Chris Cipollini explores gangland with “Lucky Luciano”

Posted: July 2, 2014 in interview
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Lucky

As an indie writer, networking is everything. You share, critique, promote, and above all help each other because it is us against the system. I came across Christian Cipollini while looking for readers for my first book, “Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture.” We exchanged books and information and have been keeping in touch ever since. I have always admired Chris’s drive and willingness to “put himself out there.” Chris’s first book, “Diary of a motor city hitman: The Chester Wheeler Campbell Story” opened up the world of one of the most notorious hitmen that had ever lived. His newest project, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of Gangster Legend” takes you inside the rise of one of the most well known mafiaos. The great thing about Chris’ writing is that he is a digger. He mines tirelessly for information and tries to give you a complete picture of who the man is. I got a chance to chat with him on his writing style, influences, why gangsters, what he thinks of modern crime books, and what is next. Check him out

Tell me about how you grew up?
My dad worked the narcotics detail for the State Police. My mom was a former flight attendant. Grew up in middle class edge of suburban/rural area outside Pittsburgh PA. Was a shy kid, maybe a bit nerdy, but definitely had good parents. Not perfect, but they certainly tried. Besides my dad’s influence and what I learned from him regarding what I’d one day be writing about – I also had some friends who, well, were a little more familiar with the ‘other’ side of things. I sort of consider it a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario of learning.

What were some of your favorite writers coming up?
I was that kid who had to read something twice before I could completely absorb it. I was never checked for a learning disability, but I think I definitely had to try hard as a kid to comprehend. That said though, I would consume everything in the library – short stories, novels, but I think historical and biographical subjects always got me most hooked. Reality of worlds unfamiliar with my own… fascinating.

What influenced you to start writing books?
I truly believe I determined in fourth grade I wanted to write a book someday. Loved my teacher and something in class made me realize even though reading comprehension was hard for me I was able to write some wildly clever stuff. Or at least I thought so! But really I just always had an easier time, as I got a little further along in school, with grammar and formulating thoughts into full length stories.

What is it about the gangster genre?
That I credit my dad and my friends with, to start. Dad loved gangster movies. My friends, well some of them did a little work for local bookies, you get the gist. Anyway, the real kickstarter was in very early 1990’s and I picked up a copy of the New York Times in the library and saw a guy named John Gotti splashed all over the front page. I had to find out who this movie-star looking guy was and what was his story. From there I went on to devour every mob and gangland history related book I could get my hands on. The fire was certainly lit, just took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up! Write my own!

What was it about Chester?
Wow, Chester. I could not believe nobody had written extensively about this guy. It all started from a photograph I acquired. See, I sort of work in reverse. I collect rare photos then study them and the press or police notes on them. Then I work my ideas and research from there. Chester’s photo had me mesmerized. Just his look, his clothing, this sinister aura. I had to find out more. And once I contacted an old friend from the Detroit area about it, well, I was on my way to writing my first book.

What were the challenges in writing the first book?
The first challenge for any new author is how to publish. I had already been doing a few years of solid networking, meeting the right people I suppose is best way to put it. And when I proposed the concept to my publisher – he said if I think I can get a whole book’s worth out of my research… I’ve got a deal. Besides determining who or how to publish, the other big challenge was basically taking tons of research materials and translating it all into a flowing tale that is both informative and entertaining. It’s not an easy task!

Why did you focus on Lucky?
Lucky Luciano has, for whatever reason, been the most fascinating gangster to me. When my publisher invited me to participate in a “Gangland Mysteries” anthology series the topic of Luciano was one idea he had. I thought how daunting it would be to cover someone already so heavily written about, but then I thought – hey, this is my chance to dig into his mythology and pop cultural effect. I wasn’t about to say no. Plus, I’ve been collecting original photographs of Lucky and all his cohorts for years – I finally got to put some of them in a book!

What was some of the most fascinating things you learned about Lucky Luciano?
Besides the fact there is a ridiculous amount of misinformation taken for fact about him, I think for me the coolest thing I learned was how much collusion and unification of other ethnic groups and allies it took for him to reach such infamous status. He wasn’t a boss of all bosses. He really hated that old school mentality and it truly appears his credibility was built from a unified effort of a lot of other brilliant, albeit criminal minded friends.

Were there any road blocks when writing Lucky Luciano?
The biggest difference between the book on Chester and this one on Lucky was finding people alive to interview! With Lucky, a roadblock is quite frankly – nobody is alive anymore from that era. But, I dug where I had to and worked around the obstacle. Plus, I did get in touch with a relative of one of Lucky’s old pals and what a treasure trove I was graciously provided!

Any backlash from the underworld? Feds?
Great question! No, thankfully no. Actually I’m extremely grateful that most of the feedback I get, from both sides, has been very good. I try to write in a realistic way, but without too much judgment either way. I certainly have opinions which filter in just like any writer does, but at the core – I try to tell the tales from all sides and perceptions, but always allow the reader to form their own opinions.

Dream project?
Movie deal!!! Whereby I at the very least consult on the project.

Hardest thing as an indie writer?
Surviving, just like everybody else trying to survive. Indie writing is for the passion and love. If the money comes… that’s great and you do have to be smart about the financial element. However, and again, don’t start just thinking big payday. That takes time and tons of hard as hell work. Lots of self-promotion work we indie writers have to do. The bulk of it all falls squarely on us.

Whats next?
Well I recently appeared on Biography Channel Series “Gangsters: America’s Most Evil” and History Channel Series “United Stuff of America” and did some consulting work for the producers of National Geographic Series “Drugs, Inc.” But as for book projects? My next one comes out in February 2015. Another installment in the “Gangland Mysteries” series, this one being on the notorious enforcement arm of the New York mob. Murder Inc.: Mysteries of the Mob’s Most Deadly Hit Squad

 

Pick up “Lucky Luciano:Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend” now at Amazon.com

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