For the first time, my very small publishing effort called Bliss Plot Press is the publisher of a triple threat for one title: ebook, audiobook, and paperback editions of the novella Saraceno by Djelloul Marbrook. The vicissitudes of everyday life dictate that part-time publishing is for me a slow-motion process: ebook in 2010, audiobook in 2011, and now the paperback. But it’s a fine-looking little volume, if I do say so myself. I designed both the cover and the interior but I need to give much credit to Marilyn Marbrook for not letting my frequently lapsing attention neglect the highest standards, especially in typesetting and page format. Here is the full cover, and the title page is below.
Of course, honesty does not absolve one of murder. Absolution is not a concern here, but redemption is. I am not typically drawn to stories of crime and criminals, especially the violent sort, preferring to explore worlds (inner and outer) that are closer to my own. In Saraceno, most of the crime and violence take place “off screen,” leaving the pages open for investigation of the finer yearnings of the heart; of the universal benefits of human connection.
Billy Salviati (given the dark power-name “Il Saraceno” by the godfather) grows in this story, from a damaged young man leaving prison, through a murderous career as a favored soldier in the don’s army, to a higher state of awareness and spiritual freedom. His redemption is the result of two influences intermixed, each of which alone is never enough. They are: his own internal flame that flickers around a calm, watchful center; and the generous, perhaps undeserved, love of other people whose paths he intersects.
His best friend, the godfather’s grandson, on a parallel path toward his own true nature, arrives first and stays. Later we meet a lady bartender whom Billy lets into his life. But central to the book and to Billy’s transformation is Hettie Warshaw, an elderly Auschwitz survivor who opens to Billy an entirely new world. Her Hell’s Kitchen apartment is a fabulous museum stuffed with artifacts, books, maps, the wisdom and beauty of the ages, and on the roof is a rose garden. The place becomes Billy’s refuge, and it changes him.
Today, my context for the story is provided by a YouTube video I found to be dramatically paradigm-changing. It features Dr. Bruce Lipton, former medical school professor and research scientist giving a lecture called The New Biology: Where Mind and Matter Meet. I’m focusing on Part 2 (95 minutes). At the risk of drastically oversimplifying Lipton’s far-ranging message, here’s the relevant bit. At a cellular level, we live in a constant vacillation: Growth vs Protection. That binary fact is expressed at the emotional or consciousness level as Love vs Fear. In an environment where the default choice is the opposite, Billy chose Growth and Love, and that made all the difference.
And a final note: Saraceno is not like other Mafia novels for two reasons. Marbrook, an award winning poet, writes with an unusually powerful command of language that lifts both content and reader. And also because visible on every page is the author’s open-hearted affection for his characters, these humans with serious blemishes who are worthy of love simply because they share this world with us. That’s the quality of fiction I want to read, and to publish.
For more information about Saraceno and Djelloul Marbrook, read my blog entry from a few months ago. But even better, get the author’s fascinating backstory from this great press release: Mafia? What Mafia?.
Purchasing information is at Bliss Plot Press.