Author: David Hewson
Published by: Severn House on July 31, 2018
Roman police detective Nic Costa has been sent undercover to Italy’s beautiful, remote Calabrian coast to bring in the head of the feared mob, the ‘Ndrangheta, who has offered to turn state witness for reasons of his own.
Hoping to reel in the biggest prize the state police have seen in years, the infamous Butcher of Palermo, Costa and his team are aware the stakes are high. But the constant deception is taking its toll. Out of their depth in a lawless part of Italy where they are the outcasts, not the men in the hills, with their shotguns and rough justice, the detectives find themselves pitched as much against one another as the mob. As the tension rises, it’s clear the operation is not going to plan. Is Nic Costa getting too close to the enemy for comfort – and is there a traitor among them …?
And now David Hewson with:
Savage Shore: The Crime Gang
Most of the Nic Costa stories take place in Rome, a city the world knows well, even people who’ve never been there. We have a picture of it from TV, from other books, and from our consciousness of its considerable role in Western civilisation.
But when I decided to bring Costa and his colleagues out of hibernation after a nearly ten-year gap I felt I needed to mix things around a little. One more Roman story wasn’t good enough. I wanted to jolt them – and myself – into dealing with somewhere new.
That turned out to be a part of Italy few people know, even native Italians. Calabria is the toe of Italy, a wild, largely rural region dominated at the southern tip by a vast mountain known as Aspromonte. It overlooks the Strait of Messina, with Etna clearly visible on a good day, smoke winding out of the summit. The land is rugged, inhospitable in parts, and the area pretty much lacking in the spectacular sights that draw millions of visitors to other parts of the country.
Why choose this as a location? Because The Savage Shore is, in part, about what happens to places that the rest of a nation ignores. It lies in the southern half of the country known as the Mezzogiorno, the poorest part of Italy far removed from the riches of the north. Over the years this neglect has seen the rise of organised crime which has come, in some ways, to represent a kind of alternative government or society in place of the authority that should be there from elsewhere.
While most people regard organised crime in Italy as being the work of ‘the Mafia’, matters on the ground are rather more complicated. There are, in fact, three different native Italian mobs, each based on a geographical location. The true Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, hail from Sicily. The second is based in Naples and is called the Camorra. The third, possibly larger and more powerful but less well-known than the others, began in Calabria and is known as the ’Ndrangheta, a name it takes from the Greek dialect of the area, which means roughly ‘the honourable men’.
Few people have heard of the ‘Ndrangheta but they are huge and their tentacles spread around the world – from large property holdings in Brussels to busy public markets in Australia. They are also far more reticent and less flashy than their peers in Naples and Palermo, though equally violent when pushed.
The setup for the book is simple. One of the local leaders of an ’Ndrangheta gang, a shadowy figure known only as ‘Lo Spettro’, the ghost, has intimated to the police that he’s willing to surrender himself and turn state witness to rat on his peers. Nic Costa and his colleagues have been sent undercover to the Calabrian coast to try to engineer his perilous escape from his own gang, which would surely murder him if he knew what was on his mind.
In order to do that, Lo Spettro demands that Costa himself masquerade as a rookie gangster inside the local mob, living in the hills in an abandoned village they used as a crime base, and posing as a man willing to undertake any violent act required of him in order to smuggle the gang lord out to safety.
So in a way this is also a book about people pretending to be something they’re not, and how damaging that pretence can be in the end. Not just for the police who are trying to hide their real feelings and identity, but a crime lord on the brink as well.
This novel is available now.
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Thank you to David Hewson for being featured on my blog today!