In the Company of Monsters
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In a tragic turnaround, bestselling true-crime writer Carlo (The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath, 2009, etc.) was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is forced to reckon with an entirely new—and inescapable—kind of killer.

A native of the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, notorious for its dangerous Mafioso underbelly, the author has never been a stranger to violence. An early memory details his friendship with a neighborhood teenager who once defended him from a playground bully; a few years later, the author witnessed his murder by the La Cosa Nostra mob family. Because of experiences like this, he writes that “there is no dark street I am afraid to walk down,” an attitude that surely paved the way for the dangerous and dark work he would later dedicate his life to, when “dark streets” would become a metaphor for the gruesome minds he probed as a writer. Serial killers are his specialty, and his crime writing holds nothing back. The same is true for this memoir, in which the narrative alternates between autobiographical vignettes that illuminate how the author became a writer and brutally honest introspection about his diagnosis and search for a cure. ALS is an unforgiving disease, resulting in complete atrophy of the body's muscles. As he composed this book, Carlo was confined to a wheelchair and lacked the use of even his hands. He makes it clear, however, that his strength of will supersedes the physical symptoms, and dictating to an assistant, he continues to write prolifically and refuses to alleviate his discomfort with painkillers. The book he wrote just after his diagnosis, The Ice Man, has now been optioned for a movie, and Mickey Rourke is attached to star. Small comfort, maybe, but it’s an inspiring testament to what the human mind can accomplish in the wake of devastating change.

A brave psychological exploration of a writer's craft and terminal illness.

Pub Date: Dec. 23rd, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59020-431-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Overlook
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2010


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