Mario Puzo: An American Writer’s Quest

M.J. Moore. Heliotrope, $16.50 (250p) ISBN 978-1-942762-63-8
This lackluster biography of Mario Puzo from novelist Moore (For Paris—With Love and Squalor) describes how an aspiring literary fiction writer instead achieved fame with the bestselling mob thriller The Godfather. Moore begins by recounting Puzo’s Hell’s Kitchen upbringing, his Army service as a clerk during and after WWII, his persistent money troubles due to a gambling addiction, and his investigation by the FBI for selling draft deferments. Moore is at his best when using these details to convey the background to Puzo’s first, more seriously intended books. However, readers looking for nuanced critical evaluations of Puzo’s work will be disappointed. Moore prefers to recount anecdotes gleaned from other published memoirs, such as Puzo’s own story of how, at a meeting with his publisher, Atheneum, an editor lamented that if only Puzo‘s second novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, “had a little more of the Mafia stuff in it,” it might have sold. Puzo subsequently abandoned serious fiction, changing his fortunes permanently. Moore is clearly a big fan of Puzo, to the book’s detriment. Heavy-handed editorializing abounds, as when Moore recounts Puzo’s run-in with Frank Sinatra, offering that only “one of the two men [Puzo] had the decency (and balls) to look at the other.” While a rich subject for a biographer, Puzo’s life and literary legacy deserve a more objective, detailed treatment. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/10/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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