The Lives They Lived: Mario Puzo, b. 1920

Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano is dining on the patio of a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Phoenix. A cold wind blows in from the desert. The patio is empty. In movies, people get whacked on nights like this. The waiter, whose name tag reads "Sean," recognizes Gravano. Sean avoids our table as much as he can.

Gravano, late of the Gambino crime family, is dining on filet mignon, and calling me a liar. Here is the reason he is calling me a liar: I told him, in the course of a rambling conversation about the "The Godfather," that Mario Puzo wrote the book, and collaborated on the screenplays, without the expert advice of the mob.

"No way," Gravano says. "Somebody had to be helping him."

I ask Gravano why he is so sure about this.

"Because he knew about our life cold," he answers. "He had the whole atmosphere, the way we talked. That wedding scene--I mean, that was so real. I mean, my book isn't a pimple on his book, and I'm in my book."
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