The Fourth K

The Fourth K

by Mario Puzo

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A PRESIDENTIAL DYNASTY. AN ARAB TERRORIST ATTACK. DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE. Mario Puzo envisioned it all in his eerily prescient 1991 novel, The Fourth K.

President Francis Xavier Kennedy is elected to office, in large part, thanks to the legacy of his forebears– good looks, privilege, wealth–and is the very embodiment of youthful optimism. Too soon, however, he is beaten down by the political process and, disabused of his ideals, he becomes a leader totally unlike what he has been before.

When his daughter becomes a pawn in a brutal terrorist plot, Kennedy, who has obsessively kept alive the memory of his uncles’ assassinations, activates all his power to retaliate in a series of violent measures. As the explosive events unfold, the world and those closest to him look on with both awe and horror.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345480798
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/04/2012
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 292,497
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

MARIO PUZO was born in New York and, following military service in World War II, attended New York’s New School for Social Research and Columbia University. His best-known novel, The Godfather, was preceded by two critically acclaimed novels, The Dark Arena and The Fortunate Pilgrim. In 1978, he published Fools Die, followed by The Sicilian, The Fourth K, The Last Don, Omerta, and The Family. Mario Puzo has also written several screenplays, including Earthquake, Superman, and all three Godfather movies, for which he received two Academy Awards. He died in July 1999 at his home on Long Island, New York, at the age of seventy-eight.

Date of Birth:

October 15, 1920

Date of Death:

July 2, 1999

Place of Birth:

New York City

Place of Death:

Bay Shore, Long Island


Attended New York City's New School for Social Research and Columbia University

Read an Excerpt

Oliver Oliphant was one hundred years old and his mind was as clear as a bell. Unfortunately for him.
It was a mind so clear, yet so subtle, that while breaking a great many moral laws, it had washed his conscience clean. A mind so cunning that Oliver Oliphant had never fallen into the almost inevitable traps of everyday life: he had never married, never run for political office and never had a friend he trusted absolutely.
On a huge heavily guarded secluded estate only ten miles from the White House, Oliver Oliphant, the richest man in America and possibly the most powerful private citizen, awaited the arrival of his godson, the Attorney General of the United States, Christian Klee.
Oliphant’s charm equaled his brilliance; his power rested on both. Even at the advanced age of one hundred his advice was still sought by great men who relied on his analytic powers to such an extent that he had been nicknamed the “Oracle.”
As adviser to presidents the Oracle had predicted economic crises, Wall Street crashes, the fall of the dollar, the flight of foreign capital, the fantasies of oil prices. He had predicted the political moves of the Soviet Union, the unexpected embraces of rivals in the Democratic and Republican parties. But above all he had amassed ten billion dollars. It was natural that advice from such a rich man be valued, even when wrong. But the Oracle was nearly always right.
Now on this Good Friday, the Oracle was worried about one thing: the birthday party to celebrate his one hundred years on this earth. A party to be held on Easter Sunday in the Rose Garden of the White House, the host none other than the President of the United States, Francis Xavier Kennedy.
It was a permissible vanity for the Oracle to take great pleasure in this spectacular affair. The world would again remember him for one brief moment. It would be, he thought sadly, his last appearance on stage.
In Rome, on Good Friday, seven terrorists made their final preparations to assassinate the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. This band of four men and three women believed they were liberators of mankind. They called themselves the Christs of Violence.
The leader of this particular band was an Italian youth well seasoned in the technique of terrorism. For this particular operation he had assumed the code name Romeo; it pleased his youthful sense of irony, and its sentimentality sweetened his intellectual love of mankind.
On the late afternoon of Good Friday, Romeo rested in a safe house provided by the International One Hundred. Lying on rumpled bed sheets stained with cigarette ash and days of night sweat, he read a paperback edition of The Brothers Karamazov. His leg muscles cramped with tension, perhaps fear, it didn’t matter. It would pass as it always did. But this mission was so different, so complex, involved so much danger to the body and the spirit. On this mission he would be truly a Christ of Violence, that name so Jesuitical it always moved him to laughter.
Romeo had been born Armando Giangi, to rich high-society parents, who subjected him to a languid, luxurious, religious upbringing, a combination that so offended his ascetic nature that at the age of sixteen he renounced worldly goods and the Catholic Church. So now, at twenty-three, what greater rebellion could there be for him than the killing of the Pope? And yet there was still, for Romeo, a superstitious dread. As a child he had received holy confirmation from a red-hatted cardinal. Romeo remembered always that ominous red hat painted in the very color of the fires of hell.
So confirmed by God in every ritual, Romeo prepared himself to commit a crime so terrible that hundreds of millions would curse his name, for his true name would become known. He would be captured. That was part of the plan. But in time he, Romeo, would be acclaimed as a hero who helped change the existing cruel social order. What was infamous in one century would be seen as saintly in the next. And vice versa, he thought with a smile. The very first Pope to take the name of Innocent, centuries ago, had issued a papal bull authorizing torture, and had been hailed for propagating the true faith and rescuing heretic souls.
It also appealed to Romeo’s youthful sense of irony that the Church would canonize the Pope he was planning to kill. He would create a new saint. And how he hated them, all these popes. This Pope Innocent IV, Pope Pius, Pope Benediet, oh they sanctified too much, these amassers of wealth, these suppressors of the true faith of human freedom, these pompous wizards who smothered the wretched of the earth with their magic of ignorance, their hot insults to credulity.
He, Romeo, one of the First Hundred of the Christs of Violence, would help erase that crude magic. Vulgarly called terrorists, the First Hundred were spread over Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain and even the tulipy Dutch. It was worth noting that there were none of the First Hundred in America. That democracy, that birthplace of freedom, had only intellectual revolutionaries who fainted at the sight of blood. Who exploded their bombs in empty buildings after warning people to leave; who thought public fornication on the steps of houses of state an act of idealistic rebellion. How contemptible they were. It was not surprising that America had never given one man to the Revolutionary Hundred.
Romeo put a halt to his daydreaming. What the hell, he didn’t know if there were a hundred. There might be fifty or sixty, it was just a symbolic number. But such symbols rallied the masses and seduced the media. The only fact he really knew was that he, Romeo, was one of the First Hundred, and so was his friend and fellow conspirator Yabril.
One of the many churches of Rome chimed its bells. It was nearly six in the evening of this Good Friday. In another hour Yabril would arrive to review all the mechanics of the complicated operation. The killing of the Pope would be the opening move of a brilliantly conceived chess game, a series of daring acts that delighted Romeo’s romantic soul.
Yabril was the only man who had ever awed Romeo, physically and mentally. Yabril knew the treacheries of governments, the hypocrisies of legal authority, the dangerous optimism of idealists, the surprising lapses in loyalty of even the most dedicated terrorists. But most of all Yabril was a genius of revolutionary warfare. He was contemptuous of the small mercies and infantile pity that affect most men. Yabril had but one aim, to free the future.
And Yabril was more merciless than Romeo could ever be. Romeo had murdered innocent people, betrayed his parents and his friends, assassinated a judge who had once protected him. Romeo understood that political killing might be a kind of insanity—he was willing to pay that price. But when Yabril said to him, “If you cannot throw a bomb into a kindergarten, then you are not a true revolutionary,” Romeo told him, “That I could never do.”
But he could kill a Pope.
Yet in the last dark Roman nights, horrible little monsters, only the fetuses of dreams, covered Romeo’s body with sweat distilled from ice.
Romeo sighed, rolled off his filthy bed to shower and shave before Yabril arrived. He knew that Yabril would judge his cleanliness a good sign, that morale was high for the coming mission. Yabril, like many sensualists, believed in a certain amount of spit and polish. Romeo, a true ascetic, could live in it.

