Nicholas Denmon has been able to conquer a world that people spend their entire lives just trying to enter, often with dismal results. After three years at the University of Florida as an English major, during which I’m sure Nick was sober for a total of about twelve minutes, he decided to begin writing his first novel, a Mafia fiction book called For Nothing. Nick drew from personal and family experiences to write the Buffalo crime family novel. After being rejected several times by most publishers, Nick did something very interesting. Instead of self-publishing his book he, and a group of his partners, decided to start their own company which now goes by the name of Pubshelf. Nick’s first novel, For Nothing, became a hit and has sold over one hundred thousand copies to date. It is the flagship book of Pubshelf but they’ve also had other successes including Nick’s second book of the trilogy, titled Buffalo Soldiers. Whether Nick Denmon cares to admit it or not he has given the mob fiction genre a major shot in the arm with his success. Before For Nothing came along things were looking lean in the world of mafia fiction books. The praises for his novels have been endless and I completely agree as Denmon has written carefully researched and riveting tales based on an oft overlooked crime family. Mens Mag Daily was able to chat with Nicholas Denmon about his days as a student at the University of Florida, his thoughts on Mario Puzo’s researching techniques, and he even gave some advice for all of you writers out there.
Mens Mag Daily: Nick, I’ve heard that your college experience was pretty insane and given that you live upstate where there are about a thousand colleges I’m assuming the move to Florida was a strategic one. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Nicholas Denmon: The way it was, my older brother also went to the University of Florida and he was already there and of drinking age. He would get us drinks and I already knew the scene. I knew what clubs to go to, who to hang out with, and what people you needed to know. When I had the opportunity to go party and hang out with my brother with what ended up being another two and a half years I jumped on it. Plus, you’re dealing with all of these Florida women who are always at the beach and looking sexy so it’s definitely a bonus. It was great. When I went there I think it was in the top ten party schools in the nation.
Mens Mag Daily: You’re really making me wish I went to school somewhere sunny.
Nicholas Denmon: Yeah, that’s what’s cool about it. You’re pretty close to the beach and you pass St. Augustine which is only about two hours away and then you have Tampa and Orlando and they’re only about an hour and a half away.
Mens Mag Daily: See, I went to St. John’s so there weren’t a lot of women in bikinis around.
Nicholas Denmon: Yes, it has the unfortunate distinction of having Saint in front of its name.
Mens Mag Daily: When you were in college did you already know that you were going to pursue a career in writing?
Nicholas Denmon: It’s a tough call because I was writing stories since I was in the second grade for money so officially my first paid gig was in the second grade. One of the things I found out early on was that people wanted to be involved in the story so if we ever had to read a story in front of the class kids would pay me twenty-five or thirty cents to include them in the story. I would then use that money to but ice cream in the cafeteria. My parents chose to make me a healthy lunch every day. As a kid you obviously don’t want the healthy lunch so I would spend the money on junk food. As far as when I was in college, I started writing For Nothing in my last year of college. It was at that point that I decided I was just going to do it and try to make it official. I would say I was leaning towards it my whole life. I majored in English I would say I took about thirty different English and literature courses. It was that last year I decided to take a leap, write a book, and see what I could do with it.
Mens Mag Daily: And what was it about the organized crime, mafia genre that drew you in?
Nicholas Denmon: I grew up in an Italian and Irish family in Buffalo and I’m not sure about now but in the 1960’s-1980’s there was a really big organized crime presence in Buffalo. My grandfather is a Sicilian from Palermo and my great grandparents were straight from Palermo. They were kind of brought up around that life and they had their dabblings in that life. My great grandfather actually at one point worked for the police and the Mafia in order to make ends meet. It was during the Great Depression era. He did his best to play both sides of the fence. He would tell the mob when the busts were going down but he would also tell his partners where they would be able to find certain illegal activities. He did that until they came looking for him one day and he had to hide out. He decided that was too close of a call with a family and everything. It was one of those things that I just grew up with. I grew up with the stories that surrounded the life and they say when you’re writing a book you should write what you know.
Mens Mag Daily: I always enjoy Mafia stories that take place outside of New York City. I’ve ready so many books on Magaddino in Buffalo, the New Orleans mob, the Denver mob, and it always really draws me in. Do you think that your story taking place outside of New York City kind of gave you a leg up because you had that aspect of originality right off the bat?
Nicholas Denmon: New York City is kind of the standard setting for mob stories. But yeah I do think it did, one of the things I kind of wanted to do with the book was pay tribute to my roots and the upbringing I had and my family had. You’re right, Buffalo is a unique place and the thing about the Buffalo crime family is that it’s not just Buffalo. It’s also Ontario and even extends up to Youngstown, Ohio so they cover a lot of ground. Buffalo, as a setting is unique and in the winter the elements can kind of serve as a character as well.
Mens Mag Daily: When I read For Nothing, I was excited and I had a feeling you would do very well because mob fiction definitely isn’t what it used to be.
Nicholas Denmon: I’ve read some pretty cool stuff that kind of touches on elements of organized crime but doesn’t focus on the Mafia in particular. Growing up, when I would watch a Mafia movie or read a book I always had an opinion on what I would have done differently so what I did was write the story that I always wanted to hear. I put in elements of what I wished other Mafia stories would have done. Hopefully it works for most people and they really enjoy the ride.
Mens Mag Daily: I’m assuming you’re like me in that you’ve probably read a lot of Mafia fiction. What was like the mob book for you, the book you regard as the best?
