A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE – BAY OF KILLERS
A filmmaker who loves penning crime thrillers
I was inspired to write Bay of Killers as a result of a family holiday in Liguria five years ago. Visiting my Italian cousin’s home town of Lerici is always fun especially in the searing heat of summer. Lerici is a laid-back kind of place, a small seaside resort that appeals to the Italians more than the Brits – which is exactly how I like it.
When it comes to developing a new crime story, the first thing I do is find a story hook, which to me is half the battle. Having created and developed the main protagonists, Francesca and Grant, in my first novel, Fatal Consequences, I was keen to base the sequel in Francesca’s home country – Italy. In order to make the story less provincial, I decided to locate part of it in the city of Genoa. As a famous trading port and a major financial centre, Genoa also provided the backstory that I needed.
I also remembered that my uncle used to work at NATO in La Spezia, a large naval port just across the bay from Lerici. The NATO base always conjured up images of espionage and the cold war in my mind. It was only when I witnessed a flotilla of NATO and Italian Navy ships, including destroyers, attack submarines and frigates, patrolling the bay, that I realised if there ever was a third world war, Lerici would be on the front line. And that was one of the reasons I decided to feature the NATO base in my story.
The title, Bay of Killers, was originally my wife’s idea, and derived from il Golfo dei Poeti (the Bay of Poets), the nomenclature for the Lerici commune and its sister towns, San Terenzo and Tellaro. The well-known poet, Shelley, used to live in San Terenzo when he was in Italy, and his friend, Lord Byron, would swim several kilometres from Porto Venere to join him at Shelley’s beautiful beachside house, Villa Magni (now a tourist attraction). I have always loved Shelley’s poetry, and whenever I walked past his former house, I tried to imagine the fun he must have experienced, the parties he would have thrown and the stanzas he’d probably written, sitting quietly on his balcony, watching the golden sun dip beneath the horizon. I have attempted to instil a sense of the magical ambience that he must have felt into my novel.
One can only admire the beauty of Italy, the exuberance of its people, their passion for fast cars, love of pasta and respect for la famiglia. In small towns, such as Lerici, nothing is secret for very long and everyone knows everyone; families have lived there for generations, and friendships and reputations have been cemented as a result. But Italians have long memories too, and bitter rivalries have often led to feuds and vendettas.
Ever since watching the movie Godfather, I have been fascinated by the Mafia; the way they manage to infiltrate the very fabric of Italian society, despite regular crackdowns by the law enforcement agencies. And yet, despite the many attempts to thwart their activities, the Mafia have thrived, recently achieving Italy’s highest economic accolade – by becoming the country’s number one bank (ref: Reuters), even though they are still “squeezing the life out of thousands of small firms”.
Nowadays, mafia members are more likely to be lawyers, architects and bankers than crime lords or murderers. The Mafia’s sphere of influence, however, also extends to politicians and local government as well as the paramilitary police – and it is this latter aspect that I have exploited in my novel. Cyber-crime has also become the Mafia’s latest source of revenue, replacing some of their less salubrious and less profitable activities, but you’ll have to read my book to find out how this particular crime almost triggered a superpower confrontation.
Of course, Bay of Killers wouldn’t have developed without the help of my dear friend, Mario, who has been my hair stylist for more than twenty years. He has added a breath of fresh air to the story and plays an integral part in it too. Every time we meet, we share a good laugh about his role in the story. He is, of course, Italian – a charming man, larger than life, and a lovely person.
In summary, I have tried to write a serious crime thriller, but my experiences in Italy – and there have been many – have also been very entertaining and amusing, and sometimes quite bizarre. I have tried to reflect this humour as much as possible in the book and hope that others will enjoy reading it.