Costa Events

Nic Costa’s return — see you in Rome, January 22

It’s almost twenty years since I first flew off to Rome to start work on what’s turned out to be the longest-running series of my career, the Nic Costa books.

Now they’re getting a new lease of life in some sparkling editions for the first two books, A Season for the Dead and The Villa of Mysteries from Black Thorn which appear in January.

And what better place to launch them than Rome itself? You’ll find me talking and signing there at the Anglo American Book Store, 6pm, Wednesday January 22. It’s a casual event — no booking needed. Just turn up at Via della Vite, 102, near the Spanish Steps.

It’s a real pleasure to be returning to Anglo American too. When I moved to Rome to research the first Costa book I lived not far away — and used the book store as my go-to place for all the reference works I so badly needed at the time. It’s wonderful such a great book shop is still around and continuing to serve the English language reader in Rome.

The talk will be in English by the way but everyone’s welcome. Hope I can see some of you in the Eternal City in January.

Costa Writing

Nic Costa is back… out today The Savage Shore


They’re back. Not seen in these parts since The Fallen Angel in 2011, Nic Costa, Teresa Lupo, Gianni Peroni and Leo Falcone return today in a new book, The Savage Shore. It first appears in hardback in the UK from Severn House and in audio, narrated as ever by Saul Reichlin from Whole Story Audio. The US edition and the international ebook will be out in November from Severn, and a paperback next May. In the Netherlands the Dutch edition appears in September from Boekerij.

It was great to be working with the old crew again. But not in Rome this time. They’ve all been dispatched to Calabria in the south of Italy where the shadowy boss of the local ’Ndrangheta gang has offered to give himself up to turn state witness against his own crime organisation. The challenge for Costa and co is simple: how do they get him out alive without giving away their presence as covert police officers in a territory very much controlled by the local mob?

It is, I hope, a mystery as much as a crime story. There are no car chases and very little in the way of violence. I wanted to write a book that had a slightly old-fashioned feel, one that relished in the exotic locations of a part of Italy most people don’t know, played with the idea of identity and was very much driven by suspense and character rather than ‘action’. Costa and his colleagues are forced to pretend to be something they’re not, and that’s not a role they’re comfortable with.

It also moves around rather more than the earlier books, something else that makes the crew more than a little uncomfortable. It roams around the great mountain of Aspromonte in Calabria and real-life locations like Tropea above, but also Siracusa in Sicily and, briefly, Capri before a finale in the north. So a different kind of story to the usual. I hope fans new and old find it a rich and surprising read, and one that introduces a fascinating part of the world to a larger audience.

Many thanks to the team at Severn and Boekerij for their support in bringing the old team back. And look out for some surprises next year with the paperback. In fact I have a couple of big surprises in store for you all next year. But more of that in due time…

You can read an extract here.


A preview of the new Nic Costa, The Savage Shore

Nic Costa and team — Teresa Lupo, Leo Falcone and Gianni Peroni — are back on Tuesday (July 31) for the first time in quite a while in a new adventure, The Savage Shore, published by Severn House. You can find the US edition along with the ebook on November 1, and in September the Dutch translation from Boekerij, De binnenste cirkel. The paperback will appear next May, but I’m delighted to tell you the audio version will be out alongside the hardback on Tuesday, narrated as usual by the incomparable Saul Reichlin and published by Whole Story Audio.

shoreIt felt good to be working with the old crew again. But I never want to retread old formulas. Every book, whether it’s in a series or not, has to have some new approach and challenge. In The Savage Shore it’s a pretty stiff one. Costa and his colleagues are no longer in the safe confines of Rome, with the power of police officers to protect them as they go about their work. They’ve been dispatched to the toe of Italy, Calabria, a place they don’t know, and tasked with a tricky dilemma: the shadowy boss of one of the crime families there wants to turn state witness. How do they get him out alive?

Usually they’re cops, in control of territory they feel they own. Here they are undercover, wearing new identities and very much at the beck and call of the mobster who’s demanding Costa join his crime family temporarily in order to facilitate his escape. Clue: there’s one of the book’s themes… how very hard it is to pretend you’re someone else. Costa and the rest struggle with that dilemma constantly, and as we find out later they’re not the only ones.

