Good Reading : February 2017
COVER STORY The scugnizzi are … the street kids who roamed Naples in packs, stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down ... journey into Naples from Sorrento. He was a well-muscled man who inspired confidence in me should trouble of any sort flare up while I was in Naples. Trouble? Well, yes, because Naples is that kind of city. My guide regaled me with scary tales of bribery and corruption at every level of society in Naples. When we drove past the Camorra heartland of the city, where not even police dare to venture, I asked him what would happen if I walked through it on my own. He laughed and said I would definitely be robbed and quite possibly killed. People died there every week, he said casually. There was a sense of danger in Naples that shocked me, an awareness of a line that you must not step over. Even now, the Camorra casts a long shadow over the city. My heart was climbing up my throat and I sighed with relief when we turned in the opposite direction, towards the tunnels. Because that was what I had come to see. Naples has ancient tunnels the way other cities have rats. They were part of a Roman aqueduct system. At times they were so narrow that I had to crouch almost on my knees and sometimes they were as vast as a cathedral. One thing I knew for certain – they were going in my book! My main character, 21-year-old Caterina, came to me while I was drinking a cappuccino in Sorrento. I was sitting in Fauno Bar in Piazza Tasso and she walked straight into my life. I was surrounded by shops selling music boxes of the most wonderful inlaid woodwork and I knew immediately that this craft would be her passion. I liked that it was traditionally a male occupation because it indicated immediately that this was a young woman who refused to be restricted by convention. I started to ask myself questions. How far would Caterina go to survive? To protect 26 GOOD READING FEBRUARY 2017 her family – her young brother and blind grandfather? Would she forgive her mother for deserting them? And could she shoot the man who threatened her family? As I sat there munching a biscotti, I found that the more dangers I threw at Caterina, the more she forged a new kind of courage and resilience within herself. The scugnizzi are one of these dangers. They are street kids who roamed Naples in packs, stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down and living by their own rules. The heavy bombing of the city left many children homeless and orphaned, so they bonded together to survive on the streets, living off their wits. They became one another’s replacement family and there was a fierce loyalty among them. One of these groups of scugnizzi plays a crucial role in The Liberation, as the boys flit between the criminal world and the military, often acting as runners and messengers. It’s when their paths crosses Catherina’s that she learns about the brutality of Naples and how to bargain for her life. The research for this book was pure joy for me. I start with history books, followed by a few tattered photographs, a yellowing piece of film, and a tiny detail in a memoir of a soldier in the US Fifth Army. But research can be very seductive – ask any writer. I am quite capable of wallowing in it indefinitely. The day dawned when I had to pick up my pen and take Caterina from the peaceful clifftop of Sorrento down into Naples. I had learned from my research that Naples is a city you don’t mess with, so when Caterina came calling, she carried a gun. The Liberation by Kate Furnivall is published by Simon & Schuster, rrp $29.99.
December 2016 - January 2017