Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is that relatively rare thing: a book that most people agree is surpassed by its film adaptation(s). I agree too, but crikey, some of his other books are GREAT.

I am very fond of The Sicilian, which takes the true-ish story of peasant outlaw and popular hero Salvatore Guiliano and sticks it onto Michael Corleone’s lost years in Sicily. It’s a fantastic, action-packed, romantic adventure with great psychological depth, and I was rather disappointed to discover that the film version stars the rubbish Christopher Lambert.

I’m now reading The Fortunate Pilgrim, Puzo’s second novel. It’s an impressively understated account of a poor first generation immigrant, Lucia Santa, and her struggles to bring up her family with little money, great misfortune and the conflicting values of Italy and America. In a sense it can be read as a preface to The Godfather, showing us the origins of that book’s world and the values of its characters. The drama is on a smaller scale than in the Corleone books, essentially grim social realism built around the wonderfully believable portrayal of Lucia Santa. Believable perhaps because she is based on Puzo’s own mother, who was to be given an equally powerful male incarnation in Don Corleone.

If I was a good blogger with my finger on the pulse of current literary developments, I could now discuss The Godfather: the Lost Years by Mark Winegardner, which has just been published. But I haven’t read it.