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Fourth K 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Very interesting and fast paced.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a post 9/11 world, this book is a must read. Puzo, well known for his Mafia books, the most famous being the Godfather, gives the political suspense novel a shot. He does exceedingly well. He portrays the current state of our world today precisely,(he published the book in 89) and in doing so also asks some very thought provoking, and insightful questions. The main protagonist in the story is Francis Kennedy, a young, ambitious member of the famous family, and he is president of the USA in the book. The story is very invidious at times, giving you a sense of dread of what is about to happen. Puzo underlying theme throughout the story is of power, and what it does to a person. Kennedy, who throughout the story is portrayed as a very astute and benign person, almost destroys his country, the world, and becomes the first American dictator not because he is evil, but because of his good intentions, and the power available to him. However, I gave this a 4 star rating since I didn¿t like the way Puzo structured the novel, this being its major shortcoming. In his rush to present a vivid, exciting read, Puzo puts way too many plots and subplots into it, without giving each its deserved focus. Even though conclusions to each are shown, the novel is too short to actually give each its deserved attention. Why most Clancy novels are over a thousand pages, I guess. Overall, highly recommended, and a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent.... the best book I've read in quite a while. I have read it several times, I'd read it again, but I can't get my friends to return it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
never let it be said that mr. Puzo can only write about the mafia!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Fourth K is a gripping story of Presidential disaster that proves to be a Puzo classic even though it doesn't follow Puzo's classic Mafia storyline. This book is a quick read that will engulf any Puzo fan with a flare for Politics and its often darker dimension.
varske on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to like this, I'm not really interested in American politics and don't usually read thrillers, but I was lent it to help with a translation. Despite this, I enjoyed it. It's a fast read, shows believable aspects of American politics and it was interesting to see how difficult it would be to deal with a President who has lost the plot in a dangerous way.Like the previous reviewer (Agade), I found the Socrates club very believable.
BryanThomasS on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting departure from Mafia to a different kind of powerful American family, the Kennedys. About a next generation Kennedy who is kidnapped while her father is President. Enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading and loving The Godfather, I was interested to check out another book by this author. Although the story was interesting and moved quickly, the storyline was just too unbelievable for my taste. Terrorism angle was interesting but politics presented was over the top. Some interesting parallels with Obama though in presidential overreach.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As always, Mario Puzo delivers a great book with interesting characters and a deep story about politics and the Gods of the government.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago