The Piero Trotti novels start with the kidnapping of Aldo Moro in 1978 and end with Operation Clean Hands and the first Berlusconi government of 1994. Mauro Rostagno’s life epitomises many of the hopes and fears of those sixteen difficult years and when in 1995 I read Rostagno’s biography, I knew I had to incorporate his life and death into the last volume of my Italian hexalogy.

Rostagno was one of the founding members of Lotta Continua, a revolutionary newspaper from Trento University, that played a pivotal role in the years of the lead – those years when home grown terrorism was seen as a greater threat to the Italian republic than the Mafia.

In time, Rostagno lost interest in the proletarian revolution (After Marx, April) and after a stay in India, set up a commune for drug addicts in Sicily. He was losing interest in the commune when he was invited to a local tv station and there he took to denouncing the Sicilian Mafia over the airwaves. The job did not last long. One evening Rostagno was gunned down in his car as he was driving home to the commune.

For many years there were conflicting theories about Rostagno’s death. Perhaps he was murdered by his estranged wife or perhaps by his ex companions of Lotta Continua. It could have been an addict on the commune. Or his business partner. Or, of course, it could have been the Mafia silencing an outspoken critic.

In the Second Day of the Renaissance, the sixth Trotti novel, the real life Mauro Rostagno becomes Valerio Gracchi.

Ten years before Gracchi’s death in Sicily, Commissario Piero Trotti had briefly arrested him for the kidnapping of a little girl in his small northern city.

Trotti still lives in the northern city. He has left the police but his dreams of a rustic retirement raising chickens and searching for truffles in the Apennines of his childhood, have come to nothing. His wife and daughter are gone and he lives with his cousin, a humourless old maid, in his house in via Milano.

One cold spring day, Trotti leaves the damp city for the sunshine of Rome and the wedding of Lieutenant Pierangelo Pisanelli, a collaborator who, through Trotti’s fault, now walks with crutches.

On his journey to Rome, Trotti stops in Siena where he meets an old friend, a general of the carabinieri. The general tells Trotti that the police have dropped their case against one of Gracchi’s presumed murderers. No longer fearing arrest, the man has returned to Italy and is now looking for Trotti whom he intends to kill. Trotti, he believes, is responsible for his brother’s death.

The killer will wreak his revenge on the retired commissario; in the last book of the series, will Piero Trotti survive?

THE SECOND DAY OF THE RENAISSANCE by Timothy Williams is published by Soho Press.

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