Beneath a scarlet sky, p.41
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       Beneath a Scarlet Sky, p.41

           Mark Sullivan

  He laughed at that, and wagged his finger in the air. “The happy part of a long life, anyway. The song to be sung.”

  Pino gazed north then, across the lake to his beloved Alps, rising like impossible cathedrals in the summer air. He drank from his Chianti. His eyes misted and unscrewed, and for a long time we sat in silence, and the old man was far, far away.

  The lake water lapped against the retaining wall. A white pelican flapped by. A bicycle’s bell rang behind us, and the girl riding it laughed.

  When at last he took off his glasses, the sun was setting, casting the lake in coppers and golds. He wiped away tears and put his glasses back on. Then he looked over, gave me a sad, sweet smile, and put his palm across his heart.

  “Forgive an old man his memories,” Pino said. “Some loves never die.”


  I am grateful to and humbled by Giuseppe “Pino” Lella for entrusting me with his remarkable story, and for opening up his scarred heart so I could tell the tale. Pino taught me too many lessons about life to count, and changed me for the better. Bless you, old man.

  My thanks go out to Bill and Deb Robinson for inviting me to their home on the worst day of my life, and to Larry Minkoff for sharing the first snippets of the story over dinner. I am deeply grateful to Robert Dehlendorf, who tried to write about Pino first, and then gave the project to me when he hit a dead end. Other than my wife and sons, it is the greatest gift I have ever received.

  I am blessed to be married to Elizabeth Mascolo Sullivan. When I came home from the dinner party to tell her, out of the blue and almost out of money, that I was thinking of going to Italy without her to chase an untold sixty-year-old war story, she did not hesitate or try to dissuade me. Betsy’s unwavering belief in me and in this project has made all the difference.

  Michael Lella, Pino’s son, read every draft, helped me find other witnesses, and was critical to getting everything Italian right. Thanks, Mike. I could not have done it without you.

  I am also indebted to Fulbright Scholar Nicholas Sullivan, who helped me immensely during the weeks we spent in the Bundesarchiven in Berlin and Friedrichsberg, Germany. I am likewise thankful for Silvia Fritzsching, my German translator and research assistant, who helped me piece together General Leyers’s life after the war and put Pino’s questions to rest.

  My heartfelt thanks to all the people in Italy, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States who helped me research Pino’s tale. It seemed as if every time I hit a wall, some generous person would come along and help point me in the right direction.

  These individuals include but are not limited to Lilliana Picciotto of the Fondazione Memoria della Deportazione and Fiola della Shoa in Milan, the retired Rev. Giovanni Barbareschi, and Giulio Cernitori, another of Father Re’s boys at Casa Alpina. Mimo’s friend and former partisan fighter Edouardo Panzinni was a great help, as was Michaela Monica Finali, my guide in Milan, and Ricardo Surrette, who took me on the Brenner Pass escape route.

  Others include Steven F. Sage of the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Paul Oliner of the Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute at Humboldt State University, US National Archives researchers Dr. Steven B. Rogers and Sim Smiley, Italian and Vatican historian and researcher Fabian Lemmes, and Monseigneur Bosatra at the archives of the chancellery of Milan. In Madesimo, I was helped by Pierre Luigi Scaramellini, and Pierino Perincelli, who lost an eye and a hand in the grenade explosion that took the innkeeper’s son. Thanks as well to Victor Daloia for describing the discovery of his father’s buried war medal; and to Anthony Knebel for sharing his father’s correspondence; and to Horst Schmitz, Frank Hirtz, Georg Kashel, Valentin Schmidt, and Ingrid Bruck for bringing General Leyers’s saga to a close.

  Various organizations, historians, authors, researchers, and organizations were also of great help to me as I tried to understand the context in which Pino’s tale unfolded. Among them were the staff of Yad Vashem, the members of the Axis History Forum, and writers and researchers Judith Vespera, Alessandra Chiappano, Renatta Broginni, Manuela Artom, Anthony Shugaar, Patrick K. O’Donnell, Paul Nowacek, Richard Breitman, Ray Moseley, Paul Schultz, Margherita Marchione, Alexander Stille, Joshua D. Zimmerman, Elizabeth Bettina, Susan Zuccotti, Thomas R. Brooks, Max Corvo, Maria de Blasio Wilhelm, Nicola Caracciolo, R. J. B. Bosworth, and Eric Morris.

  I am also grateful to the patient readers of the early drafts, including Rebecca Scherer of the Jane Rotrosen Agency, NPR Pentagon Correspondent Tom Bowman, David Hale Smith, Terri Ostrow Pitts, Damian F. Slattery, Kerry Catrell, Sean Lawlor, Betsy Sullivan, Connor Sullivan, and Lawrence T. Sullivan.

  Meg Ruley, my amazing agent, recognized the sweep and emotional clout of Pino’s story the first time she heard it, and supported me and my pursuit of this project when few did. I’m a lucky guy to have her in my corner.

  As we set out to find a home for the book, I wrote down that I wanted an editor who was as passionate about the story as I was. I got my wish in Danielle Marshall, my editor at Lake Union, and the novel’s champion at Amazon Publishing. She and fellow editor David Downing believed in the story and pushed me to hone the narrative to its final state. I can’t thank either of you enough.


  photo © 2016 Elizabeth Sullivan

  Mark Sullivan is the acclaimed author of eighteen novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Private series, which he writes with James Patterson. Mark has received numerous awards for his writing, including the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award, and his works have been named a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. He grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in English before working as a volunteer in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and began a career in investigative reporting. An avid skier and adventurer, he lives with his wife in Bozeman, Montana, where he remains grateful for the miracle of every moment.

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