with Giacomo Giammatteo
We are thrilled to welcome crime novelist Giacomo Giammatteo to Omnimystery News today as a stop on his Partners in Crime Book Tour. We encourage you to check his schedule and visit each of the participating host sites.
Giacomo's debut mystery is Murder Takes Time (Inferno Publishing, April 2012 trade paperback and ebook formats), the first in the "Friendship and Honor" series.
We recently had a chance to talk to the author about his new book.
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Omnimystery News: Murder Takes Time is subtitled as Book One of the Friendship and Honor Series. What prompted you to write this book as the first of a series?
Photo provided courtesy of
Giacomo Giammatteo and Slick
Giacomo Giammatteo: When I got the idea for this book, I thought it was going to be a stand-alone, one-shot deal, but as I worked through the plot and thought about the ending, I decided I had to make this a series. If this were a plot-driven mystery, I would have elected to go with a single book, but when I thought about what I was writing, I realized it was a theme, and it was all about characters. That made me change everything, including the way I told the story.
The reason I ended up going that way was I started thinking of what I enjoyed when I read, and it always boiled down to character. I might fall in love with a strong plot, or a well-told tale, but they don't stand the test of time. If you read those kind of books once, it's enough, and unless you've forgotten the plot, a second go at them doesn't satisfy. I won't say which books left me feeling that way, but I will say which ones didn't.
This one is a movie, but it will do. The Usual Suspects is a prime example of doing it right. At first glance you'd think it wouldn't stand up to a second or third viewing. On the surface it appears to be a movie whose main claim to fame is the magnificent plot twist at the end … but when you watch it a second time, the surprise is that it is every bit as enjoyable, if not more so. The reason is because the characters are so well drawn and developed that they suck you into their lives. They make you feel for them. Even though you know what's going to happen, you are willing to relive it again, with each of the characters.
OMN: As readers, we're generally tend to put a label on the books we read: murder mysteries, novels of romantic suspense, cozies, and the like. How would you categorize this book?
GG: You hit on a question close to my heart. I struggled with this one; in fact, I had two agents turn me down because they said they didn't know where to put this on the bookshelf. One of the Amazon reviewers said it best. I wish I thought of it first:
• This novel is not just a murder mystery.
• This novel is not just a thriller.
• This novel is not just a love story.
• This novel is not just a life story.
• This novel is all in one.
So, even though I didn't know exactly where it fit, I listed it on Amazon as to where I thought people would look for it — mystery/suspense, hard boiled. That puts it in with guys like John Sandford, but also with newcomers like CJ Lyons, a hell of a writer, who adds a touch of romance to her "hard boiled crime."
OMN: Are you saying that writing a cross-genre, even a cross-sub-genre, book is risky for an author?
GG: I think the whole genre/tagging thing is a double-edged sword. In this day and age, an author has to have something to overcome the invisibility factor. And the only way to do that online is with tags or genre listings. The way mine is listed, if people go searching in "hard-boiled mysteries" and they dig deep enough, or search by "average customer review" they'll find me. But if they're looking in "coming-of-age" or general "thriller" or any other category, I'm not going to be there.
An even bigger problem is being labeled as a particular type of writer. If you get someone who once read a hard-boiled detective novel and didn't like it, they're not going to give your book a shot unless someone heartily recommends it. So you have a bigger hill to climb to make a sale.
OMN: There's a general school of thought that writers should write what they know. How much of you is in this book?
GG: Writing what you "know" and "how much of me is in my books" are two very different questions. Much of what is in the books, I know very little of, and had to do research on, but the important parts of my books — the characters — have a lot of me and what I know. I tend to make my characters from people I know. I want to understand what motivates them, how they make decisions, how they would respond to a threat, or a compliment, or a kiss.
OMN: What is the writing process like for you?
GG: My process is fairly simple. I know the beginning, I know the ending, and I make sure I know my characters. Once I have a basic outline of the plot, I let my characters take over. They are real, so the paths they follow will be real.
OMN: Your book is set in Brooklyn and Wilmington, Delaware. How true are you to the settings?
GG: I take some liberties with setting, but not too many. Picking Brooklyn was important because the parts that take place there have a Mafia element to them, and it was a logical choice. It also let me take advantage of the "familiarity" of people's knowledge. Everybody has "seen" Brooklyn either in real life, or in the movies. When I'm describing something in Brooklyn, I don't have to go into great detail; in fact, going into a lot of detail might work against me. If a reader has seen Goodfellas or even a Bronx Tale or any of a hundred other mob movies, they'll substitute the restaurant I mention in my book for one in their head, and it will usually be a favorable image because it stuck there.
