(K. Brent Tomer),
LAST month, Neapolitan anti-mafia investigators announced plans to indict Francesco “Sandokan” Schiavone, a local gangster, for the killing of a policeman in 1989. Naples has long been used to Mr Schiavone and his ilk: he is already in jail for murder, along with dozens of his colleagues. What distinguishes Mr Schiavone is his nickname. “Sandokan” was first conjured by Emilio Salgari, a writer who died over a century ago. That his most famous character is still considered relevant hints at his influence.
Born in Verona in 1862, Salgari led a sad and quietly dramatic life. Although he was prodigious—writing more than 200 novels and stories in his short life—and popular, Salgari struggled with poverty. He was also crippled by personal tragedy: his wife was sent to an asylum, and his father committed suicide. Salgari eventually took his own life, disembowelling himself in the style of a Japanese samurai. “You have kept me and my family in semi-penury,” he wrote to his publisher. “I salute you as I break my…Continue reading