Upon This Rock: A Searing Thriller Set In Orvieto.
4 November 2019
By Laura Ricci (English translation by Erika Bizzarri)
Upon This Rock: A Searing Thriller Set In Orvieto.
Novel Published in 2020 in US and Europe
In America if a publisher decides to invest in an author, it generally has to be someone with whom the public is already acquainted, someone capable of creating an original and innovative plot that is well documented and credible, and whose author is enterprising with an eye to the future. This explains why the novels of so many English-language authors fall into specific categories dealing with subjects with which they are thoroughly acquainted. Take Michael Crichton, who trained as a doctor and is known for his medical fiction, and John Grisham, an attorney and politician best known for his legal thrillers, while John Le Carrè worked for the Secret Service Intelligence and his novels deal with espionage.
David Eugene Perry, though a first-time author, has written a novel that meets all requirements for success, and puts him in the category of what sometimes goes by the name of a “high concept author.” A Californian, who lives in San Francisco and Palm Springs with his husband, Alfredo Casuso, he is CEO of the public relations firm David Perry & Associates Inc., and is host/producer of the TV show 10 Percent. He has traveled widely but like so many other American expats who have chosen Orvieto as their second home he keeps returning to this Umbrian town. His first novel, Upon This Rock,to be published by Pace Press in 2020, reflects his vast web of contacts, his passion for historical-literary studies and his gift for storytelling.
Upon This Rock is being launched in the United States, while an Italian translation will be published more or less contemporaneously with the English original. A pre-launch party in Orvieto gave me a chance to meet the author and discuss his novel, which is bound to cause a stir among the Orvietani.
Orvieto is the setting: that small Italian town with its fascinating history and lively present steeped in tradition. The reader will be captivated by the spectacular plot of Upon this Rock, a title that alludes not only to the tufa cliff on which the city stands but also to the founding of the Christian Church by Peter. Intrigue, history, art, the secrets of the Church and powerful conspiracies will rivet the reader’s attention before arriving at the surprising denouement. In its breathtaking succession of events, Orvieto is not simply the backdrop for the story, but the protagonist.
As the chapters unfold, we move from Rome to Ireland to Civita di Bagnoregio and the Church of San Donato. Historically it has been thoroughly documented, with attention centered on the real figures of three popes, Clement VII of the Sack of Rome, who then took refuge in the natural fortress of Orvieto, Benedict XVI, and today’s Pope Francis. Very much a work of fiction, Upon This Rock is grounded deeply in history. An important part is played by the conflicts between the American and the Roman Catholic Church, of particular interest to the author. But, you may ask, what of the the plot itself? Here’s a summary so as not to give away the exciting finale.
In an attempt to come to terms with the death of a dear friend, Lee Maury, public relations executive in San Francisco, and his husband, Adriano, arrive in Umbria’s crown jewel, Orvieto. They fall in love with the town and its inhabitants. Lee is particularly intrigued by a tragic event that took place a year ago but whose effects still linger on: After being refused ordination, the beloved young deacon, Andrea, committed suicide by throwing himself from the cliff. The coincidences between Lee’s life and that of Andrea begin to haunt him. They were the same age, both wanted to become priests, both were haunted by death. Lee’s obsession with Andrea turns him into an amateur detective.
All those Lee and Adriano meet in Orvieto are connected to Andrea in one way or another and feel responsible for his tragic leap from “the rock”: The handsome Grigori, ex Swiss Guard turned bisexual hustler; Don Bello, Orvieto’s gentle elderly priest; Lady Peg, the gossipy American blogger; Luka, the young and enigmatic German doctor; La Dona Volsini, the irascible ninety-year old baker and her grandson Marco, enamored of the Unites States; Dawud the immigrant musician and his sister Maryam, a victim of black market smugglers; the gutsy Episcopal priest Reverend Vicki; the new Catholic bishop of Orvieto, Arnaud, a member of Opus Dei; Cardinal Maltoni, powerful head of the Vatican press office; and Magda, mysterious and beautiful US bureaucrat. There is even a cat named Clemente whose role is anything but minor.
As Lee and Adriano try to understand what ties all these figures to Andrea’s suicide, they stumble on a terrorist conspiracy, an international sex and human trafficking ring and a plot, to literally, bring down the Roman Catholic Church. Before they know it, their sabbatical turns into a race to save innocent lives – including their own — in this incredible page turner.
Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Orvieto’s Medieval history and its current day-to-day life can’t help but be aware of the fact that there is a strong resemblance between the real-life figures of today and their imaginary counterparts in Perry’s fictional narrative. Upon This Rock is dedicated to the real-life deacon Luca Seidita, who put an end to his life the night of November 30, 2010. Exactly four years later — November 30, 2014 — Perry and Casuso, coincidently, arrived in Orvieto and found the locals still buzzing about the story. Thus, was literary inspiration given voice.
When asked what attracted him to Orvieto, and why he keeps returning “to this Rock” (Perry and his husband return to Orvieto once or twice a year)– aside from documenting his book – the answer was simple: The people. Like so many Americans who stop here briefly or for a greater amount of time, Perry notes that what singles the city out is its livability, the fascinating atmosphere of history and culture, its welcoming friendly inhabitants, and its strategic location.
With memories long lived in Orvieto, the subject of Perry’s Upon This Rock, will undoubtedly cause a stir. Just as inevitable, is the light that it will shine on Orvieto and on this emerging author.