In Wilmington, I stayed more true to setting. I treated it more like a secondary character, even though it played as much, if not more, a role as Brooklyn. Most readers don't have a mental image to associate with Wilmington, so I had to provide one.
OMN: You just mentioned a couple of films that have a very visual feel to them. Are these the types of movies you enjoy watching yourself?
GG: I enjoy watching almost anything with great acting. My favorite films are a collection of all different types. I've listed them in no particular order, with the exception that the Phantom has probably claimed the number-one spot in my heart.
• Phantom of the Opera
• The Maltese Falcon
• The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
• The Godfather
• The Godfather II
• The Usual Suspects
• Gone With the Wind
• The Princess Bride
OMN: Suppose Murder Takes Time is adapted for film and you were the casting director. Who would you approach to play the roles in your book?
GG: It's not like every author doesn't think about this, but I didn't until after the reviews started coming in. A lot of people have said they think it would make a great movie. After hearing that, I put some thought to it. Since this is all dreams anyway, how about Leonardo DiCaprio for the protag, Frankie Donovan. A few years ago I wouldn't have picked him, but after seeing his performance in The Departed I'm convinced. That was a magnificent piece of work.
OMN: What about life outside of writing?
GG: I have no time for hobbies, but my interests are varied. My one other passion, besides my family, is animals. My wife and I have an animal sanctuary, and at last count we had 41 animals of all kinds — dogs, a cat, a horse, potbellied pigs, wild pigs, and one crazy wild boar.
And yes, some of the animals find their way into the books. Sometimes it's simply a named animal, and at other times I use the animals to evoke emotions, both positive and negative.
OMN: How do you engage with readers? Are there any questions you get tired of hearing?
GG: I enjoy — let me rephrase that — I love hearing from readers. And I don't mean emails saying how much they liked the book. That's nice to hear, but I like to know what the reader thought of a character, or whether they had any problems with how I did something, or how a character acted. One lady wrote and said there was too much cursing. I agreed with her, but this is a book about kids and people who really use that kind of language; if anything, I toned it down. Despite, that she made a good point, and in my next book I made sure to look through it again and take some of the language out when I felt I could.
As far as what kind of questions do I not want to see? None. My wife and I taught our children that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I still believe that.
OMN: We discussed some of your favorite films, but what kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
GG: Anything by John Sandford. I buy every one of his books, and I have since his first "Prey" novel more than 20 years ago. I also read a lot of other genres. I read almost anything dealing with ancient Rome, including lifestyle, history, military history, and even some of the mysteries set in that period. I also read a lot of mystery/thriller books, science fiction, fantasy, biographies, classics. It's a pretty long list.
OMN: If someone asked for a recommendation of five books to read, what would you tell them?
GG: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas; The Godfather by Mario Puzo; Dune by Frank Herbert; Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon by Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart; and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.
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About Giacomo Giammatteo: I live in Texas now, but I grew up in Cleland Heights, a mixed ethnic neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware that sat on the fringes of the Italian, Irish and Polish neighborhoods. The main characters of Murder Takes Time grew up in Cleland Heights and many of the scenes in the book were taken from real-life experiences.
Somehow I survived the transition to adulthood, but when my kids were young I left the Northeast and settled in Texas, where my wife suggested we get a few animals. I should have known better; we now have a full-blown animal sanctuary with rescues from all over. At last count we had 41 animals — 12 dogs, a horse, a three-legged cat and 26 pigs.
Oh, and one crazy — and very large — wild boar, who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy.
Since this is a bio some of you might wonder what I do. By day I am a headhunter, scouring the country for top talent to fill jobs in the biotech and medical device industry. In the evening I help my wife tend the animals, and at night — late at night — I turn into a writer.
You can learn more about the author by visiting his website, GiacomoGiammatteo.com, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.
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Murder Takes Time
A Friendship and Honor Mystery
Publisher: Inferno Publishing Company
They swore to be friends forever, but life had a different idea …
A string of brutal murders has bodies piling up in Brooklyn, and Detective Frankie Donovan knows what is going on. Clues left at the crime scenes point to someone from the old neighborhood, and that isn't good.
Frankie has taken two oaths in his life — the one he took to uphold the law when he became a cop, and the one he took with his two best friends when they were eight years old and inseparable. Those relationships have forced Frankie to make many tough decisions, but now he faces the toughest one of his life; he has five murders to solve and one of those two friends is responsible. If Frankie lets him go, he breaks the oath he took as a cop and risks losing his job. But if he tries to bring him in, he breaks the oath he kept for twenty-five years — and risks losing his life.
In the neighborhood where Frankie Donovan grew up, you never broke an oath.
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