Roberto Saviano was born in 1979 in Casal di Principe, a Mafia stronghold in Naples. He grew up in a middle-class household – his father Luigi was a doctor, and his mother Miriam a teacher. Saviano’s first experience of the Mafia came during his youth, when his father rushed a young Camorra (Neapolitan Mafia) victim to hospital, against Mafia protocol (victims are supposed to be left to die). Luigi was later severely beaten in retribution.
Years on, Saviano himself enraged the Mafia with the publication of his carefully researched Gomorrah (2006), an expose of Camorra. The Camorra immediately issued him with a death sentence. He was given a round-the-clock police guard and was forced to move constantly. Despite the huge success of the novel – Gomorrah has sold millions of copies, won a number of high-profile literary awards, and spawned a widely-acclaimed film adaptation in 2008 – Saviano is forced to live in exile, unable to make public appearances in Italy and faced with continued death threats.