I think of you

I think of you

This week, the Rome Arts Hall of Fame from my hometown sent out their annual call for nominations to previous inductees, including me (Hall of Fame Class of 2019.)

The letter came from Maria Rich, who scribbled a note in the margin of the letter: “I think of you every time I drive down East Dominick.”

Handwritten note from Maria Rich

She didn’t need to say more for us to share a moment across the miles. (Also it feels amazing when a reader really gets it.) East Dominick Street in Rome, NY, was the inspiration for Hamilton Street in the Galliano Club thrillers (affiliate link).

I was thrilled to think that the imaginary world of the historical fiction Galliano Club thriller books is alive on the real street.

street sign Rome NY

For those who have never traveled to Upstate New York, the area was a bastion of Italian immigration in the early part of the 20th century. Italian immigrants like my grandfather who was also a deputy sheriff of Oneida County, sweated in the mills and factories that built so much of America’s industrial infrastructure. For decades, 10% of all copper used in American manufacturing came from Rome, much of it processed in the Revere Copper and Brass Rolling Mill on Dominick St.

Related: From New York to Mexico and back again

Copper City sign

100 years later, Italian names still prevail. Don’t get me started about the fantastic Italian food to be found upstate

The InWoodOut blog has done an ACTUAL TOUR through upstate New York via the Galliano Club books! I’ve never read anything like it.

Enjoy the tour here: https://frominwoodout.com/travel-guide-galliano-club-thrillers-rome-new-york/

The Galliano Club’s signature Italian Sandwiches

The Galliano Club’s signature Italian Sandwiches

Readers of the Galliano Club historical fiction series have fallen in love with the Italian sandwiches made by bartender Luca Lombardo.

And why shouldn’t they? His sandwiches are heaped full of tasty Italian meats and cheeses and topped with an array of mouth-watering condiments like pesto, roasted peppers and more.

You can make Luca’s creations at home, too, with the directions below!

Make a sandwich, grab an adult beverage and start the series with the award-winning MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB!

Murder book on a mug

The Napoli

Layer prosciutto, capicola ham, and provolone on focaccia bread split lengthwise. Add marinated artichoke hearts, thinly shaved fresh garlic, and roasted red peppers.

The Genoa

Spread a generous dollop of pesto on crusty rolls. Layer on Genoa salami and provolone cheese. Top with roasted red peppers and oil-cured pitted black olives.

The Roma

Layer sliced turkey, mozzarella and arugula on crusty bread. Top with sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper.

The Palermo

Layer soppressata salami and thick slices of beefsteak tomato on crusty bread. Top with mozzarella cheese and onions pickled in red wine vinegar. Drizzle with olive oil.

The Verona

Spread a generous layer of fig jam on crusty bread. Top with slices of asiago cheese, razor-thin slices of prosciutto ham and arugula lettuce, drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

The Milano

Slice leftover meatballs; layer with pepperoni and asiago cheese on crusty bread. Top with arugula lettuce. Drizzle with oil and vinegar.

If you’d like a free PDF download of these instructions, plus more sandwich ideas, click here.

Sandwich Photo by amirali mirhashemian on Unsplash.

Galliano Club coversFind all the Galliano Club books on Amazon.

Winning an Award, Losing My Mother

Winning an Award, Losing My Mother

Murder at the Galliano Club, the first novel in the Galliano Club historical fiction thriller series won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Historical at the 2023 Killer Nashville International Writer’s Conference.

I’m still shell-shocked.

Mystery author Carmen Amato with award

Wearing my Silver Falchion medal at the Killer Nashville awards dinner.


The Galliano Club series wasn’t supposed to be a major project. Just something to keep my mother Jean entertained as we endured lockdowns in 2019 and 2020.


4 Galliano Club covers

My mother had just moved into a lovely, assisted living facility in upstate New York about 90 minutes from my three siblings. Suddenly she was confined to her apartment, no longer enjoying three-course meals in the beautiful dining room with chandeliers and cloth napkins. Gone were the group activities. No more outdoor walks, movie nights, duplicate bridge, or spirited political discussions in the library.

