Limoncello Yellow: The Sicilian Connection
Limoncello Yellow, the debut novel in my Franki Amato Mysteries, was inspired in part by Italian author Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Salvo Montalbano series. For those of you who haven’t read Camilleri, the Sicilian language, culture and geography figure so prominently in his work that they’re practically characters in their own right. In fact, the series is so fascinating that even though my Italian family isn’t from Sicily, I made Franki half Sicilian in homage to Camilleri.
Once I decided that Franki was Sicilian-American, I had to choose the perfect setting for her and for the crimes she would be called upon to investigate. I initially considered my home state of Texas since it was the destination of choice for thousands of Sicilian immigrants during the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries. But in the end, I realized that a PI with a colorful heritage simply had to solve crimes in a place with a colorful heritage. So, I chose New Orleans, Louisiana.
Why NOLA? For one thing, it’s the perfect setting for murder given its flamboyant history of pirates, plantations, voodoo, jazz, political corruption and general Mardi Gras debauchery. And for another, there is a huge Sicilian population in New Orleans that has been largely overshadowed by the powerful influences of the French and Spanish cultures on the city.
Most of the Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans were fisherman, and Central Grocery on Decatur Street created the famous muffuletta sandwich to feed them. Many Sicilians have personally left their mark on the city—Antonio Monteleone, the cobbler who built the elegant Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter; Giuseppe Uddo, the founder of what is now Progresso Foods; and the late jazz musician Louis Prima—to name just a few.
If you want to see the Sicilian culture in action in The Big Easy, plan a trip around March 19th to see the fabulous Saint Joseph’s Day altars set up by parishes, schools and families. You can sample their delicious bread and cookies and get a lucky fava bean, which, legend has it, will ensure that you never go hungry. And don’t forget to stop for a drink at the Hotel Monteleone’s famous Carousel Bar and Lounge. But be careful not to eat or drink too much: The bar spins like a merry-go-round!
Traci is the author of the Franki Amato Mystery series. In her previous life, she was an award-winning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a PhD in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime—writing, that is.
If she's not hard at work on her next novel, Traci is probably watching her favorite Italian soap opera, eating Tex Mex or sampling fruity cocktails, and maybe all at the same time. She lives in Austin with her husband, young son (who desperately wants to be in one of her books) and three treat-addicted dogs.