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Welcome to JimCiullo.com
My sincerest thanks for taking the trouble to find your way to my website. I hope you will find it helpful, especially if one of my novels has piqued your interest.

Trying my hand at being an author has been a lifelong ambition. But like most of us, I was never in a position to change careers, that is, to give up the proverbial “day job,” until I reached an age where at least a small pension was coming in. I still have “day jobs,” but as a consultant, they afford a needed flexibility.

As for my novels, they tend to take place in interesting places where I have been and emanate from my interest in world affairs—what the world is vs. what it could be. Nonetheless, first and foremost, they are meant to entertain. Hopefully, the reader can identify with the characters and acquire a feel for their situations and conflicts.

Below are some websites that I can recommend:
Mystery Writers of America | Sisters in Crime, National
Sisters in Crime, New England | Mainly Murder Press | Books in Motion
Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) | International Thiller Writers (ITW)

Please support your local independent bookstores.


Books by Jim Ciullo
Maracaibo Orinoco A Tango in Tuscany

MARACAIBO is a contemporary political conspiracy woven from headlines we may soon be reading. Much of it takes place in the oil-rich area around Maracaibo, Venezuela and the nearby borderlands with Colombia, along the semi-lawless Guajira peninsula. There is no shortage of bad actors from an anti-US Venezuelan president, to Colombian para-military operatives, to al-Qaida agents among the Muslim population of the Guajira peninsula, to power-hungry conspirators well-placed in the US Government.

Although MARACAIBO will stand on its own, it can also be considered a sequel to ORINOCO, taking place some ten years later. Marialena Morales, a young college student in ORINOCO, becomes a CIA agent after September 11, 2001 and is assigned to Venezuela, where she happens upon the ambush of two US senators. One is murdered. The other, Joe LaCarta, the principal character in ORINOCO, is kidnapped. As the U.S. prepares to invade Venezuela in the middle of the 2008 presidential campaign, Marialena races against the clock, one step ahead of rogue elements in her own agency, to figure out who is really responsible and to rescue LaCarta, her former mentor. Along the way, she falls in love with a conflicted Venezuelan undercover agent.

Reviews of Maracaibo

"Maracaibo is a first rate political thriller with multi-layered characters, an intriguing plot and enough action-adventure to keep you turning the pages. Ciullo, a former Peace Corps volunteer, knows the Venezuelan political landscape and he deftly weaves political intrigue with compelling plot twists in this gripping tale. He's a master storyteller and I look forward to more from this talented writer.
--Mary Kennedy,
Author of Dead Air and Reel Murder, the Talk Radio Mystery Series from Penguin. www.MaryKennedy.net

"Maracaibo by James A. Ciullo is a first-rate, action-packed, political thriller that delivers a one, two punch from the first page to the last. Like its predecessor Orinoco, Maracaibo takes you on an adventure across the globe through the barrios of Venezuela, the deserts of Columbia, and to a lesser extent, Washington, DC, and Manchester, NH. A true master of his craft, Ciullo’s writing style is both exciting and thought provoking. An easy read, his insights into the political workings and bi-partisan politics is nothing short of masterful; and he does it all while weaving a well-crafted story of espionage and conspiracy! … Ciullo’s characters are well thought out and unbelievably realistic; so much so that we are swept up by every feeling and emotion felt by Marialena from Joe’s kidnapping, to the attempted assassination on her life, to Sergio’s demise. We feel Joe’s apprehension while he waits and ponders his fate, and we feel Sergio’s anger and contempt for the vicious animal who murdered his wife and little girl. Only truly great writing can make us feel such emotion. Maracaibo is a winner” Download full review.
--Brenda Scott, Manchester Contemporary Literature Examine,

"Jim Ciullo's "Maracaibo" is a breakneck thriller that has the advantage of being possible, as the reader will recognize the players and plot-lines inspired by current events. We have a Dick Cheney-ish VP who is really running the country, a Chavez-ish leader of Venezuela, a Fox News right-wing commentatator, and an Al Qaida cell operating near the Venezuela-Colombia border. All collide over the usual touchstone of US foreign poicy--oil and how to get it. The plot centers around the hero of Ciullo's previous novel, "Orinoco," whose connection to Venezuela and its president derives from his Peace Corps service many years earlier. Ciullo himself was a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezuela too, and that experience and knowledge of the country show in the vivid descriptions and local color that invigorate this book.

