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- "What is past is past. Never go back. Not for excuses, not for justification, not for happiness. You are what you are, the world is what it is."
- ―Alfred Gronevelt[src]
The last plan of Don Domenico Clericuzio, an aging mafia boss, is to eventually help his family enter the legitimate world and fade into American society. This plan is threatened when Don's daughter Rose Marie marries Jimmy Santadio, the child of the Don's rival, whose other sons were responsible for the murder of the Don Domenico's favorite child, Silvio. Jimmy and his family are massacred by Don Domenico's living sons and Pippi De Lena, the Don's nephew, on the wedding night in revenge, breaking Rose Marie's mind. Twenty-five years later, the Don's grandson Dante, son of Rose Marie and Jimmy Santadio, and his grandnephew Cross, son of Pippi, are now involved in the family business, and the eighty-year-old Don is semiretired.
Cross, who holds a majority share in a Las Vegas casino, is supposed to become the strong arm of the family after his father's retirement. However, when Cross refuses to take part in the murder of an old friend, Dante is left to handle the murder. Dante has grown into a greedy sociopath with a lust for blood. His only redeeming quality is his love for his mother Rose Marie, who has told him about the true circumstances of the murder of his father. Dante's desire to get revenge on his father's killers lead him to plan the elimination of his relatives, who are also an obstacle to the desire to become as powerful as the Don Domenico himself. This leads him to murder Pippi. Meanwhile Cross becomes involved with Athena Aquitane, a famous Hollywood actress, killing her abusive estranged husband Boz Skannet and ensuring her participation in Messalina, an epic film written by Cross' sister Claudia.
Cross figures out that Dante was responsible for the murder of his father and plots his revenge. He traps Dante and kills him, knowing that the Clericuzios will be forced to take vengeance against him. Cross waits for the Don's vendetta, but, to his own surprise, when he is summoned his life is spared and he is only condemned to exile. He leaves with Athena to Paris to help take care of her ill daughter, Bethany. The story concludes with the revelation that the Don had planned this outcome all along, including the murder of his grandson, for the long term survival of the family.
The Last Don is the basis for the 1997 television miniseries of the same name written by Joyce Eliason and starring Joe Mantegna, Danny Aiello, and Daryl Hannah. In 1998, this was followed by The Last Don II.