Mario Puzo was born on Manhattan’s West Side in the neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. His first books, The Fortunate Pilgrim (“a minor classic” New York Times) and Dark Arena, brought him critical acclaim, but it was the publication of The Godfather in March 1969 that catapulted him into the front ranks of American authors. Reviewers hailed the book as “a staggering triumph” (Saturday Review), “big, turbulent, highly entertaining” (Newsweek), “remarkable” (Look), and “a voyeur’s dream, a skillful fantasy of violent personal power” (New York Times). Winning readers by the millions, it stayed at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller lists for sixty-nine weeks. His follow-up novel, Fools Die (1978), was hailed as the publishing event of the decade. Puzo’s last novel, Omerta, was finished shortly before his death in 1999.