Mario Puzo’s THE SICILIAN: Deep Ideas Behind Crime Fiction

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I have just finished reading THE SICILIAN, a novel by Mario Puzo. He is the Italian-American author who wrote THE GODFATHER, the novel that was transformed to the best movie in history.

I’d like to say he is my favorite author ever. His novels have the best plots. And he has the best style I have ever read.

I believe I should compare THE SICILIAN to THE GODFATHER. Both of them have the great style of showing how those fearful gangsters and criminals feel and think. Those criminals, whom people think are made of stone, are at the end of the day human beings who have weaknesses and even might hide fragile personalities behind their outer appearances which frighten everybody. The reader feels as if he is inside the mind of each character and knows his ideas and feelings.

Also, both of the novels have a great feature which is explaining why and how events happen. Puzo does not only write events and describe places and characters; his style is characterized by showing why every character does an action.  A character won’t kill another one just for nothing, there must be a reason. It does not make a conspiracy for no reason. Puzo explains how each of his characters does a certain event. If a gangster assassinates an enemy, you don’t read the event only, you read how he has planned it, why he does each step in the plan, how he hides all evidences that show he has done it, how he overcomes obstacles and people that might prevent him from killing his enemy.

I believe both of the novels have a great well-knotted plot. But I still prefer the one of THE GODFATHER, as it is more complicated and full of more important and versatile events and characters. It also shows the great conflict inside Michael Corleone, who turns from a brave army soldier to the cruel boss of the biggest Mafia gang in USA. This does not mean THE SICILIAN is bad. It is very close to THE GODFATHER.

But what I believe THE SICILIAN is better at is the deep idea it has. When you read about gangsters and gangs, you might be looking for events, crimes and vengeance. But, THE SICILIAN is very deep. It tells that the destiny of Sicily is to live in chaos, crime and poverty. Any man who tries to change that will face a dreadful end.

It tells the story of Turi Guiliano, a young bandit in Sicily. But Sicily is full of bandits, what would make him different?!
Well, This man is the first bandit not looking for money, influence and personal interests. He is a bandit who wants to help people, who steals from the rich to give to the poor, and who assassinates people because they hurt other people. Although he is able to enjoy life, money and women, as he grows powerful, he refuses all of that just to help his fellow Sicilians. He changes the concept of Mafia. Other Mafia bandits try to show they are against the government, while they shake hands with it under the table. Whereas, Turi fights the government both in front of people and secretly, because he believes this corrupted government steals from and hurts people. He even starts to fight other Mafia bosses in the island because he wants to liberate Sicily from those monsters who control and humiliate Sicilians. At the end the Mafia and government unite just to fight this brave warrior.

As treachery runs in the blood of Sicilians, Turi fails eventually.

Most of Mafia and gangsters’ novels aim at showing the cruelty and intelligence of gangsters while whipping out their enemies. THE SICLIAN is different. It shows  a man pushed by destiny to be a bandit, just to do good things. It shows that destiny of some people is to live in injustice, regardless of how difficult they try to change their fate; an example is the destiny of Sicilians.

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Why do we write? And what do you need to become a professional novelist?

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“Why do you write?” This question faces any novelist a lot of times during his career. I believe most of novelists find this question funny! You can’t ask a lion why it attacks its preys. You can’t ask an eagle why it flies. These are their nature. The same applies to writing for novelists. They just find themselves writing, and they can’t leave it. It is just like breathing. It is their main obsession that controls them.

Most of the times writing becomes the most important thing in any novelist’s life, even if it is not his main profession. A novelist keeps thinking about writing all the time, all day and night. He keeps looking for new ideas for his novels in everything, even in the tiniest details around him. When he is writing a novel, he keeps thinking about its events, how to write them, and what the best words to use are.

“How to become a professional novelist?” is another question that novelists might face. Well, if I have to answer this, I will say, “Each professional novelist has his own way!”

Nevertheless, I believe there are certain characteristics that distinguish a professional novelist from an amateur writer.

Firstly, to become a professional novelist, you must be ambitious. You must love writing and dream big about it. You must wish to prove that you are the best, or at least among the best. There are hundreds of novelists  in the world, and you have to be the sun among them.

Moreover, patience is so important. Writing is not an easy profession. If you think you will succeed in a couple of days, you have to reconsider it. In fact, you need a lot of months at least. Most likely you will need a lot of years, before you are among the well-known writers. Being a novelist is not just about being good in narration and language. It is not only about talent. Finishing a novel is only the first step. After that, you have to revise it and edit it many times, as it needs to be in the best shape possible. Next, you have to send well-written queries to a lot of agents and publishing houses. If you get accepted eventually, and this is very difficult, you will have to start to advertise your novel. This may take a lot of weeks and months.

In addition, you must have self-confidence. When you submit your work to agents and publishers, you have to be sure it will be rejected a lot of times. So, you must have confidence in yourself, and know that you are good. You should believe those rejection are merely of personal tastes of ones who read it. You must not become a captive of desperation and frustration. However, at the same time, you should be humble. If agents tell you your manuscript needs to be better, you should think seriously about that. If your manuscript is accepted, and lately an editor sends you some notes about it, you have to accept them, and try your best to improve your novel.  If after publication, you get bad reviews and harsh criticism from readers, do not look to them as enemies. In fact, they might be your best friends. They are your best way to improve as a writer, and to write next novels in a better way.

Finally, this profession needs sacrifice. It will affect your life. It might affect your family. It might take your time and even your money in advertisement. It also might affect your job if you are not a full-time writer. So, you must understand that before writing gives you, it takes from you.

I believe these are the main traits of professional writers. What do you think about them? Do you think there are other characteristics to add?