Former Canarsien's Crime Novels Filled With Familiar Sights
Charlie Stella's success as a writer is proof that growing up in Canarsie can inspire ideas for a novel.
His fifth crime novel, "Shakedown," about life in the mob, was published in June. He said, "It's more of a love story about Bobby Genarro - a guy who wants to get married and have a kid - but has to leave the mob."
Stella has already co-written a screen-play, set to start filming at the end of this year, about the Roy DeMeo "Can-arsie" Crew, who lured victims into the Gemini bar on Flatlands Avenue, then killed and dismembered them. The remains were dumped at the Fountain Avenue landfills.
Stella, 58, was born in Greenwich Village and raised in Canarsie, attended P.S. 115, St, Jude Catholic School and Canarsie High School, where he was on the football team. While he has had many jobs - from window cleaner to a bouncer in his father's head shop (for drug paraphernalia), some jobs gave him the edge to write novels like 2001's "Eddie's World" and "Charlie Opera," two years later (both Carroll & Graf Publishing).
"I also worked as a loan shark and a bookmaker," he said. "But when I was in school, I was always a daydreamer. I was bored and it was hard for me to stay interested."
Stella attended Minot State College in North Dakota on a football scholarship. When he realized his professional football dreams wouldn't come true, he considered a career in criminal justice and law enforcement. But, during his sophomore year, his teacher and friend Dave Gresham turned him on to writing.
Stella transferred to Brooklyn College, where he graduated cum laude and coached the college's football team, but he still had the urge to write. Mean-while, he took up a job as a word processor, a job he still works at two days a week.
"When I told my family I wanted to get into writing, they looked at me like I was nuts," he said. "My mother supported me, but my father was pragmatic. He just didn't think there was any future or money in writing. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could see me publish my first novel."
While Stella was never an avid reader growing up, he became one after reading Friends of Eddie Coyle , by George V. Higgins a best-seller about the mob.
"A whole new world opened up after that." Stella said.
Stella currently lives in Bensonhurst with his wife of seven years Ann Marie, who reads his books before they are turned over his editor.
"I notice his books are beginning to have a lot more humor in them," she said. "And I try to help him develop more realistic female characters. I'm a reader in general so I'm always there to support him and help him with his ideas."
Stella admits that it was tough for him to get into becoming a novelist, but his skepticism never discouraged him.
"I had a lot of support from my editor, my agent and my wife," he said.
Stella still reminisces with his wife about the old days in Canarsie. Some of his fondest memories, he said, are hanging out at the Canarsie Pier and playing combat with his friends in the streets. He also loved being a part of the Canarsie Little League.
"When I think of Canarsie, I'll always think of Flatlands Avenue," he said.
"My novels are at low levels where the mafia is concerned - most people will understand the language," he said. "I spend about ten hours a day writing and I usually finish writing a book within a few months, so I have a lot of novels still on my hard drive in my computer. I have 15 novels that are ready to be edited. There's definitely a lot more to come."