Monday, June 22, 2015

How to write mob comedies and NOT get taken out by Melodie Campbell

Today, we'll learn How to Write Mob Comedies in your own Home Town, and not get Taken Out by the Family

This informative blog is brought to you by Melodie Campbell. Any implied threat in the blog title I wrote is unintentional. I only wished to state who was going to share how to survive a mob comedy. 

Here's Melodie before she does take me out....

It all closed in on me at the launch of

 THE GODDAUGHTER mob caper in Hamilton.
Eighty-five people stood waiting.

The local television station had cameras in my face.  So far, it had been an easy interview focused on my awards and comedy career. The fellow was charming.  I liked him a lot.  Then he dropped the bomb.

“So…have you ever met a member of the mob?”

I didn’t like him so much anymore.

Yikes!  Hesitation.   A lot of feet shuffling.
“Yes.” I said, very precisely. So precisely, that everyone in the room laughed nervously. “In fact, I had to wait until certain members of my family died before getting this book published. ‘Nuf said.”

The ‘nuf said’ was the closure.  He got it.  Being a smart lad, he even let it drop.

Because frankly, I was speaking the truth.  I did wait until certain people died.  Some of them were in Sicily, but more were in Canada.  Some even died from natural causes.  (“He died cleaning his rifle” was an unfortunate family expression, meaning something entirely different, if you get my drift.)

This made me think about how close you want to get in a book to real life.

As writers, we research a hell of a lot.  Of course, I did research for The Goddaughter series.  Some of the study was pretty close to home, as I riffed on memories from my childhood.

My first memory is of a family reunion at a remote farmhouse in Southern Ontario. I was about three, and tears were streaming down my face.  Big scary uncles picked me up. They tried to console me by speaking softly. But I couldn’t understand them because they were speaking in Italian, or more precisely, Sicilian.

Those were the days of Brio and cannoli after mass on Sunday mornings.   And gossip about other relatives, one of whom was a famous boxer.  My aunt’s friend, the singer (one of a trio of sisters) who could not escape the clutches of a mob underboss in the States; he wouldn’t let her go.  I remember the aunts clamming up about this, when I ventured into the room looking for Mom. 
I was a darling of the family, with dark curly hair and big evergreen eyes. Later, when I grew up curvy and was tall enough to model, they doted on me. So my memories of growing up in such a family are decidedly warped.

They were warm and loving.  Very witty.  Loads of fun.  And massively protective.

In the screwball comedy THE GODDAUGHTER REVENGE, you will find a mob family that is funny and rather delightful.  Gina loves them, but hates the business.  She is always trying to put it behind her, and somehow gets sucked back in to bail them out.  I wanted to show that ambivalence.  You are supposed to love your family and support them.  But what if your family is this one?

How close is too close to home? I do cut pretty close in describing Hamilton.  The streets are real. The names of the neighbourhoods are real. I even describe the location of the restaurant where the mob (in my books) hangs out. I changed the name, of course, because the last thing I want is readers thinking this hot resto is really a mob hangout.
 And besides, it’s fun when fans email me to say, “When they all meet at La Paloma, did you really mean XXX?” Readers feel they’ve been part of an in-joke.

THE GODDAUGHTER series is meant to be laugh-out-loud funny.  But there is an adage that states: Comedy is tragedy barely averted.

No kidding.  I’ve been writing comedy all my adult life.

These are action packed, full laugh-loaded books. What makes that so amazing is that they are novellas. I've no clue how Melodie Campbell manage to stuff so much in so few pages. It's like magic. You get the full enjoyment of a novel in an hour's time. I have to think she's got something to hold over Time so it caters to her needs. 

Seriously, these novellas have so much fun stuffed in them, you will swear they are full length novels, and time is just screwing with your head. 

Living in New Jersey, I have come upon real mafia myself, but there is nothing like growing up in the family to truly grasp the complexity of their relationships. You'll get a great sense of what I'm talking about in these two books. 

Once a young mafia stud threatened to blow my head off, right there in the middle of a traffic jam while a hundred people looked on. 

So when Melodie has her characters do brainless things, I not only believe them, I'm pretty sure someone she knew did something similar to all the stupid-ass things that occur in the books. 

