Carcaterra, Lorenzo 1954–

views updated

Carcaterra, Lorenzo 1954–

PERSONAL: Born October 16, 1954, in New York, NY; son of Mario (a butcher) and Raffaela (a homemaker) Carcaterra; married Susan J. Toepfer (a magazine editor), May 16, 1981; children: Katherine, Nicholas. Education: St. John's University, B.S., 1976. Politics: "Moderate." Religion: Catholic.

ADDRESSES: Home—498 Manor Ln., Pelham Manor, NY 10803. Office—1600 Broadway, Ste. 701, New York, NY 10020. Agent—Loretta Fidel, Weingel-Fidel Agency, 310 E. 46th St., New York, NY 10017.

CAREER: New York Daily News, New York, NY, reporter and editor, 1976–83; TV-Cable Week, staff writer, 1983; freelance writer, 1983–; Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), New York, NY, managing editor of Top Cops, 1990–c. 1994. Has also worked for TimeWarner; writer and producer for Law and Order television series aired by the National Broadcasting Company, Inc. (NBC).

MEMBER: International Association of Crime Writers, Authors Guild, Authors League of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: Leone Di San Marco award, Italian Heritage and Culture Committee, 1993, for A Safe Place: The True Story of a Father, a Son, a Murder.


A Safe Place: The True Story of a Father, a Son, a Murder, Villard (New York, NY), 1993.

Sleepers (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1995.

Apaches (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1997.

Gangster (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.

Street Boys (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.

Paradise City (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2004.

(Contributor) Dangerous Women: Original Stories from Today's Greatest Suspense Writers, edited by Otto Penzler, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Also author of filmscripts, including Street Boys, Dreamer, and Doubt.

Contributor to periodicals, including People, Life, Us, Cop Talk, and National Geographic Traveler magazine.

ADAPTATIONS: Sleepers was adapted into a major motion picture starring Kevin Bacon, Robert DeNiro, Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, and Minnie Driver, directed by Barry Levinson, Warner Bros., 1996; Gangster is being developed as a feature film by Revolution Studios; Street Boys was purchased by Warner Bros.; Apaches has been optioned for film by producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Two novels, Chasers and Midnight Angels; a pilot for Touchstone titled The Ghost; a video game for Atari/Eden titled Alone in the Dark: Near Death Investigation, expected 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Journalist and scriptwriter Lorenzo Carcaterra began his career as an author when he took a leave from writing for the television series Top Cops to write his own life story. His first book, A Safe Place: The True Story of a Father, a Son, a Murder, is Carcaterra's memoir of life with his father, a violent man whose temper had resulted not only in the death of his first wife but in the repeated abuse of his second, Carcaterra's mother. Reviewing the book for People, Joseph Olshan called it "haunting" and "remarkable," and commended the author's believable, well-rounded portrait of his father. Martha Southgate, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, felt that Carcaterra had set himself up for an almost "impossible" task by attempting to show the humanity in his brutal father; she noted that the author tried "valiantly" to tell his terrible story.

With the success of A Safe Place, other books followed from Carcaterra, among them Sleepers, the story of a group of childhood friends who become involved in murder. Upon its publication in 1995, Sleepers became newsworthy not only because of its bestseller status, but because it was released as a work of nonfiction. While Carcaterra claimed that the only fictionalized aspects of the book were done to protect the identities of its subjects, some critics were skeptical. The book follows a group of four young people raised in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City—where the author himself was raised—and details their brush with the law, their resulting incarceration in an upstate New York reform school, and their ultimate, violent revenge on the school guards responsible for torturing them during that incarceration. The book was adapted into a major motion picture in 1996.

Despite the popularity of the book, critical reaction to Sleepers was mixed for a variety of reasons. In a Spectator review, contributor Michael Carlson called Carcaterra "a fine writer and facile stylist," but found "more worrying than the question of the book's veracity … the moral dilemma at its centre," a dilemma that involves a Roman Catholic priest's complicity in a lie. Trey Graham concluded in the Washington Post Book World: "Sleepers is undeniably powerful, an enormously affecting and intensely human story."

