Mario Puzo


Italian-American writer Mario Puzo, who is most famously known for writing The Godfather (1969), was born in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City in 1920. During his childhood, he often dreamed of becoming a writer. However, in order to provide for his family due to the abandonment of his father, those dreams were often put on hold. As a result, Puzo began a career as a railroad clerk in his teenage years. He later joined the military during World War ll, but returned to New York City to study creative writing and literature at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research, where he was a student during the late 1940’s and early 50’s.

The New School had already established a reputation as a major hub for writing since its first writing workshop in 1931 with Gorham Munson, an editor for Succession and Psychology Magazines, as its director. Puzo participated in a novel workshop in 1948 run by Hiram Haydn, the editor and chief of the publisher Random House. In fact, Random House published many novels by New School students such as David E. Moore, and Jackie Ferrera, as well as the American Vanguard project (1950-1953), a combination of stories, sketches, and excerpts selected from the writers’ workshop submissions. In the late 1940’s and early 50’s, the New School had a total of thirty writing courses. By 1956, the New School’s total of first novels written and published by students was an astounding number of twenty-eight, with many students publishing multiple novels and short stories. (New School Archives)

Mario Puzo’s first published work entitled Dark Arena (1955) drew upon his experience in Germany in the military during World War ll. His work had many admirers and was hailed by the Saturday Review as “impressive and illuminating” (March 14, 1955). Puzo’s first novel was so successful that he won the Doubleday Novel Award for the best novel submission in 1953.  Puzo’s literary efforts were also recognized during the 30th anniversary of the New School’s Writing Workshops on April 17, 1962. Seven years later, Puzo created his masterpiece, The Godfather, to huge success. The novel was on the New York Times Best Seller list for over 67 weeks.


New School Digital Archives.…
Author Mario Puzo talks during an interview in a New York City hotel on July 25, 1996. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)