This is the novel written by Mario Puzo. I have not yet done my research, but given that I have seen the movie a dozen times or so and that I recognize and am familiar with so much of this, it wouldn’t surprise if Mario Puzo wrote the novel with the screenplay already in his back pocket read to go. He wouldn’t be the first person to do this, and he certainly wouldn’t be the last.
This novel is pretty much the movie. Some aspects of it are superior and some are inferior. The filmmaking choices are more clearer to me for having read this. I will get into the difference in a bit.
But I wanted to say that this book is read by Joe Mantegna, who is Just an absolute treasure. He doesn’t try to do a Marlon Brando impression and he doesn’t try to be Fat Tony about it, but he’s just so good through and through.
So the book itself is just a solid book. It would have been good if the movie never existed and it’s still good even with the existence of the movie. There are some differences. For one, the characters’ thoughts, thought-processes, and motivations are much more centered and upfront. This is a very omniscient narrator dipping in and out the various characters’ head and giving us what we need to understand where they’re going. But it’s limited in that kind of way of like Game of Thrones where we don’t usually get inside multiple perspectives within the same scenes, but we know what Tom Hagan is thinking when he’s doing something, we know what Don Corleone’s motivations are when he is acting, and we know more about the reputation and background of a Luco Brasi, so when he meets his fate, we have a more clear understanding of why. The book is perfunctory in it’s prose, however, and that’s fine. It’s not art, but it’s a great rendering of the genre.
The movie builds up these moments through creating an air of mystery, using music and acting to build the tension, and giving us beautifully rendered shots and shot compositions to fill in those gaps.
All of this is a way to while this book is cinematic, it’s still a book. And while the movie is brilliant, it’s not literary.
Ultimately these two work together to really illustrate how a successfully written novel can lead to a successfully created movie.