I had never read anything like this before. There were lots of stories about boys in love with boys, or teenagers with adult men, but never two adults! And one was a tall, muscular Catholic priest who assaulted people with candlesticks! And the other, a Communist!
The small yellow hardback remained on my bookshelf for several years before vanishing; I think my mother accidentally put it in a "to donate" pile. Then, in the spring of 1985, my Italian class in east Texas was assigned the original.
Peppone is married, but his wife and children rarely appear. And almost none of the stories involve the hetero-romance of other characters. Often they involve a conundrum that requires Don Camillo and Peppone to work together:
Don Camillo returns to the boxing ring to save the town's honor.
Don Camillo and Peppone are stuck on a ferris wheel.
Peppone is lost in the mountains, and Don Camillo must rescue him.
The French-Italian movie Don Camillo (1952) starred Fernandel as Don Camillo and Gino Cervi as Peppone (above), and Franco Interlenghi (left) as the young hunk who requires their assistance. Four sequels appeared.
The author, political satirist Giovanni Guareschi (1908-1969), was a conservative Catholic, and heterosexual -- he also published humorous stories about his wife and children. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew that his books had a strong gay subtext.