Monday, January 09, 2006

Booknote: The Last Don

Title: The Last Don
Author: Mario Puzo
Publication Information: New York: Ballantine Books, 1996
ISBN: 0-345-41221-4
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Mafia, Organized Crime
498 pages

This was the very last book I read for 2005. Once in a while I get in the mood to read Puzo or something similar. The Godfather is one of my favorite novels. I have read a couple other Puzo novels and enjoyed them. I liked The Sicilian and The Family. Actually, The Family, set in the Renaissance, is a different novel than Puzo's usual fare, but fans will probably like it.

In the Corleones' saga, readers, or movie viewers, know that the Don wanted Michael to eventually make the family legitimate, to be Senator Corleone or President Corleone. In The Last Don, Don Domenico Clericuzio is the last Don, and it is his wish to have his children live legitimate lives. This seems to be a recurrent theme in Puzo's Mafia novels, but I may have to read the rest to make sure. Don Clericuzio has planned, plotted, and worked all his life to make sure that when the time comes, his children will be able to take the family into the legitimate world and leave the underworld behind. As the novel opens, plans are about to fall into place to assure this. However, as with any best laid plans, things happen. In this novel, events from the past come back to haunt the family as a terrible secret threatens Don Clericuzio's carefully laid plans. It has something to do with a great war the family had with the rival family of the Santadios. Also two of his grandchildren are headed for a war of their own that threatens to rip the family apart.

In typical Puzo fashion, the family's reach is vast and powerful from New York to Las Vegas to Hollywood and Europe. This particular novel has a significant element set in Hollywood, showing the place as a ruthless and corrupt establishment. Readers of Puzo know his novels have some strong elements, so I make the comment more for readers who may not have read his works before. I happen to enjoy Puzo's fiction, particularly his strong sense of place and descriptions as well as his characterizations. The attention to detail is also something I enjoy in Puzo's work, and it is present in this novel. In terms of pacing, this novel was fast paced and engaging. While not as ornate as The Godfather, if ornate is the right word (maybe I am thinking in terms of artistry), it is still engrossing. Readers who have read Puzo's other works will enjoy it. Those who pick it up without previous reading, may want to seek out Puzo's other works. As a note, I know this novel was made into a mini-series a while back, but I have not seen the mini-series. However, I am willing to guess the television event leaves a lot out. This is seen in watching The Godfather. The movie, which is one of my favorites, is a great film, but once you read the book, you see that so much is missing. Overall, I do recommend the book.

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