Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Lorenzo Petruzziello channels love of noir in his new book

By Max Bowen 

Lorenzo Petruzziello took a veritable master’s course when writing his new book, “A Taste of Datura” (April 2, Magnusmade). In preparation, he studied the greats, not only the writers, but the filmmakers as well. “North by Northwest,” “The Third Man” and many more were the foundation of his book, but the story is all his own.

Nick seeks the value of an antique bracelet in his possession. He encounters Laura, an amateur medium cursed by uncontrollable visions. With Laura’s help, Nick closes in on the origin of his treasure. But as the word gets out, the quest puts them both in danger.

In this interview, Lorenzo talks about what inspired this book, how he made the main character of Nick Terenzi, and coming up with a story that was, in his words, “worth sharing.”

What about the genres of noir and suspense made you want to write a story in this style?
I am a fan of classic noir films because of the emotion and sensations they give the audience. Tension, darkness, suspense and mystery. But, what really draws me are the characters, and their immoral and seedy personalities. Their back stories, and the decisions they make that puts them in dangerous situations.
Some of my favorite films are “Strangers on the Train,” “North by NorthWest,” “The Third Man,” “The Big Sleep,” “Niagara” and “Double Indemnity.” Of course, many of these are Hitchcock classics – the master of suspense. I’m also a reader of the books that inspired the films, including stories by authors Patricia Highsmith and Cornell Woolrich.

I like the character of Nick Terenzi. How did you craft him?
Nick is meant to be a vague main character. Someone the reader can place anywhere in their imagination. I studied the main characters as portrayed by Cary Grant – specifically his character in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” And Joseph Cotton in “The Third Man” or “Double Indemnity.” These men had a small definition of who they were. Just enough to connect the audience and allow them to focus on the other characters and situations around them. I wanted Nick to be just as vague, and just as crafty.

This is your second crime novel, after “A Mistake Incomplete.” Was the writing process any easier for this book?
No and yes. It was difficult for me to come up with a story that was worth sharing. I knew I wanted to connect both books, but I didn’t know how. I wanted a connection, but not necessarily a sequel. I wanted the two books to be separate – not requiring the reader to have to read both – but have a connection or a nod to each. Add the uncertainty of the pandemic, my mind was just focused on stories. But, once I figured out a connection and premise, I knew what I was writing. Knowing that helped move the process along much faster than it did for “A Mistake Incomplete.”
Although my first book, “The Love Fool,” is not a crime story, it also has a slight connection to this world. There is no direct connection – just a subtle easter egg dropped in “A Mistake Incomplete.”

I read that Italy is a familiar place to you. How did the country inspire or shape your writing?
As a kid, I spent my summers in Italy with my grandparents. Each year, when school ended, I would be on a flight to Italy, and return just before school began in the fall. This started in middle school through college. After that, I travelled to Italy every year – spending less time than a whole summer, but there all the same. The time spent in Europe helped shape the man I am.
Speaking two languages and leaning in to the culture, I adopted a global mentality, that allows me the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Allows me to see situations in many different ways. And allows me to focus on understanding views. So, Italy, and my time there, will always be an inspiration to anything I do in life.

Will there be more books? If so, what ideas are you working on?
When I started the journey of writing my first book, “The Love Fool,” I had moved to Rome temporarily. I thought to myself, ‘if I can write a book, then I will promise myself to write three.’ Once “The Love Fool” was completed and published, I knew my plan: to write stories set in cities that had meaning to me. Rome: because I was living there when I started this writing journey. Milan: Because I studied there in the mid-90s and really enjoyed being in that part of Italy. Naples: Because this is the region where I spent my summers. So, my personal Italian trilogy goal is now complete. Do I have more cities that I connect with? Yes. So there are ideas brewing. One is maybe return to Rome with crime. But, who knows what will be next? For now, I want to breathe and enjoy my accomplishment of completing my three novels I had promised myself.

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