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How Mafia children become stone-cold killers

Dagmar Breitenbach
March 9, 2018

His revealing insights into the Italian Camorra organized crime syndicate brought him global fame — and death threats. Now, bestselling author Roberto Saviano presents a novel on the Mafia's ruthless next generation.

Author Roberto Saviano
Image: picture-alliance/R. Giordano

Roberto Saviano, Italian journalist and bestselling author under constant police protection, is sure to draw crowds on Friday when he presents his brand new book, "La paranza dei bambini" (The children's clan), at the 18th edition of the renowned Cologne-based LitCologne literature festival on Friday.

Following the release of the German version of his novel, the author is currently on a book tour.  

"They're 15 and want it all — money, power, women. Ten boys race through the alleys of Naples on their motor scooters to conquer new turfs. [...] Their law: eat or be eaten," the festival organizers describe the novel on the LitCologne website.

Book cover - Der Clan der Kinder von Roberto Saviano
No date has been announced for an English version of the book Image: Hanser Literaturverlag

Roberto Saviano's new novel depicts "compellingly, brutally and unflinchingly the mechanisms that pave the way from small-time dealer to stone-cold killer. A book about youth without God in a city that has become only more infernal since Gomorrah was published."

The 38-year-old Sicilian journalist and writer rose to fame worldwide with his groundbreaking 2006 non-fiction bestseller "Gomorrah," an investigative report about organized crime and more particularly the powerful, violent Camorra organized crime syndicate that deal in drugs, construction and toxic waste in the area surrounding Naples.

Read more: Italian, German police seize millions, bust Sicilian mafia ring

True crime story

Translated into many languages, "Gomorrah" has sold millions of copies worldwide, won literary prizes, appeared on bestsellers' lists in many countries, been turned into a play, a film and a TV series by the same name.

The downside of fame came on the heels of the book. Having received numerous death threats, the writer has been under strict police protection for years — the price he still pays for exposing the crime network.

It's hard to describe how hard his life is, Saviano recently told the IFEX global human rights network of organizations defending the right to freedom of expression. "I exist inside four walls, and the only alternative is making public appearances. I'm either at the Nobel academy having a debate on freedom of the press, or I'm inside a windowless room at a police barracks."

Read more: Mafia gangster arrested in Italy for attack on journalist

Undeterred presence

It hasn't stopped him from speaking out on all matters concerning Italian organized crime, however — also on the death of a Slovak investigative reporter.

Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were found dead in their home last month. Kuciak had been investigating corrupt practices  among politicians, including presumed links to the Italian Mafia.