In short, a totally plausible mix of events that grabs the reader from the first page and won't let go until the last. As fast-paced as "24," as frightening as "Seven Days in May.”
--Atty. Art Milch, Former Peace Corps Volunteer in Venezuela

"Jim Ciullo deftly weaves his first-hand knowledge of Venezuela and his love of politics into "Maracaibo," a compelling tale of adventurism, intrigue, and love. Latin America, too often regulated to the back burner of U.S. foreign policy, may soon become a political hotbed for U.S. political interests. It wouldn't surprise me if Ciullo's book proves prophetic sooner rather than later..
--Dan Valenti,
political commentator, broadcaster, and best-selling author of Baseball Comes Home

"If you enjoy a page-turning political conspiracy with gritty foreign intrigue, you'll love Maracaibo and its cast of compelling characters.
--Kevin O'Hara,
author of Last of the Donkey Pilgrims

"Unlike authors who seem to style their characters in a monotone, Ciullo has a talent for painting unique individuals with clearly separate voices -- and even more intriguing, faults. … The physicality of events is painted specifically and broadly at the same time. Geographical detail is powerful and descriptive, giving a full sensory account of Venezuelan terrain and climate. Download full review.
Jody Kordana, Berkshire Eagle (Berkshire County, MA)
Dec. 27, 2009

"The author … is on to something here. I was hooked … a fast-paced story … you can’t put down ’til it’s done. The dialogue is realistic, and the characters move at lightning speed. It all sounds likely, which is what makes it enticing … now that I’ve met him on the pages of this book, I want to read Ciullo’s first two books, A Tango in Tuscany (2002) and Orinoco (2007)… Maracaibo is for fans of puzzling murder mysteries combined with all too realistic political power mongering and deception, informed by the author’s own in-depth knowledge of place … a grand tale.
—Don Messerschmidt, award-winning writer and editor ECS Nepal magazine, reviewing for Peace Corps Writers.
Download full review.

"I could easily imagine this book becoming a movie…I never had a dull moment reading this novel. This is the kind of book I like to read. You will too. Enjoy... Download full review.
--Steve Moore
of Bookpleasures.com

"If you read and enjoyed Orinoco, you’ll be happy to see the return of the Independent Senator from Vermont, Joe LaCarta… this is a fast-moving story into which author Ciullo has woven some unexpected strands of domestic and international political intrigue alongside the age-old themes of greed and the desire for power.." Download full review.
--Karen Treanor
of New Mystery Reader

"Jim Ciullo has written a page-turner. Varying points of view are artfully woven into a tale of politics and power struggles, neatly tied together to form an intriguing, action-packed story. Wonderfully depicted characters and great sense of place. I've recommended this one to friends..."
--Suzanne Young, Author, Murder by Yew

"Maracaibo is an action-packed page-turner with compelling characters, an intriguing plot and vivid settings. Author James Ciullo transports readers into a high stakes world of political secrets, gritty international intrigue, romance and daring escapades. Readers will root for the safety of Vermont Senator Joe LaCarta and sexy CIA operative Marialena Morales as they fight for their lives in a breakneck adventure where nothing is as it seems. Ciullo writes so convincingly that the events and deception in Maracaibo feel as if they could truly happen. The author takes us on a journey that spans locations such as Vermont, Washington DC, and Venezuela, and readers are sure to enjoy the ride. An excellent book written by a talented author.."
--Stacy Juba, author of Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim

Orinoco is a mystery/suspense novel. Conspirators are attempting to terrorize Joe LaCarta and force him to abandon his US Senate race in Vermont. They resurrect an event long since laid to rest. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezuela in the 1970’s, LaCarta and his cohorts pulled off a heist of art looted by the Nazis in WWII, liquidating the proceeds to fund their programs into perpetuity. Now, twenty-five years later, they discover that the heist was not the win-win proposition they had thought. There were sinister actors on that same stage, hovering along Venezuela’s mysterious Orinoco River. 

