In the late 1960s, Mario Puzo retreated to the basement nook that served as his office to work on a new book. The broom-closet-like space beneath his Long Island house had enough room for a desk, a typewriter and little more.

The basement also held a pool table, and while Puzo typed away, his five children would come down and play loud games, forcing Puzo to admonish the brood.“He’d say, ‘Keep it down, I’m writing a best-seller,’” Puzo’s eldest child, Tony, tells The Post.

The kids rolled their eyes and snickered. Their father’s claim was so laughable because, at that point, Puzo was a long way from the best-seller list. His previous two novels were well-reviewed but had sold about enough copies to fill a modest station wagon.

So Puzo had decided to sell out. He put his highbrow literary aspirations aside and set out to pen a big, honking, commercial book that would bring him fame and fortune. Or at least enough money to pay off his mounting debts.

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