Synopses & Reviews
Thirty-five years ago, Mario Puzo's great American tale, The Godfather
, was published, and popular culture was indelibly changed. Now, in The Godfather Returns
, acclaimed novelist Mark Winegardner continues the story the years not covered in Puzo's bestselling book or in Francis Ford Coppola's classic films.
It is 1955. Michael Corleone has won a bloody victory in the war among New York's crime families. Now he wants to consolidate his power, save his marriage, and take his family into legitimate businesses. To do so, he must confront his most dangerous adversary yet, Nick Geraci, a former boxer who worked his way through law school as a Corleone street enforcer, and who is every bit as deadly and cunning as Michael. Their personal cold war will run from 1955 to 1962, exerting immense influence on the lives of America's most powerful criminals and their loved ones, including:
- Tom Hagen, the Corleone Family's lawyer and consigliere, who embarks on a political career in Nevada while trying to protect his brother;
- Francesca Corleone, daughter of Michael's late brother Sonny, who is suddenly learning her family's true history and faces a difficult choice;
- Don Louie Russo, head of the Chicago mob, who plays dumb but has wily ambitions for muscling in on the Corleones' territory;
- Peter Clemenza, the stalwart Corleone underboss, who knows more Family secrets than almost anyone;
- Ambassador M. Corbett Shea, a former Prohibition-era bootlegger and business ally of the Corleones', who wants to get his son elected to the presidency and needs some help from his old friends;
- Johnny Fontane, the world's greatest saloon singer, who ascends to new heights as a recording artist, cozying up to Washington's power elite and maintaining a precarious relationship with notorious underworld figures;
- Kay Adams Corleone, who finally discovers the truth about her husband, Michael and must decide what it means for their marriage and their children;
- Fredo Corleone, whose death has never been fully explained until now, and whose betrayal of the Family was part of a larger and more sinister chain of events.
Sweeping from New York and Washington to Las Vegas and Cuba, The Godfather Returns
is the spellbinding story of America's criminal underworld at mid-century and its intersection with the political, legal, and entertainment empires. Mark Winegardner brings an original voice and vision to Mario Puzo's mythic characters while creating several equally unforgettable characters of his own. The Godfather Returns
stands on its own as a triumph in a tale about what we love, yearn for, and sometimes have reason to fear...family.
"When Random announced that Winegardner, best known for the critically acclaimed mainstream saga Crooked River Burning and baseball novel The Veracruz Blues, had been hired to write a fresh Godfather novel, eyebrows arched from coast to coast. But the decision was right: this is a phenomenally entertaining, psychologically rich saga that spans the entire Godfather years imagined in novel and film by Mario Puzo (the latter via his screenplays), filling in the blanks, fleshing out the characters, focusing primarily on the time (mid 1950s-early '60s) between when Puzo's landmark novel ended and the film Godfather II begins.Few remember that Puzo began his career as a commercially failed but critically celebrated literary novelist. He wrote The Godfather with the aim of hitting bestseller lists, but his earlier training showed in that novel's reach and complexity. Just so, Winegardner brings enormous talent to bear on this popular story and its immense cast of characters, deepening Puzo's work at nearly every step. Fredo Corleone, hapless Mafia scion, emerges here as a more central, vigorous and conflicted character than in The Godfather or even the films, as do Tom Hagen (the Corleones' adopted son and erstwhile consigliere) and Johnny Fontane, Puzo's dig at Frank Sinatra. There are many new and newly fleshed out characters as well, from assorted Mob bosses (most notably Chicago's Don Louie Russo, aka Fuckface, spiritual descendant of Al Capone, and Nick Geraci, a Corleone man destined to become the Corleones' arch-enemy) to various Corleones (most notably the slain Sonny Corleone's twin daughters). There are also sharply drawn cameos of, among others and by other names, JFK, RFK and, fleetingly, Andy Warhol. But at the center of the mesmerizing, sometimes dizzying Mob conspiracies and familial tensions is, of course, the Godfather, Michael Corleone proper heir to Vito Corleone, the last capo di tutti capi: devious, brilliant, astonishing ruthless.The book isn't perfect just nearly so. The enormity of Winegardner's reimagining of Puzo's epic can obscure the novel's overarching story line Michael's attempt to legitimize the Corleones' businesses and leads at times to an episodic feel. These, however, are quibbles in the face of a wholly absorbing novel that's written beautifully, with great skill and passion. Godfather fans will love this tale; Puzo himself must be raising a celestial glass and shouting a hearty 'Salut'! Let it be known that Winegardner, for his respect to the novel's antecedents and for his accomplishment, shall henceforth be known as a Man of Honor." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The Godfather Returns...lacks [the] movies' amazing resonance and the original book's pulpy energy, but as these sorts of follow-ups go, it's a solid enough performance: dutiful, suspenseful and only occasionally annoying." Michiko Katutani, The New York Times
"[A] thoroughly professional job. Winegardner's prose marches assuredly to Puzo's rhythms, and he deftly and imaginatively ties up whatever threads were left dangling." San Diego Union-Tribune
"The Godfather Returns is essentially a long, sleazy tabloid story in which the accumulation of detail does not add up to a vision." Newsday
Winegardner whose proposal for this novel was chosen in an international competition brings new artistry and vision to Mario Puzo's mythic characters.
