The best way to share my story and background is simply to repost (with permission) my interview that I did recently with Craig Timmins, of the website The National Crime Syndicate: The NCS: Alan, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at the NCS we really appreciate this opportunity. I guess the first question is to take you back to where things all started out, and how you got involved in this type of life?
Gunner: Well, as I touched on in The Lindbloom Chronicles, I got started in "the life" very young, although I never thought of it as "the life" back then. It was just me doing what I was raised to think was alright to do. When I think back on my life, that's the interesting thing. I don't condone my behavior, but in my own defense I was raised in an environment where it was acceptable, even encouraged, to bend the rules. And breaking them was a grey area. I was just too young to realize how I acted was so out of the social norm.
The NCS: Where did the nickname 'Gunner' come from?
Gunner: Believe it or not, my real middle name is Gunner. Originally, my father wanted to name me Gunner. But my Sicilian grandparents Tocco wanted my name to be Alanzo. There was a lot of contention between both sides of my family over this, but eventually a compromise was reached: my name would be "Alan" (a shortened Americanized version of Alanzo) and my middle name would be "Gunner." Growing up, everyone just called me Al. But as I got older, some of the old-time wiseguys and my closest friends began calling me by my middle name, Gunner. Don't laugh, but my wife calls me "Gunny."
The NCS: How hard as it been for you to adapt to life on the outside? What have you found hardest to adjust to?
Gunner: Surprisingly, transitioning from 13 years of prison to freedom has been easy. Which I attest to (A) God and (B) my wife and family always having money on their phones so I could call home. Talking to her and my family helped me stay in touch with the "real world." Guys tend to lose touch with reality if they never talk to anyone from the outside world. After years and years on the inside, with little or no contact with people from the outside world, their minds start to break. Prison life consumes them. They forget what reality is like. It's both sad and sick at the same time. It's not worth talking about the things I saw in prison, but just know that it isn't pretty when a man's mind breaks. It's even worse when thousands of men with broken minds are housed in close proximity for years, even decades. Prison can be a very violent and evil place.
I suppose the hardest thing for me to adjust to has been modern technology. For example, I'm still figuring out how to pay for gas at the pump with a credit card. I never seem to get it right. I sometimes have to sign for things using a digital pen! I went from writing my books on a prison typewriter with 1960's technology, to doing my final edits on a Mac Book Pro. The stereo system in my Jeep is controlled by an iPad. I'm bombarded all day long with Facebook notifications and messages. Before I went to prison, I'd never even sent a text message. Now I'm surrounded by Star Trek technology! Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused on work. And I know it also annoys my wife sometimes. But she understands I'm still adapting.
The NCS: Is there anything that you regret from your time in the mob, or wish you had done differently?
Gunner: I regret getting caught and going to prison! Haha, just kidding. Honestly, I regret it all. I know my previous life helped shape who I am, but I honestly regret it all. I lost so many years to prison and jail. But then, I also understand that this was God's plan for me. Prison was my destiny. I know it sounds cliché, but prison was the best thing that ever happened to me. Before prison, I was on a road that surely would have led to death or at the very least life in prison. But prison saved me from myself and gave me the time to cultivate my love for writing. I wrote nine novels while I was locked up, which was something I would have never done in the streets, even though I've always known I had the gift. In fact, you wouldn't be reading this right now if I'd never gone to prison. Prison also helped me learn who my true friends and family are--the ones who always wrote me, always put money on the phone, always sent me money for commissary, and always stayed in my corner. Now I know who counts and who doesn't. If there is one thing that prison does, it tells you who your real friends and loved ones are.
The NCS: To Be a King is due for release this year, where did you come up with the idea for the novel and are any parts based on real life scenarios and events?
Gunner: The story was spawned from my imagination, but there are many characters in it that are loosely based off characters from my previous life. For example, "Don Falcone" was inspired by my grandfather, Peter Tocco. Several other characters were inspired by various friends and family members--their character traits and personal nuances, even how they look. But all the characters are fiction. Are some of the scenes inspired by events from my own life? Sure, there are a few. But only the people closet to me will ever know which ones. Some things are better left unsaid.
The NCS: Will we be seeing an auto-biography of some sort in the future as well?
Gunner: I've been getting asked this a lot lately, especially since I started writing the Lindbloom Chronicles for the NCS. And until now I never gave it much thought. I guess I never considered my life to be very interesting until I started writing it down. In hindsight, however, I do see how my unique family and childhood could seem intriguing to "normal" people. I could write for days about the crazy stuff I saw and did in my life, including some of my years in prison. But I think the most compelling aspect of my life is how I met and fell in love with my wife, seven years ago while I was still in prison. It is a real-life fairytale that would appeal to any true romantic. She waited 7 years for me and we married the day after I got out. An hour later I was baptized by my cousin in the waters of Lake Huron. Perhaps someday, when I am a best-selling author, I will consider writing an autobiography....read more