Two Questions and a Whore

November 20, 2008
Two questions have been asked about my novel, The Book of Unholy Mischief. First: Isn’t your book, like most novels, just a thinly veiled autobiography?


Since The Book of Unholy Mischief is about a chef’s apprentice in Renaissance Venice I naturally reply, “How the heck did you know?” My father is an Italian chef. Beyond that, well, that’s why we call it fiction.


The second question is: Why did you set the story in Venice?


Mysterious, romantic Venice possesses a certain ramshackle opulence. But the thing that made Venice perfect for this story is that she is a whore.


The Book of Unholy Mischief is about secrets and corruption, staggering wealth and abject poverty, fevered backdoor transactions, and betrayal for profit. Venice is about all those things. Her Most Serene Republic has always existed for nothing other than to turn a buck.


And it’s truer today than ever before. Stripped of her status as Europe’s preeminent port, she has nothing left to sell but herself, and she does so with wanton abandon.


I recently took a Mediterranean cruise and was shocked to see our massive ship glide down the Grand Canal, with little Venice compliantly spread out below for our viewing pleasure.


The city fathers, her pimps, have dredged the canal to a depth of forty feet to allow paying tourists the satisfaction of plowing straight through her liquid center. Venice is one magnificent old whore, and as the most expensive city in Europe, her heart of gold is 24 carat.