ORINOCO - James A Ciullo

Idealism clashes with greed and opportunism

“The cover design is very nice, but what is ‘Orinoco’?” Many have asked me. It is understandable that many people are not that familiar with South American Geography, so I explain that the Orinoco is the major river in Venezuela. Its mysterious brown waters twist and turn in a northeasterly direction from Venezuela’s southern tip before filtering through Delta Amacuro out to the Atlantic.

From 1969 through 1971, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in an Orinoco River port city that was rapidly establishing itself as a commercial center. It is where the idea for my novel was born, some 36 years before publication. One night, several of my fellow volunteers and I were sitting around a cold case of Venezuela’s renowned Polar beer lamenting what might happen to our projects without carryover funding once we concluded our service.

Enter our middle-aged friend from the international business world, an American with a flair for adventure. He had just returned from a trip to Caracas where he had been in a meeting with some bankers. Popping his first cold one, he proceeded to explain that he was now privy to the location of $6 million worth of copper smuggled from Germany by the Nazi underground after WWII. He said that it was in a lightly guarded storage yard and that he could get his hands on the trucks necessary to steal it and take it away.

Fueled by the Polar beers, we began to speculate about how we could get away with it, where we could hide it, and how we might liquidate it to cash. Since it would entail stealing from ex-Nazis, there was no downside from a moral standpoint. But there was some discussion of potential reprisal. Needless to say, the next day’s sobriety brought with it a restoration of reason and we never pursued the heist.

Nevertheless, the “what-if” speculation took root in my imagination for the next 30 years. For the copper, I substituted looted WWII art—a subject that has received some due attention on the international stage. In my novel, the Peace Corps Volunteers indeed pursue the heist. They view it as a win-win situation. But the main story line, which takes place in 1998, puts that premise into question when Joe LaCarta decides to run for the US Senate in Vermont as an Independent. The mystery, suspense, and a taste of romance unfold from there.

In the flashback portion of the novel, I afforded myself the opportunity to re-live some of the laughs, good times, and lessons about life. The actual experience was a nice starting point from which to roll out the fictional scenario.
---Jim Ciullo, Author

Published by Five Star Mystery www.gale.com/fivestar/

(Release Date—late June 2007)