An extrovert, my mother has always had a morbid fear of being alone. Far too many times after my stepfather passed, she ended up in the emergency room in the throes of a panic attack. The decision to move out of her own home and to the assisted living facility was driven in good measure by that fear.

For a time, it was a good decision.


As New York state locked itself into panic mode, she spent hours by herself, agitated and crying. Days went by when she saw no one besides a harried staffer in a mask delivering a box of food.

As my mother’s world shrank, so did her cognitive abilities. She forgot how to operate the television remote control, often confusing it with her cell phone. She re-read the same book over and over. She mixed up her medication.

“There’s something wrong with my brain,” she’d cry angrily.

When my siblings visited, they stood below her window for a shouted conversation. But I live in Tennessee, hardly within shouting distance. The miles between us stretched into an unknown infinity of time.

Pandemic project

During the pandemic, I couldn’t face writing another book in the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series full of cartels and corruption. I needed something easier. More hopeful and comforting.

Family and hometown provided the answer.

I’d write historical fiction inspired by my hometown of Rome in upstate New York and the stories my grandfather told of the days when he was a deputy sheriff of Oneida County during Prohibition. To give my mother something to think about besides her lonesomeness, she could give me authentic details.

killer nashville,galliano club,pandemic project

My mother Jean, circa 1965, when she was working for RCA at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome NY.


And so every evening as she sat alone in her apartment, we had long telephone calls about her childhood. The Italian community in East Rome revolved around Saint John’s Catholic Church, the convent, and festivals. Men worked at the Revere Copper and Brass Rolling Mill, Rome Cable, and other large manufacturers. There was a handball court behind the house when she was growing up.

Her grandfather moonlighted as the bartender at the Liberty Club, his faithful black dog at his feet. Rival to the real Galliano Club across the street which had a dance studio above it, the men-only social club was an impressive sight at parades when members formed a phalanx of tricolor sashes and banners.

I asked her what the men did at the club every evening. “Drink,” she said with a sniff of derision. “And play cards.”

Making Lido

As weeks turned into months and the evening ritual went on, my mother provided the details that would build the fictional city of Lido in the Galliano Club books. Details such as Nelson’s department store where ladies’ silk stockings were sold in flat boxes. The cleanliness of Red’s Meat Market. Madonia’s fruit stand smelling like citrus and bananas. Civic band concerts. Bocce tournaments. Pastries, habits, shops, friends.

“You should put this in,” she’d say, then proceed to tell me about her grandfather butchering a pig and making blood sausage.

Eventually the pandemic lockdowns lifted but the damage was done. My mother, now 94, suffers from dementia that has robbed her of the ability to do everyday things like read, turn on her television, or remember to brush her teeth. She lives in the memory care wing of a different assisted living facility. Given that she no longer answers her telephone or will call me, we rarely speak.

Carmen's wedding day with her mother

My mother Jean and I on my wedding day in 1989. Poofy sleeves were in. Don’t judge. Also my bouquet looks like it is trying to eat her.


She doesn’t know that all 4 of the Galliano Club books have been published, each a gripping thriller novel in its own right. She doesn’t know that publishing distributor Ingram liked the cover of Revenge at the Galliano Club so much that the book topped a display in the company’s lobby. She doesn’t know that author, poet and educator Michael Hogan compared the writing to that of E.L. Doctorow.

She doesn’t know that Murder at the Galliano Club won a prestigious literary award.

Yet the award belongs as much to her as it does to me.


Murder at the Galliano Club

Find Murder at the Galliano Club on Amazon or your favorite online bookstore.



While chatting with fellow author Shelley Blanton-Stroud (grab her free book, COPY BOY) for an upcoming episode of Mystery Crew Reviews, she asked if my villainous great-grandfather was the impetus for my love of mystery.