This novel should appeal to mystery and suspense aficionados who enjoy a fast read with unexpected twists, and especially to those interested in politics, world affairs, exotic international settings, deniable espionage, and undercurrents of Nazi nefariousness. There are several interesting female characters, including an investigative reporter who becomes Joe’s lover, and young Marialena Morales, the principal character in MARACAIBO, the sequel that is in the works.

Reviews of Orinoco

"This is a heady mix that Ciullo brings to his readers. In a fast fun read, he gives the reader a story that runs from the steamy tropical settings of Venezuela to the more settled towns of Vermont with some stops in Mexico and Washington.

… The book is a quick-paced page turner, and like any good mystery, it is filled with twists and turns …

… I would recommend
Orinoco to any mystery fan who is looking for a fun, fast read that may just make you stop and think a little and wonder if there is maybe a grain of truth somewhere in the tale.”
--Joe Graham
of Reader Views, www.ReaderViews.com
Downoad complete review.

"Orinoco is an interesting political thriller … Ciullo provides a twisting tale in which the past haunts the future. 
--Harriet Klausner, #1 Reviewer at Amazon.com
Download complete review.

"Orinoco" offers plenty of fun of the "Don't open that door — Oh no, he opened the door!" variety. By halfway through, I was pumping my fist like any red-blooded American confronted with a global conspiracy of Nazis.

The three Peace Corps buddies and their bone-deep camaraderie— the beer they drink, the girls they meet, the schemes they concoct, the shenanigans they pull off, the trouble they get into and out of — resonate on a human level.

… a proper page-turner in which we have some level of emotional investment. Last I checked, that's the very definition of "guilty pleasure."                                          
--Michael Scott Leonard, Berkshire Eagle
Download complete review.

“Intrigue, excitement, drama … this book has it all. Ciullo effectively uses the life of Peace Corps volunteers and politics to create a suspense filled novel. You won’t be able to put this one down.” 
--Atty. Sherwood Guernsey
Peace Corps, Former Director Domestic Programs
and Former Mass. Legislator

…this novel has all the makings of an excellent Hollywood thriller. There's easily enough drama, and certainly an abundance of exotic settings, to fill the big screen.

…The plot…is exceptionally well crafted and readers will find it difficult to put down. The author wouldn't mind if some Hollywood decision-makers recognize that and begin talking to him about screen rights. But that's in the future.

--A.C. Hutchison
Vermont Sunday Magazine, former editor of Times Argus
Download complete review.

"This is an exciting story which gets an A for plotting, and a B for characterisations, with the truest line in the book coming when Pancho’s daughter tells him her father used to talk about Joe and the work of the Peace Corps. Joe says "And you were interested? Nobody else ever seemed to be, once we returned (home).' Many RPCVs can vouch for that."
--Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
Download complete review.

A Tango in Tuscany

An idyllic vacation villa is ruffled by elements from a more ruthless world. Claudio, an Argentine physician, is the life of the group, even offering to give tango lessons. Silvia, an American almost old enough to be his mother, develops a fast rapport with the charismatic Claudio, so much so that her husband Tony, the proprietor, suspects that an unlikely attraction is in the making.

But Claudio is on a mission. He has tracked the retired army officer responsible for the disappearance of his mother during Argentina’s “dirty war” twenty years before. Colonel Leone is surrounded by bodyguards in a remote Tuscan town. Claudio must get to him and make him confront his past.

But nothing is as clear-cut as it seems. Is Leone really the monster from Claudio’s nightmares? Also, those who had orchestrated the disappearances do not want Leone to reveal what he knows. They send agents to hunt the hunter, Claudio. Silvia and Tony are drawn into the cauldron. Revenge and redemption spin through a final tango as the showdown unfolds.

This novel will appeal to suspense readers who have a taste for international flavors. The drama has aspects of a morality play. Silvia is a strong female character who ponders the meaningfulness of her life. Readers interested in Italy (Tuscany in particular), Argentina (its politics in particular, not to mention the tango), and human rights issues should enjoy this novel.

