Jan 1, 1991

The Trouble with Moonlighting

The Trouble with Moonlighting
A Simona Griffo Mystery
by Trella Crespi

Where I Get My Ideas

I wanted to bring my Italian life into this one to flesh out Simona's past so I gave her a two-week vacation to act as dialogue coach for an Italian film crew shooting New York locations. Again the autobiographical intrudes heavily. The film director, Sara Varni, is modeled after Lina Wertmüller and the male film star bears a strong resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni, people I worked with often.


New York City -- Lincoln Center, the Upper West Side, Spanish Harlem, Greenwich Village, Soho, the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, the tony Royalton Hotel.

Simona's dialogue coach stint starts with the glamorous Hollywood star nearly getting electrocuted in the Lincoln Center fountain during a shoot. Simona will also have the pleasant job of finding Johanna dead in her fancy Upper West Side apartment. The still photographer, Toni Berto, Johanna's lover and Simona's old friend, is accused of the murder. Simona, overriding the objections of her detective lover, jumps in to help Toni and uncovers old and new obsessions. It's also a story about loyalty and Simona's search to find her American legs which leads her to make mistakes.

More about names -- Some people objected to a man being named Toni with an i. That's the Italian spelling of the name and since Toni is Sicilian, it would have been wrong to spell his name Tony.

Recurring Characters

* Stan Greenhouse, her NYPD homicide detective lover
* Raf Garcia, Stan's partner


[regarding Small Raise and Moonlighting]: Both these books are fine mysteries, well and fairly plotted. But Trella Crespi deserves special congratulations for her characterization of Simona. Crespi has made Simona confident and uncertain, happy with her life and regretting choices made, self-sufficient and, just occasionally lonely. In the hands of some authors the results would seem inconsistent and irritating, but Crespi's writing makes Simona seem very very human. And Crespi has given Simona a normal love life, with lows as well as highs, with everyone doing the best they can and hoping things will work out at last. The reasons for this are numerous as they are trivial, but the end result is a heroine who rings true. -- The Drood Review of Mystery

As the series progresses, she [Simona] will undoubtedly become more skilled in her search for information and more discriminating about what she seeks. I hope she will also become more analytical. At times I grew tired of her efforts to assuage the feelings of the other suspects, but then a less-involved amateur sleuth would not have lingered to create the delicious Sicilian Good Fish Salad, whose recipe concludes the book. -- Mystery Scene

Author comment -- Simona is starting her life over again. She's new at sleuthing and is propelled by emotion and intuition. Give her a chance to settle, to come of age all over again in America. My aim is to give the reader the arc of a woman's life.

The Beginning

Things were getting off to a fine start on my moonlighting job. I was standing on skyscraper-high stiletto heels, wearing a summer evening dress one choking size too small and being sprayed by the wind-swept fountain mist at Lincoln Center on an unusually cold September midnight.

Recipe -- Sicilian Good Fish Salad

Serves four

* 1 19-oz. can of cannellini beans
* 1 15-oz. can of corn kernels
* 1 heart of celery sliced very thin -- about two cups
* 1 bunch scallions sliced -- green part included
* 1/2 red pepper diced very small (for color)
* 3 hearts of palm sliced (optional)
* 1 1-inch tuna steak or 2 cans of light meat tuna
* 4 large basil leaves

* 1+1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar or 1 tbsp. lemon juice
* 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
* salt and pepper
* 1 clove of garlic -- minced

Drain the beans and the corn, and put in a serving bowl. Add sliced celery, scallions, red pepper, hearts of palm. If using tuna steak, sear it in a tbsp. of oil in a very hot skillet three minutes per side. Let cool and slice. Add to bowl. If using canned tuna, drain and add. Tear basil leaves into small pieces and add to bowl.

In a small bowl mix salt, pepper and garlic to lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Add olive oil. Whip together well, pour in tuna bowl, and gently mix all ingredients. Serve at room temperature with hearty bread and chilled white wine. Buon appetito!