The Colletta Cassettes

A novel published by Indie Novella in April 2022 and available for purchase here.

A 2021 article in The Times began

A new trial over the 1980 Bologna railway station bombing opens this week and focuses on the role of a right-wing extremist who doubled as an informant for the Italian security services and a hitman for the Calabrian mafia.  

It refers to a story little known in the UK, the story of Operation Gladio — the codename for Italy’s clandestine ’stay-behind’ army that was created by the CIA and NATO after WW2.  It was deployed to spread fear of communism in Italy by means of targeted assassinations and supposedly random acts of terror.  

‘The Colletta Cassettes’ (85,000 words) is, in part, this story.  It’s the story of a CIA agent recanting his role in America’s covert paramilitary operations and in the rigging of elections in post-WW2 Italy.  It is also the coming-of-age story of a 16-year old boy falling in love on holiday.  So it’s both a coming-of-age story and a historical novel, with the weightier theme of CIA and Mafia involvement in state crimes carried by the lighter, cheerful story of a family on holiday and a young boy falling in love.  

The novel is set in 1978 during the football World Cup in Argentina, just after the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Italian premier.  The setting is stunning: Colletta has been named one of the 100 most beautiful villages in Italy, and the novel, with its strong emphasis on place, smells and food, is heavy on atmosphere. 

It would make a terrific film or TV series — the village cries out for a camera: visit to see how it could make a thriller terrifying and a love story glow.  Think All4’s ‘The Mafia Kills Only in Summer’, for its mix of warmth, humour and love with Mafia-related crime.  It’s a thriller on one hand – there is tension and suspense and a murder at the end of the book – but, on the other, there’s warmth, humour and love too.

It’s first chapter is, in its narrative arc of inciting incident, rising tension, climax and resolution, the entire novel in miniature.  Here it is.