West of Rome's two novellas, "My Dog Stupid" and "The Orgy," fulfill the promise of their rousing titles. The latter novella opens with virtuoso description: "His name was Frank Gagliano, and he did not believe in God. He was that most singular and startling craftsman of the building trade-a left-handed bricklayer. Like my father, Frank came from Torcella Peligna, a cliff-hugging town in the Abruzzi. Lean as a spider, he wore a leather cap and puttees the year around, and he was so bowlegged a dog could lope between his knees without touching them."
John Fante began writing in 1929 and published his first short story in 1932. His first novel, Wait Until Spring, Bandini, was published in 1938 and was the first of his Arturo Bandini series of novels, which also include The Road to Los Angeles and Ask the Dust. A prolific screenwriter, he was stricken with diabetes in 1955. Complications from the disease brought about his blindness in 1978 and, within two years, the amputation of both legs. He continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce, and published Dreams from Bunker Hill, the final installment of the Arturo Bandini series, in 1982. He died on May 8, 1983, at the age of seventy-four.