Both books are superbly written. However, since I loved the story plot of book two more than book one, I'll give it 5 stares, and the first book 4.5 stars, rounding it up to 5, and hope it won't cause conflict in the book family. Given book two has won several awards, book one may be resentful, and since it cannot kill it's family, it might come after me.... Well, let me say the same thing I did to the mafia tough who once threatened me: "Oh, for God's sakes, just do it! You're giving me a headache."

Hopefully, book one will stare at me in baffled silence for a moment, then slam his book cover on my pc and storm off rather awkwardly. (Books are clumsy when storming off.)

Liza, going for her strangest review yet...because Melodie provoked her sense of humor with her crazy stories.

These are both Novellas

The Toronto Sun called her Canada's "Queen of Comedy."  Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup.  She has won nine awards for fiction, including the 2014 Derringer and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge.


  1. Liza, this is, by far, the funniest review (and therefore the BEST) of any book I've written! I hope to hell you are posting this on Amazon and Goodreads. "Just do it! You're giving me a headache" had me snorting coffee out my nose. I will try really hard to keep book 1 from coming after you. Not sure if I can hold book 3 down though. And book 4 (out in March) seems to be pretty feisty. There's a graveyard scene at the end that could possibly be my zaniest.
    Many many thanks for this profile, and this review, Liza!

    1. The funniest? Are we supposed to be sober when dealing with the mafia? Well too late to worry about that now. Perhaps you can write a book on how to behave around the mafia. I'll contribute the first bit of advice. Do Not throw birds at young hot head mafia boys. Even if they are sitting on their horn behind you in a traffic jam.

  2. Oh my freaking wrote Worst Week Ever! Liza, our books were featured together on USA Today (I think it was that) a few years ago. It was our trailers - mine was for "Rowena Through the Wall", which became an Amazon Top 100 Bestseller. I bought your book then, read it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (I am restricted in reviewing as I am the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.) Can this world get any smaller?

    1. Only if the thug who threatened to blow my head off is one of your cousins.

    2. Not guilty :) Mine came direct from Palermo.

    3. You two are KILLING me!!! LOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. The books sound amazing! I love stories that have a grain or more of truth in them! All the best!!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Melissa! Yes, I can buy my mortadella wholesale, and in fact, more than one relative "died cleaning his rifle" (and old family expression meaning something entirely different.)

  4. Melodie is on my auto buy list because I LOVE her books! Her creative genius is to be admired and appreciated, no matter the book length. Well done review and excellent blog!!

    1. Thanks for the very kind words, Sheri! I'm delighted to connect with Liza - would you believe, I already have one of her books? Might have found a kindred spirit here. That is, if my books don't storm off as a result of her review.

  5. This entire conversation should have come with a warning. Such as, "Don't drink water while reading" or "If you have recently drunk water before reading, ensure there are facilities close by" or "Close your windows before reading so the neighbors don't hear you laughing out loud in front of a small screen all by yourself". These warnings should come on all of Melodie's books, too, and, by the sounds of this blog and review, on Liza's as well.

    1. *snort!* I learned the hard way to not drink liquids while reading both Melodie's and Liza's books!

  6. "Pee before you read this" - yup, need to have warnings placed strategically! I could have used that one when I read Liza's review this morning. (books storming off clumsily)

  7. I love the image of a book slamming its cover and storming off. My own close encounters of a mob kind were not nearly as scary as either of you ladies. It was my first friend wedding and my nerves did trigger some inappropriate humour on my part, but it was disconcerting seeing a good number of the men on the grooms side with bulges under their jackets. It really stood out on a hot dance floor when every other gent had peeled down to shirtsleeves.

    On the up side, the food was really great.

  8. Alison, the food is always great. Otherwise the bulges would be used.

  9. All I can say is, the next time I meet up with Melodie at a book event or conference, I'm not standing anywhere near her! I realize now what danger I was in when I sat with her and Dave before she received her Derringer at last year's Bouchercon. But, the food was good. On the plus side, I live in the city where mob bosses come to retire, so things are pretty lawful around here. Thanks, guys.

  10. Mob bosses retire? That can't be my family :) Thanks for commenting, Gloria!

  11. Love Melodie's books! Thanks for the hilarious review.


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