Posts Tagged ‘Road to Paradise’

Movies Are Your Best Entertainment!

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Here’s a video I did to promote the prose Perdition saga in the great new Brash Books editions. If you don’t have them, what are you waiting for? A good use for your Amazon gift cards.

And now for Christmas, I thought I would share more opinions about movies with you, all wrapped in a big red bow. You’re welcome.

My son Nate has mentioned frequently my demented taste in film (some of which he shares). When I’m gone, he threatens to mount a web site where every day he will grab one DVD or Blu-Ray or maybe even laser disc at random, and review it. Might be The Big Combo or it could be The Invisible Ghost with Bela Lugosi (both were directed by Joseph Lewis, after all).

To demonstrate what he is talking about, here some movies I’ve watched on home video lately. These include a few movies I saw as awards screeners that I receive as a WGA member. Most I bought. Also, a few theatrical releases are tagged on at the end. All are mini-reviews.

Dolores Claiborne (1995) – really good Stephen King movie with no supernatural aspect, stylishly directed by Taylor Hackford. Great character study and sorta mystery starring Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh (of Road to Perdition fame).

Death Rides a Horse (1967) – one of my two favorite non-Leone Lee Van Cleef Italian westerns (the other is The Big Gundown). With John Phillip Law as Clint Eastwood. A new, slightly longer Blu-Ray from Kino. Saw it in the theater twice.

T-Men (1947) – excellent noir directed by Anthony Mann about undercover fed Dennis O’Keefe. O’Keefe is way underrated. Black-and-white cinematography by genius John Alton (I, the Jury). Starts with a stilted intro by Elmer Irey, one of the guys who took credit for taking Capone down and dissed Eliot Ness. See him brought to earth next year in Scarface & the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness & the Battle for Chicago.

The Laughing Policeman (1973) – interesting if dreary police procedural with Walter Matthau in a mostly humorless portrayal and Bruce Dern in a rare heroic role, though he’s casually sexist and sadistic, anyway. From a nordic noir novel. 1973 is starting to feel like a long time ago.

Battle Cry (1955) – wonderful Hollywood-ized Raoul Walsh-directed adaptation of the forgotten Leon Uris bestseller. Great soap opera of men training where my dad did in San Diego; an incredible cast – Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Anne Francis James Whitmore, Anne Francis, Van Heflin, Dorothy Malone…did I mention Anne Francis? L.Q. Jones appears under his real name playing a character called L.Q. Jones, which he then took as his stage name. Tons of familiar male actors making early appearances. Final half hour of battle finally arrives and is compelling.

Annie Get Your Gun (1957) – from VAI, a Blu-Ray of Mary Martin and John Raitt in a TV “spectacular” of the famous Broadway show. Great performances from the stars and lots of fun. Native American stuff and male/female interaction that will amuse you, especially if a humorless gal is in the room watchin’ with you. Assuming you survive.

Thieves’ Highway (1949) – gritty noir about trucking written by A.I. Bezzerides (Kiss Me Deadly!) from his novel, Thieves’ Market. Excellent villain performance from Lee J. Cobb, striking female lead in Valentina Cortese, and Richard Conte fine as a nice guy who is dumb enough to make you talk back to the screen. Hey, everybody in the sleazy bar! Look at all the money I just got! Director Jules Dassin tells us how much he hates capitalism, right before he packs his bags and heads overseas.

Since You Went Away (1944) – surprisingly effective home front soaper from producer/scripter David O. Selznick, directed by John Cromwell. Teenage Shirley Temple (disturbingly appealing – I’m pretty sure Roy Moore has this one on his fave flicks list) and Jennifer Jones convincingly go from kids to young women while Claudette Colbert reminds us why she was a movie star. Moving and generally unmanipulative for this kind of thing. Great cast also includes Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley, Robert Walker, Lionel Barrymore and Guy Madison. A Christmas movie, by the way, though that doesn’t come in till the last act.

And now some new things….

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – this is an excellent showcase for both Frances McDormand and especially Sam Rockwell, with nice work from Woody Harrelson, too. The movie is challenging because it keeps shifting, challenging your thinking and assumptions, with none of its characters perfect (except perhaps Harrelson’s) and the resolution of its crime story elusive. Lovely writing and direction from Martin McDonagh. One of the two or three best of the year, topped only by Wind River.

