Brooklynite’s noir fiction depicts a gentrifying Clinton Hill
Taking place over just one week, the story centers on Caesar Stiles – whose grandmother immigrated to New York from Sicily, settled in the Bronx, and had four children. Caesar’s parents, who never legally married, moved to New Jersey and had three sons. When Caesar grew up he resolved to “find a home in the mysteries of Brooklyn.”
Soon after his arrival, while working at a bar in his neighborhood, Caesar encounters a young, beautiful woman from the South of France. She tells Caesar that she is searching for her missing brother, and he agrees to assist her. But Caesar has his own demons – he is grappling with a troubling family past and struggling to feel comfortable as a white man living in a largely African American community.
Navigating the streets of a quickly changing Brooklyn on the brink of gentrification, Caesar attempts to solve the mystery and make sense of his family’s convoluted history.
Cotto’s first novel, “Domino Effect,” is set in Queens, but for “Outerborough Blues”, a noir fiction, the author looked to Brooklyn as a backdrop. “Gentrification is a huge part of this story,” he told the Eagle in a recent interview. “I really wanted the book to reflect the very early stages of it, since the atmosphere is more raw, more dangerous, and exciting. There is something looming, though the inhabitants don’t exactly know what to make of it, which creates fear…or opportunity,” Cotto explained.
The author, now a Carroll Gardens resident, has lived in Brooklyn since 1997 – first on Atlantic Avenue near the waterfront and then for several years in Clinton Hill, where “Outerborough Blues” is set.
“As an author, I’m constantly informed by my surroundings,” he told the Eagle. “My antenna is always up. I’m lucky – as a writer, at least – to have had an itinerant adolescence, moving frequently to diverse settings before settling in NYC in the early ‘90s.”
Though he’s moved around quite a bit, and even spent a year living in Italy, Cotto says that Brooklyn has most heavily informed and shaped his writing. “Brooklyn has been the most influential due to its beauty and grit and cultural diversity,” he says. “Sh-t happens in Brooklyn.”
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