August 2014

Pull up a stool and pour a shot of something illegal


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Blind Moon Alley is officially out today! This exciting follow-up to author John Florio's debut novel Sugar Pop Moon, features a unique crime fiction protagonist, Jersey Leo.  In this 'Zine, the author gives us a personal look at the creation of this one-of-a-kind hero--an albino in a noir setting--and the obstacles he faced on the way to publication.


Creating Jersey Leo: A Hero Who Fights More Than CrimeJersey

by John Florio

My second Jersey Leo novel,  Blind Moon Alley, is hitting shelves this month. Its release makes me think back to the years spent creating Jersey--and the battles fought to get him on the printed page.


When I first imagine Jersey, I knew I wanted to write about an "outsider," a character with no group to call his own, a noir version of "Casper the Friendly Ghost"--a nice guy with a good heart and overwhelming odds stacked against him. I experimented, played around, and came up with a social outcast: a bartender at an underground speakeasy. In the next draft, I made the tender a biracial albino and passed the pages around to a couple of fellow writers. The reaction was more than encouraging. One said, "Yes, yes, this is it, keep going!" The other agreed, and then told me a story about an African-American albino classmate from grade school.


"We used to call him Snowball," he said. I could see that my friend felt bad about the epithet. I thought: just think of how bad Snowball felt.


I also knew I had my character.


I began writing in earnest, a process that took me into the world of albinism as well as Prohibition. I spoke with doctors, geneticists, and eye specialists. They helped with the science, but as you're probably realizing by now, these books are more about Jersey's emotions than his chromosomes. (I also found out that persons with albinism preferred to be called just that: a person with albinism--not "an albino." This, of course, relies heavily on the context of the conversation surrounding the phrase. Such political correctness was not followed in 1931, the year Blind Moon Alley takes place, and therefore, is not found in the novel. To be true to Jersey and the time period of his story, it is also not found when referring to him in this article.)


Unbelievably, I didn't fully understand the extent of the battle that both Jersey and I were fighting until I finished the novel and started shopping it. Right out of the chute, I contacted a well-respected agent who responded--BEFORE he knew anything about my novel--"Don't send me any albino stories." What?! I quickly realized the agent meant "evil albino" stories. He had put up the roadblock because he was being flooded with such submissions, many of which were probably indicative of "The Da Vinci Code Effect."


The bias is more insidious-and more widespread-that one might think. The National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) has tracked such characters and documented sixty-eight films from 1960 to 2006 containing evil albinos. For the record, most of these villains are not portrayed as bad guys who happen to have albinism. It's worse than that. In many of these films, the viewer is expected to know these characters are evil because they're albinos. I imagine you know a few of these films. I'll also bet you can't name one albino hero.


Luckily, I found the right agent, Elizabeth Evans, a passionate literary mind ready to go to bat for Jersey. And she did, tirelessly and enthusiastically, until she found Dan Mayer at Seventh Street Books.


And so Jersey lives.


Now, all he needs to overcome the bias is a group of readers-people who are ready to appreciate him along with his warts, his self-doubt, and his frailties.


That's where you come in.


Take a moment and get to know Jersey. He's easy enough to spot: he's the albino behind the bar, ready to pour you a shot of moon.


The Jersey Leo NovelsSPM

Blind Moon Alley by John Florio

"We believe in these characters. Readers will cheer for Leo, a tough guy with a heart of hurt."

-Publishers Weekly starred review


"Hard-boiled enough to remind readers of Hammett and Chandler."

-Kirkus Reviews


Buy Now

Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio

 "One of those good, old prohibition-style mob stories that brings a tear to the eye and a laugh out loud."

-Suspense Magazine


"Don't miss this absolutely riveting, gritty debut coming-of-age tale. Absorbing and briskly paced."
 -Library Journal starred review



Buy Now


About the Author: John FlorioFlorio
John Florio, photo by Donna Pallota

John Florio is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in print, on the web, and on television. He is the author of the Jersey Leo Novels Sugar Pop Moon and Blind Moon Alley, and One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Ouisie Shapiro. Visit him at
Also out this monthResnick

"A cleverly constructed mystery, a nifty assortment of characters, and plenty of wit."   -Booklist


Cat on a Cold Tin Roof by Mike Resnick

Hard-luck gumshoe Eli Paxton is back in this month's Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. This time Paxton is hired to find a missing cat-a very important cat, it turns out, because its diamond-studded collar is worth a small fortune. Paxton finds the cat, but not the collar. Eventually, he's forced to unravel an intricate plot involving a Bolivian drug cartel, a shady banker with a flashy mistress and an irate wife, and a Swiss bank account.


As he turns up one clue after another, leading him ever deeper into a treacherous maze, Paxton hopes, first, to survive, and then to make enough money to afford a new transmission for his broken-down car.

Buy Now: 

Don't miss the other Eli Paxton Mysteries!

Dog in the Manger by Mike Resnick The Trojan Colt by Mike Resnick


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Lisa Michalski
Seventh Street Books®, an imprint of Prometheus Books