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Mass Market Paperback
Release Date: May, 2001
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Mario Puzo won international acclaim for The Godfather and his other Mafia novels. But before creating those masterpieces, Puzo wrote his first acclaimed novel The Dark Arena–an astounding story of a war-scarred young American in a battle against corruption and betrayal. . . .After coming home at the end of World War II, Walter Mosca finds himself too restless for his civilian role in America. So he returns to Germany to find the woman he had once loved–and to start some kind of life in a vanquished country. But ahead of Walter stretches a dark landscape of defeat and intrigue, as he succumbs to the corrupting influences of a malevolent time. Now he enters a different kind of war, one in which he must make a fateful decision–between love and ambition, passion and greed, life and death. . . .
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Posted by R. L. MILLER on 10/28/2002
Back in the days when Elvis was suffering the "Hup-two-three-four Occupation GI Blues" and Bing wondered what you did with a general when he stops being a general, an obscure author who would later become the definitive writer of Mob fiction painted us a stark picture of postwar military occupation life. A decade later, on the threshold of the Peace Now era, Joseph Heller would give us "Catch 22", a story of a bomber crewman and his ongoing identity crisis. John Farris' "Glover" was the story of a tough-guy soldier at play in the English countryside. Evan Hunter's "Sons" dealt in part with the issue of bomber crewman and locals in WW II Italy. See the contrast? It was no biggie to be candid during the 'Sixties era about the tendency of occupation soldiers to treat their unwilling hosts as less than people--Gwynne Dyer once said that the only foolproof way of turning a civilian into a fighting man is to include some form of suggestion that the enemy aren't people in his training. But back in the early 'Fifties when this book was written, popular fiction hardly ever approached the issue of American occupation of a defeated enemy from any side but that of the Pentagon. In this story, GI Walter Mosca gets involved in a local shackup arrangement in Germany at the end of WW II, comes home to find that he can no longer relate to the Girl He Left Behind, so he returns to Germany as a civilian employee to seek out the girl he hadn't realized he was falling for. Her effect on him causes him to be a lot more analytical of his own behavior towards the locals in general, that of his colleagues as well--but more than that, it also gives him a view of the perspective of the people he's there to help "keep in line". All sorts of things can happen to a person's worldview when he becomes romantically involved outside his native culture. I have no actual details on which to base this, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the late Mario Puzo drew on his own experiences in service during WW II as source material. He wouldn't be the first.
Posted by Boris Zubry on 8/17/2002
This is another book by Mario Puzo I am in love with.
Posted by K. Ventura on 1/15/2010
I am a Puzo fan in general, but this book may be his best. He manages to deliver a beautifully crafted tale about a young man in post-WWI Germany. His characters are complex and the novel gives each person a distinct and vivid personality. Going beyond the characters, the setting is surreal and moving. You are placed in a desolate wasteland with crumbling ruins.
Somewhat setting the spirit of "mafia" books which come later in his career, here Puzo does a great job describing the political makeup and inter workings of the occupation government and flourishing black market.
Overall, the book is incredible (perhaps flawless) but like others said, this is not for the weak and weary. The themes get darker and very heavy toward the end. I would describe the reading experience as almost transformative.
Puzo is a master. If you like his other works, read this book.