“The announcement of the continuation of the Godfather saga…” –11 February, 2003

What’s with all the goomba bling bling? The announcement of the continuation of the Godfather saga has so far been greeted with a sound, I imagine, of sheep grazing in the meadow. (I wouldn’t know that sound, never having been privy to such rustic entertainment.) The fractious (and admirable) bunch that scour the infosphere for various tidbits about books, literature, authors and the assorted craven despots and vulgarians that exploit them seem to have swallowed without much commentary Random House’s press release about Mark Winegardner’s annointment to the Puzo mantle.

Bah! (Is that a sheep sound?) I can remember at least two instances in which an author’s estate sought further enrichment by having an unfinished novel completed or just putting the deceased’s name on posthumously created work; Robert Parker’s Poodle Springs was said to be a Raymond Chandler novel. Suffice it to say, it was not a masterpiece or even entertaining (Parker may even have gone on to write a complete Chandleresque novel) and Ian Fleming’s name was, I believe, subsumed by John Gardner. Neither of these instances are high points in literary history.

What struck me as significant was the lack of discussion of this practice of extending an author’s brand and the absurd possibilities it subsumes(deep freezing authors?). World hunger for mafiosi-inspired tales continues unabated (Good Fellas, The Sopranos, regularly aired on network TV how-I-beat-the-mob stories), so the underlying motive for the nuevo Godfather is hardly a mystery. But, I wonder, might this not lead to a new breed category of publishing? In the past, some authors have tinkered with updated versions of Mark Twain and other masters (there seem to be frequent attempts to update various Shakespearean dramas). I for one wondered what happened to Catch 22‘s Yossarian. There are many other stories (that their creators wisely left as they were) that might now be revived by publishing houses (if we may still call them that).

Two of the names mentioned as contenders in the story about the Godfather bear further comment. Vince Patrick wrote the novel that the wonderful movie Pope of Greenwich Village was based on and seems to have gone on to a successful career writing for movies. His novel Smokescreen was a readable thriller based on various secret agency type shenanigans with archenemy Fidel Castro. The other name mentioned, James Carlos Blake has written The Pistoleer: A Novel of John Wesley Hardin, In the Rogue Blood, Wildwood Boys, Borderlands: Short Fictions, Red Grass River, A Legend, The Friends of Pancho Villa and A World of Thieves. Blake is a pretty fine writer and storyteller with the humor and compassion of James Lee Burke and the dark vision of Cormac McCarthy. It will be interesting to see whether being mentioned in this story gains Blake any readers.

Anyway, I am glad for the talented Mark Winegardner, though I hope that this work-for-hire does not distract him from the fine writing he is already producing. And who knows, the possibility, of course exists that he will turn out something wonderful and remarkable.

We’ll find out soon enough.

crocodile

The Crocodile by Robert Birnbaum

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