2014 Interview With Frank Amoroso
Thanks for joining us for this interview, Frank. We’re looking forward to sharing more about your book and other efforts with our readers.
What inspired you to craft this quite intriguing historical fiction tale?
While attending a catered affair at Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York on the fabled Gold Coast of Long Island, I was impressed by its magnificence. I was advised that it was built by Otto Hermann Kahn in the early twentieth century. Mr. Kahn was a complete mystery to me. When I learned that he was immortalized as the Monopoly© Guy, I was hooked. Otto Kahn knew and interacted with many of the most famous and powerful people of his time. Luminaries like Teddy Roosevelt, Enrico Caruso, and Charlie Chaplin graced lavish affairs hosted by Kahn at Oheka Castle.
I suppose that somewhere in the great beyond, the spirit of Otto Kahn sensed a disturbance in his repose. Perhaps Mr. Kahn followed the advice of Yannick Murphy, the author of Signed, Mata Hari who wrote:
“If you want to be a good ghost, stay quiet for almost a century. Then on the anniversary of your death, begin to haunt the dreams of a writer so that the writer tells your story the way it should be told.”
Behind Every Great Fortune is a novel of historical fiction that tells the story of Otto Kahn and Oheka Castle the way it should be told.
What’s the significance of the book’s title?
During a grand ball at Catherine’s palace in St. Petersburg in 1905, Otto Kahn asks the richest woman in Tsarist Russia, Princess Zina Yusopov, how her family acquired its great wealth. She regales him with a story of her ancestors in the Kazan Khanate, a medieval Tatar state. When Ivan the Terrible planned to attack the Kazans, the Yusopovs switched their allegiance and joined with Ivan. They betrayed and killed the Kazan ruler and made off with his treasury in the ensuing chaos.
In conclusion, Princess Zina boasted, “So you see, Otto, behind every great fortune, lies a great crime.”
Did you perform considerable research prior to bringing the story to life?
Absolutely, I wanted to depict accurately the historical context of the turbulent second decade of the 20th century. The characters in Behind Every Great Fortune™ must deal with the drama and horrors of World War I and the Russian Revolution that irrevocably altered the course of history. So, for example, it was necessary to understand the modes of transportation, communication, and international relations in order to present a story that rings true. In addition, the social conventions and mores of that time were very different from today’s conventions. I read more than a hundred books, contemporary periodicals, and articles to comprehend the times and relationships that make Behind Every Great Fortune compelling.
Precisely how has Otto Hermann Kahn’s legend persevered after all these years?
For someone who was the most renowned person on the planet during his storied life, Otto Kahn has been largely forgotten. He was a banker whose stature rivaled that of J.P. Morgan. Presidents, Prime Ministers and royalty throughout the capitals of the world sought Kahn’s advice.
In addition, he was a noted patron of the arts who sponsored struggling artists like Paul Robeson and Crane Hart. Otto Kahn was the high-profile chairman of the Metropolitan Opera who brought world-class talent like Enrico Caruso, Arturo Toscanini, and Vaslav Nijinsky to the United States. There is even speculation that F. Scott Fitzgerald modeled Jay Gatsby after Otto Kahn. The classic movie, Citizen Kane, was filmed at Oheka Castle, Kahn’s Gold Coast mansion, and the Marx Brothers spoofed Kahn as the eccentric millionaire in the movie Animal Crackers. As I mentioned previously, Otto Kahn was so well known that his caricature became the symbol of the most popular board game ever.
Perhaps Behind Every Great Fortune™ will restore Otto Kahn back to prominence.
What possible connection could the legendary Rasputin have to Kahn?
Interesting question. Otto Kahn was one of the greatest experts on railroad financing during the early 20th century. Under Tsar Nicholas II, Russia underwent a massive modernization program that focused heavily on railroad construction. Each year Mr. Kahn spent several months in Europe. Although the record is relatively silent about his activities in Europe, it is likely that he may have been consulted on various aspects of Russia’s railroad program. Simultaneously, Rasputin rose to power and influence due to his miraculous healing of the Tsar’s son who suffered from hemophilia.
Using the time honored technique of historical fiction writers, I created interactions between Kahn and Rasputin based on their respective personalities and the circumstances. As you might imagine, the results were incendiary when the urbane western capitalist met the eastern mystic peasant. The clash of cultures and personalities provides some interesting pyrotechnic moments in Behind Every Great Fortune™.
What are your future writing/publishing plans?
I’ve got a number of exciting projects in the works. Behind Every Great Fortune™ is the first of a trilogy. I’m making great progress with Book 2 of the Oheka Chronicles, entitled The Lone Saboteur and Book 3 is in the scoping phase.
In addition, I am writing a companion book to Behind Every Great Fortune™ . All I can say at this point is that it will be another period piece that involves several icons in the world of entertainment. Our readers will enjoy the journey I am scripting in the companion book.
Lastly, I’m writing the memoirs of a Korean War veteran that will be a poignant and tragic at the same time. Our institutional memory as a country with regard to our foreign wars is often woefully deficient. Hopefully, this book will help remind us of the sacrifices of our service men and women. Otherwise, paraphrasing the prophetic words of Georges Santayana, we are destined to repeat our mistakes.
In addition to being an author, you’re also a practicing attorney. Please share more with our readers about your endeavors in that field.
Law is a wonderful training ground for writing. It’s all about communication and persuasion with the added requirement of precision. From my days on the Law Review to clerking for a Judge on New York’s highest court to working as chief staff for a NYS Senator to working as a prosecutor and teaching a course in White Collar Crime, to handling litigation for Fortune 500 companies, my career revolved around words, written and spoken.
Of course, Behind Every Great Fortune™ is my first endeavor at fiction (although some of my adversaries might take issue with that). I find writing historical fiction to be liberating and fun. Sometimes I wish I could type faster so that I can find out what happens. It’s a blast!
How can our readers learn more about you and your ongoing efforts?
They should check out my website, www.BehindEveryGreatFortune.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter @Ottosmonocle. Otto Kahn was called the King of New York and I will be tweeting his adventures in the 21st century complete with his take on modern technology.
I’m also considering blogging but I’m not sure whether it will consume too much time that may be better spent on my other projects. We’ll see.
How can they contact you directly?
I can be reached by email at Frank@BehindEveryGreatfortune.com or by phone at 910-399-2508.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
As Behind Every Great Fortune™ developed, I was amazed at the inter-connectedness of so many critical events and people that shaped the world we live in today. My hope is that readers will be enthralled by my treatment of these remarkable characters and their impact on what we call history.
Thanks again, Frank and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors.