Queen’s professor’s crime novel adapted for TV

Mafia culture expert Antonio Nicaso’s Bad Blood premiered this week, two more shows in the works

Vito Rizzuto in prison

After penning 30 best-selling books, one of Queen’s professor Antonio Nicaso’s crime books made its premier as a TV show called Bad Blood.

 Nicaso’s 2015 novel, Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War, was co-written with Toronto Star journalist Peter Edwards after 20 years of research. It chronicles the final years in the life of Canada’s top mafia boss, Vito Rizzuto.

 The novel, and now the TV show, depicts Rizzuto’s bloody struggle to avenge the murders of his family members and his attempt to regain control of the North American drug trade following his stint in prison.

 “If there ever was a truly Canadian mobster, it was Vito Rizzuto,” Nicaso said.

 Although known as a prolific writer, Nicaso also teaches two courses at Queen’s about mafia culture and regularly serves as a consultant to government and law enforcement bodies internationally about organized crime.

 “I was born in a town dominated by the mafia, and I remember the fear,” Nicaso said about his upbringing in Calabria, Italy. 

 

Nicaso recalls the time a family member of a schoolmate was killed because he refused to buy construction materials from the boss who controlled their area. It was at this point that he started asking questions about murders happening in his town. 

 30 books later, Nicaso decided to try something new by sending out proposals to production companies for TV shows. One of the three proposals he submitted was Bad Blood, with two others still in the works.

 One of the other two shows is based on a book Nicaso published in Italy in 2013 called Acqua Santissima, which covers the connection between the mafia and the church. The third show still in the making is an “international thriller, inspired by true events but fiction,” Nicaso said.

 “I will have three TV shows pretty soon on air, and I’m very excited because [in TV] you don’t have the same restrictions you do when you’re working on a true crime story.”

Nicaso says he’s enjoyed toying with the psychological aspects of characters in Bad Blood, an opportunity the novel format didn’t allow him.

The goal of Bad Blood was to stray away from romanticized depictions of the mafia, like in The Godfather, Nicaso said.

“The mafia on the screen —The Godfather — is not the real mafia. The real mafia is something that has to do with the economy and the legal loopholes of our judicial system.”

When asked what he hopes his audience will gain from watching the show, Nicaso said he hopes viewers “start thinking about organized crime as a Canadian problem […] and not any more as an ethnic problem.”

Nicaso says viewers of the show have already contacted him to voice their disbelief that these mafia crimes truly occurred in Canada. 

Indeed, the events of the show may hit closer to home than many viewers may expect.

“The mafia is a power system capable to build a connection to everyone,” Nicaso said. “Without the network of trust, without the connection with our upper class, they would never achieve anything.”

 The show airs on City TV at 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

 

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