Fox Chase’s Daniel Montvydas was a teenager in 2020 when he self-published the book Phighter: A Northeast Story, a fiction novel that follows a Father Judge High School junior.
Today, he’s 20 and in the U.S. Marine Corps, and is very excited about his new novel, Pawns in the Game, set in Philadelphia from the 1950s to ‘70s. It’s published by Newman Springs Publishing, of Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Pawns follows Donnie McCullough, who comes from County Cork, Ireland to Philadelphia as a boy in 1959. He loses his parents and is adopted by a family friend – who just happens to be the head of a Sicilian crime family. There’s a dramatic, Sopranos-inspired ending to the book.
“My target audience are the people of Philadelphia or anyone in the nation that enjoys the old, classic crime movies of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s,” he said. “The books by famous authors such as Mario Puzo, Nicholas Pileggi and former Colombo crime family caporegime Michael Franzese.”
After graduating from St. Joseph’s Prep in 2020 and turning 18, Montvydas enlisted in the Marines, making it through boot camp and infantry school. He’s a rifleman who’s been stationed in Camp Pendleton, California for the last year and a half. A knee injury and subsequent surgery and physical therapy caused him to miss deployment. He has two years left on his service contract. His career goals include being a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician.
Montvydas put a lot of research into Pawns. He went through 10,000 pages of court documents and videos from crime families in New York, the south and the west coast and local bosses such as Angelo Bruno and Nicky Scarfo. Having a grandfather who fought in the Korean War and another who fought in the Vietnam War helped him write the chapters on Donnie’s painful experiences in the Vietnam War.
Pawns has old-time Philadelphia references such as Frank’s black cherry soda, construction of I-95 and a Fishtown bar won by his adoptive father Enzo in a bet on the famous 1945 college football game between Army and Notre Dame.
The main characters in Phighter and Pawns are loosely based on Montvydas and his life situations, morals and ethics.
Pawns, like Phighter, touches on Irish themes.
“I do enjoy adding Irish themes to my books,” Montvydas said. “I’m not 100% Irish but a majority of my blood is of Irish descent. The more and more I write, I enjoy putting more and more into the books as I learn more and more about (the) history of my ancestors and their triumphs, their trials, their tribulations.”
Readers will likely find similarities between Donnie McCullough and the main character in the movie Goodfellas.
“I take a lot of inspirations from many different Irish/Italian characters through many books and movies but I feel like the most compatible character comparison would be Henry Hill of Goodfellas,” Montvydas said.
In fact, mob books and films are major inspirations for the book.
“The Godfather trilogy and the book by the same name. Goodfellas and Pileggi’s book that inspired it, Wiseguy. The Irishman and Charles Brandt’s book, I Heard You Paint Houses. Casino, The Westies, as well as a few books written on the Scarfo family and the infamous Irish mob, The K&A Gang, along with any other crime or mafia/mob books or movies,” Montvydas said. “I’ve taken major inspiration for all aspects of everything from those films and books.”
Montvydas will continue writing, hopefully working in the future with a literary agent.
“I’ve interviewed a few members in my chain of command at my unit who fought in the battle of Fallujah, Marjah and Ramadi, so I think my next book will be a military-style fiction novel with the same kind of style and story/character arcs as my previous novels,” he said. ••