Thriller novelist Frank Catanzano tells us about Prey to the Lord, his latest release, along with his writing influences.
Prey to the Lord is my fourth novel. The others include Drummer for the Mob, Killer Body and Killer Body 2: Retribution. Before I describe the novels, a little about myself (a subject of which I don’t mind waxing poetic). During my early years, when I was 11 years old, I became a serious reader. I already had been studying percussion with the locally famous drummer, Babe Fabrizi. Since the age of six I studied paradiddles and flams and the other basic rudiments of drumming. Even though they sound like hard candies, the 28 basic rudiments were important basic techniques of drumming which any serious student needs to learn. I continue to play the clubs around Pittsburgh with The Express, a terrific group of musicians and vocalists. The guitarist and I have been playing together since 1971. Can you believe that? BTW, I earned a BA in journalism from Point Park University, so my capabilities didn’t suddenly appear from the ether.
As a child, reading became and always will be, my first true love. I remember voraciously plowing through small, hard cover classics such as Swiss Family Robinson and Two Years Before the Mast. My favorite Saturday was a rainy, mild afternoon when I would simply sit on my porch and read one of the (then) 49 cent classics. When I completed one, my parents would give me a dollar to purchase another book. I would literally jog the 3 miles to my local 5&10 to buy another book, Then I would jog back home to read it. My point is that I can’t emphasize enough the value of reading the works of other authors who have achieved success. To this day I have a large library of books dealing with eclectic subjects, ranging from best-selling works of fiction (especially the great story-teller John Grisham) to books on astronomy. Authors like James Patterson, Lisa Scottoline, BA Paris, as well as the classic authors, (Poe, Hemingway, Orwell) to just name a few are part of my library.
The two authors who influenced me the most, are James Ellroy and Brett Easton Ellis. Easton’s novel, American Psycho, I absolutely loved, while many others decried. it was Ellis’ American Psycho that appealed to my darker side and, hence, my dark approach to telling a story, from the Religious Zealot, William Miller, in Prey to the Lord, to the psychopath, but drop-dead (pun intended) gorgeous Sandy Garland, a senior flight attendant. She was a sixth degree black belt who literally pulls no punches. She would have been at home serving as security for today’s ME TOO movement.
I learned early on that good writing has to be concise with voice. The basic objective of writing with voice is writing that reveals your personality, thought patterns and speech that must be the driving forces underneath good writing, To that end, whether by accident or fate, I began writing poetry, that beautiful, brief prose that describes in few words a thought or feeling. Around 14, I became interested in Haikus, three line poems that describe its subjects in 17 syllables. In retrospect, this was an excellent training device that helped me learn how to describe life in well-crafted words.
In 2009 I looked back at the years 1960-1980 that were my prime time for playing drums in local rock bands. My band, Walker & Co., usually played five to six nights a week at area clubs 10 pm to 2 pm, and after-hours Fri, Sat and Sun 3 am -6 am (yes that’s not a misprint). The clubs in Pittsburgh at that time were owned and operated by organized crime families. I decided to tell what it was like back in those years working for the Mafia. The three of us were Italian-Americans and were trusted by the bosses. I was the one they relied on for odd jobs, so much so that I attracted the FBI (my favorite line in the books is “I had the FBI so far up my ass I could taste Brill Cream.” So, I wrote Drummer for the Mob, which landed a “Best Book of the Year” honor from Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine and its subsequent screen play treatment, adapted for a major motion picture. But heretofore, the producers have not been able to raise enough funding. Finding capital for an Independent film is difficult at best.
My newest effort, Prey to the Lord, is a personal take on pedophilia. My cousin, Michael Unglo, was molested as a child by a Catholic priest. The Pittsburgh Diocese eventually pulled the money it was contributing for Michael’s treatment. He subsequently took his own life. And the molestations continue. My work of fiction deals with the real-life website called NAMBLA (North American Man/boy Love Association). Here’s a heinous organization actually encouraging pedophilia. The website I created in Prey to the Lord is Empowering Children, a clandestine organization populated by priests, businessmen and civic leaders. A religious zealot is following ‘orders from God’ to kill them one at a time. I created the character, Detective John Bello, to build a franchise, so I could write additional books dealing with his exploits. The uniqueness of his character is that he was wounded in Vietnam, sustaining a head injury. During his recuperation, he was diagnosed with Acquired Savant Syndrome (an actual syndrome) that enabled him to see in his mind events that have transpired, But only fragments of a scene when he is holding a piece of cloth of Rosary Beads. It would be like watching a movie with huge gaps in it. But he manages to use it to his advantage in solving cases.
So far I have been impressed with iUniverse’s professionalism and attention to detail. They are pushing me to create communications tools I need to promote and sell my book. I hope that any publicity I can generate will create interest in my previous books. They have….ahem!… attracted a small, but loyal, audience. My least favorite part of the publishing experience has been proof-reading. I am terrible at it, but improving slightly. After the first round of corrections, I thought I was finished. A second round of corrections actually found more typos than the first. Argh!
Since I am (purportedly) not John Grisham, it’s kind of disingenuous for me to be doling out advice to other writers. But I have been asked, so I will comply. First, write all the time, but don’t publish anything until you really have something to say. Also, keep your expectations in check. I had a former college professor write a book about growing up during the depression in Pittsburgh. It was a small (40,000 words) story of her experiences as a youth in McKeesport. She tracked me down because I had published two books. Her take on it was she will eventually be able to retire on the proceeds from the book. It was my duty to dissuade her of that notion. It has been done but ain’t easy.
That’s about all I have to say at this time. Keep writing and don’t be discouraged. Keep in mind that some major reviewers, who previously would not review self-published books, are ever so slowly changing their attitudes. One reviewer said, “I don’t give a damn if it’s written on parchment. If it’s a good read, then it’s worthwhile reviewing.”