In The Family Corleone (Grand Central, 591 pages, $9), Ed Falco takes us back to 1933, a decade before the events of Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1969).
Vito Corleone is still building his empire; his son, Sonny, is an impetuous 17-year-old eager to make his own mark; and Luca Brasi, who will become the Corleone family enforcer, is a psychopath determined to bring Don Corleone down.
Based on an unproduced screenplay by Puzo, the novel is an absolute must-read for Godfather fans. Falco, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, isn't doing a Puzo imitation, but the book is, like Puzo's original, full of meaty characters, violence, and an operatic sense of larger-than-life drama.
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The Fate of Worlds (Tor, 411 pages, $10), by American science fiction writers Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, concludes the Fleet of Worlds series, which has explored the history and society of the secretive and paranoid alien species known as the Pierson's Puppeteers.
Beginning two centuries before Niven's classic 1970 novel Ringworld, the series has now moved beyond the events of that book.
Louis Wu, the human discoverer of the Ringworld, is recovering from having been transformed into a Pak Protector (Niven's fans will know exactly what that means); the Puppeteer known as the Hindmost is eager to re-establish contact with the Puppeteer fleet; and the Ringworld itself, the most vital element in the Puppeteers' survival, has vanished.
Fans should find this a fitting conclusion, although, fair warning, newcomers to the series might be utterly baffled by parts of the book.
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Lucky Bastard (Gallery, 358 pages, $17), by S.G. Browne, is a nifty detective story. Nick Monday is a private eye, but he's also a thief. What does he steal? Not money, nor cars, nor jewelry.
He steals something a bit more... intangible: he steals luck, drains it right out of people, and sells it on the black market.
He thinks he's kept his rather unusual sideline a secret, but when a beautiful woman named Tuesday Knight offers him $100,000 to locate the mayor of San Francisco's luck, and return it to him, it's an offer too good for Nick to pass up.
Browne, who (like Nick) lives in San Francisco, combines fantasy, hardboiled detective and laugh-out-loud comedy.
The seductive Tuesday Knight is right out of a private-eye story of the 1930s or '40s; curvy and with just a hint of treachery about her. Nick, the down-but-not-quite-out investigator, has the world-weary feel of a noir hero, and, if you took away the whole luck-thief business, he could easily have stepped off the pages of a Hammett or Chandler mystery. Great fun.
Halifax writer David Pitt's column appears on the first weekend of the month.