Author Leonard Durso talks about his inspiration for Rizzo's World #amwriting


A fast-moving thriller from the hard-bitten world of New York to colourful Istanbul. Rizzo, a New York journalist separated from his famous wife, has settled a little too comfortably into the single life, drinking every day in his favourite bar with old friends. Then he receives an unexpected call: his best friend Cemal is dead, murdered in Turkey. He owes it to Cemal to find out why and who is responsible. The trail leads him backwards and forwards across the Atlantic, reuniting him with the daughter he no longer knows and the wife he thought he had lost for good, and introducing him to Cemal's Turkish family who hold the clues to the mystery. With the help of Cemal's cousin Meral, an enthusiastic and surprisingly resourceful Turkish journalist, he finally works out who was responsible for the crime; but will he be able to solve the puzzle of why and instigate retribution before he and his family become victims themselves?

The inspiration for Rizzo's World:

Rizzo’s World is a mystery/love story about a journalist’s search for the killer of one of his two closest friends, Cemal, in Istanbul while he tries to reconnect with his estranged wife and a daughter he barely knows in a city far away from his home. Rizzo is a consummate New Yorker out of place in Istanbul, the home of his Turkish pop star wife, Burcu, and his college aged daughter, Cansu. As he tries to navigate the city and piece together the last days of his friend’s life, he finds he is also given the opportunity to repair the damage in his relationships with his wife and daughter and possibly form a family unit once again. He also begins to learn about Cemal’s other life in Istanbul and his obsession with a crime family that has tentacles that reach as far as his own beloved NYC. During his investigation, aided by Cemal’s cousin Meral and his own daughter, this crime family begins to threaten the fragile bonds in his family’s life. 

The mystery, though, is really almost incidental in this character-driven novel. For the real focus of the story is on Rizzo and his “world” of family, friends, and work. For the title is also the title of his column at the magazine but also what the story is really about. Rizzo is a deeply flawed individual who must come to terms with his own failures as a husband and father. Here is a man with a drinking problem, an inability to commit to even naming a dog, a phobia regarding cell phones and social media, and a tendency to think of anywhere outside of the five boroughs of New York City as cultural wasteland. It is this character and his partial reformation that appealed to me. 

The inspiration for this book began decades ago with the opening sentences “I always walk my dog at eleven. It’s a habit I’ve gotten into that my dog won’t let me break.” Over the years the character who spoke those lines began to develop in various drafts of novels centering around him until finally living overseas in Turkey brought the book into focus for me. For here was a man set in his ways who had to change, or, at least, adapt, his ways in order to have meaningful relationships, especially regarding family. Yet he was also a loyal friend and my own friendships that go back decades now influenced the way he interacted on his home turf. The banter in his hangout of Jake’s Tavern echoes many similar evenings spent in bars and restaurants with my own friends. As the character developed, he became a product of his world just we all are products of our own worlds. And that world, and that character, no matter what difficulties he found himself in, continued to amuse and delight me. Hopefully readers will find Rizzo and his world equally fascinating, too.

About Leonard Durso:

I am a native New Yorker who was talked into going to school in Ohio by my supposedly best friend and ended up staying there long enough to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Bowling Green University.

author Leonard Durso I drifted out to Los Angeles because my ex-wife was intent on becoming a movie star. Having no better way to squander my money, I opened up a literary bookstore called Intellectuals & Liars in Santa Monica and became part of the poetry scene there. I had a few short stories and an excerpt from an earlier novel published in some small literary magazines, held weekly poetry/prose readings, published broadsides, and, being no exception to the rule that poetry doesn’t sell, went out of business. 

 This led to a series of jobs like selling shoes, running a warehouse, writing advertising copy for radio, and, after completing a second MA in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), began teaching English to immigrants. Since my main concern was keeping a roof over my head and the wolves from the door while I continued to write, I took a job as a full-time tenured faculty member at a college. 

 Eventually, not being satisfied with just teaching, I created an English Language Institute and went over to the dark side and joined the administration so I could run it. I then became the Director of the Language Center at one college and the Director of the English As A Second Language Program at another college. Finding myself enamored with the idea of living overseas, I took a job in 2008-09 as the Director of the English Preparatory Program at a two year vocational college in Beykoz, Istanbul. 2009 found me bouncing back and forth between New York and Istanbul but, as of May, 2010, I eventually settled in Istanbul to be the director of the English program at Plato College of Higher Education for four years, then moved to Izmir to coach managers at a petrol/chemical company. Now my work is to read, write, and travel. And once, in a city far, far away, I was a scoutmaster, which means I’m pretty good at tying knots, building campfires, and am also loyal, trustworthy, helpful, etc.

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