Gomorrah Author Saviano Runs From the Mob

Most nights, 28-year-old Roberto Saviano sleeps in safe houses. His only public appearances are on TV. He answers text messages from different numbers and can talk only briefly on his cell phone. He's "moved around like a package" daily, without knowing what is happening to him. He longs for a normal life.

Scant hope of that: Saviano is the author of "Gomorrah," the bestselling exposé on the Neapolitan mob (the film version is out in British theaters this month). Since "Gomorrah" was published in 2007, it has sold more than a million copies worldwide. The film, for which Saviano co-wrote the screenplay, follows five foot soldiers of the Casalesi family, which controls the Naples suburb where Saviano grew up. Instead of using seasoned actors, director Matteo Garrone employed Neapolitan locals (five of whom have since been arrested for mob involvement) and shot on location amid the city's gritty streets. The result is a film of stunning authenticity that won the Grand Prix at Cannes and was picked as Italy's foreign-language entry for the Oscars.

"Gomorrah" led to a number of trials, at which Saviano has testified. The attention hasn't pleased the mob—in October, an informant hinted that the Camorra was plotting to kill Saviano and his police escorts via a car bomb. In response to the news, Saviano wrote to La Repubblica newspaper pleading for his life back and asking, "What has been my crime?" None, other than speaking the truth.