Fools Die

For the song by Peter Tosh, see Wanted Dread and Alive.
Fools Die

First edition
Author Mario Puzo
Country United States
Language English language
Genre Crime novel
Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date
9 October 1978
Media type Print (hardback & paperback) & Audiobook
Pages 544 pp (Paperback edition)
ISBN 0-399-12244-3 (Hardcover edition) & ISBN 0-451-16019-3 (Paperback editions)
OCLC 3912796
LC Class PZ4.P994 Fn 1978 PS3566.U9
Preceded by The Godfather
Followed by The Sicilian

Fools Die is a 1978 novel by Italian American author Mario Puzo. Played out in the worlds of gambling, publishing and the film industry, Merlyn and his brother Artie obey their own code of honor in the ferment of contemporary America, where law and organized crime are one and the same.[1] Set in New York, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, Mario Puzo considered Fools Die to be his personal favorite.[2] The paperback rights to the book were sold in 1978 by the publisher, G. P. Putnam's Sons, to New American Library for a then record $2.55 million.[3]


The novel starts in Las Vegas, where a group including John Merlyn, Cully Cross, and Jordan Hamley, spend time gambling at the Hotel Xanadu. It is made clear that none of these individuals have met before, and indeed they are not friends, but simply people who for their own reasons have decided to stay in the hotel to gamble. One day, after a huge win, Jordan kills himself in his room. This is in spite of challenging and chopping a hand of baccarat against the casino's director. After the episode, Merlyn returns to his family in New York City and continues his life. Cully Cross however permanently resides in Las Vegas, and through his prowess as a gambler and a hustler, he has caught the eye of Gronevelt, the Casino Director. He recruits Cully and as time goes on, he grooms him as his second in command, and Cully prospers.

In New York, Merlyn, who is an orphan and a writer struggles to make ends meet for his family, and his father in law gets him a job as a kind of admin worker in a US Army Recruitment Centre. He is one day persuaded by a corrupt colleague to start taking kick backs in return for getting the children of wealthy people out of the Vietnam draft. Eventually the authorities find out what is going on and he is put under investigation, but is not found guilty. He narrowly escaped punishment by calling on Cully Cross in Las Vegas, who is able to use his political and business connections to get Merlyn off the hook. Soon thereafter he is offered a job writing for a magazine, where he meets the famous writer Osano. During this time, he has his novel published and Hollywood wish to make it into a movie, and bring him to L.A to help with the script and to work with the producer. In California Merlyn falls in love with Janelle, a would-be actress. In the meantime, Merlyn becomes estranged from film production as he becomes aware of the subordination of quality to profit that dominates in Hollywood. One after the other, all the people Merlyn feels close to, die. Cully is killed in Japan in a move by Gronevelt, Xanadu's director, to get rid of him. His brother Artie dies after a sudden heart attack, Osano finds he suffers from an incurable disease and decides to kill himself. Merlyn is surprised to find out that the manuscript Osano said he had been working on for more than ten years actually consists of six pages (that are used as introduction to the book). Eventually, also Janelle dies from a brain aneurysm.


  1. Kirkpatrick, D. L.; James Vinson (1986). Contemporary Novelists. St. James Press. p. 695. ISBN 978-0-912289-58-8.
  2. "Fools Die". The Official Mario Puzo Library. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  3. Mitgang, Herbert (June 17, 1978). "Record Price for a Puzo Paperback". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
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