Who would have thought it possible? Here I am, two hours away from a moment I’ve been dreaming about since I was about 14 – my first official book signing!
And to make life even better, I’m in Naples, Florida, sitting with the no-longer Caged Sparrow himself, Joseph Tuttolomondo, without whom I’d still be sitting in a government cubicle and without whom this day would still only be a dream.
So, of course, for today’s blog, I will interview Joe, the former Buffalo undercover narcotics chief who had the decency to get himself framed and tossed into prison so I could write his story nearly 35 years later. We’re in the First Baptist Church Naples, so if you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to drop in. It’s the only way you’re going to get not one, but two signatures on your copy of “Caged Sparrow,” Tonight until 8 p.m. and tomorrow 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Me: Joe, let’s talk about your story, since that’s why where here. How long have you been thinking about making it into a book?
Joe: Since I was released from prison in 1979. Considering the circumstances and all the surprising things that did and didn’t happen, I just thought there were things that should be told.
Me: Why did it take you so long to write it?
Joe: I couldn’t find a Christian writer who would take it on. I tried a bit right after I got out of prison, but didn’t know how to go about it. One publisher who was referred to me listened to my story and said, “There’s already a lot of that Serpico kind of stuff.” I was discouraged, and over time, although I always wanted and prayed that it be written down, I figured if God wanted it, it would happen.
Me: With hindsight, is there anything you would change if you could re-live the whole trial and prison scene?
Joe: None what-so-ever. The results were the best thing that ever happened to me and I’m grateful to all involved.Even those who kicked it off.
Me: What went through your mind when your friend Linda told you someone you never met wanted to write your book?
Joe: I was overwhelmed with joy. It affirmed the fact that the Lord answers prayer. He may take His time, but He answers.
Me: What’s the best part of seeing your book in print?
Joe: First and foremost, I’m thrilled because it glorifies the Lord for who he is and what he did in my life and my children’s lives and for so many I met in prison. Secondly, I’m excited for what this book can accomplish, particularly for those who don’t know Jesus. You can’t stuff Jesus down someone’s throat. He’s a gift you have to offer and the recipient has to accept it voluntarily. This book is a gift to those who are wondering.
Me: What’s your favorite recipe from your Mom’s cookbook?
Joe: That’s easy. Pasta Fazola (macaroni and white kidney beans). You make a roux of caramelized onions and garlic (use chicken stock instead of water), then you marry the roux with some kidney beans and let it simmer. Then you par cook ditalini – a short stubby Italian macaroni. Add the pasta to the beans and cover it with grated parmesan cheese. The first time I fed it to the guys in prison, they turned their noses up at it, but once they tried it, I had them hooked. Even the guards liked it, and you know if the guards don’t like something it doesn’t get served. Pasta Fazola became a regular favorite.
Me: Do you still keep a live turkey tied up in your bathroom as Thanksgiving nears?
Joe: No, only because we no longer have a radiator to tie one to.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:31