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Sunday, May 1, 2016

"The Family Corleone" by Ed Falco. Grand Central, 436 pp. $27.99

Friday, May 11, 2012

Although it was a bestseller, Mario Puzo liked his original "Godfather" novel least of all. Regardless, the Corleone family made Puzo famous. The books all sold well, and the first two films earned him Academy Awards.

But there was another screenplay he had written, one that he never produced. In fact, it's not until forty years after the original "Godfather" film that Ed Falco releases "The Family Corleone," a novel based on this un-produced screenplay.

"The Family Corleone" is a prequel to the iconic film. The year is 1933, and in New York City the Italians and the Irish have it out for each other. Giuseppe Mariposa is the most infamous of the Italian dons, but Vito Corleone is smart. He will bide his time, and he will do what is best for his family.

His oldest, Sonny, has learned the dirty little secret of the family business, and tries so hard to keep it a secret. And he wants in, so badly that he goes behind his father's back to start his own operation, thinking that if he gets powerful enough, his father will have no choice but to accept him with open arms.

I was struck with the honor that Vito Corleone commands from everyone. Yes, he is a don. Yes, he does, at times, take extensive measures when dealing with clients or others who oppose him. But he lives by a code, and he's fair.

Mariposa and Corleone may want the other gone, but there is one man that they both fear more than any other: Luca Brasi.

Brasi is a boulder of a man, and he's ruthless. His operation isn't small, but for reasons unknown, there is not a man out there who wants to mess with him.

This is the story of how Vito Corleone became the man film aficionados remember.

"It is my greatest wish to be thought of as a godfather," Corleone says to his family around the dinner table one Sunday afternoon, "a man whose duty it is to do my friends any service, to help my friends out of any trouble--with advice, with money, with my own strength in men and influence. ... Let this meeting ensure the peace between us all."

Kate Padilla