“No,” I replied, because I was well into my second career as an author by the time the family found out about his crime. (FYI-in 1912, my great-grandfather shot and killed his wife and another man, evaded a police manhunt, and was never seen again.)

Related: The Amato Family Murder Mystery

Instead, perhaps the award for encouraging my love of mystery goes to the murderer’s son-in-law, my maternal grandfather, Joseph Sestito. Apart from his stories about being a deputy sheriff during Prohibition, which inspired the Galliano Club historical fiction thriller series, he once put me in jail.

For many years he was City Marshal of Rome, NY, meaning that he delivered summonses to appear in court, claims notices, and liens on wages and property, all of which he recorded in ledgers I now have.

Vintage city marshal ledgers

My grandfather’s ledgers, kept while City Marshal of Rome, NY.


Vintage ledger page

Every transaction was recorded, along with the fee he earned. The heading reads “Summons” which meant a summons to appear in city court.


My grandparents circa 1960

My grandparents Ann and Joe, about the time he was City Marshal of Rome, NY.

I was 4 or 5 when he brought me to Rome’s brand-new police station, parked me in a cell, and locked me in. He and his cop buddies had a chuckle at the curly-haired tyke behind bars before turning to business.

I recall investigating the spartan cell and getting bored. But I also recall the positive impression made by my grandfather and his law enforcement colleagues. Badges. Camaraderie. A sense of purpose. Problem-solving.

Well, they’d certainly solved the problem of babysitting.

P.S. All of the Galliano Club books are now available! A heartfelt thank you to reviewers like fellow mystery author Suzanne Baginski who wrote, “Brilliantly crafted, I highly recommend this gritty historical thriller. From the first page to the last, Murder at the Galliano Club is one terrific read.”

4 Galliano Club covers

Click to order on Amazon

Press release: 4-book Galliano Club historical fiction series now available

Press release: 4-book Galliano Club historical fiction series now available

Press release: Four-book Galliano Club series by Carmen Amato is a must-read for fans of The Godfather, The Untouchables and Boardwalk Empire.

The press release just went out!

It’s a combination new release announcement and series wrap-up.

All 4 books in the Galliano Club historical fiction series are available as Kindle ebook and paperback editions. Large-print editions will be released later this year.

Get a ringside seat for the epic battle over a bootleg beer racket between a Chicago mobster and an Italian immigrant in 1926.

Chased out of Chicago by Al Capone, hitman Benny Rotolo flees to Lido, NY on the banks of the Mohawk River to build his own bootlegging empire. He plans to seize the Galliano Club, a neighborhood hangout for Italian mill workers, and remake it into a speakeasy to rival Capone’s fabled Four Deuces.

Luca Lombardo, manager of the club, won’t let it go without a fight. After passing through Ellis Island, he lost wife, child, and dreams of a better life. The Galliano Club and its close-knit community is all he has left.

Read the entire press release here: https://www.prlog.org/12961665-upstate-new-york-history-comes-alive-in-new-prohibition-era-thriller-series.html

Retail discount

Bookstores and other booksellers receive a 55% discount on paperback editions:


ISBN: 978-1-7353079-2-3

Release date: 8 March 2022

Price: $9.99

Pages: 195



ISBN: 978-1-7353079-4-7

Release date: 20 October 2022

Price: $15.99

Pages: 352



ISBN: 978-1-7353079-6-1

Release date: 16 February 2023

Price: $15.99

Pages: 352



ISBN: 978-1-7353079-8-5

Release date: 30 March 2023

Price: $15.99

Pages: 368




New release!

Today is release day for BLACKMAIL AT THE GALLIANO CLUB, the second book in the Prohibition-era historical thriller series.

Grab a seat at the bar. Big things are happening.

Blackmail at the Galliano Club

Beer and Blackmail

Lido, New York. The year is 1926, Prohibition is in full swing.

Still smarting from the way he was run out of Chicago by Al Capone, bootlegger Benny Rotolo has a fresh scheme to seize the Galliano Club and turn the humble neighborhood club into the finest speakeasy north of Manhattan.


