I love prequels. They take a book you loved on a different, deeper level. And this is exactly what happens here. And the author has some very good point about novellas and their dignity.
Five Before Rome: Prequel to Roma Series Books 1-5 by Gabriel Valjan released in June in the International Crime Thriller genre.
These five novellas precede Roma, Underground, the first novel in the Roma Series. Meet the five men, who form the team around Bianca, and learn about their personal history, their respective parts of Italy, and why they each have a stake in the fight against organized crime.
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Meet the Author:
Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End where he enjoys the local restaurants. When he isn’t appeasing Munchkin, his cat, with tuna, he documents the #dogsofsouthendboston on Instagram. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. He was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery for Company Files: 2. The Naming Game in 2020. Gabriel has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest in 2018. Dirty Old Town, the first in the Shane Cleary series, was published in 2020 by Level Best Books. Gabriel attends crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. He is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.
Is the Novella the Literary Stepchild?
Beth Carswell at AbeBooks.com called the novella “the middle-child, the Jan Brady of the book world—too short to be novels, too long to be short stories.” In arguing for the dignity of the little novel, she cites the success of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’d add to her list with my favorites: Henry James’s Turn of the Screw and The Beast in the Jungle; Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle (Dream Story, in English, and the inspiration for the Kubrick film, Eyes Wide Shut), and Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo.
The short story has lost ground and by ground, I mean word count. Editors describe the sweet spot as somewhere between 3 to 5,000 words. Some editors order anthologies by strength of the story (subjective) and use word counts to determine pacing (objective). The anthology has become the gateway for readers to discover new authors. On the writer’s side, I’m told readers either like the expediency of the short story for bedtime reading or for the morning commute. The complaint against the short story is there’s not enough character development for emotional investment. If the author writes crime fiction, as I do, there’s not enough time to cook a plot and drop in the red herrings.
The novella would seem to offer a compromise. The novella is not as short as the anaerobic sprint, nor does it demand the endurance that both the novel and the marathon require. Every word still counts but they count in different ways. The short story writer can’t stop to smell the roses and describe every flower, whereas the novelist can and will. The problem is what will the reader remember. Lyrical and evocative exposition? Dialogue?
When I wrote the five novellas, Five Before Rome, I used exposition to describe parts of Italy I hope are unfamiliar, even for readers who have enjoyed Donna Leon, Andrea Camilleri, or Elena Ferrante. Leon’s Brunetti polices Venice in northwestern Italy, my Silvio has his story set in Trieste, in the northeast. There, you will be acquainted with taboo subjects in Italy: the country’s Fascist past and lone concentration camp, Risiera di San Sabba. Whereas Montalbano works in the fictional Sicilian town of Vigàta, I have readers visit the eerie Basilicata which is embedded between Calabria and Apulia. In Rome for the last story, I’ll lure you away from the tourist traps and introduce you to Testaccio.
I use dialog to reveal my characters’ values and personalities and, I hope, expose cultural concepts alien to Americans, such as dietrologia. As a writer, I work to create an experience and empathy. If you’ve read the Roma Series and come to these novellas, you will have a deeper appreciation as to why these five men fight organized crime. If you travel from the novellas to the novels, you will understand their patience with Bianca who, while intelligent, is a stranger and their guest.
This tour is part of a series. Here is the tour schedule.
- $20 Amazon Gift Card courtesy of Gabriel Valjan