Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Read: "Road to Perdition" by Max Allan Collins

Read: Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins, 1998, 9780671009212.

I was reading the Collins blog and was reminded about the recent publication of the third entry in this series. I watched the flick a few years ago but figured to read the novel. Not necessary since the flick closely followed the novel.

Story recap: Michael Sullivan is muscle for a Tri-Cities (Quad Cities in present day) mobster family, the Looneys, in 1930. Sullivan has two kids and a wife. Sullivan seems like a good dad and husband but his ruthless efficiency (not quite fanatical devotion to the Pope and church) gave him the nickname "Angel" for Angel of Death. Oldest son Mike, Jr. hides in dad's car before dad leaves at night and witnesses a machine gun multiple murder. Looney Junior murders Sullivan's wife and younger son. Looney, Jr. wants to get rid of witness and mistakes younger kid for older kid. At the same time, Looney, Sr. sends Sullivan to a meeting that is a set-up for murder. Sullivan escapes, comes home, and finds Mike, Jr. Sullivan is out for revenge.

Revenge involves trying to convince Capone's outfit in Chicago to quit their partnership with the Looney family. Sullivan kills many people and visits small town banks to steal Capone money that is being laundered. Sullivan cuts deal with Ness to give evidence on Looney. Ness busts Looney Sr. Sullivan gets Looney, Jr. Things end badly for everyone.

1. I did not like the artwork; not my style. A notable point is that there is no detailed portrait of the dad's face until page 121. Every other page has his face obscured, "out-of-focus", or done with simple lines. The narrator, Mike, Jr., writes about how those several weeks on the run are more vivid than the time before. Sullivan's detailed portrait happens during their first trip to Chicago when he meets with Frank Nitti.
2. The dad's face is Montgomery Clift.
3. I skipped past Collins's intro but will likely read it because I always learn something when reading his commentaries.
4. I just read that Daniel Craig played the younger looney. I never noticed that.
5. An improvement over the novel was giving Jude Law's character a more prominent position and showing Sullivan afraid of him. Sullivan-in-the-novel is an unemotional killing machine. I remember the film took on Sullivan's combat veteran, PTSD problems that Collins explores with Quarry.
6. Sullivan is a creepy guy. You can argue that Sullivan's actions are keeping his son alive. But, at the same time, he is exposing his son to extreme danger and making him his driver and back-up gunman. I don't think the comic book novel format allowed Collins enough space to expand on the weird relationship between Sullivan and his son.
7. It's an incredibly sad story. Massive graft and corruption. Murder of a child and mother. Mike, Jr. goes through a lot of trauma and violence. Mike, Jr. forced to kill two people. Sullivan a messed up dude. Sullivan's Kansas relatives murdered. Sullivan murdered. Mike, Jr. ends up in an orphanage.
8. Collins did the comic book novel, was the movie's source, and wrote the tie-in.

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