The Savage Heart of Palermo is a fast paced crime thriller, with dark humour and an upbeat love story. It tells the tale of Joe Kelly, a young Irish-Italian-American, who flees from the States to Palermo, the traditional heartland of the Mafia.
Joe’s mother was Sicilian, but she was killed in a botched mugging when he was very young. Coming to Sicily is a way for him to feel close to her and discover a little about who she was.
He is escaping from a troubled past in a poor crime ridden district of Chicago. He has stolen a considerable amount of money from an extremely dangerous pusher and is wanted for questioning by the police in relation to a burglary that he did not commit.
Coming down from drugs and desperate to turn his life around completely, he donates half of this money to charity and uses the rest to set up his new life on what he thinks will be a Mediterranean paradise.
Soon enough, he discovers that Palermo is no easier than the place he ran away from. After almost two decades of relative quiet the Mafia is once again ready to rear its ugly head in Palermo. This new breed of Cosa Nostra is not entirely like the cool calculated one we all remember from the Godfather.
Due to competition from Palermo’s immigrant gangs it has been forced to adapt. In order to make its presence felt it has adopted a more gung-ho approach to violence. Joe realizes that he has arrived right in the middle of a new Mafia war, in which two rival crime families fight bitterly for supremacy.
He witnesses a young man shot dead in a public place in front of his girlfriend. But without a stay-permit and wanted for questioning by the police in America he is forced to bite his tongue and remain hidden in the shadows.
Joe knows that he has relatives on his mother’s side that live near Palermo. He arranges to meet them for the first time and an attraction is immediately sparked between himself and his second cousin, the young, intelligent, and beautiful Rossella.
He makes friends with Moses, a charismatic African man, who talks him into investing in his small-time hash business. It all starts off harmlessly enough but soon things get out of hand and Joe finds himself involved in things much worse than anything he had run away from.
On top of that, he is falling in love with a woman that he thinks he can’t have; Rossella is related to him and she has a boyfriend. Rossella’s boyfriend, Francesco Fortunato, is a womanising bully who treats her very badly.
All this is against the backdrop of a beautiful historic city full of contrasts. Palermo has a wild and savage heart. It is also a city subject to change. The influx of immigrants from Bangladesh, Africa, and eastern Europe creates a cultural melting pot that adds an entirely new dimension to a capital steeped in traditional Sicilian culture. This book addresses some of the very real racial issues that Italy faces today.
The Savage Heart of Palermo is a journey that explores a person’s desire and struggle to change. It explores the phenomenon of conscience and the real meaning between right and wrong. For Joe, it is a journey of self discovery in which he learns again to feel love and to treasure and protect that which is important in life and to reject that which is detrimental.
The characters, places and events in this book will stay with the reader for a long time.
My double vision is to create awareness through my book, which is fiction based on a lot of fact. I want to help create a better, more cosmopolitan Palermo and tackle some of the real issues that immigrants face here, whilst creating a stronger economy by encouraging people not to pay protection money to the Mafia.
Proceeds go to Addiopizzo (an anti-mafia racketeering organisation) and Santa Chiara Immigration centre in Palermo who help non residents with many things, including asylum, bureaucracy and even free Italian lessons.