Posts Tagged ‘Road to Perdition’

The Year in Movies

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Okay, here are my annual movie awards. I have generously given awards this time to just about every movie I saw. Now, I will see a few more, probably, before year’s end and will likely comment on them. But for now…

Best film in a series I have no excuse for liking:
UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS

Best film in another series I have no excuse for liking:
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER

Best film I’m mentioned in the end credits of:
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

Best sequel of the year:
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

Worst film starring Matt Damon:
THE GREAT WALL

Worst film we didn’t walk out of:
THE GREAT WALL

Best horror film of the year:
GET OUT

Most overrated sequel of the year:
LOGAN

Movie we walked out on but other people liked:
KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Worst movie I didn’t see:
CHIPS

Series most wearing out its welcome:
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Series least wearing out its welcome:
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Most disappointing sequel:
ALIEN: COVENANT

Best superhero movie (okay, heroine):
WONDER WOMAN

Best movie in proposed series that will never happen:
THE MUMMY

Worst movie in proposed series that will never happen:
THE MUMMY

Best crime movie:
BABY DRIVER

Best movie that will have Kevin Spacey in it for a long, long time:
BABY DRIVER

Second best superhero movie:
SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING

Most satisfying series entry:
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best historical film:
DUNKIRK

Another movie we walked out on that some people liked:
ATOMIC BLONDE

Stephen King movie that sucks a little less than people say:
THE DARK TOWER

Best movie of the year:
WIND RIVER

Sequel better than the original but still no great shakes:
ANNABELLE: THE CREATION

Movie we walked out on featuring cute nuns and Samuel Jackson:
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD

Best crime film that isn’t BABY DRIVER:
LOGAN LUCKY

Best thriller nobody saw:
UNLOCKED

Best Stephen King movie and not at all sucky:
IT

Half good, half bad movie of the year:
BATTLE OF THE SEXES

Sorta true movie the critics should have liked more:
VICTORIA & ABDUL

Movie we walked out on that you have no excuse liking:
BLADE RUNNER 2049

Second-best horror movie of the year:
HAPPY DEATH DAY

Best GROUNDHOG DAY rip-off:
HAPPY DEATH DAY

Movie I almost went to and then I read the reviews:
THE SNOWMAN

Second-best superhero movie of the year:
THOR: RAGNAROK

Best remake but still not as good as the original:
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Best historical movie viewed through rose-colored glasses:
LBJ

Worst superhero movie (in which Lois Lane tells Superman he smells good after he’s been dead and buried for a while):
JUSTICE LEAGUE

Best actress in a terrific DC movie and also best actress in a terrible DC movie:
GAL GADOT

Best Christmas movie (and pretty good other days too):
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

Movie I really, really hated but didn’t see:
PITCH PERFECT 3

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Here’s a very nice review of Quarry’s War issue #1.

Check out this nice write-up on the film Road to Perdition with a lot of stuff about the graphic novel, too.

M.A.C.

Heller – The Starting Gate

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

I have been researching the upcoming Nathan Heller novel, Do No Harm, for two months. That has consisted chiefly of reading books – ten cover to cover, reading selectively in another ten, filling a notebook with info and page numbers. With any Heller, a lot of research occurs along the way as well; but, in movie terms, I’ve completed pre-production. This past week I read eighteen contemporary articles on the Sam Sheppard murder case, and two more books. On Monday I start the novel.

The process with Heller has remained largely the same since True Detective back in the early ‘80s. I select the historical incident – usually a crime, either unsolved or controversially solved – and approach it as if I’m researching the definitive book on the subject. I never have a firm opinion on the case before research proper begins, even if I’ve read a little about it or seen movies or documentaries on the subject, just as somebody interested in famous true crimes.

The intent is to find the story in the research, as opposed to having the story firmly in mind and researching it. That’s worked out well for me with Heller – any number of times I’ve come up with theories about what probably really happened that have inspired non-fiction books (by authors who never credit me) (but I’m not bitter).

