If you, like me, grew up in an Italian-American household then you, like me, were exposed to such gems as “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” at an age where you barely comprehended what a gun was. (You always knew what a cannoli was, you were born knowing what a cannoli was.) Even if you’re not Italian-American, even if you’re just American-American, even if you’re just alive, you’ve heard of The Godfather. Because The Godfather is wonderful.
It’s one of those situations where the movie totally lives up to the book. Where the movie actually expands upon the book (Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, co-created the movies.) And there have been accepted sequels, written in the 2000s by an old professor of mine, Mark Winegardner. But if you, like me, are interested in what happened before Vito Corleone became Vito Corleone, then you really need to read the latest sequel, which is actually a prequel, The Family Corleone.
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”
Written in 2012 by Ed Falco, The Family Corleone is actually based on an unproduced screenplay written by Mario Puzo. It takes place in Depression-era New York: Luca Brasi is about to become an accolyte of the Corelones, Sonny is going to be involved in the family business, Tom Hagen’s going to become an accepted member of the family, and Mike’s…well, Mike’s twelve, he’s not really a main part of this book.
But what is a main part of this book is a languorous storytelling of both the backdrop of 1930s New York and what feels like a very real insight into the criminal underbelly we’ve all grown to love. It’s interesting to think that The Godfather was the first in a line of loveable anti-heroes. We’re not supposed to like these guys, these murderers, but when a main plot of The Family Corleone revolves around foiling an attempt to assassinate Vito, you care.
To me, The Godfather is more than just nostalgia. It hovers in that no-man’s-land between fact and fiction, which is part of what makes it so timeless. There are countless articles tracing the characters to their real-life inspirations. There are the stories you swap while watching the movie for the ump-teenth time you have an uncle who’s kind of in the same shady business…
“Maybe we shouldn’t get Michael mixed up in this too directly”
Though we mainly follow Michael, the youngest of the Corleones, though The Godfather book and movies, The Family Corleone is more concerned with Luca Brasi, Vito, and even Sonny. Which makes for a pleasantly different book. There’s discussion of mergers (most of the book centers around Vito becoming the most powerful Don in New York by consolidating his power and taking out the little guys) but it also has to do with family moments, girlfriend trouble, and ear infections.
Overall, Ed Flaco’s novel is a nice addition to this series of New York crime that never seems to go out of style.