Best known for his classic “The Godfather”, “The Dark Arena” was Mario Puzo’s first novel and in my opinion, not a bad first novel at that. Set in the aftermath of World War II, during the occupation of a defeated Nazi Germany, the story centers around an American G.I. who can’t adjust to being home after the war and decides to go back to Germany to look for Hella, a woman he had been involved with, taking a job with the American occupation forces as a civilian employee. His intention is to make enough money to marry Hella and eventually bring her back to the United States but soon finds himself involved in the black market, now doing business with the very people he fought against during the war and finds himself slowly succumbing to its corrupting influences.
The influence of Hemingway is obvious, as I’m sure it was for many young writers coming of age in the post-war years. The style is straightforward, dark, with just this much intrigue to propel the story forward. Over all I found this to be a very interesting novel about the occupation of Germany after the war, not many of which had been written about as far as I know. To me, it captures the uncertainties of the war’s aftermath and all its grey areas. An enjoyable read over all.