Kiss of the Moonflower

When Professor Veronica Teuma decides to spend part of her sabbatical visiting and studying the “intentional communities” of rural Missouri, Tony Cupelli believes she is at least partly motivated by a desire to escape their complicated relationship. When Tony loses contact with Veronica, he convinces his NYPD detective brother Mike to accompany him to search for her at the two communes where she was last seen. Tony and Mike, two Italian-American working-class born and bred brothers from Queens, are enormously out of their element in both small town northern Missouri where they first search for clues (and are appalled by the town’s version of pizza,) and then all the more at the “Champions of Possibility” and the “Discerning Wolverine Ecovillage” communes, where a group of highly educated “woo-woo” loving millennials, are immersed in a world focused on sustainability and a rejection of conventional society, a world featuring compost toilets, sun ovens, oddly constructed houses, new-pagan celebrations and rituals and the periodic tolling of the “Bell of Mindfulness.” 

The Cupellis decide to rent a cabin at the Discerning Wolverine, and immerse themselves in the daily work of the community in hopes of finding some clue to Veronica’s fate. This plan upsets Jonas Lundquist, a part-time member of the Wolverine community and a chemistry professor at the local university, who insists that Veronica left the Wolverine alive and well. A woman from the nearby Champions of Possibility commune, Angela Tramontana, seems attracted to Mike, but also anxious to get the brothers to give up their search. With the help of two other women from the Discerning Wolverine, Tillie and Starr, the brothers locate a tremendous field of Datura, otherwise known as “moonflower,” and later an ambitious plot to cultivate and mass distribute the unregulated, highly hallucinogenic and toxic plant, which they discover Lundquist has been studying in search of a way to make it less dangerous to use. 

While most of their suspicions center on Lundquist it becomes less certain whether he is the mastermind or an unwitting participant in a major new illegal drug scheme. The deeper the Cupelli Brothers probe into the secrets of the Discerning Wolverine, the more they recognize that to find Veronica Teuma and save her (and themselves as well), they will have to figure out which if any of the members of the two intentional communities they can actually trust with their lives.
Kiss of the Moonflower is now available at AmazonBarnes & Nobleand other online retailers. 

Published by Black Opal Books, Oct 2020.

Saving St. Teresa

When Monsignor Martin Heamey is found strangled just after a debate with Tony Cupelli, a former monsignor and present professor at Smith College, Tony’s detective brother Mike seeks a possible link between this murder and the apparent suicide of a Carmelite nun in Brooklyn. The brothers uncover a growing cult of young women devoted to dark interpretations of the teachings and life of St. Teresa of Avila, a cult the brothers seek to prove guilty of the crimes, even as more possible victims of the devotees are revealed. 

When not one, but two, of Tony’s present love interests are included among the most likely suspects, his own life is at risk unless, and until, the Cupelli brothers can decipher the clues awaiting in the secret writings of St. Teresa.

Saving St. Teresa published by Black Opal Books, 2015.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

The Monsignor's Wife


Monsignor Tony Cupelli, a pastor in working-class Queens, has always been controversial, due to his support of a married clergy and women as priests, and for his not completely secret affair with Maggie Rosario. Cupelli's new book on a feminine Holy Spirit again puts him in the spotlight, but not as much as news of the murder of Rosario, just when Cupelli was trying to break off their relationship, a break she had postponed by quirky and Santería-inspired approaches to their love-making. 

Cupelli is both suspect and amateur detective as he tries to decipher the many clues the killer has intentionally left, clues that promise future crimes patterned on the murders in one of Cupelli's favorite short stories. The criminal outsmarts Cupelli and the police at every turn, even to the scary and erotic surprise ending set up from the very beginning.

The Monsignor's Wife published by Moonshine Cove Publishing, 2013

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

Some of My Best Friends and Other Fictions

Joe Benevento's first collection of short stories is a compelling and diverse exploration of American and Latin American cultures.  Some of My Best Friends and Other Fictions is a significant addition to Benevento's fresh portrayals of the urban lives of New York City and of the Midwest.

" ...I'd read each story and think, "This one is my favorite," then read the next one and think, "No, THIS is my favorite," and continue on. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed each and every story. Some stories are really funny, like the one with..." "...All in all, it is a rich collection of very readable material. "

Some of My Best Friends and Other Fictions
Lewis-Clark Press / Sandhills Press (2008)

The Odd Squad

Narrated by the characters themselves, The Odd Squad is a story of the streets in a working-class, post "white-flight" neighborhood in Queens in the early ’70's. On a block where muggings, drug-deals and racial conflicts are commonplace, three teens, Willie King, Frankie Nero and Luis Flores, "one black, one white, one Puerto Rican," are labeled "The Odd Squad," for being best friends in spite of powerful neighborhood pressures to stick with "their own kind." 

Reflecting the street language, music, dance, dress and sub-cultures of the times, The Odd Squad tells a story of friendship challenged by peer pressure, prejudice and the allure of sex and drugs. It also tells a story of interracial romance between Frankie and Luis's sister Laura, whose chances for happiness are challenged by a neighborhood perhaps readier to explode from hate than to be redeemed by love.

"Joe Benevento is a writer of immense talent. His fictional work is always inviting, rich and nuanced with the poetry of the streets. The characters in The Odd Squad, this fine and groundbreaking second novel, are memorable. I found myself totally immersed in and taken by this story of friendship and impossible love. Nobody writes dialogue as crisp and as edgy as he does. Put this one on your summer reading list; it is definitely a must-read."
~ Virgil Suarez, Author of Havana Thursdays, 90 Miles, and Spared Angola

"These characters are easy to like and care for. The story is both small and huge at the same time and the ending is honest and realistic. Many will compare this novel to the classic The Outsiders."

~ Karen Novak, Author of Innocence, The Wilderness, and Five Mile House

"..there is a time in all of our childhoods where the neighborhood is the whole world, and there is a bond even between ‘the mean kids’ and us that we will never feel again as we head out into the world. Benevento brought me back there. This novel should be taught in every high school and is highly recommended."
~ Roundtable Review

Finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award

The Odd Squad published by Behler Publications, 2005 
Used copies available through most major book retailers, ISBN-13: 9781933016139