Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Mario Puzo's THE GODFATHER, the bloody saga about the Corleone crime family, became an instant bestseller in 1969.  I bought it, read it and tired to imagine what the announced movie version of the film would look like. I figured it would have to be an "X" -rated film if it was to include all of the graphic sex and violence contained in the book. The film version, released in 1972, was a blockbuster, garnering ten Academy Award nominations (it won three). It was the largest grossing film of the year and has gone on to be recognized as an American classic, one of the finest films ever made.

Following upon the one-two knockout punch success of THE GODFATHER as both novel and film, publishers and movie studios were quick to scramble upon the organized crime bandwagon, churning out thinly disguised knockoffs of both Mario Puzo's pulp novel and Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic masterpiece. Dozens of books and films were released in a relatively short period of time along with several true crime books about the Mob.

THE DON IS DEAD (1972) by Nick Quarry, is one such book. I've had this one on my bookshelf for years and finally got around to reading it the other day. It's a GODFATHER clone/knock-off published by Fawcett Gold Medal. Fawcett also published THE GODFATHER, a fact that's blurbed on the cover which features a nice piece of art (artist unknown) and the same "Godfather" lettering font.

The death of Mafia boss Don Paolo Regalbuto creates a power vacuum in a city controlled by three crime families. The Don's son, Frank, isn't ready to take over the operation. Louis "The Accountant" Orlando is running Jimmy Bruno's outfit while his boss serves time in prison. Don Angelo DiMorra, an aging boss, wants to expand his empire but knows he has to move carefully. Finally, there's the Fargo gang, led by vicious brothers Vince and Tony. They're the wild card element in the escalating struggle for power. An uneasy truce is brokered by the Commission, a coalition of other Mafia families from around the country. But the peace is a tenuous one and before long a full scale gang war erupts in an orgy of violence which leaves only one man standing when all of the smoke clears.

THE DON IS DEAD lacks the character development, history and detail found in Puzo's novel, but it's a page turner that focuses on gun battles and other forms of murder and mayhem. Author Nick Quarry is a pseudonym for Marvin Albert, a prolific author who wrote dozens of novels including westerns, the Tony Rome series, the Stone Angel series (of which THE DON IS DEAD is the first), stand-alone crime thriller and movie novelizations. In addition to the Quarry byline, Albert wrote under the names Albert Conroy, Ian McAlister and Anthony Rome. By any name, Albert knows how to grab a reader from the start and keep you turning the pages.

It's no masterpiece but THE DON IS DEAD is a good, pulpy organized crime thriller. It's a great way to pass a long, hot summer vacation day. Thumbs up.

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