meet Frankie Clemenza and his resplendent car

Welcome to the first in my series of posts introducing you to the six main characters in my zombie apocalypse novel, Sam’s Town! Today I want you to meet Frankie Clemenza, an old friend of my main character, Sam. Frankie is a lifelong resident of Hibbing, Minnesota, where most of the story takes place, and although he’s a little self-conscious about the fact that he’s never gone to college, married, or done much traveling outside of Hibbing, he loves his life. Frankie has recently inherited the family restaurant from his aunt and uncle, and he’s opened it up (along with his upstairs apartment) as a safe house for Hibbing zombie apocalypse survivors. As the only true extrovert in my novel, Frankie loves the constant flow of people in and out of the restaurant, even if they’re sweaty and bloody. He also loves giving hugs. And he’s a bit of a klutz. Frankie can come across as “an unambitious goof-off” (his uncle Bobby’s words), but beneath his weight-lifting, pasta-cooking, classic-car-restoring surface, there’s a loyal friend and maybe even a capable leader.

Fun facts about Frankie:

  • Yes, his last name (and thus the name of the restaurant) was inspired by that of Peter Clemenza, one of the capos (and one of Vito Corleone’s oldest friends) in The Godfather. My Clemenzas have no organized crime connections, but because they’re chefs and restaurant owners, I associate them with Peter Clemenza, who once took a break from planning a Mafia war to teach Michael Corleone how to make tomato sauce–and uttered the famous line, “Leave the guns; take the cannoli.”
  • Frankie drives a 1960s Cadillac DeVille (I didn’t specify the year), which saves the day at a crucial point in my novel and which Sam describes as “resplendent.” I loved the idea of him in a chrome-plated “pontoon boat” of a car, but I knew that four-door cars were less common mid-century, so I had to do a little research to make sure that Cadillac came out with a DeVille in the 60s that had rear doors, which I needed for plot reasons. (That’s all I’m telling you right now!)

And now, for your reading enjoyment, here’s a snippet of the scene in which Frankie first appears. Frankie is having his arm bandaged due to an accident in which a gun went off while he was holding it. (Did I mention he’s a bit of a klutz?)

The man in the chair stood up. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, a few years older than Sam. He had the arms of someone who spent a lot of time in the gym and the abs of someone who spent a lot of time around garlic bread. “I just grazed the top of my arm. Could have been a lot worse, as klutzy as I am.”

“Frankie Clemenza!” Sam grinned.

The other man furrowed his brow. “Frankie was a dumb kid. I go by Frank now.”

“Oh, sorry…” Sam took a step backward.

Frank’s serious face split into a smile, and he stepped forward. “Just kidding, man! You can call me whatever you want!” He grabbed Sam in a fierce yet lingering hug. “I missed you, buddy. It’s been way too long. You never come home! But—” he pulled back to look Sam in the face but kept hugging him—“I read your comic every week when it comes out. Every week!”

What do you think of Frankie so far? Would you want a guy like him around during the zombie apocalypse, or is he a bit much to handle? Let me know in the comments!

Next week, we’ll meet Sam’s parents, Joe and Anna Larson, one of whom has been called Clemenza’s best customer of all time…

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