'For Nothing' Mob Writer: Q&A with Nick Denmon

Nicholas Denmon

According to his Amazon.com profile, "Nicholas Denmon studied English at the University of Florida. He started story telling from the moment he could talk and has spent a lifetime perfecting the art. 

His life has been varied, giving him no shortage of material. Some of his unique experiences include growing up with a schizophrenic mother, having six brothers and sisters (of which he is the middle-younger child), a perfectionist father, an evil step-mother, a college life to rival Tucker Max, and working for politicians on the Presidential as well as local stage. He has been, at times, a devout Catholic, a closet atheist, and an honorary member of the Jewish tribe. Nick's joy of art knows little in the way of limitations, as he loves unique paintings, music, acting, film, and of course writing."
Nicholas also writes some bad-ass Mafia fiction. Two entries in a promised trilogy have been published. I read the first entry, "For Nothing," and thought, finally, some good fiction about the Mafia. I just ordered the other entry, "Buffalo Soldiers." Here is a Q&A I did with Nicholas recently... enjoy...



WHEN DID YOU START WRITING AND WHO INSPIRED YOU?

First, thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed on your awesome blog. I really appreciate what you have done to the space. I started writing stories for money when I was in the second grade. Other students liked that I could tell stories about knights and I had a buddy that could draw pretty well so we teamed up. Kids would buy them off of us with their lunch money, a quarter a story, and we would buy ice cream sandwiches. I guess you can say I was hustling at a young age and my original inspiration was ice cream and Bluebird fruit juice.


WHEN AND WHY DID YOU START WRITING IN THE MAFIA GENRE?

I have always been a fan of the genre. I come from an Italian family in Buffalo, NY. My great grandparents were from Sicily and I actually knew them in my childhood before they passed away in their 90s. We had family stories about my grandfather’s interactions with mobsters as well as my great Uncle Dick who has a character named after him in Buffalo Soldiers, the second book in the trilogy. I think what interested me the most about the genre is it felt like I was connecting with my past a bit. My uncle and my brothers and I would sit down every summer and watch Goodfellas two or three times.

Part of me really appreciated the desire of Goodfellas to not want to live like “schmucks” and rock the nine to five job until life beat them down. The women and the “easy” money I think is something that is easyto identify with for a lot of people. But at the same time it is almost like a Greek tragedy because you know the money isn’t really easy and comes with only a few scenarios, most of which end badly.


I HAVE READ "FOR NOTHING" AND IT REALLY CAUGHT MY INTEREST, UNLIKE MOST MOB FICTION; I CONSIDER YOU (AND SONNY GIRARD) PIONEERS IN THIS GENRE. WHY IS MAFIA FICTION HAVING TROUBLE BECOMING A VIABLE FICTIONAL GENRE?

First, thanks! I like the sound of that, pioneer. I think it is a delicate line to walk. You have to pay homage to the traditions of the culture and the way of life but you have to try and not let too many stereotypes define your writing. I think many authors either let those stereotypes into their storyline a bit too much, or it is the opposite and is a mafia-in-name only type of book.

I also think you can get too mired down in trying to show the whole way of life and that is tough to do because there are so many facets. I only show the world through a couple of characters, their slice of that world, and that’s it.


DO YOU READ MAFIA FICTION AND NON-FICTION? WHICH DO YOU PREFER? NAME SOME BOOKS YOU'D RECOMMEND IN OR OUT OF THE MAFIA GENRE AND WHY?

I like both! But I would recommend Cigar City Mafia. It is a non-fiction account about the Tampa Mafia and follows from the 1920’s to present day. Scott Deitche did a fabulous job and it is quite extensive and a fun and easy read.


AS FOR YOUR TRILOGY CONCEPT, HOW MUCH DO THE BOOKS CONNECT TO ONE ANOTHER?

They are all connected. The books follow one another as far as timeline, at least these first three will. They also revolve heavily around the twilight of Rafael Rontego’s (a hitman for the Ciancetta family) career. He is an old school gangster who sees that the times are changing. The world he grew up in isn’t the same anymore. Whether or not he lives or dies in For Nothing, it’s his character and the events he goes through that really sets the second and third books into motion. They also all have Alex Vaughn in them and the people in his life are embroiled in the events of the story, for better or worse. Mostly worse.


WHAT MADE YOU GO FOR THE TRILOGY FORMAT?

I went with the trilogy format because one book just wasn’t enough to show the journey of the characters. I left the end of For Nothing open because I still felt there was a lot for the characters to do in order to tell their whole story. Also, the fact that people really seem to enjoy For Nothing. I got a lot of requests to write another.


WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO? DO YOU KNOW ANY MOB GUYS? [I WON'T ASK YOU TO NAME NAMES!]

I do know a few guys who run in those circles. I did a lot of research including chatting with a friend of mine in the U.S. Marshall’s and of course rehashing some bits of “the life” with other people I know. I did a ton of research on the Buffalo La Cosa Nostra as well because, if I didn’t, I know a lot of people who would have been mad at me! If you know the history there you will see a lot of parallels to real life places and names, just slightly altered.


