Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Family Corleone

I am a longtime fan of Mario Puzo's The Godfather and the universe it inspired. I rank the film as my 2nd favorite movie of all time, while the book holds the unique record of being the only - the ONLY - book of the hundreds I've read that I've re-read more than once.

 (Er, it actually might be the only adult book I've re-read period. Why re-read a book when there are thousands waiting to be read for the first time?)

I was looking forward to reading The Family Corleone by Ed Falco, a prequel to the original novel that was authorized by the Puzo estate and supposedly based on an unpublished GF4 script by Puzo himself.

The verdict? Eh.

It's not awful, although I fear any Godfather work carries with it built-in brownie points that prohibit a failing grade. The book is centered around the years '33-35 and the mafia war that brought the Corleone's to prominence. The war was mentioned in the original novel at some (moderate) length, and I was eager to read about it in more detail.

Unfortunately, the book was bogged down by several anachronisms - one literally on page one - , coupled with characters who felt compelled to reference the few pop-culture cliches of the era - you know, to establish "setting" - and who run around talking like dime store hoods. They also voice a ton of  vulgarities in Italian (enough that Falco included a glossary in the back), which is probably realistic but comes off as a bit contrived between these covers.

 There's also a glaring editorial error on the inside cover. Above an an organizational flowchart of the New York families is a title reading "Names and Families" - only it mistakenly reads "Games and Families".


Here's my problems with the plot. I think there's a pretty wishy-washy lead up to the war; not that there wasn't violence and disagreement, but I'm still not clear how this drew every family into conflict. Nor do I think Vito's little speech with Luca was nearly enough to establish his loyalty, and the Irish subplot was pointless. Worst of all, the 'war' seemed more like the invasion of Grenada -some people got hurt, but it lasted a blink of an eye.

And Falco messes with established cannon. Luca killed Capone's thugs with an ax, and one choked to death on his gag in fear. Not here. Vito himself was ill at ease with Luca - not here. Sonny was corrupted by seeing his father kill Fanucci - there's a different victim here. Rescuing Tom Hagen was an act of selfless piety - not here.

Screw that.

I'm not one of those idiots who spent page after page blasting Mark Winegardner's literary sequels of the last decade. I enjoyed them, even if I didn't love what they did to Tom Hagen. But I honestly thought this was a mediocre novel that lacks Puzo's grim brilliance.

I grade it a C.

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