NO self-respecting gangster blog can be complete without featuring the work of the master. Mario Puzo's Godfather is a tour de force that set the standards and guidelines for all other gangland crime thriller writers to follow.
I read it a long time ago - along with several other Puzo publications - so thought I would refresh the memory by downloading it on Audible and listening to it on the tube. What a ride!
I barely registered the trip from Leytonstone to Mile End and nearly missed my stop on occasions having been so wrapped up in the epic saga.
Puzo's book begins with a law-abiding New York citizen of Italian descent in court, having watched his daughter's rapists walk away scot free after their sob-story has been bought by a judge. They just so happen to be from well-off families with influence whereas the unfortunate father is a hard-working immigrant with no connections and just enough money to keep his head above water.
This character has put all his faith in the American justice system and shunned other opportunities available to him - like pledging allegiance to Don Vito Corleone, the boss of the local mafia family.
For the Don to 'assist' you in your plight all you have to do is throw yourself on his mercy with the understanding that one day you will be asked to return the favour without question.
So, angered at his treatment by the system, the distraught father begs the Don to help him... and gets a public rebuke for his trouble. The message is clear: he should have come to Don Corleone sooner and pleaded for his friendship rather than trust the corrupt legal system.
When he acknowledges the 'error' of his ways, the Don finally agrees to help, and the two rapists later turn up with horrendous injuries likely to cause them grief for a lifetime. This is justice, the Corleone way.
From that moment we learn all about the Godfather, his extended 'family' and his ability to 'make you an offer you can't refuse'. These offers can involve such horrific examples as placing the sawn-off head of a thoroughbred racehorse in the bed of a sleeping Hollywood movie producer who was reluctant to cast the Don's nephew, Johnny Fontaine, as the lead actor in a new film. Eventually Don Corleone gets his way.
* Click above to see clip from Godfather film
The book flashes back to Vito Corleone's arrival in New York just after the war, a young man on the run after his father has been killed by Sicilian rivals. It shows how he develops from a hard-working teenager to a killer, and how he earns the respect of the neighbourhood for helping people out in time of need.
The family grows and from muscling in on the imported olive oil business he expands his interests to become a top crime boss, the head of one of the five big New York mafia families.
But he is still old school, and when the idea of branching out into drug distribution is put to him, he is not impressed.
As things rapidly escalate an attempt is made on his life and, never having fully recovered, he takes a back seat in proceedings. His middle son, Sonny, a real hothead who sees himself as the natural successor, is killed by a rival gang and it falls on war hero Michael - who has always steered well clear of the family 'business' - to take up the reins.
The transformation of Michael from law-abiding student with a girlfriend and a determination to follow the American dream, to a ruthless boss that makes his father appear soft in comparison, is one of the greatest pieces of character development you will come across.
And as the Corleone family extend their tentacles to The cash-laden Casino world of Las Vegas, Michael plans on taking the family legit. To do so, though, he must first balance the books and settle old scores.
Fabulously written, brilliantly researched with characters that explode onto the page, if you want the perfect gangster book, look no further. The films are pretty great, too...