Mens Mag Daily: For me actually, it wasn’t even fiction. It was a non-fiction book called the Goodfella Tapes, have you ever read that?
Nicholas Denmon: I actually haven’t.
Nicholas Denmon: It was about the Philadelphia mob, the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. It was really funny how inept they were. Also, movies really got me into from Goodfellas to the Godfather, movies you would really expect and the Boondock Saints which is kind of a cult classic. What really does it for me is realism and I don’t necessarily think you get that from the movies. For me it was important to write a book that was going to have some sense of reality to it even though it was going to be fiction.
Mens Mag Daily: Do you have a favorite Godfather movie? This is something I have to know.
Nicholas Denmon: The first one, I think the other two just weren’t quite there. They were still awesome but the original is definitely my pick and the third one is the one I liked the least.
Mens Mag Daily: This is something I’ve always wondered about and I want to get your perspective on it. The Godfather 2 was so spot on historically and Puzo has stated that the only research he ever did on these subjects was in the library. Do you believe that?
Nicholas Denmon: Far be it for me to call bullshit on Puzo because I’m really at the bottom of the totem pole here but you can figure a lot of stuff out without actually knowing somebody in the life. However, to get a sense of realism you should probably know somebody or somebody who knows somebody. If I was a betting man I would put my money on him having talked to somebody, maybe a police officer who was on an investigation. I would say the safe bet is he probably knew somebody.
Mens Mag Daily: I wrote my senior thesis on the Mafia in Cuba and I watched the Godfather 2 right after writing it and some of it was just so ridiculously to the tee that my opinion was that Puzo was just incredible or had some serious insider knowledge.
Nicholas Denmon: I don’t know what he had access to back then. Now, you can find a lot out. Nothing is a secret and I think that’s a problem that the mob faces in general. Their existence relies on secrecy. I do think you can find a lot through research. I did tons of research before I wrote my book on the Buffalo mafia and while I was writing it as well. There’s so much information out there on who was killed and why and how or who was in charge of what. You can definitely uncover a lot through research. There’s a book called Cigar City Mafia, which is about my adopted home Tampa. That’s another great book that gives you a lot of insight.
Mens Mag Daily: As far as your researching for the book, did you do months of research before you started writing or did you do more research along the way, what was the process?
Nicholas Denmon: Some of it was a familiarity with the subject through my family and the things I enjoyed reading and enjoyed watching. From there I hammered out the part of the book where Jack gets shot and I really wanted to follow the story of the bullet and what was going on in his head as he dies. From there, I started doing research and I think that was essential because I wanted what I was writing to be spot on and not just a fabrication.
Mens Mag Daily: I also want to know how you went about getting published. A lot of successful authors have cool stories about how they got published.
Nicholas Denmon: I think I was denied about forty times and eventually what we ended up doing was creating our own company. We started off as D Rated Novelists and now the company is called Pubshelf. My book is the flagship of the company and it’s doing really well. I didn’t think we had much of a chance going against companies like Penguin but we came at the right time given the books that were out and all the people that were doing self-publishing and things like that. Now we have dozens of titles and we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies. At first I was just happy to get it published at all. I figured it didn’t matter who reads it because at least I would be a part of a world I enjoy. Nobody could take that away from me and I think people should be proud of writing a book even if it doesn’t sell hundreds of thousands of copies because it’s quite an accomplishment and a lot of hard work. I thought the only copies I would sell would be to my friends and family so it was a nice surprise when the first week we sold fifty and then the next week we sold fifty and it just kind of kept rolling from there. It’s a nice little success story and there were so many people involved besides me and there was definitely some luck involved as well.
Mens Mag Daily: It’s great to be able to make money doing something you love.
Nicholas Denmon: Yeah, it really is and the thing about it is that there are so many people who do it just because they love it and they don’t make a lot of money. There are a lot of talented people out there that are just waiting for somebody to pick up their book. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of these people and read their work which is excellent. They’re just out there plugging away.
Mens Mag Daily: It’s very cool that you formed your own company, what exactly went into that?
Nicholas Denmon: Fortunately for me, my dad is a corporate attorney so he helped me figure a lot of things out in terms of property rights because I had to protect myself as the author. By the way, quick plug, For Nothing is now available on audio through Cherry Hill Publishing which is not affiliated with our publishing company. They went ahead and hired a voice talent and put it together and it sounds pretty solid.
Mens Mag Daily: Do you have any advice for the people out there who are trying to publish a book?
Nicholas Denmon: Yeah, I think marketing is important. At Pubshelf we deal with first time authors a lot but we also have a marketing arm for people who are already published. One of the things you can do is to get very involved in social media and kind of create a community of people who care about what it is that you’re writing. A writer can do blogs and interviews and really get themselves out there. Another thing and this is a pet peeve of mine is when people call themselves an aspiring writer or an aspiring author. You don’t need to aspire to write, just write and in my opinion, once you’ve finished writing the book then you’re no longer an aspiring author, you simply are an author. If you want to be a writer don’t talk about it or aspire to it, just write.
Mens Mag Daily: Nick, is there anywhere your fans can reach out to you or learn more about you on the internet, do you Tweet?
Nicholas Denmon: I’ve got it all man, I’ve got it all. (Laughs) My Twitter is https://twitter.com/NicholasDenmon. My website is http://nicholasdenmon.com/. I have a blog which is http://dratednovelist.blogspot.com/.
Article By: Jon DaBove