Mario Puzo, weakened by diabetes and heart disease, had installed an elevator in his New York home so he wouldn't have to tackle the stairs when going between his bedroom and kitchen. But despite his difficulties, he continued to work on another Mafia novel that will survive his recent death at age 78 from heart failure.
The book is titled "Omerta," an Italian word succinctly defined in the Garzanti dictionary as "conspiracy of silence" and better understood as the Sicilian code that binds members of a Mafia family.
"Mario finished the book a few weeks before he died," said Jonathan Karp, his editor at Random House, which plans to publish it next July. "I think he probably knew that he wouldn't live to see publication of the book. He would say, 'I'll finish it and then I can die.'
"I'm so glad that I got to tell him that I loved it."
The release of the book is so far off that Karp was understandably shy about discussing the story in great detail. However, the editor did say that the novel is "similar in its architecture" to "The Last Don." Puzo's bestseller of three summers ago told of a powerful don's wish to make his business interests legitimate and how this plan is undermined by his warring heirs.
Puzo was overjoyed by the reception of "The Last Don," which was turned into a CBS miniseries. "He felt he had not lost his zip as a writer," Karp recalled. "He said, 'It doesn't read like the writing of an old man.' "
"Omerta," set in the 1990s, will complete what Puzo saw as his Mafia trilogy. It began, of course, with Puzo's epic "The Godfather" and includes "The Last Don."
A sale of dramatic rights to the new novel is expected to take place later this year.
Meanwhile, the Mafia memoirs of Joe Bonanno and his son Bill Bonanno have been woven into a miniseries scheduled to run July 25 and 26 on Showtime. "Bonanno: A Godfather's Story" is based on "A Man of Honor," written by Joe Bonanno (with Sergio Lalli) and first published by Simon & Schuster in 1983, and Bill Bonanno's "Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story," published in May by St. Martin's Press.
In the miniseries, Martin Landau plays the elder Bonanno, with Zachary Bennett in the role of his son.
A New Internet Mag: A new magazine about the Internet that Wenner Media Inc. was known to be developing is tentatively being called NetGuide and will launch in November, Mediaweek reports in this week's issue. Wenner, which publishes Rolling Stone, Men's Journal and Us magazine, will put NetGuide on a monthly schedule starting in March, Mediaweek says.
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* This Sunday: Patricia Hampl on the "The Best American Short Stories of the Century"; Patrick McGilligan on the art of Alfred Hitchcock; and Peter Biskind on Elia Kazan.