In 1965, a Putnam editor happened to stop by the magazine offices where Mario Puzo was working and overheard him telling Mafia stories. The editor offered him a $5,000 advance for a book on the subject and The Godfather was born.
Puzo later revealed the model for the character of Don Vito Corleone. It was this person's voice, Puzo declared, that he heard whenever the Godfather spoke: "My mother was a wonderful, handsome woman," Puzo explained, "but a fairly ruthless person."
[On Christmas Eve, 1971, Puzo had a severe gall bladder attack. "I had to take a cab to the hospital, got out, and fell into the gutter," Puzo told Time magazine. "There I was, lying there, thinking, 'Here I am a published writer, and I am dying like a dog.' That's when I decided I would be rich and famous."]