A nonagenarian inventor and operative recounts a dramatic life.
In this debut memoir, co-written with Prodger (Luftwaffe vs. RAF, 1998, etc.), Cellini leads readers through the globe-spanning series of adventures that made up his life. Born in New York and raised in Italy, Cellini was something of a juvenile delinquent before being drafted into the Italian army. He soon deserted and joined a partisan unit, taking part in their guerilla warfare until Italy was liberated. He then went to work for the Office of Strategic Services, helping to fight the black market that arose during World War II while also taking part in illicit transactions of his own. After the war, Cellini returned to the United States, accompanied by his cousin Franci, whom he married soon after arriving. As he moved from one factory job to another, his innate mechanical aptitude allowed him to create inventions and develop improvements, and Cellini ended up with more than a dozen patents to his name. He also formed connections around the world, leading him to work for the Nicaraguan government in the 1970s, carry out negotiations with Italian organized crime in the ’80s, and design a gun stabilizer for the U.S. military. The book is illustrated with both historical photographs and contemporary images. The author’s exploits sometimes verge on the picaresque, but the reader is always left with a clear sense of the danger Cellini often found himself facing, and even in the book’s most intimate scenes, violence is never far away. Cellini and Prodger have an eye for the small moments that make up this wide-ranging narrative (“Franci has left them alone with their grappa and their memories but with her impeccable sense of timing she recognizes the need to interrupt with espresso”), and although Cellini’s recollections make up the bulk of the story, it is also well-researched, with plenty of substantiating detail and further information about the many well-known figures he encountered. Cellini tells a fascinating story and keeps the reader enthralled and engaged despite the book’s length.
A wide-ranging memoir of an active and momentous life.