BLACKSBURG, Va., May 6, 2011 – Virginia Tech Professor of English Ed Falco has written a prequel to Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which is slated for publication in June 2012 by Grand Central Publishing.
Entitled The Family Corleone, the novel is based on an unproduced screenplay by Puzo and set in New York in 1933 before the Corleones’ rise to power. According to Publishers Weekly, “The story reveals the history of how Vito Corleone fought to survive in the brutal criminal underworld to become the influential and respected Don in The Godfather. Jamie Raab, executive vice president and publisher of Grand Central, said the novel “both honors the original, and stands on its own as a Godfather novel for a new generation of readers.”
The winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, and the Emily Clark Balch Prize in Fiction, Falco has written four story collections, three novels, and several plays, in addition to poems, essays, and book reviews. Falco, who lives in Blacksburg, Va., is director of the English department’s Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing, and he edits The New River, an online journal of digital writing.
Q&A with Ed Falco
How long has The Family Corleone been in the works?
About one year. I wrote the bulk of it last summer, working eight hours days. During the school year my life is tied up with academic work, so I worked hard on the manuscript during breaks, weekends, etc. Because of that, it's hard to say exactly how long it took to write, but the whole project has been in process about one year.
What inspired this work?
My agent asked me to consider writing a sequel to The Godfather way back in 2001 or so. I wasn't interested in popular fiction at that time, and I declined to be considered. A couple of years ago, I got interested in writing popular fiction. My agent, Neil Olson, knew this, and thought of me again when a deal was signed for the prequel. He called and asked if I would be interested and this time I jumped at it. (Neil represented Mario Puzo, and now he represents the Puzo family.)
When did you read the unproduced screenplay by Puzo?
I read the pages extracted from The Godfather III and IV (unproduced) before I agreed to take on the novel.
What will we learn that is new about the Corleone family tree?
There's one big surprise, but I can't tell.
Does this novel contain references to "real" people?
Yes. The novel is largely set in 1933-1934, as prohibition is coming to an end. Mayor LaGuardia's presence hovers over the novel as a counterpoint to the gangsterism that is the focus to the story. Other historical figures, especially crime figures, including Al Capone and Dutch Shultz turn up, too.
Will there be a strong female character, something lacking in the works of Puzo?
There are two important female characters, Carmella Corleone (Mama Corleone) and Kelly O'Rourke, Luca Brasi's girlfriend. Carmella gets more attention in my novel than she has in the past, and she's "strong" in a manner that's believable for her time and place.
There are quite a few books tied into this franchise, how will yours break from the pack?
I explore some issues that haven't been previously explored. Most significant is the relationship between Luca Brasi and Vito Corleone. Neither of the movies really explain much about Luca, about why he's so loyal to Vito and so feared by others. The first section of The Family Corleone focuses on that. I also take a closer look at Sonny and his entry into the family than anyone has before.
Which current actor do you imagine portraying the young Vito Corleone in your book?
I have no idea. That brilliant cast of the Godfather movies owns my imagination when I think of the Godfather saga. If there's a movie, casting is going to be a challenge.
Perhaps it is not so unusual that Falco was selected to author this prequel. Matters of the mob run in his family. His niece is three-time Emmy winner Edie Falco, also known as Carmelo Soprano.