HOW FAMILIAR ARE YOU WITH THE BUFFALO MOB? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ITS CURRENT STATUS?

They are still an active bunch but with RICO they are under a lot of pressure just like the mafia everywhere. They are a small group and once you can’t make money off of gambling or protection and extortion, you really bite into the life-blood of these organizations. I would say they are alive, but not well. Though you also need to remember the Buffalo mafia isn’t just Buffalo, it stretches into Canada and Ohio even. So to really accurately predict is tough to do. After all, if they are good mobsters they aint talking about it!


TELL US ONE OR TWO THINGS NON-BUFFALINIANS (IS THAT THE WORD?!) WOULDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE MAFIA THERE? FOR EXAMPLE, I AM A NEW YORKER AND UNLESS I DID SOME RESEARCH I REALLY KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT IT EXCEPT I BELIEVE IT HAD/HAS TIES TO CANADA...

There you go! They have ties into Ontario from their bootlegging days. It was easier to ship booze through Lake Erie than to try and travel across land. Ever since the days of Prohibition they have had a foothold in Canada.

Another tidbit is the first real Don of Buffalo Stephano Magaddino ruled his family for over thirty years and never did any significant time in prison. Imagine that happening in this era!


ANY THOUGHTS ON WHETHER BUFFALO IS INVOLVED IN THE WAR OR WHATEVER IT IS VITO RIZZUTO IS DOING IN CANADA?

Most likely. Italians are big on respect. So either they were told about it or they weren’t. If they weren’t they would most likely be pissed off. It will be interesting to see what happens there. Rizzuto is running around shoring up his power, getting revenge, and if he steps on any toes it could go badly for him.


DID YOU BASE ANY OF THE PLOT IN "FOR NOTHING" ON ANY TRUE STORIES YOU KNEW?

Well there were parts that were true, but I really wouldn’t want to say! Parts that are known to be true are the corruption of the union, some of the businesses are real mafia owned businesses, and some of the locations where bodies were found.


WHAT ABOUT CHARACTERS? WITTY ENIGMATIC HIT MAN RAFAEL RONTEGO -- WHO IS HE BASED ON, IF ANYONE? HOW DID YOU CREATE THE CHARACTER? WHY DID HE SMOKE SOBRANIES (RUSSIAN CIGS)? WHY NOT AN ITALIAN BRAND! LOL!

All of my characters are based on real people but not all of them are mobsters. The Cleaner is based 100 percent on my Uncle who actually owns a carpet cleaning business in Buffalo.

Rafael Rontego is based on a couple of people that I know had some nefarious exploits in their lives. But he is also quite a bit of my imagination as to what a guy in his situation would be like. At first glance you think he is just a killer but I hope that by the end of the story the reader realizes there is a lot more to him than that.


WITH "FOR NOTHING" WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO? FOR EXAMPLE "I WAS TRYING TO WRITE A MOB STORY THAT..." FINISH SENTENCE

That had all the stuff in it all the other mob stories didn’t! I love mob stories and I always found myself thinking, “I wish they had done…” whatever it was I wanted them to do. So I just did it myself. I told the story I always wanted to hear. I wanted it to have a realistic feel but at the same time to have all the compact excitement that only fiction can bring.


OK, FOR THE WRITERS IN THE AUDIENCE, LET'S TALK CRAFT: DO YOU OUTLINE EXTENSIVELY? WHAT IS YOUR WRITING ROUTINE?

With For Nothing there was no outline at all. It took me much longer to finish, but I didn’t know much about the craft and am still learning all the time. Buffalo Soldiers I finished very quickly and I had a nice outline but I wasn’t crazy about sticking to it. I think if you do that you can lose some of what the characters “decide” should happen as the story unfolds.

So I say, have a good outline but don’t let that deter you from seeing where the characters and the story take you. Sometimes that is off your chosen path!

I pull up iTunes and make my soundtrack, usually have a diet coke, and get to work. Sometimes, I’ll take down a whiskey or two and let the cerebral juices flow. I also find it helps to stop writing in the middle of an exciting scene so I am more anxious to come back and finish the scene the next day.


CAN YOU GIVE US A SNEAK PEAK AT THE THIRD AND FINAL ENTRY? WHEN WILL IT BE RELEASED?

I sure can. I will have an official release announcement soon.

Here you go – not fully edited mind you:


He felt refreshed. It was amazing what a good night of sleep could do when coupled with a warm shower and some food. He slept well, albeit with a snub-nosed revolver under his pillow. He’d thought about sleeping with the safety off but a part of him was concerned he might toss or turn the wrong way in his sleep leaving nothing but a mess and a headless corpse on his king size mattress.

It only took one guy to slip past your guards and into your ivory tower turning your fortress into a tomb. Rafael Rontego had done it once before and it just so happened that cold-blooded hitman was pissed off at anyone flying the Ciancetta flag.