He’ll use the same tactics as the infamous La Mano Nera terror group that preys on successful Italian immigrants. Anonymous letters. Bullets. Fire.

Pay or die.

Related: Researching Prohibition

Unaware of Benny’s plan, Galliano Club bartender Luca Lombardo is in the spotlight after surviving an attempted murder. What will happen when Luca’s darkest secrets are for sale?

Warning: Blackmail is contagious. Dancer Ruth Cross lives above the Galliano Club. A dirty cop knows her scandalous past and demands a high price for silence. If Luca can’t save her, who can?

When blackmail threatens everyone, murder isn’t far behind.

Are you a fan of The Godfather, The Untouchables, and Boardwalk Empire? The Galliano Club series is for you.

The 1920s come alive at the Galliano Club with an unforgettable cast of bootleggers, gangsters, and a flawed hero determined to break old rules and seize a new future.

Lido, New York isn’t a real place

As many of you know, the fictional city of Lido is based on my hometown of Rome, New York. Many of you have asked exactly where Lido might be, so here’s a useful map pointing to Lido’s fictional location, plus helpful silhouettes of the USA and New York to get your bearings.

Related: New York to Mexico and back again

Map of New York state


Along with Rome, other cities in upstate New York have names from Italy. Verona, Utica, Syracuse, etc. As you might guess, this part of upstate New York has a large Italian community.

Many, like my great-grandparents, came from Calabria in southern Italy.

That’s the part circled in red on the map. Basically Calabria is the toe perpetually kicking Sicily into the Mediterranean.

Map of Italy with Calabria indicated

(OK, I tried to make it a heart. Don’t judge.)


While researching the Italian immigrant experience, I unearthed a double murder on the night of my grandparents’ wedding reception that took the lives of two of their guests, and “met” a great-grandfather who killed two people in 1912 in Hartford, Connecticut and escaped a manhunt, never to be seen again.

More on those crimes in a future post 🙂

Celebrating Italian-ness

I also discovered an exciting movement dedicated to preserving and celebrating Italian heritage. It’s not just all about food!

Here are 3 organizations that do it with style:

Italian Enclaves: The first ever pictorial catalogue of every Italian neighborhood and Italian national parish in the US. Rome is listed, of course. There is even a photo of the original Galliano Club.

America Domani: Polished blog with long-form posts on contemporary Italian-American events, places, and cultural ephemera.

Italian-American Podcast: A weekly dose of Italian-American heritage, history and humor.


Wings and roots

In unsettled times, connecting to family, heritage and fast-disappearing traditions feels more important than ever.

Whatever your background, I hope you find connections and community that give you both wings and roots.

Or build them yourself. As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come.

Happy Reading!

I hope you love the Galliano Club books as much as I have enjoying writing them while discovering my roots and learning about the Italian immigration experience.

Get the backstory behind the series here.

Find ebooks on Amazon and paperback editions everywhere.




REVENGE AT THE GALLIANO CLUB coming 30 March 2023. Preorder here.

new release,historical fiction thriller,Galliano Club historical fiction series

Best Prohibition-era Reading

Best Prohibition-era Reading

A tall frosty glass of Prohibition, ballplayers and mobsters? I drank up a dozen books while researching 1926 for the Galliano Club thriller series. Now that MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB has hit your favorite bookstore, I highly recommend the following:

Scarface and the Untouchable

SCARFACE AND THE UNTOCHABLE by Max Allen Collins and A. Brad Schwartz

Far and away the best accounting of the infamous rivalry. The book “draws upon decades of primary source research—including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves. Collins and Schwartz have recaptured a bygone bullet-ridden era while uncovering the previously unrevealed truth behind Scarface’s downfall. Together they have crafted the definitive work on Capone, Ness, and the battle for Chicago.”

