Luka Novak's Reviews > The Last Don

The Last Don by Mario Puzo
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's review
Jun 05, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: fiction

Weak and long-winded. I understand that ever Puzo's book will be compared to Godfather and judged by its standard, but this book is weak even without that comaprisson.

The premise of the book is that Don Clericuzio wants to retire from mafia business and "go legit" and how he does that. In book's opening he announces this intention to the family, wishing that his children, and nephew will start legitimate businesses and their children reap the benefits.

So far so good but then the story splits into several subplots. One is Cross' business (he is the son of Don's nephew) in vagas, running a casino. Instead of showing how such business, being important piece of mafia's work, is done we get to see almost nothing of it. Some links to organised crime are there, but overall this is mostly a dead end.

Another subplot is Hollywood business, behind-the-scenes workings of studio. This story takes most of the book but is pointless and could easily be trimmed down to 10% of its entire size. It has only limited connection to alledged main story, mostly through Cross' sister, who is not involved in mafia business. I kept expecting how worlds will finally meet, collide and how each side's inner workings will be pitted against each other, but that happens only toward the end and briefly.

Even "going legit" plan is touched only briefly, Don's sons are there but reduced to supporting characters, popping up from time to time but playing little part in overall progress of the story.

Then there is Santadio war. We learn it was this that allowed Clericuzio family to dominate, Don lost his son in it and Cross' father played an important role in it. Beyond that nobody in the family wants to talk about and Cross' questions are repeatedly left unanswered. I understand this was before the internet and Google but are we supposed to believe family was Cross only potential source of information? What prevented him from walking in nearest library and looking through newspaper archives? In the end when entire story is finally revealed it's anticlimatic after all that buil up.

In the end one can wonder what did Puzo attempt to write about? This is clearly not a book about mafia family "going legit" because we see little of those attempts. It's not a story about influence of organised crime in Vegas because we see little of that either. It's not a story about influence of organised crime in Hollywood because that subplot has weak links to main protagonists. And whole Santadio war subplot is handled badly, in the end resolution feels rushed and forced, simply mechanical closing of open ends.

Bad book and waste of time.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Doug (new)

Doug I thought the book was very good, I liked the characters of Cross and his father, didn't care for the other ones. I think it is always a mistake to compare any of Mario Puzo's books to The Godfather, that was in a class by itself. My main issue with The Last Don is that there was way too much graphic description of Cross's sister and her sexual escapades, it had nothing to do with any of the main story-lines, it just made her rather dis-likable. I loved Cross's revenge against those who deserved it. I do agree with the comments that it was rather long-winded at times, it just seemed like a way of making the book needlessly longer, but overall I still enjoyed it.

message 2: by Luka (last edited Nov 16, 2012 06:27PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Luka Novak I think entire Cross' sister subplot could be eliminated. OK, a bit may be kept to show contrast between her and Cross, mafia and non-mafia part of family.

But it's just that whole Hollywood subplot led nowhere. We have page after page of Cross' relationship with Althea (sp? It's been a while since I've read it). And in the end where does that lead us? They leave together to take care of her child in France. And that takes, what? 20% of the book when it could be done in few chapters in background.

And we have Cross' sister and whole production business. It keeps building up to some sort of climatic showdown between family and studio and what happens in the end? In few pages affair is handed over to family's friend who will "show them some tricks". I mean come on! I'm not sure where this subplot was supposed to go anyway....

The whole thing feels either as if Puzzo had a contract for a book of certain length and then toward the end realized he has to finish and tried to close subplots quickly. Or as if this book was supposed to have a sequel which was never written.

I agree that we shouldn't compare this book to The Godfather but people do it anyway. And since both are about mafia families it's understandable.

Jevron McCrory Did you really not like it? All of Puzo's traits are on show here. Complex shady farsighted dealings, no stupid subplots involving a woman's vagina (seriously, The Godfather? What was he thinking?!), vicious violence, satisfying conclusion, wonderfully colourful characters, solid confident prose, this is EASILY my favourite Mario Puzo book. You want to read a directionless ramble, read Fools Die. That broke my heart. The Godfather movie is flawless but the book is far from. For me, Puzo has never been beter than The Last Don. (Her name was Athena by the way - the way they dealt with Boz Skannet was superb!)

message 4: by Luka (new) - rated it 1 star

Luka Novak Jevron wrote: "Did you really not like it? All of Puzo's traits are on show here. Complex shady farsighted dealings, no stupid subplots involving a woman's vagina (seriously, The Godfather? What was he thinking?!..."

Well, I pointed out where I see main flaws. The main problem was that there are so many subplots that build and build up and this being a mafia book I expected some sort of serious and epic showdown. But in the end they just fizzle out. See how Cross gets involved in Hollywood (beside Athena). We see him getting involved in studio, production, how he is treated. And the end? The whole conclussion is handled in few pages, business wrapped so fast that once I was past it I kept asking myself "Was that it? This is whole end of that story?"

And other subplots are treated same way, Athena, Dante..... As I said, I feels like Puzzo simply had to wrap up storylines he developed for the first 4/5s of the book fast.

As for farsighted dealings, what do we see? How much of Don's "going legit" do we see? Beyond Cross nothing. Even the associate who handled drug bussiness features in the beginning, then drops out of picture and pops up in the end. Rest of Don's children? They are featured only briefly in the background. Fine, focus is Cross (and Dante) but why make a whole introduction of his family bussiness and how everybody will have a legitimate income if we get to see nothing? Whole introduction could be skipped over and handled in brief flashbacks, e.g. when we meet Cross he reembers this meeting and when others are intruduced we learn what their legitimate bussiness is.

Jevron McCrory Well if nothing else, Puzo would really appreciate the amount of time and thought you gave his book, even though you didn't like it.

You gotta admit, the whole sub plot about Lucy Mancini's vagina in The Godfather was so out of whack. He interrupts this Mafia epic to discuss some chick's box?!! That's why the movie is better than the book for me. Francis was smart to omit it.

message 6: by Luka (new) - rated it 1 star

Luka Novak Yes, that subplot, if we can call it that, was really WTFish. No bearing to story and not really comming from some other subplot or leading to one.

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