The Pope pushed his tie up tighter around his neck as the elevator door opened and the three men standing in the iron box packing curious bulges on their hips and under their jackets stepped out ahead of him. He knew all three of their names. He knew their mothers; he knew where their kids went to school. Each one had grown up in the neighborhood and each one could be trusted to try their best to protect him.

And maybe against some scrub or wanna-be gangster they could. But not against the best.

The guards fanned out across the Del Avant condominium lobby causing several residents to move out of the way. Black trench coats and large box-shouldered men seemed to have that effect, even if a frail and thinning lawyer walked slowly in their wake. The entourage didn’t stop, or break stride, and purposefully made its way to the glass double doors of the building where two black Lincoln Town Cars idled.

The condominium rent-a-cop rushed to hold open the doors for the men, who didn’t even acknowledge him, as they swept out onto the sidewalk. Their hands drifted under their coats or fell casually to their hips. As if choreographed, both drivers stepped out of the waiting cars, and came around to hold the rear passenger doors closest to the sidewalk. Two men, one with a camera emblazoned with a WIVB sticker, rushed towards them from behind the vehicles. Two of The Pope’s men stepped in front of them, effectively blocking them from the consigliore as he made his way to the rear car. His third guard stepped to the front of the walk, his eyes scanning Delaware Avenue.

The Pope took his wide brim hat off and wiped a bit of sweat from his brow. He was just about to slide into his awaiting chariot when he saw the curious camera poking between his two men.

Another man tried to peer between the three of them and microphone in hand, he shouted, “Tim Rollings with channel 4, WIVB!” He must have noticed The Pope looking up because he continued, “Mr. Biela sir, is it true that the Ciancetta family was involved or perhaps responsible for the deaths of several police officers and FBI agents at what the public is deeming The Bethlehem Blood Bath?”

The Pope stopped climbing into the Lincoln and sighed. Even though he knew the reporter was baiting him, as mouthpiece for the Ciancetta family, he couldn’t let a statement like that go unchallenged. Oftentimes the court of public opinion was what stood in the way of appeasement and serious investigation. Before turning to face the camera, he plastered his best courtroom grin onto his cheeks and took in a deep breath. Hat in hand he whirled around and looked at the camera, not the reporter asking the question.

“That is outrageous Tim. As far as I know there were quite a few Russian hooligans apprehended there. The Ciancetta family has nothing to do with any criminal activities and cannot wait to see justice done to those who would seek to harm the fine law enforcement personnel that live by such high standards and protect all of the residents of Buffalo, New York, night and day, all year round.” He stretched his grin wider. “In fact, Tim, Leonard Ciancetta, the man your television station sees fit to slander at every available opportunity, wrote a check to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association just this past week in the amount of fifty thousand dollars. How much have you donated Tim?”

As if the anchor hadn’t heard a word he said, he shouted another question. “What about the fact that at least two men who are connected to the Ciancetta family were found at the scene? One of them, a Russian, found dead and another, Antonio Benedici, is currently being held by the BPD on suspicion of murder. Mr. Biela is it true these men are both part of the La Cosa Nostra and were on the payroll of Leonard Ciancetta?”

He felt the sweat beading on his brow but continued to smile and look into the camera. “Look you just said a Russian.” He scoffed purposefully. “So now the Italian La Cosa Nostra, which has been pretty much dead and gone since Gotti, is employing Russians?”

“What about this Antonio Benedici?”

“Who? Look I never heard of him. But if you find a law someplace that any wealthy Italian in the USA is responsible for the actions of every lowlife, Italian or otherwise, then let me know because I’ll move to Canada. But as it stands now, America is the greatest country on earth and it ain’t a crime to have ancestors from Italy.”

He placed his hat on his head, waved for his men to follow him, and slipped into the car. One slid next to him, another into the front seat, as the driver slammed the door. He ran around the front of the Lincoln and climbed in behind the wheel. Through the windshield, The Pope could see his third man grab the shotgun position in the lead car, and like a mini caravan the two vehicles moved away from the curb.

“To Rumors?” Nuncio, the driver, asked.

“No to BCJ.” The Pope took his hat back off and rested it on his lap, stroking the felt between his thumb and forefinger.

“Buffalo City Jail?” Nuncio asked to make sure.

“Yes, and hurry.”

It was time to free Antonio Benedici before he tried to free himself. And that crazy WOP might just attempt it if he thought he was being left to hold the bag.


THANK YOU MAN -- I APPRECIATE IT! I ASK SOME LONG-ASS QUESTIONS, I KNOW!

I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me. I had a great time and hope you enjoy my answers!

Comments

  1. Appreciate the "sneak peek" and will definitely read your work. Sounds very interesting, especially because my late husband worked under the Buffalino family back in the day. Best of luck.
    Susan DeSantis Ferritto

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really cool info Susan! Hope you enjoy it!

      Delete

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