(With apologies to both Monty Python and George Carlin)
I write about the mob. This might lead some people to believe I am an expert in crime. As there may be law enforcement officers reading this post, I'm not going to write about that. Instead, I'm going to talk about crime prevention. (*Waves* to relatives in Palermo.)
Somebody who didn't know about my alleged area of expertise tried to sell me a home security device the other day. Apparently, this device is rigged so that it would alert me when someone was breaking into the house. This amazed me, in that - if I am home - I usually know when someone is breaking into my house. Rather than announce his presense ("A Burglar, Madam") it would seem to me a lot more useful if someone would invent something that would bog the intruder over the head.
But I don't need fancy home security systems because there is no possible way a burglar could get past my secret weapon. It's cheap and it's foolproof. It's so fiendish, I expect it will soon be outlawed at the next Geneva Convention.
Let me put it this way: if the Spanish Inquisition had known about it, everyone would have confessed to everything.
LOCATION: Madrid, 15 something-or-other, in a damp dungeon (not even a three-star)
"Stubborn, eh? Still won't confess? Okay, Cardinal Wolsey - bring out the secret weapon!"
(horrified gasps all around)
"Not the (gulp) not the..."
"Yes! (fiendish giggle) Get the little pieces of LEGO!"
"ARGH! No please! No! I confess!"
It works like this: You step on the itty bitty piece of Lego, whereupon it pierces your bare foot, sending searing needles of agony all the way up to your brain. This in turn causes all of your bones to suddenly melt and turn you into a pain-filled gibbering mass of jelly on the floor.
I don't know if you have ever walked barefoot across a minefield of individual Lego bits, but believe me, our intelligence agencies have missed out on a good weapon. Marbles have a similar effect, but those little plastic Lego corners kind put the icing on the proverbial meatcake (man, am I mixing comedy sketches here.)
Methinks the Lego people have missed a terrific marketing opportunity here. In fact, right after this column is done, I'm going into business. "Killer Lego" should be on the shelves by Christmas, ready to be scatter on floors everywhere. Hopefully, before relatives arrive.
Actually, if you really want to keep burglars away, it's simple. And yes, I actually heard this from the horse-er-relative's mouth. Throw a few ride-um toys on the front lawn of your home - preferably boy ones. Then everyone will know you have kids, so there couldn't possible be anything of value left inside your house...
Melodie Campbell writes funny books about the mob. But she denies that THE BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER is a roman a clef. You can judge yourself.
26 August 2017
09 May 2015
Land of Ice and Snow, Smoggy Steeltown, and the Italian Mob
How to Write Mob Comedies in your own Home Town, and not get Taken Out by the Family
It all closed in on me at the launch of THE GODDAUGHTER mob caper in Hamilton. Eighty-five people stood waiting.
The local television station had cameras in my face. So far, it had been an easy interview focused on my awards and comedy career. The fellow was charming. I liked him a lot. Then he dropped the bomb.
“So…have you ever met a member of the mob?”
I didn’t like him so much anymore.
Yikes! Hesitation. A lot of feet shuffling.
“Yes.” I said, very precisely. So precisely, that everyone in the room laughed nervously. “In fact, I had to wait until certain members of my family died before getting this book published. ‘Nuf said.”
The ‘nuf said’ was the closure. He got it. Being a smart lad, he even let it drop.
Because frankly, I was speaking the truth. I did wait until certain people died. Some of them were in Sicily, but more were in Canada. Some even died from natural causes. (“He died cleaning his rifle” was an unfortunate family expression, meaning something entirely different, if you get my drift.)
This made me think about how close you want to get in a book to real life.
As writers, we research a hell of a lot. Of course, I did research for The Goddaughter series. Some of the study was pretty close to home, as I riffed on memories from my childhood.
My first memory is of a family reunion at a remote farmhouse in Southern Ontario. I was not quite three, and tears were streaming down my face. Big scary uncles picked me up. They tried to console me by speaking softly. But I couldn’t understand them because they were speaking in Italian, or more specifically, Sicilian.
