- Giancarlo De Cataldo
- 4 Mushroom Heads
This novel although a work of fiction is actually based on real historical events. Kidnapping and murders of influential persons attributed to the terrorist group known as The Red Brigade during this period kick off the story. A Baron is kidnapped and the gang who have nothing to do with the terrorist organisation receive five billion Lira,(unfortunately for the Baron he sees a fleeting glimpse of one of his kidnappers so he suffers a nasty bout of lead poisoning) although what that is in modern day money I do not know but even in Italy 5 billion Lira back then was a hell of a lot of money. The gang known as La Banda della Magliana and led by the character Libano do something quite remarkable. Instead of splitting the money and blowing it, thanks to Libano the money is invested, part put in an emergency fund to help out on the legal front, part invested in buying arms and buying officials, part in investing in drugs, and so lays the foundation for one of the most ruthless well organised criminal gangs that Rome has ever seen.
OK that is a brief introduction on this masterpiece of criminal faction, and believe me its brief as this book is in total 556 pages long. The author is a very renowned judge, playwright, scriptwriter and of course novelist and the story has many characters most of which don't last the course of the book. The authors obvious knowledge of the way gangs operate and how the system worked must have helped in creating this novel, other characters pop up and although at times the story does seem to tread water there is an under current to it that keeps you wanting more, and more is what you get. The gang go initially from strength to strength seeing off those who dare question their authority, there is however one copper and one prosecuting judge that wont let go and even though the gang is ruthless it has rules, those rules include not killing police officers, judges and priests as it just wouldn't be worth the amount of crap that would befall you if any of those got killed.
Commissario Scialoja, who takes it upon himself to rid Rome of this gang, also helps himself to one of the leading members girl friends who happens to be a high class prostitute. Its the pressure he puts on her that opens up a small line of enquiry, but as we know from small acorns do mighty oaks grow, and my does this turn out to be a mighty investigation whilst all the time the gang are growing stronger and stronger.
This book has been made into a very successful and popular tv series on continental Europe and its obvious why, its got Tarantino written all over it, when people aren't been killed then there is planning to kill, when the killing is done there is sex, when the sex is done its back to business, the drug empire grows and expands into money lending and gambling, the Mafia approach them and treat them with respect, that's how strong and ruthless La Banda della Magliana are.
I really did like this book, I liked the story more than the style of writing which I must admit was hard work at the beginning,( perhaps it was the translation? first 200 pages or more) However once I got through that as said, I found it a damn good challenging read and a book that when finished I found myself thinking “I enjoyed that“ Always a sign of a good read when you come to the end and think that.
Why 4 and not 5 mushroom heads? Well as mentioned earlier at times it does drag on a bit for example there is a page which was filled with names, just one after the other of people who attended a party, the author could easily have put “ full of influential people including....and then maybe three or four name but I kid you not 80% of the page was just name after name.
So there you have it 5 mushrooms heads for the story, 4 for the overall book. I hope that helps!