Another challenge is the location itself. Rome is a city we all know in some ways, even if we’ve never been there. The sights — the Pantheon, the Vatican — and the history are a part of a world we recognise. But Calabria…? Even lots of Italians don’t know the area well. At most it might be somewhere they drive through on the way to their holidays in Sicily.

I spent a fair bit of time down there thinking about this book, and gradually being won over by the place. It’s quite unlike anywhere else in Italy. The bare mountain of Aspromonte rises at its tip above Reggio, overlooking the Strait of Messina with Etna in the distance. In summer it’s scorching. In winter you can hop a ski lift up to the snow. There are tiny villages scattered in the hills, a few pretty much abandoned now, while the coast veers between the odd swish fishing village and some pretty rundown places where people scratch a living through agriculture.

The history is quite astonishing. This was part of Italy colonised by Greece long before Rome rose to become an empire. In the more remote areas there are still hamlets where the locals speak griko, a kind of Greek much closer to the language of Homer than the modern demotic version. There’s not, to be honest, an awful lot too see in tourist terms apart from some stunning exhibits in the museum at Reggio. But the area has a stark beauty, the people a quiet sense of defiance, and down by the coast, in swordfishing villages like Scilla, you can eat like a king for a fraction of the price you’d pay in Rome.

Here are a few of my research photos of Calabria taken during the planning for this book.

As anyone who’s read me knows location is a key part of my work. I don’t just want to paint a picture of a place in words. I want to recreate it in touch and feel and smell so that readers hear the wash of waves on this ragged shore, smell the herbs in the mountains and appreciate the curious history that makes Calabria so special.

Here’s how I try to do it in The Savage Shore: a book within a book. When you explore Italy’s more far-flung places you’ll often find a little travel guide on sale, written by a local, usually in a quirky and often rather archaic and personal style. I always buy one. They tell you stories you won’t find in Dorling Kindersley (though whether those stories are actually true is another matter). So early on in this book Peroni, trapped in a fictional fishing village called Cariddi, trying to understand his surroundings, does the same and picks up an old travel guide called Calabrian Tales.

He, naturally, reads the book, but so do we because each of the separate parts of The Savage Shore is preceded by a relevant extract from this imaginary work. You might not quite get all the links to begin with but by the end you will, I hope, see how they all fit together in relation to the story the main book sets out to tell.

So here, as a taster of The Savage Shore, is the very opening. It begins a part entitled Martinis for a Marmoset, set in a dodgy bar in the back streets of Reggio where something very unexpected is about to happen. But first we go to a chapter of Calabrian Tales entitled The Garduña. This recounts a local Calabrian fable about how the three principal crime mobs of Italy, the Cosa Nostra or Mafia of Sicily, the Camorra of Naples and the ’Ndrangheta of Calabria, came about.

You can read the excerpt in its entirety below. After which you might ask… is this right? Did some of the most infamous mobs of the modern world really begin life in this half-romantic way?

What’s true and what’s myth?

Good questions. Ones a lot of people keep asking throughout The Savage Shore. Click below and try to decide for yourself.Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 10.06.04.png


Costa Writing

New life for the Nic Costa series

After a nine-year break Nic Costa is back this year, with a brand new title The Savage Shore, set in Calabria, appearing from Severn House. The UK hardback will be available on July 31 and the international English ebook and US hardback will appear on November 1.

In the meantime I’m delighted to say that Severn have taken over the rights for the first three tales in the Costa series, A Season for the Dead, The Villa of Mysteries and The Sacred Cut. They appear in ebook today with sparkling new covers, below, and in new paperback editions next year, along with the paperback of The Savage Shore.

You should find them in all the usual places. It’s good to have the old Italian team back in action after their long holiday. And I can’t wait to introduce you to their new challenge in the wild lands of Aspromonte later this year.

In August, too, the Costa series will be back in the Netherlands too, courtesy of Boekerij, with the debut of De Binnenste Cirkel (The Savage Shore), and the republishing of the first Costa book there,  De Vaticaanmoorden.