Nearly half a million people were killed in the Nazi occupation of Italy during World War II. But among those staggering losses, an incredible number of the most persecuted—some 40,000 Italian Jews—made it out of the war alive. Some survived the death camps. Others evaded arrest. Still others fled, some of them aided by the efforts of everyday Italians who risked their lives to save their fellow countrymen. So many lives and so much sacrifice—and still, so little has been written about what happened in Italy that historians now call it “The Forgotten Front” of WWII. But all that is about to change.
Based on the true story of the unlikeliest of heroes, BENEATH A SCARLET SKY is #1 New York Times bestselling author Mark Sullivan’s riveting new tale of extraordinary courage and tragic star-crossed love during the Nazi occupation of Italy. It follows 17-year-old, real-life hero Pino Lella as he helps lead countless Jews out of northern Italy along an underground railroad through the Alps. The saga continues when Pino is then recruited to become a spy for the Italian Resistance. Working undercover as a driver for the head of the Nazi High Command in Italy, Pino gains access to some of the most powerful men in Germany but also witnesses the atrocities of the war firsthand.
When he first heard snippets of Pino Lella’s story at a dinner party more than 10 years ago, Mark Sullivan was unable to shake the image of an Italian teenager leading refugees to safety across perilous mountain ridges, and he became determined to tell the tale of this anonymous, unsung hero. For nine years, Sullivan immersed himself in research. When he finally located Pino in Italy, Mark was able to conduct a series of interviews with the now 79-year-old, in which Pino recounted in painstaking detail the most fraught and eventful years of his life.
Because of these incredible interviews, BENEATH A SCARLET SKY is more than just a novel based on true events—it is a piece of history, and Pino’s own memories have given this book its realism, its heart, and its shattering sense of loss and tragedy. It is truly a tale unlike any other—a story of courage and intrigue, love and redemption—and one that can finally be shared.
At the age of 17, Giuseppe “Pino” Lella helped Jews escape the Nazis in northern Italy, guiding them from a Catholic boys school north of Lake Como, up and over the Alps, and into neutral Switzerland. The following summer, he became a spy inside the German High Command, risking everything to serve the Italian Resistance and suffering mightily for it long after the war ended. BENEATH A SCARLET SKY is the untold story of the most inspiring and heartbreaking years of Pino Lella’s life.
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero during one of history’s darkest hours.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
A remarkable story of courage, dedication, love, and determination to survive, that left me once again in awe of the quiet heroism that was demonstrated during the direst times in the European history.
As much as I have read about the second World War in Europe and the devastating events that occurred, I hadn't even realized how the Italian viewpoint to the war was often missing. To see the desolation and ruin the war left in Italy itself and to the minds of the Italians, by the eyes of Pino Lella, was an honor and humbling experience.
As a story based on real people and true historical events, the author has built a well-organized timeline that was easy to follow. I got lost in the story with the images painted in my mind by the author's words. The feelings are strong, the emotional connection to the tale impossible to ignore. The decisions people had to make during the war were not black and white, you had to do what was needed to survive. Reading Pino Lella's story was like watching the hand of destiny, or God, work in every step he took during the war. If you have ever looked into the eyes of a person who witnessed the atrocity of the war, you might get a hint of the pain those people have to live with. Here we get a rare and raw look at the destruction the WWII left behind.
As I was reading the story hours went by that I wasn't aware of nothing else but Pino's life. The admiration I have for him, and people like him, who fought the insanity by risking their own lives left me in amaze.
Yes, the writing was rough at times, and yes, the book could have used a little better editing. Yet the contents of the story and knowing it was based on true events, true heroism, a real terrorizing fear and constant threat to the lives of everyone involved made the technical issues of the story irrelevant. The love Pino had for his family, friends, and especially for Anna was boundless, and it became the force to aid the survival. The meaning of life was to live just a moment longer, to see the loved ones again. The loss, the pain, the tragedy of the war, the guilt of survival and decisions made when life was on the line left a permanent mark on everyone, as the author demonstrates in the completion of the tale.
There are things that have happen in our history that we should never forget. Thank you for giving us the story Pino Lella, a young man with a fearless courage and noble spirit, who is an inspiration and example of bravery still needed today.
~ Five Spoons
Mark Sullivan is the acclaimed author of eighteen novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Private series, which he writes with James Patterson. Mark has received numerous awards for his writing, including the WHSmith Fresh Talent Award, and his works have been named a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. He grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Hamilton College with a B.A. in English before working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and began a career in investigative journalism. An avid skier and adventurer, he lives with his wife in Bozeman, Montana, where he remains grateful for the miracle of every moment.