The Post – boy, what a disappointing Mr. Show movie! Though they appear in a number of scenes together, David Cross and Bob Odenkirk just never get truly funny. And the story is quite unbelievable – a crooked United States President who tries to stifle and belittle freedom of the press? Some story ideas, even in a comedy, are too outlandish to pull off – just not funny! Supporting players Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep hog the screen from stars Cross and Odenkirk.

I, Tonya – good, quirky docudrama about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident that ignited interest in women’s competition ice skating. Well done, but star Margot Robbie, though very good, is miscast as Tonya, whose petite figure, not quite pretty face, and white trash aura call for a physically smaller, less overtly attractive, less obviously smart actress. Worth seeing.

Star Wars – The Last Jedi. I am thrilled for Mark Hamill, who knocks it out of the park with a genuine star performance. At its best, this is a wonderful movie and audiences will likely love it, and they should. But it’s way too long and overstuffed with very usual Star Wars plot shenanigans, plus a weak performance or two (Laura Dern, anyone?). But Luke Skywalker shines. This series was launched as The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, you know.

So – these were all viewed over a couple of weeks. That’s how we spend our evenings and the occasional at-the-actual-movies afternoon. This is relaxation in Iowa. If you’re nice to me, I won’t do this to you again.

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Bill Morris says Quarry’s Climax is one of the best books of the year – and he’s right. Read here to find me on a list with Joan Didion.

Here’s a nifty little piece about Quarry’s War issue #1.

M.A.C.

Road to Paradise Just Published

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

The new Brash Books edition of Road to Paradise is out, and if you’re a fan of the trilogy – particularly if you’ve never read my complete version of the Road to Perdition movie novel – I hope you’ll support me and Brash in this fine effort, and buy all three. Brash did a lovely job packaging the books, which look very nice on a shelf together.

Some readers seem flummoxed by the O’Sullivan saga. It starts as a graphic novel (Road to Perdition), becomes a movie of that novel generating a novelization of the screenplay (with me doing a novel based on a screenplay based on my graphic novel), followed by a sort of prequel graphic novel (Road to Perdition 2: On the Road) published in three parts and then collected, with two prose sequels (Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise) and a final graphic novel (Return to Perdition) rounding things out.

Even I’m confused.

How did all that happen? Well, when the movie came along I did not want to see a novelization written by anyone but me. Since at the time I was doing a lot of movie and TV tie-in work, I felt it would be an embarrassment to have someone else do it. I did not predict that my novel would be butchered (and that I would have to do the butchering myself), nor did I predict that many years later a publisher would come along (Brash) to navigate the rocky waters of freeing up novelization rights to a big-budget Hollywood film so that my full version could finally be published.

The weekend Road to Perdition opened and was a hit, I rolled into action (or that is, my agent rolled into action). I was ready with the idea to do the two prose sequels, knowing that my artist – the wonderful Richard Piers Rayner – could not produce graphic novel sequels in a timely enough fashion to take advantage of the moment. But I also knew there was an appetite from publishers for more Road to Perdition in comics form, and indeed both Marvel and DC came looking. Richard was enlisted for the covers (that sort of fell through, an editorial decision I did not control) and several other terrific artists came on board to get Road to Perdition 2 out there quickly.

The coda to the series, Return to Perdition, with my longtime collaborator Terry Beatty coming on board, would have been a prose novel if the publishers of Purgatory and Paradise has been interested – they weren’t, but DC was. So we ended as we began, as a graphic novel.

I do view the graphic novel material as one thing – three graphic novels – and the novels as something else – a prose trilogy. That they fit together is more a bonus than a necessity. The prose trilogy works fine on its own.

That torturous tale – as dull a one as I have ever told – ultimately adds up to my gratitude to Brash Books for bringing the prose trilogy out in a lovely, uniform editions, with special thanks for rescuing the Perdition prose novel from tie-in oblivion.

Road to Paradise was an especially difficult one to put together, making me flex narrative muscles – characterization depths – that I hadn’t before or since. I think of it as a kind of deadpan tragedy, with some blood-spattered redemption by journey’s end.

Again, you won’t be sorry if you add these to your Max Allan Collins shelf (something each and every American should have!).

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The question I am most often asked – well, the question I’m most often asked is, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Elton John?” – but the next-most-asked-question is, “What do you read?”

I’ve often said that I read little contemporary fiction, and almost no crime or mystery fiction beyond the people I learned from – Hammett, Chandler, Spillane, Cain, Thompson, Stout, Christie, Gardner, etc. What I do read is non-fiction. Right now I am plowing thorough sixteen books related to the Sam Sheppard case for the Heller I’m about to write.

