Write what you know.
That’s the old adage every English teacher tells aspiring writers struggling to develop a plot for the next great American novel, and for one Quincy resident, that advice has paid off.
Marty Nazzaro, a life long Quincy resident, has published his first novel, The City of Presidents, a story about two brothers and, as the title suggests, the Quincy streets on which they grew up.
"The brothers get caught up in gambling, and [the book] is about the decisions that they make, and loyalties to neighborhood that they try to keep, and at the same time try to betray," said Nazzaro, who was inspired to write after reading Gone Baby Gone, the Dennis Lehane thriller set in Quincy.
Nazzaro's book follows the brothers, Stevie and Ronnie Ciccone, as they grow up in Quincy--Stevie, the hard worker, and Ronnie, the high school football hero. But Stevie gambles, and his debts get so deep he is forced to make a deal with Joe Kelley, the local bookie with a tough reputation and close ties to the brothers' late father.The deal also pulls Ronnie into a dangerous web of deceit that tests the brothers' loyalties to each other, and the loyalties of an entire neighborhood.
"Quincy is a unique place. Quincy people will understand the characters," said Nazzaro of Quincy's "not hardcore city life, but still a place where a lot of decisions made by kids not thinking can be catastrophic...Good kids do bad things and that's just the way it is"
The characters are recognizable, and the city itself plays a vital role in the story. The street corners and neighborhood bars are identical to their real life inspirations, and the story culminates at the annual football game between rivals Quincy High School and North Quincy High School.
It's a serious story line, but Nazzaro, a self-proclaimed "Quincy guy," said it has been fun writing about his hometown with details and nuances only fellow Quincy residents would understand.
Even the title, a nickname for the city that was home to presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, has a deeper meaning.
"It plays on the nickname because it also refers to Stevie's gambling and the presidents on bills [of money]. It really has to do with making money and getting your head above water," something residents of a working-class city like Quincy understand, said Nazzaro.
Nazzaro, who researches clinical drugs for eye diseases, does not write full time, but is already working on another novel--set in Quincy--about a killer on the loose and the police officers on his trail. It's a story, he says, about "working in the city every day and trying to protect your own."
For more information about The City of Presidents, or to buy a copy, click here.