About the Author
Mark Winegardner received a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing from George Mason University and published his first book at age twenty-six, while still in graduate school. His books have been chosen as among the best of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the New York Public Library. His work has appeared in various publications including GQ, Playboy, Family Circle, American Short Fiction, Ladies Home Journal, Parents, and The New York Times Magazine. Several of his stories have been chosen as Distinguished Stories of the Year in The Best American Short Stories. He has also served as a board member of the Associated Writing Programs. He is now a professor and director of the creative writing program at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.
Q. When did you first read The Godfather?
A. When I was about 12. Like a lot or kids who grow up to be writers, I started reading books meant for adults looking for the dirty parts. I had good reason to believe there might be worthwhile moments there. When I heard Random House was looking for an author, I read it again with new appreciation.
Q. Why did you want to write it?
A. I feel like my entire body of work has been about the mythology of America, and this book fits squarely within that. Its a magnificent opportunity to write about characters that people already know and are invested in, and in some ways, its as big a thrill as if I were writing about Jesse James or Abraham Lincoln. Particularly when I saw how much more story there was to be told, and how little The Godfather had touched on the glory years of the mob in the late 1950s, I was thrilled to have the chance to take a whack at all of that.
Q. Are you nervous about what the reaction will be?
A. Ive been writing almost every day of my life for the past twenty years, and its a wonderful thing to be the author of a book people are waiting for, whether theyre sharpening their knives for it or drooling for it. A lot of writers are working away, saying, Who will ever read this? Who will ever publish this? The book will come out and either people will like it or not, but its going to be read, and Ill move on and write other books after this one. Theres no down side.
Q. Is this a sequel to the novel or the movies?
A. The novel, definitely. Mario Puzos book ends in 1955. The Godfather Returns will cover the period from 1955 to 1965.
Q. But what about The Godfather II? Isnt there some overlap?
A. The parts that werent in Mario Puzos novel covered only one year, 19581959. A lot of other wicked things were going on that can only be revealed now. I dont address events in the films that arent in the novel, but I dont contradict them, either. Everything fits together, and I hope readers will be surprised to discover some of these unexplored avenues. It turns out theres a lot we didnt know about the Corleone family.
Q. Like what?
A. Sorry. I must obey the laws of omerta.
Q. Youre a creative writing professor and youre not Italian. Are you qualified to be writing about the Mafia?
A. Im not Sicilian, its true. Not even Italian-American. Im just a novelist with a vision of how to continue this American saga. I understand I am, however, German-Irish, same as Tom Hagen. And he did just fine in this world.
Q.What would you like the book to accomplish?
A. I want it to be a good book, first and foremost. I was always impressed with the way Random House approached this book that they always seemed quite interested in this not being any kind of publishing gimmick, but a good, literary, page-turner, and I want it to be that. All things being equal, an author shouldnt think too deeply about the thematics of his own book. Im out to write the best book humanly possible.
Q. Why has The Godfather become an American myth?
A. A lot of people have pointed out the story of this family in particular and the mob in general has superceded the western as the core American mythological story. Its something that in my last two novels I was circling around, and Im glad to have a chance to come in this time for the kill.