Prizzi’s Glory

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Don Corrado Prizzi, now in his nineties, wants a great-grandchild, and Maerose, his favorite (because she of all his grandchildren is the most devious), agrees to give him an heir--but only if he agrees to get the family out of the crime business and become totally legitimate. This the Don must ponder. Maerose sweetens the deal by proving to her grandfather that the family can make more money by franchising all of their illegal activities and by keeping only a token enforcing operation to collect royalties from those who buy the franchises. The Don agrees.

The first step is to get Charlie Partanna, the Don’s vindicator and boss of the New York operations, finally to marry Maerose after their nineteen-year courtship. Charlie is willing to do this after the Don explains that marrying Maerose is what he, the Don, wants him to do. Charlie, always a bit dim, has survived in the family by following one simple rule: Do what the Don asks you to do. Besides, giving up his lust for women is easier now that he is close to age fifty, and anyway there is a big, big promotion in the wings.

The marriage is only the first step; the family must become legitimate so that Maerose’s children can grow up straight, untainted by the family business. Charlie does not take to this idea very easily, as he is to have his face and nose altered, his speech patterns changed, and his wardrobe overhauled. He is also about to be placed in charge of the Barker’s Hill, a multibillion dollar conglomerate owned solely by Don Corrado, while the present CEO, Edward S. Price (ne Prizzi), runs for President of the United States. The Don dies and is smuggled off in a refrigerator ship bound for Africa, and events become increasingly complicated as Charlie aids the current president and becomes his chief of staff, appointing family members as secretary of state and attorney general, all in the cause of the Prizzis’ quest to own one-third of the United States. It is the American Dream writ large.

This is the third of the Prizzi books, and Richard Condon finishes the series in style. Fast-paced and funny, the novel also contains some eerie political overtones of the 1988 election campaign and projects a cynicism of monumental proportions. PRIZZI’S GLORY is an amusing, if, at times, an unsettling read.