The Story Behind ‘The Bronx Kill’ by Philip Cioffari

CioffariCoverColorI should say first that stories don’t come to me all at once. They arrive in fragments, over time. That is especially true of my latest novel, The Bronx Kill. I had the title first. A number of years back—ten or more—I was perusing a map of the Bronx, where I lived into my twenties, and came across the name. The Bronx Kill is a channel of water (so named by the early Dutch settlers) that runs between the Harlem River and the East River in the southernmost tip of the Bronx. I knew immediately it would become the title of a book I would write one day. No story came with the name; that would take another decade to materialize. But that name cried out to me. What a set-up for a double or triple entendre. I loved titles with multiple levels.

Unrelated to this discovery—or so I thought at the time—I wrote several stories about three male teenage friends in the Bronx. They hung out at a retro 50s style place called the Moonglow Bar and Grill. They had been friends since childhood and I put them through some incidents/adventures in which they had to confront themselves, their values.

But it wasn’t until I introduced a girl into their lives—a young woman named Julianne whom they all have feelings for—that the story began to cohere. The next piece to come—after a period of months—was the drowning. I added a fourth male character, a beautiful young man,  Timmy Moon, whom Julianne falls for; and I added the dare or challenge: they would all try to swim the East River from the Bronx to Queens. The night they make the attempt, Timmy drowns under questionable circumstances, and Julianne’s body is never found. The three surviving friends vow never to speak about the incident and go their separate ways.

The last piece that came to me was the detective, the older brother of Timmy, who believes Timmy’s death was far from accidental and vows to bring the three survivors to justice by any means necessary.

At that point I knew I had all the basic elements of the story. Now all I had to do was throw all the characters onto the page and see where they would take me. I should note that some of these pieces fell into place as I was writing. Over the ten or so year period we’re talking about, I made several aborted efforts at getting the story going. But I knew there was an important story hidden there that I wanted to tell, and that kept bringing me back to the computer after every failed effort. Sometimes beating your head against the wall is not simply self-abuse; it actually gets you somewhere.

phil in b&W


Philip Cioffari is the author of the novels: DARK ROAD, DEAD END; JESUSVILLE;  CATHOLIC BOYS; and the short story collection, A HISTORY OF THINGS LOST OR BROKEN, which won the Tartt Fiction Prize, and the D. H. Lawrence award for fiction. His latest novel is THE BRONX KILL (Livingston Press, 2017). His short stories have been published widely in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies, including North American Review, Playboy, Michigan Quarterly Review, Northwest Review, Florida Fiction, and Southern Humanities Review. He has written and directed for Off and Off-Off Broadway. His Indie feature film, which he wrote and directed, LOVE IN THE AGE OF DION, has won numerous awards, including Best Feature Film at the Long Island Int’l Film Expo, and Best Director at the NY Independent Film & Video Festival. He is a Professor of English, and director of the Performing and Literary Arts Honors Program, at William Paterson University.



Genre:  Suspense/Literary

Author: Philip Cioffari

Publisher: Livingston Press

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About the Book: 

Award-winning novelist Philip Cioffari delivers a taut, tense, atmospheric tale in his latest novel, The Bronx Kill, an outstanding tale that fuses elements of mystery and literary fiction. A smart, suspenseful story about friendship, secrets and loyalty, The Bronx Kill probes  the ties that bind us together—and the things that can tear us apart.

About The Bronx Kill:  When Danny Baker returns home after a self-imposed exile, he finds himself face to face with what he’d run away from. On a hot August night five years earlier, a teenage brotherhood called the Renegades—Danny, Charlie Romano, Johnny Whalen, Tim Mooney and Julianne Regan, the lone female of the group with whom they were all in love—set out on a misguided and ill-fated effort to swim the East River from the Bronx to Queens. Under questionable circumstances, Tim Mooney, known affectionately as Timmy Moon, and Julianne both disappear in the failed attempt. Timmy washes up the next day, but Julianne’s body is never found. In the initial police investigation, the apparent drownings were ruled “accidental.” But Timmy’s older brother, Tom, has recently been promoted to the rank of detective in the NYPD—and he’s decided to re-open the case. Convinced that the death of his brother was anything but an accident, he’s determined to bring the surviving Renegades to justice by any means possible.  Now Danny must fight not only to preserve his childhood friendships but also to save himself and his friends from the detective’s vigilante brand of justice.  And that will mean having to confront the truth about what really happened on that hot August night…

With its richly-developed characters and seductive, suspenseful storyline, The Bronx Kill is a thoughtful, thought-provoking, exquisitely crafted tale.  Gritty, dark, and ominous, The Bronx Kill is an intense character-driven thriller that plunges readers headfirst into the mean streets of the Bronx. With characters that come alive within the novel’s pages, a plot that draws readers in from page one, and its poignant exploration of such universal themes of friendship, loyalty, loss, and redemption, The Bronx Kill is destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.


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