When I started writing my novel, I had no idea what I was about to do. All I knew was I wanted to find the child who became my father. He had shared many memories, insights and stories about his youth with me over the years. I had been writing them down as I heard them, and I just kept asking questions. Once I brought him a map of the Bronx from the 1920s, and together we found his homes, schools and places of import to him.
At some point, I realized the boy who was emerging was my father’s edited self-portrait. When I accepted this, I knew that I had been given the freedom to find that child for myself.
And then, I just began! One day I sat down and it started pouring out of me, out of order, little vignettes, a foray into his imagination…as I imagined it. At least three times, and probably more, I finished a chapter that I’m sure had written itself.
Here’s one. Ben, the 15-year-old, found himself working at a garage whose owner was paying protection to the mob. Ben’s father, with his ladies coat and suit factory in the garment district, was also involved. The boss was big in the clothing unions, enforcement, and the protection racket. Ben was getting nervous the more he found out. One day, Rocco, owner of the garage, told Ben to deliver a mysterious box to Tony, the boss in the garment district.
I was in a writer’s mess, as I needed to get Ben out of all of this, and really couldn’t figure it out.
So, I took Ben and the box to Tony’s office. Neither one of us knew the contents of the box. This was frightening. Ben knew there was something awful about this transaction. And I was just along for the ride so I could report on the findings. When “we” delivered the box into Tony’s hands, we saw a gun and something wrapped in what looked like a bloody cloth. Something about it made Tony blow his top. Ben beat it out of there, and “we” didn’t know until later that evening, when Ben saw a headline about a mob shooting and a missing hand.
It was a right hand, and the victim was Anthony “Lefty” Cappuccio! Uh oh! Was Rocco the hit man? Did Tony think Ben was involved? …and what about Pauline?
Well, I can’t tell the whole story here, but this piece of writing was an amazing experience for me. It made me wonder: Whose book is it?