Those were the days of Brio and cannoli after mass on Sunday mornings. And gossip about other relatives, one of whom was a famous boxer. My aunt’s friend, the singer (one of a trio of sisters) who could not escape the clutches of a mob underboss in the States; he wouldn’t let her go. I remember the aunts clamming up about this, when I ventured into the room looking for Mom.
I was a darling of the family, with dark curly hair and big evergreen eyes. Later, when I grew up curvy and was tall enough to model, they doted on me. So my memories of growing up in such a family are decidedly warped.
They were warm and loving. Very witty. Loads of fun. And massively protective.
In the screwball comedy THE GODDAUGHTER REVENGE, you will find a mob family that is funny and rather delightful. Gina loves them, but hates the business. She is always trying to put it behind her, and somehow gets sucked back in to bail them out. I wanted to show that ambivalence. You are supposed to love your family and support them. But what if your family is this one?
How close is too close to home? I do cut pretty close in describing Hamilton. The streets are real. The names of the neighbourhoods are real. I even describe the location of the restaurant where the mob (in my books) hangs out. I changed the name, of course, because the last thing I want is readers thinking this hot resto is really a mob hangout. And besides, it’s fun when fans email me to say, “When they all meet at La Paloma, did you really mean XXX?” Readers feel they’ve been part of an in-joke.
THE GODDAUGHTER series is meant to be laugh-out-loud funny. But there is an adage that states: Comedy is tragedy barely averted.
No kidding. I’ve been writing comedy all my adult life.
The Toronto Sun called her Canada's "Queen of Comedy." Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich. Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup. www.melodiecampbell.com
03 January 2015
Here’s some news for all you sociopaths out there, and just plain nasties: Don’t mess with a crime writer. We know at least twenty ways to kill you and not get caught.
On paper, of course <insert nervous laughter>. We’re talking about fictional kills here.
Or are we?
My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comic mob capers for a living. And for the loving. So I know a bit about the mob. Like espresso and cannoli, you might say they come with my Sicilian background.
This should make people nervous. (Hell, it makes ME nervous.)
But I digress. To recap: the question offered here was:
Do you ever take out real life rage on fictional murder victims? Are any of your victims based on people who pissed you off in real life?
Oh sweetie, don’t I ever.
One of the joys of being a writer is playing out scenarios in your fiction that you dream about at night. One of these is murder. (The other is sex, but that would be my other series, the Rowena Through the Wall fantasy one.)
Back to grievous bodily harm. Like in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, I have my little list.
To the covert colleague who made out to be friends and then bad-mouthed me to the board at a previous job.
Yes, you got caught red-handed. I called your bluff. But better than that, I made your mealy-mouthed sorry hide a star of THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE. Goodbye, Carmine the rat. You live forever in fictional history.
He never will be missed.
To the sociopathic boss who undermined an entire department and got a kick out of making my sweet younger colleague cry: may you age like a hag and end up alone. Oh wait – you did. And not just in A PURSE TO DIE FOR.
She never will be missed.
Oh, the joy of creating bad guys and gals from real-life creeps! The crafty thing is, when you design a villain based on people you have met in person and experienced in technicolor, they sound real. Colourful. Their motivations are believable, because they actually exist. No cardboard characters here!
Of course, I may fudge a few details to keep out of jail. Names and professions change. Males can morph into females.
But fictional murder can be very satisfying. (Definitely more satisfying than fictional sex. Oops.)
Revenge is sweet, when coupled with royalties.
You can ignore that crack about 'fictional kills only.' Of course we’re only talking books; in my case, light-hearted murder mysteries, and mob crime capers.
That’s right: mob capers. Like I said: never mess with a Sicilian Goddaughter.
Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich. Her fifth novel, THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE, won the Derringer and the Arthur Ellis. www.melodiecampbell.com