Find on Amazon https://geni.us/colsc

Luckiest Man biography of Lou Gehrig

LUCKIEST MAN: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

A beautifully written and fulsome account of baseball legend Lou Gehrig, from his German roots and domineering mother to his rocky friendship with Babe Ruth to his sad demise of a baffling and uncurable disease that now bears his name. Did you know that he auditioned in Hollywood to play Tarzan? Or that his last words were “All my pals”?

Find on Amazon https://geni.us/elou

One Summer by Bill Bryson

ONE SUMMER: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

Written in Bryson’s wry style, the book recounts everything of note that happened in the summer following Charles Lindbergh’s historical flight across the Atlantic. From the adoring crowds that nearly crushed the shy aviator to pole sitters, murder trials, a baseball tour featuring Ruth and Gehrig, and floods along the Mississippi, a patchwork of events is given wonderful context.

Find on Amazon https://geni.us/1br

Last Call by Daniel Okrent

LAST CALL by Daniel Okrent

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of Prohibition during 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict alcohol. From the legal challenges to rumrunners, each chapter is full of insights and observations as to how Prohibition impacted the national character.

Find on Amazon https://geni.us/last2022

The Black Hand by Stephen Talty

THE BLACK HAND by Stephan Talty

One of the first books I read in preparation for the Galliano Club, it’s the fantastically well-researched and gripping account of the Italian murder and extortion ring that terrorized Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the determined New York City cop, Joseph Petrosino, who fought them. Petrosino is still a legend in both Italian and law enforcement circles.

Find on Amazon https://geni.us/hand2022

1926 in Fiction

The first book in the Galliano Club thriller series, MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB begins in August 1926. Hollywood hearthrob Rudolph Valentino died that month, only 31 years old but mourned by millions. New York governor Al Smith ran for re-election on a “wet” ticket opposing the enforcement of Prohibition in the state. Chicago bootleggers Al Capone and Hymie Weiss were locked in a battle for gang supremacy.

In MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB, Chicago bootlegger Benny Rotolo locks horns with bartender Luca Lombardo. They both want the club, where beer is king and trouble is always on tap.

Just ask the dead man in the alley behind the club. Find it on Amazon: https://geni.us/mur2022

Murder at the Galliano Club



New release

MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB is now available in Kindle and paperback editions. The first novel in the Galliano Club thriller series debuted in the Number 2 spot on Amazon’s Italian Literature category. Thank you to so many early readers!

Join bootlegger Benny Rotolo and bartender Luca Lombardo as they battle for control of the Galliano Club, a hangout for Italian men in upstate New York in 1926. Beer is king and trouble is always on tap.

Are you a fan of The Godfather, Road to Perdition, The Untouchables, or Boardwalk Empire? If you love historical fiction featuring Prohibition-era stories of Chicago gangsters, Italian mobsters, and bold bootleggers, you’ll love MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB, as well as ROAD TO THE GALLIANO CLUB, the prequel.

Why historical thrillers?

Many readers have asked why this pivot to historical thrillers after writing mysteries set in contemporary Mexico. The short answer is “pandemic.”

After writing so many books set in Mexico, including the award-winning Detective Emilia Cruz police series, the Galliano Club historical thriller series was a real switch for me. But in the midst of the pandemic, writing about cartels and corruption was emotionally tough.

Related post: From New York to Mexico and back again

Turning to family stories–my grandfather was a deputy sheriff during Prohibition–was both a challenge and a labor of love. My hometown of Rome, NY became Lido, NY. I incorporated many of my mother’s fading memories of growing up there. So much love went into this series, which you can read about here.

Seems I traded drug cartels and official corruption for bootleggers, blackmailers, and crooks. Go figure.

Hello, 1926

Get ready for an exciting trip to 1926!

Prohibition was at its height, with beer cooked up in illegal breweries, speedboats hauling liquor from the Bahamas to the East Coast, and Prohibition Bureau agents playing both sides of the law. Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett claimed to fly over the North Pole but Charles Lindbergh wouldn’t cross the Atlantic until the next year. The Yankees lost the World Series when Babe Ruth was tagged out trying to steal a base. And that’s just for starters.