But I find time, here and there – in doctor’s offices and on the can or in the tub (not a pretty thought, but a reality) to read a good deal of non-fiction. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed of late.

Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter is one of the best books that Bear Manor Media has published. Bear Manor Media puts out pop culture titles no one else would, and are to be commended for it, although only a handful display real excellence, like A Maverick Life: The Jack Kelly Story by Linda Alexander, The Matchless Gene Rayburn by Adam Nedeff, and Sandra Grabman’s forthcoming Petrocelli: San Remo Justice, for which I wrote the introduction.

Though Mr. Novak was my favorite TV series during my high school days, it had slipped from my memory somewhat due to the lack of a second-run life of reruns (but for a brief time on TNT). Possibly because it ran only two seasons (although racking up 60 episodes), Mr. Novak never got into syndication. A few years ago I bought a few gray market DVDs with Novak episodes, and found it as compelling now as I had in high school.

The 1963 – 1965 series was a sideways imitation of the then very popular Dr. Kildare, with Richard Chamberlin’s young doctor and Raymond Massey’s wise mentor setting the pattern for James Francisus as idealistic English teacher John Novak and Dean Jagger as the principal who helped him along. The series was generally very well written by (among others) producer/creator E. Jack Neuman, John D.F. Black and Meyer Dolinksy, directed by such luminaries as Richard Donner, Paul Wendkos, and Ida Lupino, with many top actors, including young ones like Beau Bridges, Kim Darby, Terri Garr and in particular Walter Koenig, starring in three episodes (once as a Russian exchange student!), just one of many future Star Trek talents who turn up in front of and behind the camera. The series was earnest, usually intelligent and explored many topics of the day, a surprising number of which still pertain.

Author Harter has gathered every scrap of information about the show imaginable, and the book’s major fault is its cut-and-paste nature, as many articles (including PR flackery) appear in wholesale fashion. But he makes up for it by more contemporary interview excerpts from many actors and creative personnel from the series, for which he provides a smart, lively episode guide. And pictures. Wonderful, wonderful pictures.

I am in particular a fan of Franciscus, who had a fine career and almost broke through as a major film star. But Novak was his signature role, and his dedication to it and the series he helmed came through strong in his performances, which still have a modern, Method-ish feel, despite his hunky good looks. Jagger is predictably excellent, but health concerns and apparently some creative issues – not the least of which was the second season’s impending cancellation – found him exiting early, with an equally compelling Burgess Meredith stepping in as a somewhat unpopular teacher elevated to the principal position.

Harter, for all his love for the series and diligence in telling its story, misses a few steps. He does not mention that Franciscus had a resemblance to John F. Kennedy (he would later play him in the film The Greek Tycoon) that led to a special episode about the death of a teacher. Nor did he notice the in-jokey, unbilled appearance in one episode by Suzanne Pleshette, Franciscus’ co-star in the film Youngblood Hawke (from the Herman Wouk novel).

A DVD release of the first (and superior season) is on the horizon from Warner Archives.

Other books I’ve enjoyed of late include Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero by Nancy Schoenberger, a well-done combination of dual biography and critical film study; You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era by James Bawden and Ron Miller, an interesting follow-up to their Conversations with Classic Film Stars; and From Holmes to Sherlock: the Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias Bostrom, a fascinating treatment of Doyle’s creation of Holmes and the way in which it became such a popular culture juggernaut, sometimes in spite of Doyle’s descendants.

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Here’s a fun write-up on the best five Logan Marshall-Green bad-ass performances (guess what the top pick is).

Here’s info about the magazine Back Issue #101, devoted to rock ‘n’ roll in comics, featuring a nice article on my band, Seduction of the Innocent.

This terrific look at Quarry concentrates on the most recent novel and the very first one. Don’t miss this.

M.A.C.

Perdition, Zorro, Movies and More

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
Road to Paradise

Road to Paradise is coming to trade paperback in November. I am thrilled with the job Brash Books has done on bringing the complete prose trilogy into print. The covers are great, and though many will read the e-book versions, the physical items are handsome.

Of course, this all hinged on getting the original, complete, previously unpublished Road to Perdition prose novel into print, the first of this matched-set trilogy.

Before long Brash will be bringing out USS Powderkeg (a slightly revised version of Red Sky in Morning) and Black Hats under my name, jettisoning the Patrick Culhane pseudonym the publisher insisted upon.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, please support these great efforts by Brash Books to get my novels out there again and in the manner I prefer.

