SYDNEY (Reuters) - As the grandson of mob boss Vito “Don Vito” Genovese, author Phil Genovese grew up with a surname in which he took little pride, but he has turned his childhood experiences into fiction as he breaks into writing.
Genovese has just self-published “The Grandfather Clause,” which was 10 years in the making and largely written on Sunday afternoons when he sneaked off from his family.
“The Grandfather Clause” is about a young New Jersey boy who cherishes his grandfather’s visits but learns over time that he as the boss of a New York crime family and years later has to penetrate his grandfather’s world.
In reality, Genovese was raised by an accountant father and mother on the Jersey shore and only has a few memories of his grandfather, the head of the Genovese crime family, who died in jail in 1969 at the age of 71.
Genovese spoke to Reuters about his childhood and writing:
Q: When did you start to write?
A: “I am in my mid-50s and started out thinking some day I may like to write a book but I came out of school not really knowing what I wanted to do and ended up being an executive in a mobile transportation company. In 1996 I bought the first family computer and thought maybe this could enable me to write.”
Q: Is it autobiographical?
A: “Not really. I had built a story in my head over the years commuting in the car about someone like me with an infamous grandfather who led his father’s life rather than his grandfather’s but had an occurrence that caused him for a brief period to go back to his grandfather’s world.”
Q: It took 10 years to finish. Did you enjoy it?
A: “I can’t make a living from it but it brings me some peace and enjoyment. I published the book with an online publisher so I still own the rights to this book. I went the traditional route and secured two agents along the way and got the usual slew of rejection letters and an offer from a big publisher but the advance was very light and not a lot of promotion. They tend to focus on the big-selling authors. It’s a very crowded market with about 200,000 books published a year.”
Q: Does your name help with publicity?
A: “My last name does get me engagements. People think I will tell them some dark secrets about the mafia. But I was just nine years old when my grandfather went to jail.”
Q: Did your father mind you writing the book?
A: “My parents were supportive. I respect the work my father has done in his life and the sacrifices he has made to redistinguish our family name. From a young age he separated himself from his father and opened an accountancy practice and went on to become a member of the town council. All his good and hard work was built on his reputation and not on his father’s.”
Q: How did you view your heritage?
A: “Growing up we were always cognitive of it and tried to tread a certain line. We never denied our heritage but it is not something we are proud of. Am I taking advantage of it with the book? Perhaps, but only to sell my book and get people to read it. If we count up all the ugly and painful moments in my family’s life they are all related to my grandfather. Schoolyard fights, prejudice in the job market were all directly attributed to his legacy and the stain he left on the Genovese name.”
Q: What do you remember about your grandfather?
A: “We’d go to his house at noon and he was just getting up. They had a night life. I remember him being well dressed, in a tie a lot. You always knew there was something going on with him in the special way people referred to him and the whispering.”
Q: Have you had much reaction to the book?
A: “There has been strange emails from people saying we are related and saying Vito was my father. When I mention this to my father he says: “Who knows?.” In the start I would always give them a response saying I was not aware of anything but not now.”
Q: And you are working on your second book?
A: “It is called “The Termination Clause.” Some of the characters continue into the second book but I have created a new protagonist. It is like this book in that it has a core plot involving the mafia but there are other things too.”
Q: What is your advise to other aspiring writers?
A: “I would suggest carving out hours of the day to write and recommend you do the same thing for trying to get published or promoting a book. I decided to do online publishing as I wanted to get the book out and move on. Maybe the second book will be picked up and become a bestseller. Dozens of authors self-published their first book.”
Editing by Miral Fahmy