When I started to write “Learning to Trust” (out in November from Carina), I thought I was writing a love story between an ex drug addict and her wealthy ex boyfriend. Then I put her in Naples, Italy, as part of her recovery. Then my hero walked into the café where she worked and talked about selling knock-off items on the quay at Naples, because they do that there.
I had no idea at the time what that meant. But I saw a TV documentary about the Mafia and what they have become. They have become even scarier than ever. Forget the old-school “Godfather” image. This is merciless crime. There is nothing honourable or romantic about it.
It turns out that the gangs in Naples have a lot to do with importing all those knock-off goods from China, where they’re made. So now they have links with the Chinese gangs, who are enormously powerful. This is where you start to think, “Whoa!” Links between two of the most powerful crime factions in the world. The knock-off goods, you know, fake t-shirts, handbags, shoes, all those electronics, “Rolex” watches and so on are brought in to Naples and then distributed around the world. Look at a map and you’ll see how easy it is to do and how pivotal Naples is to that end of the crime syndicates.
But you know, these gangs make a huge amount, not from knock-offs, but from drugs. And they are distributed the same way. Caught a shipment of fake designer shoes? You could well discover the shoes packed with a white powder. Weight for weight, there’s little that compares for easy money. Add to that the customers are addicts, and will do anything for a hit, and you have a recipe for combustible success.
And I fell on all this avidly. It’s true when they say that artists absorb, and get ideas from everywhere. This was manna to me, and the story I was planning to send to Harlequin Presents took an entirely new direction. How could I ignore all that? It was a story waiting to happen.
Add to that the terrifying influence the gangs have. I’m not even going to mention the name they use now, because they don’t like bad publicity, or any publicity come to that. I’ll just fictionalize what I’ve read and keep well clear, thank you very much.
Tourists have no idea this is going on, and Naples is still a very beautiful place to visit, with the twin peaks of Vesuvius and Etna looming over the bay, the blue, blue waters and the bright sky. And the pedlars on the key with their stocks of watches, scarves and jewellery laid out on colourful rugs.
But the story is still primarily a romance between Lina and Jon, for all that. Their personalities shone through the story, and I loved writing about them.