ROME (Reuters) - The author of the best-selling book "Gomorra" about the mafia in Naples, which has been made into a hit movie, wants to leave Italy to try to have a more normal life after reports that the mob wants him dead by Christmas.
After reports that the "Camorra," as the Naples mafia is known, has added urgency in its threat to kill Roberto Saviano, the 29-year-old who has been in hiding for two years said he was tired of being a "prisoner" of his book's success.
"I'm going away from Italy, at least for a while, then I'll see," he told La Repubblica newspaper.
"Right now I don't see why I should keep living like this, as a prisoner of myself, my book, my success," said Saviano.
"I want to take a walk, get some sun, walk in the rain, meet my mother without scaring her and being afraid."
First published in 2006, the gritty chronicle of how the Camorra dominates life around Naples and makes its money -- by a local boy who saw his first murder victim at 13 -- has sold 1.2 million copies in Italy and been translated into 42 languages.
Saviano worked in a textile and building firm controlled by the mob to research his book, which narrates the Camorra's involvement in protection rackets, drug trafficking, smuggling and even illegal waste disposal.
Now "Gomorra" has hit the big screen and is a candidate for the Oscars, the mafia is said to be even angrier and wants Saviano killed by the end of the year.
Naples police said they were checking the veracity of the reports and politicians from President Giorgio Napolitano down commented on the need to safeguard Saviano's life.
Separated from friends and family and moved from one police barracks to another to avoid attempts on his life, the writer asked: "What is my crime? Why must I live like a recluse, a leper, hidden away from life, the world and other men?"
"I only wanted to tell the story of my people, my land and their humiliation," he said, raging against the head of the notorious Casalesi clan of the Camorra, Francesco Schiavone (nicknamed "Sandokan" after a fictional pirate), who is currently serving a life jail sentence.
A police informer said it was Schiavone's Casalesi clan, which is based in Casal di Principe near Naples where Saviano grew up, who wanted the writer murdered as soon as possible.
Saviano gave no clue as to where he would try to rebuild his life, for obvious reasons, saying only that when first obliged to go into hiding in 2006 he rejected advice to leave for New York: "I stayed here, but how long can I carry this cross?"
Writing by Stephen Brown, editing by Paul Casciato