The Galliano Club thriller series has it all. Expect authentic details, unforgettable characters, layers of deception, and relationships with heat.

Murder at the Galliano Club

Get it on Amazon

Release Dates for the Galliano Club series

Release Dates for the Galliano Club series

Release dates!

All three full-length novels in the Prohibition-era Galliano Club series are scheduled for release:



Blackmail at the Galliano Club



Revenge at the Galliano Club



The gift of historical fiction

When I started in the midst of the pandemic, I didn’t realize where the Galliano Club would lead. Now I’ve met some wonderful historical fiction authors, reignited my love of research,  reconnected to my Italian roots, and learned about my hometown which served as the inspiration for Lido, New York.

Related: Behind the Galliano Club

All because my grandfather told stories from when he was a deputy sheriff during Prohibition . . . and yes, I’ve written him into the series.

The Galliano Club is my first foray into historical fiction but it won’t be the last.

This project has truly been a gift.

While you wait

Road to the Galliano Club cover

The prequel, ROAD TO THE GALLIANO CLUB is out now! Read the backstories of the unforgettable characters of the Galliano Club thrillers: bartender Luca Lombardo, dancer Ruth Cross and bootlegger Benny Rotolo.

From the mean streets of 1920’s Chicago, to a coal town in Pennsylvania, all the way to the a village in southern Italy, three roads converge at the Galliano Club, where trouble is always on tap.

Grab it on Amazon here.


Collaboration Opportunity for Food Bloggers

Collaboration Opportunity for Food Bloggers

Are you a food blogger? Love to cook Italian? Are you looking for a fresh, fun collaboration opportunity?

The Galliano Club series of historical thriller books will be released this coming Fall 2022.

The hunt is on for Italian-loving food bloggers and Instagram accounts to help promote the book series and grow their own audience at the same time.


About the Galliano Club books

The Galliano Club thriller series consists of a prequel and three full-length novels that tell a Prohibition-era saga of murder, blackmail and revenge. The year is 1926. The place is Lido, New York, a blue-collar kind of place inspired by my upstate hometown of Rome, New York.

The Galliano Club is a social hub for Italian mill workers in Lido. Club members drop in for bootleg beer or one of bartender Luca Lombardo’s famous sandwiches.

But trouble is always on tap at the Galliano Club . . .

The prequel, ROAD TO THE GALLIANO CLUB is out now.

food bloggers,collaboration opportunity,Italian food,Galliano Club thrillers

More about the series here: Inside the Galliano Club thrillers


Collaboration opportunity

As part of the launch activities for the books during October-December 2022, author Carmen Amato (me) will be collaborating with food bloggers to create tie-ins that highlight the books’ Italian roots.

Collaborations are planned around Italian food, kitchen merch, and Prohibition cocktails.

Collaborations will be highlighted in press releases, interviews, etc.


What’s planned

1. Instagram contests to grow both our account followers. (“follow these accounts and tag a friend, etc) Prize bundles to include Galliano Club books, Italian cookbooks, kitchen merch from your store if available, Williams Sonoma cocktail kits, etc.

2. The free companion Galliano Club Signature Sandwich Cookbook featuring favorite recipes for Italian-style sandwiches from popular food bloggers and authors. There are 4 slots left. If selected, your recipe will be included with attribution and links to your blog/website. You get press release language/blog post draft and PDF copy to showcase on your website. Perfect as a lead magnet to grow your email list.

3. Signed copies of the Galliano Club books to sell in your online shops (US only).


How to participate

Want to take advantage of this collaboration opportunity? Email carmen(at)carmenamato.net with the subject line “Collaboration with Italian food blogger.”

Here’s what to include:

Your name, website, Instagram, and email

Tell me a little about yourself and why you love Italian food.

Plus, answer these questions:

1. Do you have a mouth-watering recipe for an Italian sandwich to be included in the Galliano Club Signature Sandwich Cookbook?