This time I changed my mind about who murdered Marilyn Sheppard, oh, a dozen times. I in part selected the case because it was a more traditional murder mystery than the political subjects of the last four Heller novels – sort of back to basics, plus giving me something that would be a little easier to do, since I was coming out of some health problems and major surgeries.

But it’s turned out to be one of the trickiest Heller novels of all. Figuring out what happened here is very tough. There is no shortage of suspects, and no shortage of existing theories. In addition, a number of the players are still alive (Sam Sheppard’s brother Stephen is 97) and those who aren’t have grown children who are, none of whom would likely be thrilled with me should I lay a murder at the feet of their deceased parents.

Additionally, the case does not lend itself to some of the usual Heller fun-and-games – like violence and sex. There are no bad guys to kill, and the sexual aspects of the murder make Heller hanky panky distasteful. Oddly enough, this comes after the preceding Heller, Better Dead, which found our hero more sexually active than usual (and that’s saying something).

But the research defines the book. The story emerges from the research and I have to be true to it. That story sometimes – this time for sure – takes its time revealing itself. I have changed the structure of the novel almost as many times as I have changed my mind about who killed Marilyn Sheppard.

For that reason, I do not attempt to write a chapter breakdown/outline (vital in a Heller) until I have completed the research phase. In a way that’s too bad, because if I could discern the shape of the book at, say, a third of the way through the research, I could limit further digging to the areas I need. As it is, I’ve taken notes on scores of things that won’t appear in the book.

That’s okay. In an historical novel, it’s all about the tip of the iceberg, and for me to portray that effectively, I need to know the shape of what’s under the water.

As I indicated, research doesn’t end when the writing begins. Each chapter requires some pre-production as I gather the materials from what I’ve already read, and then as I write it and need things I hadn’t anticipated, more research is done on the fly.

In addition to all this, I have to deal with the feeling I always have at the beginning of a Heller – I experience this, to a lesser degree, with Quarry and really any novel I write – that I may not be up to the job. Coming off health problems, that’s a little exaggerated this time. How do I do this? I ask myself. At least a little panic, a minor anxiety attack, always precedes the writing of chapter one.

I have completed the chapter breakdown/outline to my satisfaction, having wrestled the structure into submission – I have even found a bad guy for Heller to kill. I feel good about where I am, even if certain insecurities creep through.

For me, the saving grace has always been Nate Heller. Like Quarry, he has always been there when I need him. I start writing and there he is.

By the time you read this, I will know if he’s come through for me yet again.

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Despite a few inaccuracies, this is a nice overview of Mike Hammer, touching on the Spillane/Collins collaborations.

Here’s an interesting Road to Perdition (film) article.

Check out this good interview with Hard Case Crime editor, Charles Ardai, flawed only in his neglecting to be mention me (again, I am not bitter). Several Quarry covers are featured, though.

Finally, here’s a lovely piece by Bev Keddy covering many of my books – much appreciate, Bev (who is a boy, he will have you know).

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.

How I Invented Binge Watching

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

When I landed the Dick Tracy writing gig in 1977, I received a nice advance of $5000. As half of a young married couple, with limited financial means, I somehow convinced my wife Barb that the first thing we should do was buy a home video recorder. I bought a VCR console, which was outlandishly expensive (despite its modest 19-inch screen), an unjustifiable extravagance amplified by my brilliant choice of formats: Betamax.

But I mention this only to let you know that the Collins household (all two of us) were early adapters in the home video revolution. You need to know this to understand that you are indeed in the presence of the person who invented binge watching.

Around 1979, the Australian TV series Prisoner Cell Block H was syndicated nationally. It’s a wonderful women-in-prison series that has recently been updated into the equally wonderful Wentworth. For some reason, the local channel running the syndicated show dropped it after a few weeks – maybe it had something to do with the rampant violence and lesbianism or maybe the Aussie accents.

But I was not to be denied (I rarely am).

I approached a friend of mine in Chicago who ran a comic book shop to work out a trade deal for original comics art for his ongoing efforts to record the five-times-a-week series for me on VHS (I had one of those machines now, too). