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Puzo, Mario

world godfather italian mafia

(US, 1920–99)

Puzo was born to illiterate Italian immigrants in the notorious ‘Hell's Kitchen’ neighbourhood of Manhattan, and this provided the backdrop to most of his novels. The Godfather (1969) is a detailed depiction of the world of the Mafia centred on the life of Vito Corleone. Corleone cultivates an image of respectable family values whilst being the most ruthless of criminals. Puzo skilfully uses the ritualized world of the Mafia to reflect and parody the brutal world of American business. The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965) dramatizes the conflict between traditional Italian values and looser American morals. The novel is significant for its powerful portrait of Lucia Santa (based on Puzo's mother) as she struggles to keep her family together. The Sicilian (1984) and Omertà (2000) are further examples of Puzo's fascination with the violent and clannish nature of the criminal world. Puzo also worked as a screenwriter providing the scripts or stories for The Godfather and The Godfather II as well as Superman and The Cotton Club.

Richard Condon, Elmore Leonard  GK

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