My friend Angelo pointed out to me a recent article on an Italian newspaper about Andrea Compatangelo and the Battaglione Savoia, that – with minimal changes – are featured in Guillotine Wind, my recent historical adventure novella.
Based on the little I was able to find on the character (that I called Campatangelo, with an “a”, adopting an alternate spelling found in some documents) and his adventure, I played fast and loose while I was writing – there is a point beyond which historical adventure has to be more adventurous than historical.
The name change was indeed intended as a signal that my story was fiction, not history.
I knew for a fact that Compatangelo (an accountant, not an army officer) footed personally the bills for the uniforms of 300 Italian Great War prisoners in Samara, formed them in the totally bogus Battaglione Savoia, requisitioned an armored train and while providing support to the Czechoslovakian Legion, reached Krasnoyarsk. Here he took the city, founded a hospital, and later went on to Tientsin to rejoin the regular Italian forces.
In the hospital served two Russian women, one of which claimed to be an aristocrat, possibly a Romanov.
In Guillotine Wind, I changed a few things – not only Compatangelo became Campatangelo, but of course the hospital now was operated by three women, two Russians and a Polish girl that was a former circus artist and who would much later claim to be a Russian aristocrat.
I also had the Italians serve as a police force in the city of Krasnoyarsk, and not just as an occupying force, and I increased their count to “almost 500”, reasoning that the Battaglione Savoia had likely collected more Italian prisoners of war along the way.
Which finally brings us to the article that Angelo pointed out to me, which goes…
On arriving in Krasnoyarsk, they were given police duties and learned from the manager of a circus that Italy had won the war.
The article also mentions the fact that upon arriving in Krasnoyarsk, the Battaglione Savoia counted over 400 men.
Upon reading this, I gasped so loud my brother was worried.
I got it right! We can dismiss the “circus manager” thing as a misprint – Pandora was after all the daughter of a circus performer and manager.
So yeah, I got it right!
It’s the kind of coincidence that I absolutely love, that cannot be anticipated but that often comes as a welcome surprise, and as a nod from Clio, winking as she digs her elbow in the side of Calliope.
And of course the article also mentions a few more wild historical facts that will serve as fuel for further adventures. Isn’t this writing business a blast?