Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Was an Offer This Writer Couldn't Refuse; 'Godfather' Sequel Research under Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It Was an Offer This Writer Couldn't Refuse; 'Godfather' Sequel Research under Way

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Kormanik, Times-Union staff writer

A faceless aging mobster haunts Mark Winegardner's thoughts.

When that gangster reads Winegardner's sequel to The Godfather, due out in fall 2004, the author hopes he will appreciate the story -- and not break his legs.

Winegardner, director of the creative writing program at Florida State University, won a nationwide search this winter to find the author of The Godfather Returns, a sequel to Mario Puzo's classic 1969 novel. Winegardner is in town this week, speaking to students at The Bolles School and Flagler College.

"I am writing for this one aging mobster who will read it and say, 'That's not right,' " he said. "I want to know: How does he know?"

Millions of fans have come to know the Corleone crime family through Puzo's book and the subsequent film trilogy, and eagerly await more mafia material. Winegardner's own fans are looking forward to the next work from the author of Crooked River Burning and The Veracruz Blues.

Expectations are high, which is one reason Winegardner is being "a nerd" about research while crafting the novel, which picks up in 1954 after Puzo's novel ends. Winegardner wouldn't give away plot details, but said he's researching Italian-American assimilation and immigration. Readers crave the insider, behind-the-scenes knowledge that informs a novel, he said. When they feel they are learning something, they may forgive a storyline they don't like.

"If a reader feels they've gone behind the velvet rope, there's more room for error," said Winegardner, who admits to boning up on Godfather trivia from the DVD. "There's pleasure in getting it right."

Winegardner beat out dozens of other Godfather hopefuls for the job. Editors at Random House sought a mid-career writer, someone at the same stage as Puzo when he wrote The Godfather, and they admired Winegardner's work. Why mid-career? Because a writer in that position wouldn't be defined by the work's success or failure in the way a novice would, he said, nor would they be cynical about the project in the way an established writer might be. …

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