Lorenzo Carcaterra presents a timely and compelling plot in his latest book, “The Wolf.”
Known for his decades worth of work in crime fiction, as well as the famed nonfiction crime drama “Sleepers,” Carcaterra pits organized crime against a very real and present danger to any citizen of the world: Terrorism.
Almost 10 years ago, Carcaterra began research for “The Wolf,” which is the first in a three-book series, while dining with some friends in Los Angeles. The fruition of his years of research comes to the public in a thrilling crime/war novel with a true anti-hero at the center.
Anyone who grew up watching mobster movies, accustomed to finding empathy for the portrayal of hardened criminals, will find “The Wolf” takes you deeper into that sentiment.
Carcaterra makes no qualms about who Vincent Marelli (The Wolf) is in the exposition. He is a mobster whose goal is to make money, period. He has no problem being ruthless and violent, doing whatever is needed to ensure the bottom line of the New York-based Marelli Crime Syndicate grows.
“It’s an interesting intent,” Carcaterra said. “He is the hero of the book, as is Angela (Jannetti), his partner in this. He’s the hero, working under his own set of rules. Which, essentially, there are very few rules. Their rule book is very thin. As opposed to the law enforcement’s rule books, which are quite thick.”
But this book isn’t your standard “Goodfellas” story. Carcaterra takes great pains to highlight all the ways in which the mob has changed in the 21st century, mostly by taking a more legitimate approach to business, curbing their profits with the illegitimate businesses they continue to run.
“Anywhere from five to 20 percent of what we spend ends up in their pockets,” Carcaterra said of the modern-day mob. “Sometimes, even higher. From airports to clothing to wine, whatever it is they are involved in. They thrive.
“The mob thrives — with the exception of the Russian mob — when everything is stable and people are spending money, people are going out and people are traveling. The more that happens, the more they are better off financially. Which is all they care about, finance. The terrorists disrupt that.”
Early in the story, mirroring an image somewhere between “Wall Street” and the “Godfather,” a board meeting is set for the Organized Crime Council, a collation of global crime syndicates headed by Marelli. At stake is all of their multi-million-dollar businesses. The answer to their problem is war.
Carcaterra, now 60, began writing at 17. Early on, he avoided writing about the “streets” because he grew up with a criminal father in Hell’s Kitchen and didn’t want to “write about family.” After transitioning into television, he found that the stories he grew up on painted an outline for good fiction.
At this stage in his life and career — nine novels, several screenplays, teleplays and countless bylines for newspaper and magazine — Carcaterra is perfectly suited to write this latest series of books, and it shows.
The book gives such a realistic picture of the underworld, it would lead you to believe Carcaterra is simply reporting on first-hand experiences, instead of creating this world from his imagination.
And to some extent, he is doing just that.
Over the years, he’s become friends with men and women on both sides of the law. For “The Wolf,” he tapped friends in government agencies for information and knowledge on the latest tactics being used by both law enforcement and criminals in the ongoing micro-wars of our societies.
“Occasionally in New York, I’ll go to my favorite restaurant,” Carcaterra said. “I’ll have a group of eight to 10 people at the table. Some are in law enforcement, some are judges, lawyers, cops, anti-terror, other guys may work on the other side of the law. Initially, they start off quietly. Then it becomes can you top this with stories, and you just sit back and listen. The only rules are, no taping, obviously, and no photos.
“You pick up quite a few stories from them, and good meals and good wine! It’s a no lose situation.”
Carcaterra is finishing up the second book in the series, which will continue the storyline of Marelli and his cohort Jannetti. He is slated to write a new screenplay for Harvey Weinstein, and is in talks to turn one of his books (he didn’t reveal the title) into a television series, which he might also be writing.
Carcaterra is no stranger to Savannah. Although it’s been several years since his last visit, he used to drive up from St. Simons Island with his friend, famed novelist William Diehl.
He said the reasons for accepting an invitation to the Savannah Book Festival were twofold.
“First, I was thrilled to be asked. Two, you see Savannah and you say yes! To be honest, that’s how I determine whether I am going to or not,” he said with a laugh. “Savannah is a cool place. I got a lot of friends that are like, ‘How did you get that invite? How come they didn’t invite me?’”