Reviews of A Tango in Tuscany
“Intrigue, excitement, romance, and an idyllic, exotic locale are captured... a real page-turner..."
--The Artful Mind

“...a book title that makes immediate expectations. What better escape to beauty, elegance, and grace..."
--The Advocate

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Novels in the Works

Garibaldi's Gift
GARIBALDI’S GIFT is dedicated to the heroic men and women from Allied forces and from the Italian population who overcame the Fascist yoke and Nazi occupation in WWII Italy. It portrays how an Italian-American returns to the Italy of his birth as an undercover operative to work with the Italian resistance in Naples and in Rome (1943-1944).

As if life were not complicated enough, Captain Dante Salvatore falls in love with resistance heroine Mariangela Altagrazia, whose husband had been murdered by the Fascist Police, or so everyone believes. Dante’s and Mariangela’s relationship becomes a life and death struggle. Can it survive the dangers and obstacles thrown in its path?

The legendary street kids of Naples—the scugnizzi, are introduced in the opening chapters. As the action moves to Rome, Gestapo Headquarters at 155 Via Tasso practically becomes a character in the dynamic of the conflict.

GARIBALDI’S GIFT is the story of ordinary people caught up in the crosshairs of an extraordinary time. The novel crafts in a number of prevalent themes: Jews being smuggled out of Italy; the role of the Catholic Church; Italian-Americans returning to fight on the soil of their forefathers; betrayal and deceit; tactics and reprisal; and the yearning for liberation. The story is woven around actual events and conditions.

Year of the Passage
The timeline is 1981-82. A social revolution is unfolding. People formerly warehoused in state institutions finally are taking their rightful place in their communities, not as unsupervised street people, but in homes and in programs staffed to meet their needs. Later, this leads to enhanced individualization and to a more certain realization of a high quality of life. The story is woven around real-life developments as they occurred.

This fictionalization portrays, with some humor and with some sentimentality, the challenges and conflicts of that time through the eyes of its principal players: mentally retarded adults making the transitions, community families in need of the assistance, and the communities and politicians who require a convincing demonstration of success. Most depicted are the professionals charged with the responsibility to orchestrate the positive outcomes and prove that the shift to community life is a worthy goal.

Fiona McDowell, the main character, is the Area Director for a system of community services for the mentally retarded in Western Massachusetts. To be treated normally herself by all those with whom she must interact, she decides to keep secret the fact that she is a Roman Catholic nun.

This attempt to keep things simple soon backfires. Johnny Rollins, a 40 year-old African- American Vietnam veteran, unaware of her secret vocation, takes a liking to her. With her biological clock ticking, Fiona soon finds herself with a personal conflict. The crossroads in her personal life is not unlike the critical tipping point in her professional field. At the same time that she is charged with making and carrying out fateful decisions for those much more vulnerable than herself, she cannot decide which path to follow for herself.

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James A. “Jim’’ Ciullo - A Brief Bio
Jim Ciullo is a member of Mystery Writers of America and of Sisters in Crime. He lives in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts and travels regularly. He has family in Vermont and considers it a second home. In addition to writing, he works as a consultant to human service, workforce development, and education agencies. Jim has worked summer seasons at several cultural venues such as Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), the Edith Wharton Restoration (The Mount), and Ventfort Hall (Museum of the Gilded Age).

In 1998, Jim took early retirement from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation, where he served twenty-one years in the development of a community-based system of services for persons with mental retardation and their families. During this period, he worked in several capacities, most notably as the Area Director for Berkshire County.

He received a B.A. from Boston College and a Masters in Education from the University of Massachusetts. He served for over 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Venezuela, an experience that was the inspiration for both ORINOCO and MARACAIBO. Also, Jim taught English as a Foreign Language in Madrid, Spain.

Jim has been involved in a number of community volunteer activities. These include the United Way, the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and the Berkshire Latin American Council. He is a member of several organizations such as Amnesty International Urgent Action Network, Order Sons of Italy, the National Association of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (including Peace Corps Writers), and Inkberry (a local writing organization).

Jim has traveled extensively in Latin America and in Europe (especially Italy). He is fluent in Spanish, and can get along in Italian. Besides travel, his interests include sports and politics, both world and national.

His published novels to date include: MARACAIBO (2009), ORINOCO (2007)(audio 2008), and A TANGO IN TUSCANY (2002)

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Contact information

Jim Ciullo

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