Review: “Beneath a Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by [Mark Sullivan]

This novel, set in Italy in World War II, was a long time in the making, and relied on both serendipity and catastrophe for its genesis. It is currently in production as a TV vehicle for Tom Holland.

The story about the story starts in 2006, when the author was at a low ebb, in the midst of professional and personal crises. Sometimes, just when one needs a new challenge one stubs one’s toe on it. As here. For journalist Sullivan, the story revealed to him at a supper party that year set him on a path to learn more. And there was much more to learn.

An Italian, Pino Lella, on the fringes of celebrity society for many years, was revealed to have been a spy and sometime partisan as a teenager in during World War II. This isn’t a spoiler, as it is in the Preface. For some time I thought this was a plot device, and that the whole book was pure invention. But I now believe that when Sullivan claims the book is based in truth, but embellished with his own writerly skill, talents, and imagination, that it is so. Sullivan claims to have interviewed Lella over a number of years for this book, published in 2017.

He has, obviously, had to massage the story so that it has a timeline which moves in a linear fashion through the chaos of war (which it does – and very well delineated the passing of time is). He needed to create characters – some based on real people, probably all now dead: some perhaps completely fictional – to carry the story forward. He has had to construct believable bridges between parts of the story which remained unknown to him and even possibly Pino Lella (the teenage spy).

Lella – as is undoubtedly true for many people who survive war – had a restless life after WWII. He was a charismatic individual who lived his life con smania (‘with passion’). After the war he sold Ferraris for a while, and occasionally owned one. He was sometimes a ski instructor. He married twice and had five children. But the story in this book predates all of that. It relates how a ragazzo from a wealthy Milanese family who made and sold upmarket leather goods, spent the last twenty-three months of the war, through a series of catastrophes and coincidences, seasoned with an unreasonable splash of serendipity. It is a rivetting story told con smania by Sullivan. You can read it now, or wait for whatever visual form it is going to be released in. But it is well worth your while to do one or the other. Possibly both.

By the by – the publisher of this novel is Lake Union Publishing, which is an imprint of Amazon. Presumably of A quick look at the web page shows that each author published by LUP appears to have an agent. Which makes me think that LUP is claiming not to be self-publishing. Whether it is or not, it is a good find by Amazon, setting it alongside novels like the originally self-published Imhotep by Jerry Dubs, and The Martian by Andy Weir. There are a few others who have done as well. But not many.


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: