LAS VEGAS — Losing to Syracuse deflated Pitt quarterback Niko Peramos, who dreamed of national championship glory his senior season. Instead, the Panthers would face Illinois in the Alamo Bowl.
Niko was invited to the Heisman Trophy festivities in New York, and some thought he would become No. 1 in the NFL Draft with millions waiting for him in professional football.
His persistent moaning about that loss to Orange, however, angered his brother Stavros.
“Adelphós mou, listen. . . do you think you might be a little hard on yourself? Stop blaming yourself.”
Enter the despicable Hairdo, who wants Niko to fix the Alamo Bowl, and Big George, the patriarch of Peramos with underworld ties, and Chris Andrews’ debut novel takes off.
His title, “Adelphós Mou” (My Brother), is a nod to his rich Greek heritage.
Andrews, the 66-year-old South Point sports betting manager, has written two popular non-fiction books about his spirited career setting sports odds and taking bets.
The novel, which will be published next month, is raw and wild, incorporating metaphor, symbolism and surprise. He started writing it after an enlightening maiden voyage to Crete in 1998.
A friend of Andrews reviewed “Adelphós” and said to him, “You write with such emotion.” “That’s what I’m looking for,” he said, “to make you feel something.”
He delves into his roots in Pittsburgh and Greece, with visits to Iceland, London and Las Vegas. Andrews played with his visual possibilities.
Too much depth for a film, he concludes. It can’t be said in two hours. Four or five, maybe six episodes. “Maybe a Netflix miniseries.”
REACHING A NERVE
The framed lithograph, five feet wide and three feet tall, dominates the living room of her Las Vegas home and says it all about Andrews.
Anthony Quinn’s arms are wide, Greek fisherman’s hat in left hand, daffodil in right, head askew. He may be moments away from breaking into a Sirtaki, his fabulous dance that concludes “Zorba the Greek.”
“Triumph” is a self-portrait of Quinn, the creative genius from Chihuahua, Mexico, who played Zorba in Michael Cacoyannis’ 1964 production shot entirely in Crete.
Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel ‘Zorba the Greek’, published in 1946 as ‘The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas’, features a peasant showing the uptight writer Basil how to celebrate life shamelessly.
He explained to Basil, writes Kazantzakis, “the meaning of art, of love, of beauty, of purity, of passion”.
Andrews says every Greek considers the late Quinn – a perfect Big George, he dreams – an honorary compatriot.
“In ‘Guns of Navarone’ Quinn also played a Greek,” says Andrews, who has visited his native country four times. These travels have provided “Adelphós” with invaluable depth and context.
“[They] helped a lot to understand the culture, and there are a lot of little things in there. I definitely struck a chord with their way of being, especially Manoli, the Greek banker. I think I nailed it pretty well.
He nailed it all down. Anyone who doesn’t crave a raki — the half-shots of pomace brandy that Cretans often sip but rarely get drunk — at the end of the tome doesn’t have a heartbeat.
His daughter Jacque was an essential manuscript editor/corrector. Andrews sought an uncompromising review from an author friend, who suggested making it lighter and meaner.
Andrews reduced his 160,000 words to 120,000, using more crass jargon. Other specialists have verified it. A lawyer friend told Andrews, “Yeah, that’s how case law would work.”
He sent me a courtesy manuscript last fall. The flawless dialogue drips with authenticity. I’ve known these people all my life, Andrews says, in the culturally diverse nooks and valleys of Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s real and reflects the tone of the characters. Emotionally, my heart and soul are in this book. I can still read it and have tears in my eyes in some places”
NOBODY IS PERFECT
Andrews and I like a lot of gritty black and white films from the 1950s, plus or minus a decade, that air on TCM. I was texting him when Zorba was just starting.
“Already,” he replied.
If his last days are near, his wife Pam knows that she has a television, tuned to TCM, by her bedside.
He first watched Zorba, the movie, when he was 17 and read the book for the first time when he was 30 or 31. Near Heraklion in Crete, the largest of about 300 Greek islands, the international airport is named after Kazantzakis, who died in 1957 at age 74.
Among the four bookcases filled with Andrews, Kazantzakis titles dominate the special shelf, including “Zorba”, “The Last Temptation of Christ”, “The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel”, “Captain Michalis” and “Saint Francis “.
The one prized by Greeks, he says, is “Freedom and Death”, about the Cretan battle for independence from the Turks 100 years ago.
Odysseus, who hatched the idea of the Trojan horse, is another hero.
“Flawed, really flawed,” Andrews said. “The perfect Greek. A warrior. A brilliant [bleeping] crook. Not a guy you would ever trust. They are our people. In Zorba, Basil finally says, “I’m sick of saying, is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
“Well, everyone has both in them. It’s Zorba. And no one in my book comes out as perfect. Nobody.”
Andrews has long felt like a Renaissance man, eager to cook and travel. He’s not just a guy, he says, “making numbers and taking bets”. He has at least one other non-fiction project and one more piece of fiction on his agenda.
His first stab in a novel?