How Organized Crime Shaped My Writing
I usually read bestsellers written by a novelist who has previously written a fictional and sometimes great American novel. These great books include authors like Joseph Heller, like Margaret Atwood, who write suspense, who are often Pulitzer winning fiction authors, authors of such stories like “A Handmaid’s Tale.” Other books I read fall into the genres of young adult, the murder mystery, anything Joseph Conrad, detective and procedural fiction, as well as a good old fashioned thriller. Lately, I’ve been reading novels by John LeCarre. He writes espionage fiction from his experience as a spy with MI5 and MI6. His latest is “A Legacy of Spies,” the 50-year-later sequel to “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.”
What I don’t often read, until recently (and quite by accident) when I picked up Randall Silvis’ “Blood & Ink” which one could categorize as mafia fiction, certainly mafia fiction with a “Get Shorty” feel. I watched every flipping episode of The Sopranos but did I ever read any mafia fiction? No. Which is weird for me since my scrape with organized crime and the mafia–a crime boss and his driver. The all-wise “they” say write what you know. I don’t write about this part of my past because I don’t want to glorify their criminal ways.
If you want to know, however, I spent the full six months eating at the finest restaurants in Phoenix, riding in the backseat of a Rolls Royce with… we’ll call him Don Bosso and his driver David, getting clothing and a spending allowance, and well basically being taken care of. Now, ask me if he was married. Yes. He was. This is where guilt and self-loathing take over. He was also twenty-nine years my senior, he at fifty-five and me at twenty-six. I got swept away by the glitz, the never-ending bottle of Cristal, caviar, clothing, the high-life. But it’s funny when you’re looking down from your pedestal, you don’t bother to see everything above you, where you are in the bigger scenario. That you’re just a hair above those people wallowing in the gutter with no way to grasp a loftier, more precious spot in life. Why? Because you’ve made your choice. Because you’re blinded by champagne glasses tinkling as they swing from racks above the windows and the wood-carvings on the ice chest in the back of that Rolls.
It’s only when you get the first phone call from Don asking why you went where you went today? That the shaking starts.
“Are you following me?”
*Nothing but a chuckle from his end of the line.*
When you realize the term at-risk is closer to you than you believed.
“Stop following me.”
“Ah, Lebanese,” (he liked to call me his Little Lebanese) “don’t be mad.”
After a few similar instances and a mad dash through the backyards of some beaten down homes, I lost David’s scent. David stood about six-four and looked like a wall. A dark, rugged wall with smoldering eyes, not the smoldering kind you find in the morning when you roll over and say, “Breakfast?” No, these eyes wouldn’t mind snapping your neck if given the order.
The next escape was after I was “persuaded” to go to a chi-chi resort for an event arranged by some of Don’s people. He wouldn’t leave my side until I told him I needed to use the ladies room. David stood watch. Fortunately, I ducked out as soon as I went in. David wasn’t expecting me to exit so soon. His back to a massive hallway and concentrating out in front on the area from where we’d entered. I turned down the hall deeper into the resort, opened a double-set of service doors which turned out to be a large kitchen for that floor. I told a busboy I was in trouble and needed help. He slipped me out another door, down three flights of stairs, and out to an area where a train of limos sat waiting for people to leave. I told him I didn’t have the money for a limo. He looked at one of the drivers and said, “She needs to get out of here, now. Take her wherever she needs to go.” No cost.
Of course, the next day Don called. “Why’d you go and leave so soon, Lebanese?”
He followed me for a year after.
Writing this entry my heart is pounding, my fear still ever living. So, no. I will not write what I know, not about mafia fiction because I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. I got out alive. And the inference? How many others like me did not make it out alive?
Factoid: We don’t really know the people we know until they reveal their secrets. Up to that, we see a mask.
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