In May 2014, the subscription channel Sky in Italy broadcast the first episode of the first season of "Gomorrah".

The series, initially planned for three seasons with twelve episodes each, based on the documentary novel of the same name by Roberto Saviano from 2006, was so successful with audiences and critics that a fourth season was added in 2019.

The fifth (and final?) season premiered in Italy last November.

The basis for the additional seasons was again a work by the Neapolitan Roberto Saviano: his 2016 novel "The Clan of Children".

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

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The series about the history of initially two, later several enemy Camorra clans in Naples, which expand their "business fields" across the whole country, immediately became style and even genre-defining thanks to its aesthetic and narrative stringency - not to mention the brilliant acting performances.

The often slightly underexposed photography, the icy neon colors of the night shots in the desolate apartment blocks of the suburb of Scampia were the adequate mode of expression for the stories of friendship and enmity, of loyalty and betrayal from the cold gloom of organized crime.

Two steps back

The Netflix series "Suburra", which showed the machinations of the Mafia Capitale in three seasons of eight episodes each from 2017 to 2020, was also based on a literary template: the novel of the same name by Giancarlo De Cataldo and Carlo Bonini, which was published in 2015. Directed by Michele Placido, “Suburra” pushed the depiction of excessive violence to heights that could just about be allowed to pass as an artifice just below the limit of mere aestheticizing of brutality.

The new Sky series "L'Ora: Inchiostro contro piombo" (English title: "L'Ora: Words Against Weapons"), based on the 2006 novel "Nostra Signora della Necessità" by Giuseppe Sottile, faces "Gomorrah" and "Suburra “Two steps back, so to speak.

The action takes place earlier, in Palermo in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the cinematic depiction of the violent acts of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra also remains far below sensationalism and an end in itself.

A successful investigative newspaper makes enemies

Sottile, born near Palermo in 1946, describes in his novel, which has strong autobiographical traits and is based on true events, the work and life of the editors of the daily newspaper "L'Ora" at times of an existential crisis of the paper in the mid to late 1950s.

The newspaper, founded as a republican-progressive paper in 1900 by the prominent Sicilian entrepreneurial family Florio, had fallen into the hands of the Communist Party after the Second World War.

And there it degenerated into a club postille and a care home for writers who were loyal to the line.

At some point, the decline in readership became so dramatic that the party leadership had a new editor-in-chief brought to Palermo – in the expectation that he would know how to minimize the losses with courageous downsizing.