Puzo’s fans will appreciate this warm portrait.

An exploration of the life and work of Mario Puzo (1920-1999).

In 1969, 14 years after his first novel appeared—and quietly disappeared—Puzo catapulted to fame with the publication of The Godfather. Drawing on Puzo’s autobiographical nonfiction, essays, published interviews, and memoirs by his friends and fellow writers, Moore (For Paris—With Love & Squalor, 2017) fashions an admiring portrait of the self-described “working-class novelist” whose spectacular success ended years of professional disappointment. Puzo grew up poor, amid “the grimy odors, the sooty filth, and the oily stenches” of Manhattan. Summers in New Hampshire, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund, and sports and arts programs at the Hudson Guild Settlement House nourished his spirit. Sports, cards, and voracious reading became his choice activities. His future, though, seemed bleak to him, and he described the period between 18 and 21 as unremittingly miserable. In 1941, he was “delighted,” he admitted, to join the Army. When the war was over, he stayed on in the military in Germany and married a German woman. Postwar Europe, Moore observes, “was rife with intrigue, dangerous in ways that an ambitious writer would appreciate for sheer narrative intensity.” That atmosphere found its way into Puzo’s first novel, The Dark Arena, garnering critical praise but “general indifference” from readers. Moore chronicles Puzo’s money problems (with a wife and five children to support), affinity for gambling, and work frustrations. In 1962, he resigned from a government job to become a full-time staff writer at the Magazine Management Company, where he would turn out 30,000-40,000 words per month under various pen names before going home to write his own novels. Hard as he worked, though, he was always in debt—until he took an editor’s advice to write about “that Mafia stuff” that had appeared in some of his stories. It was advice well-taken: Readers made The Godfather a bestseller for 67 weeks, and it has lived on as a movie and sequels.

Puzo’s fans will appreciate this warm portrait.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942762-63-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Heliotrope Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019



Lg. Prt. 0-375-70288-1 This first nonfiction outing from singer/songwriter Buffett (Where Is Joe Merchant?, 1992, etc.) is more food for his Parrothead fans, but there is some fine writing along with the self-revelation. Half autobiography and half travelogue, this volume recounts a trip by Buffett and his family to the Caribbean over one Christmas holiday to celebrate the writer’s 50th birthday. Buffett is a licensed pilot, and his personal weakness is for seaplanes, so it’s primarily in this sort of craft that the family’s journey takes place. While giving beautiful descriptions of the locales to which he travels (including a very attractive portrait of Key West, from which he sets out), Buffett intersperses recollections of his first, short-lived marriage, his experiences in college and avoiding the Vietnam draft, and his brief employment at Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau before becoming a professional musician. In the meantime, he carries his reader seamlessly through the Cayman Island, Costa Rica, Colombia, the Amazon basin, and Trinidad and Tobago. Buffett shows that he is a keen observer of Latin American culture and also that he can “pass” in these surroundings when he needs to. It’s perhaps on this latter point that this book finds its principal weakness. Buffett tends toward preachiness in addressing his mostly landlubber readers, as when he decries the seeming American inability to learn a second language while most Caribbeans can speak English; elsewhere he attacks “ugly Americans out there making it harder for us more-connected-to-the-local-culture types.” On the other hand, he seems right on the money when he observes that the drug war of the 1980s did little to stop trafficking in the area and that turning wetlands into helicopter pads for drug agents isn’t going to offer any additional help. Both Parrotheads and those with a taste for the Caribbean find something for their palates here. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-43527-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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