.  My father was Sicilian.  He also owned a candy store in Brooklyn where the Mafia would run numbers.  It was more like a Luncheonette with a counter for soda and sandwiches.  When I was sixteen I began working weekends by myself.  Well, of course, I was young, so my dad's Sicilian friends offered to keep an eye on me while I was working alone.  Guys with names like Max and Tony would stop in frequently during the shift and make small talk.  We became very friendly.  We talked baseball, their kids, everything.  They would buy coffee and overtip me.  Eventually we set up a signal with the bar across the street where the Mafia guys would hang out.  If I turned off the neon ice cream sign in the window it meant someone suspicious was in the store.

Late one night just before closing a kid around twenty-one came in, sat at the counter and ordered a Cherry Cola.  He sat there sipping it like it was hot tea.  Then he looked around and asked me questions like ‘where’s my help’ and ‘how much money does a place like this keep in the register?’ So I clicked off the ice cream sign and within two minutes five Sicilians came in and surrounded the kid. They never touched him, but he practically ran out the door and I never saw him again. These guys were very loyal people and treated me like royalty.

I told that story in my interview with David Wisehart and when I finished, I asked, "Does that count as research?"  Something tells me I learned more from my youth with the Mafia then I ever did over the phone with an FBI agent.


  1. I love this story - even though I think I heard it before. Isn't it amazing how things that happen to us and get locked away into our memories suddenly find a useful place in our lives? Isn't it further amazing how we encounter frightening, even dangerous, things in our lives and never realize it until later? Glad you remembered this memory!

  2. Here’s my one Mafia story: My brother in law used to run a saving and loan where the Kansas City mafia deposited the “skim” from Las Vegas. So one day the FBI raids the home of the Kansas City mob boss, Nick Civella and takes all of his financial records. Nick calls up my brother in law and tells him he needs to get copies of his certificates of deposit.
    Nick (and the two guys who are always with Nick) strolls into one of the branches of the S&L and asks to see the manager. The manager, who is more than a little nervous about being visited by Nick Civella, misunderstands Nick’s request for copies and thinks that Nick wants replacements for his CDs, which would be illegal. The manager goes into his office and phones up my brother in law and asks him what to do.
    My brother in law, who has a very cold sense of humor says “well, I guess you are going to be the first person to say no to Nick Civella” and hangs up.
    He waited about ten minutes and then called the manager to explain what the situation really was, so it all worked out in the end.

  3. Now knowing your "family" connections, I'm happy as hell that I gave you a good review. :)

  4. Here's a "Russian angle" on this - while writing THE LAST MATRYOSHKA, I interviewed an officer in the Moscow Criminal Police about the "vory" - a criminal guild with roots in 19th century Russia that still exists but unfortunatley has evolved into a more violent mafia-style organization. The policeman waxed nostalgic - "Criminals had rules in those days, a code they followed, just as the police used to work overtime to maintain order and today they don't give a damn."

  5. Just read your interview over at Kindle Author. Great job and your novel sounds very intriguing and something that I want to read for sure.

  6. Thanks Sean, I appreciate it. David does a good job with Kindle Author.

  7. Today's post on my blog is telling followers or guests about your monthly contest. Going to give it a go myself.