Carcaterra followed Sleepers with a fictional work titled Apaches. Even more violent than its predecessor, Apaches details, with a great deal of blood and gore, a scheme whereby some ruthless drug runners transport their product in the bodies of murdered infants. While noting that the author "is good at creating an obscenity-laced, gallows humor dialogue" for his characters, New York Times contributor Richard Bernstein was less enthusiastic about the novel as a whole. Rife with brutal murder sequences, sadistic villains, and heroic city cops prepared to lay down their lives to save a child, Apaches "relies on just about every stale, manipulative device of the pulp thriller genre as it slogs toward its predictably noisy climax," according to the critic. Newsweek reviewer Jeff Giles called Carcaterra "one of the most intriguing writers around," yet he found Apaches flawed. Drug-filled baby corpses are "the strongest metaphor imaginable for the corruption of innocence," wrote Giles.

Crime is again at the heart of Carcaterra's next novel, Gangster, which tells the story of two generations of a Mafia family. Angelo Vestieri, an underworld kingpin, takes a paternal interest in Gabe, a ten-year-old boy who flees his foster home in the early 1960s. Doing small jobs for Angelo, Gabe learns all about life inside the mob, but he ultimately rejects that lifestyle when Angelo offers him a powerful position within it. "Carcaterra shows dexterity in humanizing the denizens of the urban underbelly," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who added: "Through a fine characterization of the enigmatic Vestieri, he provides a stirring perspective on the ways of mobsters and their history." Library Journal contributor Craig L. Shufelt predicted that the book would find an enthusiastic audience "among readers who enjoy gangster novels." Brad Hooper, a writer for Booklist, pointed to "the author's psychological fathoming of the kind of character that turns to a life of organized crime" and called Gangster "a very compelling drama."

Street Boys recounts a World War II-era story. The plot revolves around a band of children orphaned by war and hiding from the Nazis in their hometown of Naples. Enter Steve Connors, an American soldier who goes to Naples on a mission and begins helping the children with their makeshift army. Before long the children and their mentor are causing the Nazis embarrassing problems. Robert Conroy, writing in the Library Journal, felt the author told a "gripping story." Mary Frances Wilkens commented in Booklist that "the syrupy plot is endearing." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote "there's a great story here."

In the 2004 novel Paradise City, Carcaterra tells the story of Italian cop Giancarlo Lo Manto, who has come to America to hunt down his kidnapped niece. Lo Manto soon encounters a crime gang based in his hometown of Naples and finds himself attracted to his assigned American partner, Jennifer Fabini. A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that "readers unafraid of a little purple in their prose … will have a perfectly good time." Mary Frances Wilkins, writing in Booklist, found that "Lo Manto's characterization displays a bit more depth than many of the author's other swashbuckling leading men."

Carcaterra once told CA: "I was raised in a violent world, but one which I found great comfort in. I didn't own a book until I was twenty, though I always thought of writing. Since then it's been one lesson after another, all learned in the hopes of making myself a better writer. Some of the lessons were enjoyable (such as my years spent as a reporter for the New York Daily News, a tabloid that proved to be a great place for a young writer to grow up), while some of the lessons were stark and difficult (a number of lean freelance years, for example). I have written for all types of magazines, some well known (People, Life), and others less so. Then, in 1990, I got lucky when a producer put me in charge of Top Cops, a television show that found an audience."



Carcaterra, Lorenzo, A Safe Place: The Story of a Father, a Son, a Murder, Villard (New York, NY), 1993.


America, November 16, 1996, Edward J. Mattimoe, "True and Truth," discusses film adaptation of Sleepers, p. 17.

Antioch Review, winter, 1996, review of Sleepers, p. 120.

Booklist, May 1, 1995, Brad Hooper, review of Sleepers, p. 1530; October 15, 2000, Brad Hooper, review of Gangster, p. 388; August, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Street Boys, p. 1884; August, 2004, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Paradise City, p. 1868.