2. Do you have items from your shop that you are willing to provide for an Instagram contest? Think about easily shipped items like apron, potholder, napkin set, salt and pepper shakers, etc.(You’ll ship to me. I’ll add to prize bundle shipped to winners. All bundle contributors listed.)

3. Are you interested in up to 5 free signed copies of Galliano Club books to sell in your store? (US addresses only)

4. Who else would be interested in this opportunity? Please provide their email or Instagram.

That’s it! Fire off that email! Let’s collaborate!


About me

In case you were wondering, yes, I’m Italian.

I’m also the author of the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco, the Galliano Club historical thrillers, and standalone novels of suspense.

A 30-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency, personal experiences are occasionally disguised as fiction.

With complex plots, fast action, and an exotic location, the Detective Emilia Cruz series includes CLIFF DIVER, HAT DANCE, DIABLO NIGHTS, KING PESO, PACIFIC REAPER, RUSSIAN MOJITO, NARCO NOIR and numerous short reads. All the novels contain Mexican food recipes, too.

The series is a 2-time recipient of the Outstanding Series Award from CrimeMasters of America, and won the Silver Falchion from Killer Nashville in 2019. It has been optioned for television.

A recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal, I’ve been a judge for the BookLife Prize and Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award. Nonfiction has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Criminal Element, The Rap Sheet, Mamiverse, and other national-level publications.

My previous collaborations led to two chart-topping books: THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICO and THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICAN HOLIDAYS.

I guide readers through must-read mystery and deception every other Sunday in the Mystery Ahead newsletter. Get it here: https://carmenamato.net/mystery-ahead/


Don’t forget! Email carmen(at)carmenamato.net with the subject line “Collaboration with Italian food blogger.”

The Big Pivot of 2021

The Big Pivot of 2021

The Big Pivot

Do you remember the sofa moving scene in Friends? They guys are doing their best, but it’s too big to get up the stairs. Ross keeps yelling “Pivot, pivot” to no avail.

That’s 2020. In 2021 we’ll turn the corner.

My personal pivot

In 2020 I felt the need to write about something more uplifting than Mexican drug cartels.  (hmmm, wonder why?)  So after releasing NARCO NOIR (Book 8) and the box set of Books 1-6, I put the Detective Emilia Cruz series on pause and pivoted into the past.

(Don’t worry, there is more to come for Emilia.)

The GALLIANO CLUB historical thriller series is a BIG pivot. I’m going from contemporary crime on the mean streets of Acapulco (cell phones, video forensics, drug smuggling plazas) to a Prohibition era thriller trilogy (Tommy guns, Model T Fords, illegal breweries).

Related: The Galliano Series webpage

Playing the pivot

Not only have time and place changed, but style as well. In the Detective Emilia Cruz series, the reader is inside Emilia’s head the entire book. In the Galliano Club historical thriller series, there are multiple points of view, each with their own cadence and style. I’m reveling in the creative challenge.

Related: Mini Masterclass: how to write a mystery series

Galliano Club 3 book series

The 3 books in the Galliano series are meant to be read in order. Each book’s central plot unspools against the backdrop of a series-spanning story arc:


Luca Lombardo is the jack-of-all-trades at the Galliano Club, a hangout for Italian mill workers. The club is both home and family for Luca and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it afloat, including staying silent about a murder.

From her apartment over the club, Ruth Cross witnessed the crime, but a scandalous past keeps her quiet.

Could hitman Benny Rotolo be involved? Run out of Chicago by Al Capone, Benny fled to Lido determined to establish his own bootlegging empire. Turning the Galliano Club into a speakeasy is Step 1.

The longer the murder at the Galliano Club goes unsolved, the bigger the trap of lies.

Who will get out alive?​



The heat is on in Lido, New York, when blackmail letters land on the Galliano Club’s doorstep. The message is simple: Pay or die.