Check out the Road to Paradise page out at their web site.

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Zorro Vol. 6

I’ve been a fan of Zorro since childhood – some of you may have read my introduction to the Hermes Press collection of Dell’s pre-Disney-TV version of the character, including four wonderful issues drawn by the great Everett Raymond Kinstler.

Well, publisher Rich Harvey’s Bold Venture Press has just completed an ambitious program to collect all of the original novels and stories about Zorro by his creator, the underrated Johnston McCulley. The sixth and final volume was just published, and I had the honor of writing the introduction, in which I detail the torturous route to finally having these rare Zorro tales collected and accessible to readers. It’s a bewildering mystery why the well-written stories by the creator of one of popular fiction’s most iconic characters (on a par with Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and, uh, well, Mike Hammer) have been so elusive. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to solve it….

The great color covers of those early Dell issues provide most of the cover images of this series.

Read about it (with ordering info) here.

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Two excellent recent crime films are worthy of your attention (and your money).

Steven Soderbergh’s return to movie-making, Logan Lucky, is a clever, funny but not campy heist picture with a Southern twist. The cast is terrific, but the stand-out is Daniel Craig, and to say he’s playing against type is a bit of an understatement – stick around for his hilarious credit at the close. And what a surprise it’s been seeing just how much talent Channing Tatum turns out to have, and this is coming from the skeptical author of the G.I. JOE novelization.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a worthy follow-up to the excellent Hell or High Water (and, yes, I remember how much I hated Sicario, but he didn’t direct that). It begins leisurely and takes full advantage of its beautifully bleak snowy Indian reservation setting before some shocking action kicks in. There’s nothing new here – a fish-out-of-water young female FBI agent is teamed with a somewhat older local fish-and-wildlife man, and the sad backstories of various characters are things we’ve heard before…virtually everything here is familiar. But the kicker is how well done it all is, how quiet and deep the characterizations are, with Jeremy Renner nailing a quiet, modern cowboy with all the right tough-guy moves. He looks nothing like Nate Heller or Mike Hammer, but could play either one admirably.

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Crusin' @ Ardon Creek

Crusin’ played a gig last Friday evening at Ardon Creek Winery – a lovely setting and a lovely evening. We play under a tent, open to a gentle slope where people dance and sit at tables to sip wine and munch bring-your-own goodies. To one side is the vineyard. Really a beautiful venue for us, with an appreciative crowd. We’ll be back next year.

Our new guitar player, Bill Anson, is doing a terrific job; good singer and he plays very well. He had to pick up about 36 songs – well, he brought about five or six suggestions along, which we learned – in about three weeks, during which we played two gigs. As I said about the previous performance, there were a few train wrecks but no fatalities, and we have the makings of a very good version of the band.

We play once more this year – at Ducky’s in Andulsia, Illinois, Thursday evening (6 to 9) – outdoors again, for their “bike night.” Our next scheduled appearance is April ‘18, and over the winter we’ll be retooling our list.

M.A.C.

Long and Winding Road

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Paperback:

E-Book: Amazon Google Play Nook Kobo iTunes

Thanks to all of you who responded warmly to my update last week about the recently published “new and expanded” Road to Perdition prose novel. The sequel, Road to Purgatory, has just been reprinted by Brash Books in a uniform edition, and Road to Paradise will follow later this year or early next.

So, with your patience, I’ll talk a little about how Road to Purgatory came about, and the challenges involved.

The original graphic novel concept of Road to Perdition was developed for DC Comics editor Andy Helfer. Initially the plan was to do three 300-page graphic novels, each serialized in 100-page installments (the final book as published is in 100-page sections), for an epic 900 pages. I had been in part inspired by the great manga, Lone Wolf and Cub, and the epic nature of that work was something to aspire to.

Andy Helfer and I, however, had not come to terms with what the next two 300-page installments would be. I wanted to keep the father and son outlaws on the road for the full 900-pages, with various adventures not unlike the format of the classic TV series, The Fugitive. Andy had another idea – he thought I should do a generational saga, with Michael Jr. growing up in the middle section, and either aging him further in the final section or following another generation of O’Sullivans into a world of crime and vengeance and (maybe) redemption.

The more I mentally chewed on it, the more Andy’s notion made sense. I still liked my idea, and greedily thought about doing both – a long road saga with Michael O’Sullivan Sr. and son, and a generational saga that grew out of it.

