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Excerpt from

The Sicilian  

- Mario Puzo

Crime fiction

At twenty years of age Turi Guiliano was considered the bravest, the most honorable, the strongest, the young man who inspired the most respect. He was a man of honor. That is to say, a man who treated his fellow man with scrupulous fairness and one who could not be insulted with impunity.

He had distinguished himself at the last harvest by refusing to be hired out as a laborer at the insulting wages decreed by the overseer of the local estates. He then gave a speech to the other men urging them not to work, to let the harvest rot. The carabinieri arrested him on charges made by the Baron. The other men went back to work. Guiliano had not shown any hard feelings toward these men or even the carabinieri. When he was released from prison through the intervention of Hector Adonis, he developed no rancor of any kind. He had stood up for his principles and that was enough for him.

On another occasion, he had broken up a knife fight between Aspanu Pisciotta and another youth simply by interposing his unarmed body between them and with good-humored reasoning disarming their anger. What was unusual about this was that in any other person these actions would have been taken as signs of cowardice masquerading as humanity, but something in Guiliano forbade this interpretation.

On this second day of September, Salvatore Guiliano, called Turi by his friends and family, was brooding over what was to him a devastating blow to his masculine pride.

It was only a little thing. The town of Montelepre had no movie theater, no community hall, but there was one little cafi with a billiard table. The night before, Turi Guiliano, his cousin Gaspare "Aspanu" Pisciotta and a few other youths had been playing billiards. Some of the older men of the town had been watching them while drinking glasses of wine. One of the men, by the name of Guido Quintana, was slightly drunk. He was a man of reputation. He had been imprisoned by Mussolini for being a suspected member of the Mafia. The American conquest of the island had resulted in his being released as a victim of fascism, and it was rumored that he was going to be named as Mayor of Montelepre.

As well as any Sicilian, Turi Guiliano knew the legendary power of the Mafia. In these past few months of freedom, its snakelike head had begun weaving over the land, as if fertilized by the fresh loam of a new democratic government. It was already whispered in town that shopkeepers were paying "insurance" to certain "men of respect." And of course Turi knew the history, the countless murders of peasants who tried to collect their wages from powerful nobles and landlords, how tightly the Mafia had controlled the island before Mussolini had decimated them with his own disregard for the lawful process, like a deadlier snake biting a less powerful reptile with its poisoned fangs. So Turi Guiliano sensed the terror that lay ahead. Quintana now regarded Guiliano and his companions with a slightly contemptuous eye. Perhaps their high spirits irritated him. He was, after all, a serious man, about to embark on a pivotal part of his life: Exiled by Mussolini's government to a desert island, he was now back in the town of his birth. His aim in the next few months was to establish respect in the eyes of the townspeople. Or perhaps it was the handsomeness of Guiliano that irritated him, for Guido Quintana was an extremely ugly man. His appearance was intimidating not from any single feature but from a lifelong habit of presenting a formidable front to the outside world. Or perhaps it was the natural antagonism of a born villain toward a born hero.

In any case he got up suddenly just in time to jostle Guiliano as he went by to the other side of the billiard table. Turi, naturally courteous to a much older man, made an apology that was gentle and sincere. Guido Quintana looked him up and down with contempt. "Why aren't you home sleeping and resting to earn your bread tomorrow?" he said. "My friends have been waiting to play billiards for an hour." He reached out and took the billiard cue from Guiliano's hand and, smiling slightly, waved him away from the table. Everybody was watching. The insult was not mortal. If the man were younger or the insult more pointed, Guiliano would have been forced to fight and keep his reputation for manhood. Aspanu Pisciotta always carried a knife, and now he positioned himself to intercept Quintana's friends if they decided to interfere. Pisciotta had no respect for older people, and he expected his friend and cousin to finish the quarrel.

But at that moment Guiliano felt a strange uneasiness. The man looked so intimidating and ready for the most serious consequences of any dispute. The companions in the background, also older men, were smiling in an amused way as if they had no doubt of the outcome. One of them wore hunting attire and carried a rifle. Guiliano himself was unarmed. And then for one shameful moment, he felt fear. He was not afraid of being hurt, of being struck, of finding this man was the stronger of the two. It was the fear that these men knew what they were doing, that they had the situation under control. He did not. That they could gun him down in the dark streets of Montelepre as he walked home. That he would appear a dead fool the next day. It was the inborn tactical sense of the born guerrilla soldier that made him retreat.

So Turi Guiliano took his friend by the arm and led him out of the cafe. Pisciotta came without a struggle, amazed that his friend had yielded so easily but never suspecting the fear. He knew Turi was good-hearted and assumed he did not wish to quarrel and injure another man over so small a thing. As they started up the Via Bella to their homes they could hear the click of billiard balls behind them.

All that night Turi Guiliano had not been able to sleep. Had he really been afraid of that man with the evil face and threatening body? Had he shivered like a girl? Were they all laughing at him? What did his best friend, his cousin, Aspanu, think of him now? That he was a coward? That he, Turi Guiliano, the leader of the youth of Montelepre, the most respected, the one acknowledged as the strongest and most fearless, had buckled at the first threat of a true man? And yet, he told himself, why risk a vendetta that could lead to death over the small matter of a billiard game, an older man's irascible rudeness? It would not have been like a quarrel with another youth. He had known that this quarrel could be serious. He had known that these men were with the Friends of the Friends, and it had made him afraid.

Guiliano slept badly and woke in that sullen mood so dangerous in adolescent males. He seemed to himself ridiculous. He had always wanted to be a hero, like most young men. If he had lived in any other part of Italy he would have become a soldier long before, but as a true Sicilian he had not volunteered, and his godfather, Hector Adonis, had made certain arrangements so that he wouldn't be called. After all, though Italy governed Sicily, no true Sicilian felt he was an Italian. And then, if the truth be told, the Italian government itself was not so anxious to draft Sicilians, especially in the last year of the war. Sicilians had too many relatives in America, Sicilians were born criminals and renegades, Sicilians were too stupid to be trained in modern warfare and they caused trouble wherever they went.

About the book:

In this sequel to "The Godfather", Don Corleone sends Michael, his son and successor, to Sicily to bring Salvatore Guiliano, a young bandit, back to America. Guiliano is a modern day Robin Hood in Sicily, who defies corruption and the Cosa Nostra. Now, Michael's fate is entwined with the ultimate "Siciliano".

Once again, Mario Puzo weaves a masterful story of evil on an epic scale, which proves to be as entertaining as its ground-breaking prequel.

Buy on Amazon

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