Far and away the protagonist of the book, The Ragman Murders, is Giuseppe (Joe) Amato. He is the quintessential turn of the century Italian immigrant. He has his dreams, his plans and he is willing to work them. His goal is money and popularity. He plays the bon vivant out in public.

But, being married has put a damper on his plans.  When you are trying to pay for six children and a wife, money can be tight. When you are trying to impress your neighbors and business associates, problems start to really arise with money.  Giuseppe is trying to do it all.

Giuseppe started out as a worker in his father’s cobbler’s shop. The economy in later 1800s southern Italy was terrible. The environment had been ravaged by the estate owners and the corporate people from northern Italy. Forests had been decimated in many places. Wild life had practically disappeared from an area previously well known for its abundance. The only well-established businesses were olive orchards and coal making operations. And the olive orchards were owned by out of town landowners. There was little chance of a decent income for the citizens of the area. By the time Giuseppe was in his early 20s he realized that staying in Serra San Bruno would not bring him his dreams.

Giuseppe married at age 24. Within months he left for America to join his wife’s brother-in-law, Dominick DeFrancesco, in Hartford, Ct.

In America, the day of the cobbler was rapidly drawing to an end. Most shoes were mass produced in factories by then and sold in ready-to-wear stores. Giuseppe was not going to work in a factory and be stuck in a dead-end job where he could not get ahead and be the man of the world he planned on becoming. He followed Dominick into the barber occupation. There he could exercise his art of conversation and enjoy his blossoming popularity.

After a few years, Giuseppe had some financial good luck. His friend, Sal Timpano, another barber, sold him his shop across from the train station so Sal could move down the street, closer to the business district. Giuseppe was on his way to financial independence. He started serving the public on his own and was well known amongst the police and social figures.  Having brought his wife over from Italy and having two children, he was on his way to the American dream!