‘The Godfather’ Is Still Making Us an Offer We Can’t Refuse

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/AP Images

The Mafia is dead. A New York jury said so just this week. A trial in federal court of two men charged with racketeering and conspiracy to commit extortion ended in a verdict of not guilty. Defense attorneys for the two men had argued that the Mafia was destroyed decades ago and that their clients were being unfairly profiled as gangsters because of their Italian ethnicity. The defendants walked.

Long live the Mafia: the day after that jury verdict, a Gambino family mob boss was gunned down in his own driveway on Staten Island, in what history will record as the first gangland slaying ever recorded on video. So maybe the death of organized crime is slightly exaggerated.

In a strange coincidence, amid all this fresh news about the Mafia splattered across the tabloids, Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather turns 50 this month. And here’s a certainty: while we can debate the actual Mafia’s state of health all day long, it is still very much alive and well in the pages of Puzo’s novel—maybe because no one ever accused him of writing realism.

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