Puzo, Mario (Vol. 1)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Puzo, Mario 1920–

Novelist, author of The Godfather.

[Mario Puzo's first novel, The Dark Arena,] avoids much of the clumsiness and fumbling that seems inseparable from so many first novels. The story is set in Frankfurt just after the War and, like life itself at that time, revolves around the various people who work for the American army of occupation; in particular, it is the story of Walter Mosca and his German girl-friend, Hella.

The arena was not only dark; it was occasionally illuminated by lightning flashes of pure horror. There is even a passage directly reminiscent of Poe's preoccupation with 'the conqueror, worm'….

The harsh and gritty language in which The Dark Arena is written is admirably suited to the harsh and gritty story it has to tell—and it is a story well worth telling.

F. J. Brown, in Books and Bookmen, December, 1971, pp. 63-4.

Taken together the three novels [of Mario Puzo] make a broad, responsible statement about the quality of American urban life and the traits of character required for protagonists to survive emotionally and physically in a Darwinian world…. All of Puzo's novels suggest the strength of the best regional fiction of the mid-nineteenth century and the later writers who profited from the example of Zola…. Puzo shows with considerable fidelity … the way institutions work and how the individual may fare in the process…. Puzo's greatest strength is in rendering the semiprivate, inner workings of a family, and in showing what constitutes loyalty, fidelity, and right conduct in a crisis over business and money.

James B. Hall, "Mario Puzo's The Dark Arena" (© 1971 by Crown Publishers, Inc.; used by permission of Crown Publishers, Inc.), in Rediscoveries, edited by David Madden, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971, pp. 121-33.