ROME Police in Italy are looking into reports that the Naples mafia plans to carry out its threat to kill the author of the best-selling book "Gomorra," which has been made into a hit movie about mafia brutality, by Christmas.
Roberto Saviano, 29, has lived in hiding with 24-hour police protection for the past two years since the "Camorra," as the mob in his hometown is known, decided to punish him for the huge success of his book, which is based on his own investigations.
It has sold 1.2 million copies in Italy and been translated into 42 languages. Now that it has hit the big screen and is a candidate for the Oscars, the mafia is even angrier and wants Saviano and his bodyguards killed as soon as possible.
"We've launched in inquiry to verify the truth behind this news," Franco Roberto, a coordinator of the local anti-mafia squad for Naples, told Reuters.
Italian papers said the Naples mob's notorious Casalesi clan -- in the news recently over the murder of six Africans, which sparked riots by other immigrants -- had moved the threat into the "operative" phase and wanted Saviano dead by Christmas.
The source of the tip-off was a "supergrass" related to the jailed Camorra godfather Francesco Schiavone, aka "Sandokan."
The Camorra has its finger in every pie in Naples and the surrounding areas, from the protection racket to drugs and even waste disposal, as Saviano's book documents in great detail.
With his shaved head, dark close-cropped beard, piercing eyes and black T-shirt, Saviano has become a symbol of the fight against organized crime for a new generation of Italians.
He marked two years living under escort on Monday, telling a radio show of his relationship with the policemen who have been his only company since he was forced to leave his home.
"Many days are terrible," said Saviano, who spends some of his time boxing with escorts "who sometimes call me 'captain.'"
The writer said it was the millions of people who had bought the book who really worried the mafia.
"It's the readers who have frightened the crime bosses, not me," said Saviano.
Some politicians urged the Italian public to show their solidarity with the writer.
"Nobody must touch Saviano!" said the former cabinet minister Giovanna Melandri, denouncing the Camorra as "one of the main cancers blighting our country."
(Writing by Stephen Brown; Additional reporting by Roberto Bonzio in Mila, editing by Paul Casciato)