Explosions follow. Will the club burn before Luca Lombardo, the club’s jack-of-all-trades, figures out who is behind the threats?

Warning: Blackmail is contagious. Police officer Sean O’Malley uses Ruth Cross’s past against her to get what he wants. Chicago hitman Benny Rotolo dabbles in the extortion racket, too.

As blackmail terrifies everyone connected to the Galliano Club, murder may be the only way out.



The body of a strangled woman is fished out of the Mohawk River near Lido, New York. With the help of Galliano Club members, she is identified as a waitress from Chicago.

Hanna Gorski travels to Lido, determined to find her sister’s killer. She’ll bring him to justice any way she can.

Luca Lombardo would help, but he’s in jail facing kidnapping charges. This is good news for Chicago hitman Benny Rotolo, who figures he can finally steal the Galliano Club and expand his bootlegging empire.

But Benny didn’t bargain on Hanna Gorski.

Neither did anybody else.


Leap of faith

When I started my writing career, I was worried about being pigeon-holed as a person who only writes books set in Mexico. It would have been easy to hang my hat on that, with a website decorated like a piñata, etc, etc. Instead I kept the focus on being a mystery and thriller author writ large.

But branching out into US historical fiction feels like a huge leap. Will my readers follow?

I hope so. The Galliano Club historical thriller series is packed with great new characters, dramatic events, and atmosphere from my home town.

Related post: From New York to Mexico and back again

This isn’t a Manhattan speakeasy tale with flappers and bathtub gin. This is illegal beer and blue-collar toughs.

Will you meet me at the Galliano Club?


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Galliano Club,historical thriller series


Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


The Face that Launched 1000 Words

The Face that Launched 1000 Words

Some authors look for visual cues to help create setting and characters. Most call it research.

I call it antiques hunting.


To build the Galliano Club series, I have my grandfather’s account books from when he was City Marshall, as well as a wealth of family stories.

But when I saw this photo hanging on a pegboard in an antiques mall, I knew it was the face of my protagonist. Gianluca “Luca” Lombardo is bartender and jack-of-all-trades at the fictional Galliano Club in fictional Lido, NY.

Vintage portrait

The man in the sepia photograph is 19 or 20 years old, younger than Luca, who is 27 at the start of the first Galliano Club thriller, MURDER AT THE GALLIANO CLUB. He is wearing a suit that is far too big. The jacket is puddled around his waist and the trouser legs spread like a tablecloth.

He’s posed on a leather chair that fairly gleams. His gaze is direct and clear, which is what caught my eye.

The oval frame is beautiful burled wood and in near pristine condition. The glass over the photograph is domed, an expensive feature rarely seen any more. (which accounts for the glare in the photo here.)

Someone in the 1920’s invested heavily in this portrait of a handsome man.


It seemed crazy to buy a photograph of someone I didn’t know. But to make a long story short, I lugged Luca home and hung him on my office wall. To further immerse myself in 1926, I also brought home a giant red cigar box, which at least is a useful organizing item.

The youthfulness of the man in the photograph led to a great backstory element that has already made its way into the first book in the series:

Luca came to the United States as a 19-year-old immigrant from Italy in 1919. Like many others who came from Italy at the time, he lived in a New York City tenement on Elizabeth Street. With little English and no professional skills, he took any job he could find, including bare knuckled prizefighting.

In between bouts, a photographer offered Luca $20 to have his picture taken to display in the studio window. The photographer was hoping a handsome face would entice female customers. Luca agreed and wore clothes provided by the photographer for the picture-taking event.

With the money in his pocket, Luca never gave the portrait another thought.

See more about the forthcoming GALLIANO CLUB series here.


This is a different process than I followed with the Detective Emilia Cruz series. My mind’s eye saw Emilia very clearly but there was no actual face to go with that image until around Book 5, PACIFIC REAPER, when I stumbled upon this image of a Latina boxer.

the face

She’s the spitting image of Emilia. Don’t you agree?

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the face


Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


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