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Craig's Book Club
Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Road to Perdition novelization by Max Allan Collins Max Allan Collins, Road to Perdition

Given that this is a novelization of a screenplay adapted from the original graphic novel by the same author, the parts of the original source material that were changed for the movie are also changed in this version, such as the names of the protagonists (the O'Sullivans are the Sullivans, and the Looneys are the Rooneys) and the folding of several different killers into composite villain, photographer Harlen Maguire (a choice Collins said he would have made himself). However, if you have not read the original Road to Perdition comic, you are not likely to care and can skip on past the italics to the meat of the review.

My first comment about Max Allan Collins' Road to Perdition novelization is that I admire him for sticking to the changes of David Self's screenplay, despite his being the author of the original graphic novel Road to Perdition. The second thing, and probably more important, is that I enjoyed Collins' novelization more than the movie Road to Perdition as directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty). Collins' tight prose is a very different approach than Mendes' inherently visual style that often focuses on cinematographic set pieces in lieu of powerful storytelling. However, one cannot help picturing Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in their respective roles, especially given Collins' knack for describing the characters as seen on the screen. For example, this description of John Rooney describes Newman far better than the original John Looney:

The lanky, almost-tall, white-haired, white-mustached paterfamilias had been a rakishly handsome young man. And even now, in his seventies, his powder-blue eyes, prominent cheekbones, and strong chin gave him the sort of distinctive good looks many a lady ... still sighed over.
I've long admired Collins from afar, having not read any of his work prior to Two for the Money. His prolificity astonished me, particularly one I began seeing his name appearing frequently on CSI tie-in novels. I had seen the movie Road to Perdition, as I mentioned, but, not being particularly impressed by the film, had not pursued any further work by the author until Two for the Money was published by Hard Case Crime (a new publisher I greatly admire) and I actually was immersed into the author's literary world. That changed my mind and I decided to give Collins a chance to tell his own version when I found the Road to Perdition novelization at a library sale.

"Angel of Death" Michael Sullivan is the chief enforcer for crime boss John Rooney and they share a father and son-type relationship. When Sullivan's own son Michael, Jr., witnesses a hit done by Sullivan and Rooney's jealous (and possibly crazy) son Connor, Connor decides to protect his interests by having the boy killed. A mistaken identity leaves only the two Michaels alive and Sullivan sets out for revenge, with son in tow, by hitting them where it will hurt the most.

A combination crime thriller, period piece, revenge treatise, and coming-of-age novel, Road to Perdition satisfies on all levels. As young Michael becomes aware of his father's work, he learns the skills needed to do it properly, becoming a man and tightening their relationship in the process. Through this, the reader learns that even a hired killer loves his family. Collins' sensitivity towards family within these lurid surroundings exhibit his incomparable skill at hiding his literary (and historical) sensibility within familiar genre trappings. Max Allan Collins is one author whose works are both fun and good for you.


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