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Early word on ''The Godfather: The Lost Years''

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When Random House invited Mark Winegardner to apply for his current gig — writing a sequel to The Godfather — he was flattered but bewildered; it was an offer he could maybe refuse. The author of two literary novels, he hadn’t read Mario Puzo’s Mafia hit since he was a kid, and then, like so many of us, he was looking for the dirty parts. (”It’s true,” he says. ”I told that to Lorrie Moore, and the second I did, she said, ‘Page 27!”’) Opening it again, he discovered an enticing hybrid of pulp and literature with an endgame that doesn’t add up. Thus, The Godfather: The Lost Years — The Saga of the Family Corleone will square the conclusion of the original with the facts of its film sequel: ”There’s this agreement to make Las Vegas an open city, and yet, with no explanation at all, they set up shop out there. Now, how does that happen?” (November)