Business Wire, March 20, 2001, "Warner Bros. Pictures and Bel-Air Entertainment Acquire Rights to New Novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra," p. 0742.

Detroit Free Press (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service), February 21, 2001, John Smyntek, review of Gangster.

Entertainment Weekly, January 22, 1993, Martha Southgate, review of A Safe Place, p. 52; March 17, 1995, "Big Deal," discusses film rights to Sleepers, p. 81; July 14, 1995, Tom De Haven, review of Sleepers, p. 46; November 1, 1996, Owen Gleiberman, review of Sleepers, p. 40.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1995, review of Sleepers, p. 600; July 15, 2002, review of Street Boys, p. 972; July 1, 2004, review of Paradise City, p. 589.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, May, 1996, review of Sleepers (audio version), p. 48; November 15, 2000, review of Gangster, p. 1559.

Library Journal, February 1, 1993, Gregor A. Preston, review of A Safe Place, p. 98; July, 1995, Robert H. Donahugh, review of Sleepers, p. 89; September 15, 1997, Stephen L. Hupp, review of Apaches (audio version), p. 118; November 15, 2000, Craig L. Shufelt, review of Gangster, p. 95; September 1, 2002, Robert Conroy, review of Street Boys, p. 210; May 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of Paradise City, p. 86.

Maclean's, August 28, 1995, Barbara Wickens, review of Sleepers, p. 48.

New Statesman & Society, December 15, 1995, review of Sleepers, p. 66.

Newsweek, February 8, 1993, review of A Safe Place, p. 67; December 9, 1996, Jeff Giles and Ray Sawhill, "Hollywood's Dying for Novel Ideas," discusses Sleepers, p. 80; August 11, 1997, Jeff Giles, review of Apaches, p. 75.

New York, November 4, 1996, David Denby, review of Sleepers, p. 84.

New Yorker, November 4, 1996, Terrence Rafferty, review of Sleepers, p. 117.

New York Times, July 7, 1995, p. B2; August 3, 1995, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Sleepers, p. C16; August 13, 1997, Richard Bernstein, review of Apaches, p. 2.

Observer (London, England), April 21, 1996, review of Sleepers, p. 16.

People, January 18, 1993, Joseph Olshan, review of A Safe Place, p. 30; July 31, 1995, William Plummer, review of Sleepers, p. 30.

Publishers Weekly, March 6, 1995, Paul Nathan, "Peak Market," about optioning of author's novel Sleepers, p. 23; June 5, 1995, review of Sleepers, p. 45; March 11, 1996, review of Sleepers, p. 58; December 11, 2000, review of Gangster, p. 61; July 15, 2002, review of Street Boys, p. 53; July 5, 2004, review of Paradise City, p. 34.

Rolling Stone, October 31, 1996, Peter Travers, review of Sleepers, p. 75.

Spectator, October 7, 1995, review of Sleepers, p. 45.

Time, July 31, 1995, Paul Gray, review of Sleepers, p. 69.

Tribune Books (Chicago), August 6, 1995, p. 5.

Washington Post, July 26, 1995, Peter Streitfeld, "'Sleepers': A Rude Awakening? Editor Denies That Nonfiction Bestseller Played Loose with Facts," p. D1.

Washington Post Book World, February 7, 1993, review of A Safe Place, p. 1; July 30, 1995, review of Sleepers, p. 6; August 24, 1997, review of Apaches, p. 5.

ONLINE, (September 24, 2005), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Street Boys, Sleepers, Paradise City, and Gangster., (September 24, 2005), Joe Hartlaub, review of Paradise City.

Lorenzo Carcaterra Home Page, (October 19, 2005).

Mystery Reader, (September 24, 2005), Dede Anderson, review of Apaches; Lesley Dunlap, review of Paradise City.

Shots Ma, (September 24, 2005), Keith Miles, review of Paradise City.