“New York, 1933. The city and the nation are in the depths of the Great Depression. The crime families of New York have prospered in this time, but with the coming end of Prohibition, a battle is looming that will determine which organizations will rise and which will face a violent end.
For Vito Corleone, nothing is more important that his family’s future. While his youngest children, Michael, Fredo, and Connie, are in school, unaware of their father’s true occupation, and his adopted son Tom Hagen is a college student, he worries most about Sonny, his eldest child. Vito pushes Sonny to be a businessman, but Sonny-17 years-old, impatient and reckless-wants something else: To follow in his father’s footsteps and become a part of the real family business.”
Just reading the back cover make me excited about getting my hands on this book. I had read The Godfather about 10 years ago, and returning to those unforgettable characters was a treat.
“Make him an offer he can’t refuse” and movie producer Jack Woltz waking up to find his favorite horse’s severed head in his bed are images that are seared onto the minds of Godfather fans. The characters of Don Corleone and Sonny, of Luca Brasi and Tom Haegen are well-known and well-loved. But how did Vito Corelone become Don Corleone? Was Sonny always a hot-head? What makes Luca Brasi so formidable and so devoted to the Don? If you’ve ever wondered about these back stories, this book will give you the answers.
The novel starts in 1933 as Vito (and other mafia families) is plotting his move from controlling gambling and numbers in the Bronx to expanding the business following the end of Prohibition. And although he is firmly entrenched in this life, he doesn’t want his sons to follow in his footsteps. So he encourages Michael to focus on his studies, sends Tom Haegen to Columbia to study law and sets Sonny up in a garage, hoping that he will eventually make a name for himself in the automobile business. But Sonny wants nothing more than to join his father’s business, and takes his first steps into that world as the head of a gang of 17-year old hijackers. By staying in the background when the deals for the hooch he hijacks are struck, he ensures that his father knows nothing about his extra-curricular activities. Michael, meanwhile, is immersed in his studies, while Connie and Fredo are pretty much in the background.
The really interesting part of the novel, though, is Luca Brasi, who gets a starring role in The Family Corleone. Falco paints him as a dark character known as El diablo (the devil), who strikes fear in the hearts of all the mafioso. No one wants to cross the brutal Brasi, as stories abound about his legendary strength, death-defying feats and brutality. Falco explores the origins of his brutal nature as Brasi goes from being an independent gang leader to becoming Don Corleone’s most faithful enforcer.
Flaco stays close to Puzo’s writing style, and the extensive glossary of Italian words at the end of the book really bring the mafia world alive. Based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo, The Family Corleone is a rip-roaring page turner that should make fans of The Godfather happy.