Tag Archives: Mario Puzo

Pulp Friday: ‘The godfather of the airport novel’

Have you ever noticed, whenever someone pens one of those articles listing the most influential books of the second half of the 20th century, how worthy the titles are? You’ll usually find books like Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull or E. M Forster’s Maurice, published in 1971, a year after the author’s death. But no one ever mentions influential books I suspect people were actually reading in large numbers, Peyton Place, Jacqueline Susan’s Valley of the Dolls, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering, the novels of Harold Robbins.

Growing up in the 1970s, when popular culture was still mass rather than the niche individual choice it is increasingly now, Robbins was still a big deal. I don’t know about your household, but prominently placed amongst the Alistair Maclean and Ian Fleming thrillers, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape and Erich von Daniken’s 1968 sensation, Chariot of the Gods, were a large number of paperback books by Robbins.

Robbins has been called ‘the godfather of the airport novel’ and the ‘Onassis of supermarket literature’. He wasn’t a good writer by any stretch of the imagination but starting with his debut novel, Never Love A Stranger, in 1948, he produced fast paced, meaty narratives with larger than life characters, corporate executives and adventurers, accompanied by lashings of drama and explicit sex.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Mafia pulp fiction

The Mafia, Cosa Nostra, the Mob, the Family, the Outfit, the Syndicate, call them whatever you like, it’s hard to overstate the influence organised crime had over pulp fiction.

My post on the Andrew Dominik movie Killing Them Softly earlier this week, got me thinking about how the Mafia have been portrayed in popular fiction and film.

One of the aspects of Killing Me Softly I found so interesting was its depiction of organised crime in the traditional sense as being just a shadow of its former glory. For the most part, the gangsters were a bunch of clapped out old men and cautious time servers, clinging desperately to the last trappings of their power base.

It wasn’t always so. Stretching right back to the late forties, organised crime was one of the central pre-occupations of pulp writers. The phenomenal success of Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, published in 1969 and the subsequent movie version by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972, saw pulp’s fascination with the Mafia stretch well into the seventies.

In addition to novels examining every aspect of the Mafia’s rituals and existence, so all pervasive and powerful was the Mafia’s reach, pulp writers invented a series of characters that existed just to fight it.

Robert Briganti or ‘the Assassin’ as he is known, “lives only to destroy the Mafia.”

The Marksman, real name was Philip Magellan, was a man who “stalks the Mafia killers through the deadly jungle of the big city underworld”.… Read more