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

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

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

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

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

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:

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) 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:


Don’t forget! Email carmen(at) 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?


Pinterest image The Big Pivot

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


New York to Mexico and Back Again

New York to Mexico and Back Again


My hometown of Rome, New York, was a close-knit community where almost everyone was Italian, Irish, or Polish and a Roman Catholic. Five hours away from New York City and the Statue of Liberty by train, the city was surrounded by dairy farms, with milk delivered to the insulated box on our back porch every day. The backbone of the local economy was Revere Copper and Brass. The company turned out tea kettles and ship hulls, earning Rome its “Copper City” nickname.

Spargo Wire and Rome Cable made more things out of metal. Griffiss Air Force Base kept us all safe, with the occasional sonic boom to prove it. Going to Goldberg’s or Nelson’s department stores with my grandmother was an Event, as was church on Sunday and sleepovers with my cousin.

The Fourth of July meant picnics. Christmas meant shopping downtown with my sisters and lunch at the Candyland Restaurant. We all shoveled snow before school on wintry mornings.

Rome was Mayberry, just colder and more Catholic.

Copper City

The illuminated sign over the bridge proclaims that 90% of the copper used in manufacturing in the US comes from Rome.


Related: Announcing the new GALLIANO CLUB series


By the time I graduated high school, I was ready to explore the wider world.  I headed off to college in the big city of Syracuse, an hour away. I took the train and saw the Statue of Liberty. I spent my junior year in Paris.  Graduate school at the University of Virginia led to a job with the Central Intelligence Agency outside Washington, DC.

Through the years, every time I visited Rome the city had lost another round in the quality of life sweepstakes. New York state’s high taxes sucked up wages and jobs. The federal government shuttered the air base. Prolonged union strikes led to the closure of major manufacturers. A major facility for the disabled and mentally handicapped was turned into a prison. The commercial district was razed to build an exact replica of Fort Stanwix, but the expected influx of tourists never came.


An assignment in Mexico brought unexpected reminders of my childhood. Despite the stress of the drug war that no one seemed to be winning, I embraced life there. In this mostly Catholic country, where family comes first, I rediscovered familiar rhythms and values.

In Mexico, family bonds were formed and strengthened in the kitchen, from preparing meals together to eating together. Community was built around a Catholic church tending its flock, not just with Sunday Mass, but with numerous opportunities to gather.

Not everything was instantly available; money was tight for most Mexicans. Necessity led to creativity, just like when I was growing up.

My past and present sparked together to make new energy, like flint striking steel to build a fire. I began to write fiction.


Now with 10 books set in Mexico under my belt, I’m being tugged home. Not to present-day Rome, which is still struggling, but to the vibrant city where my grandparents built their family.

Bustling Rome, New York, of the early 20th century is the inspiration for fictional Lido, New York, in my forthcoming GALLIANO CLUB series. I’m writing through the lens of history but also through the eyes of my grandparents.

Dominick Street in Rome

Color postcard, circa 1919, showing a main street in Rome, NY. Few of those buildings exist today.


They got married in Rome, during the height of Prohibition. My grandfather played saxophone in the civic band. My grandmother’s nickname was Sheba, slang for a sexy girl.

My grandparents, circa 1928

Ann and Joe, circa 1928


None of the characters in the GALLIANO CLUB novels are directly based on either of my grandparents, but my memories of them make the books echo with authenticity.

Yet, if I’d never gone to Mexico, would I be writing fiction today?

If I’d never written books set in Mexico, would I have learned how to create a setting that pulls at a reader’s heartstrings?

I have come full circle, from New York to Mexico and back again.

All the way to Lido, New York, circa 1926.


From New York to Mexico

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


Carmen Amato at Spring Hill

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