This all became a moot point when DC’s Paradox Press line, designed to do noir graphic novels, sputtered to a premature death. Road to Perdition was the last graphic novel Paradox Press published, so any follow-ups seem unlikely.

Of course Richard and Dean Zanuck deciding to make a movie out of Road to Perdition was even more unlikely, and yet it happened.

With the movie in production, and having written the novelization (even if it was published in a truncated form…until just lately), I thought writing prose sequels, as opposed to graphic novel ones, made the most sense.

Why didn’t I write another graphic novel? Actually, I did – Road to Perdition 2: On the Road (from DC) played out my idea of showing the father and son on the road having adventures while fleeing the wrath of the Chicago mob.

But the generational saga, it seemed to me, would be better served by prose. Also, I was in the position of being primarily a prose writer of crime and mystery fiction, and suddenly the most famous thing I’d ever written was a comic book. I wanted to bring a wider audience to what I do most often: prose novels, where the readers have to provide the pictures in their heads.

Also, I knew I could get a prose sequel (Road to Purgatory) into the marketplace sooner – striking while the iron is hot – rather than go through the longer process of creating a graphic novel. My great collaborator, Richard Piers Rayner, had taken over four years to draw the 300 pages of Road to Perdition.

Another challenge was what to do about the differences between the film version of Perdition and the original graphic novel. I could only write a sequel to the latter – any changes Hollywood had made belonged to them, and anyway, I preferred my own version. The two major changes were the dramatic killing off of John Looney (Rooney in the film) and the inability of Michael Jr. to kill the man who had shot his father. In my world, John Looney didn’t die until many years later (since he was an historical figure and I like to stay true to history) and Michael Jr. indeed shot his father’s killer. His redemption came, not from his dying father doing the killing for him, but many years later.

I dance around this in the novel – I even do some dancing in my Perdition prose novel, which suggests that maybe Michael Jr. did shoot his father’s killer. In my novel Road to Purgatory I own up to that, but suggest that others have assumed the father did the killing. And I don’t mention the real circumstances of John Looney’s death.

That way someone who comes to the three prose novels will not experience jarring differences between the first and second book.

As some of you know, there is also a graphic novel called Return to Perdition, drawn by my longtime Ms. Tree partner, Terry Beatty. This indeed pays off editor Andy Helfer’s generational saga notion by following the story of Michael Jr.’s son in Vietnam and beyond. Some have suggested that I might write a prose version of that story – which I view as a kind of coda to the three prose novels – but it’s unlikely.

Why in doing the last chapter of the saga did I return to the original graphic novel form? Simple. I pitched it to the publisher of the two prose sequels and they weren’t interested. But DC Comics was. So it became a graphic novel.

It isn’t always about “what’s the ideal way to tell the story.” It’s often, who will pay me money to tell the story? That’s why I have gone out of my way to master, as best I can, not only the novel form but comics and movies and for that matter TV. More bites at the apple.

Working in the arts fulltime requires a grasp of reality. For example, I had proposals written for both Road to Purgatory and ROAD TO PARADISE, but did not submit them to a publisher until the movie had come out. In fact, I had to wait to see if the movie opened big before my agent would even contemplate approaching a publisher. When Road to Perdition had a hugely successful opening weekend, we submitted to multiple houses and had an auction with numerous offers. A week before we would have been lucky to get any offer. Reality.

One key thing I failed to mention last week about The New and Expanded Road to Perdition. It’s a simple fact about movie novelizations that seldom gets discussed: when a writer does a novelization of a film, he or she works from the screenplay and almost never has access to anything else. Sometimes some stills from the set are provided, but the writer never sees the movie before writing the novel.

I admit to being proud of myself when I re-read the complete novelization, in getting it prepared to finally be published by Brash Books. The novel really captures the film…and I hadn’t seen it! I “directed” from the screenplay something very similar to the film version that Sam Mendes directed. That alone makes the Perdition prose novel my proudest achievement in the movie tie-in field…particularly now that you can read it!

Road to Purgatory is available right now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM! and the usual suspects. Your favorite independent bookstore can also order it for you, if you would care to support them, which is a good idea.

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The positive reviews on the Quarry Blu-ray keep coming in. Here’s one.

Here’s another.

And another.

And this one includes a shot at winning the DVD set. [Note from Nate: Contest is for UK residents only.]

Same opportunity here. [Note from Nate: For UK residents only. Also, might be Blu-Ray? Not sure.]

M.A.C.