French Country Inn owner mixes real-life gangster stories and fiction
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GENEVA TOWNSHIP The gangsters might be dead, but ghosts of Chicago’s most notorious villains are conjured up in local author Clyde Deighton’s book, “Murder at the French Country Inn.”
In the book, a dispirited former Chicago cop heads a tiny police force in Geneva Township. Chief, as he calls himself, is trying to sort through his life with solitude and too many adult beverages. A rainbow appears at the end of his rain clouds when he meets Greta, one of the inn’s guests, who is attending a writers’ retreat. It soon spirals downward, however, when Greta’s friend, Chandra, is found murdered in the inn’s suite.
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“Murder at the French Country Inn” serves up the typical murder mystery with tension, sex and a surprise ending. Ironically, ideas for the novel fermented on Italian soil, not at the real French Country Inn in Geneva Township.
“I had reversed jet lag, I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed exhausted physically, but mentally awake. Fifty percent of the plot came to me that night,” said Tony Navilio, the real-life innkeeper also known as Clyde Deighton. “I wrote 80 pages long hand (during the vacation). Then I came home and finished it up.”
Navilio has owned the French Country Inn for 26 years. He grew up in Chicago, known as the home of famous gangsters Al Capone, Bugs Moran and Baby Face Nelson.
“I grew up in the ’50s. I watched ‘The Untouchables.’ I went to the theater where (John) Dillinger was killed,” he said.
Navilio, who spent summers with his family in the Lake Geneva area, had no idea the inn was a stomping ground and speakeasy for men who would be featured on today’s “America’s Most Wanted.”
Yet, as is the case in most small towns, stories surfaced quickly about the visitors to what was once called Lake Como Inn. Navilio admits some of the tales are factual, and some might be fiction, but people are drawn to them.
He liberally sprinkles these stories throughout the novel, as well as including an in-depth appendix. Readers will get a glimpse of the faces behind the notorious names, and learn their connection to the Lake Como Inn.
Navilio, who self-published his first novel, chose to use a pen name, rather than Navilio. Clyde is his middle name and Deighton comes from Dayton, Ohio, where he attended college.
“I changed the spelling to give it a more upscale sound,” Navilio quipped.
Annie Lock, owner of Lake Geneva’s Breadloaf Book Shop, said she is amused by Navilio’s alter ego.
For the complete story, see HERE.