BookBrowse Reviews Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi

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Inamorata

by Joseph Gangemi

Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2004, 319 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2005, 336 pages

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Not only a fast-paced thriller but a good love story to boot - set in the 19th century

From the book jacket: It's 1922 and Martin Finch is on the case of a lifetime—to determine whether a beautiful Philadelphia socialite is able to contact the spirit realm. He is prepared to debunk a fraud but instead the man of science falls in love with the medium in this debut historical thriller.

Comment: Inamorata, Gangemi's first published novel, features a cast of skeptical graduate students, morphine addicts, beguiling spirit-mediums, sadistic gynecologists, peg-legged Filipino butlers, and a talkative ghost.  For historical fiction buffs who like their reading matter a little bit thrilling and more than a touch on the strange side.

The trigger for writing the book came about when he came across a book about mystics being sold at a local café (Inamorata is set only a few blocks from the Rittenhouse Square home where Gangemi lives).  When he asked why they should be selling such a thing he discovered that the location of the cafe had once been the house of the colorful Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) - the founder of the occult religion Theosophy.  Reading further on the subject he found that parlor séances hadn't died out in the Victorian era, as he had thought but continued well into the 20s, and that in 1922 Scientific American had offered $5,000 for conclusive evidence of a psychic manifestation. 

The committee, which included Houdini and Conan Doyle (both who had a genuine desire to be proven wrong) had easily debunked one bogus medium after another, until they encountered Mina Crandon, aka 'Margery The Medium'.

The battle of wills ran for many months with Houdini publishing a damning pamphlet exposing 'Margery', but he was unable to convince the general public.  Later, one member of the committee admitted to having a torrid affair with Margery during the investigation, and there was speculation that he wasn't alone.

Gangemi has taken this small piece of history and heavily fictionalized it - changing all the character's names, sidelining Houdini, and relocating it from Boston to Philadelphia.

He recently completed a screen adaptation of Inamorata for producers Johnny Depp and Graham King (The Aviator).  He tells me that there is no news on the casting as yet, but the plan is to be in production by late Fall 2005.  He's also been involved in various screen writing projects and is continuing to work on a new historical novel set in Italy at the end of the 19th century.  Following his marriage this week, he and his wife will be relocating to Italy for 3-6 months so that he can research his book - lucky them!

This review is from the March 16, 2005 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



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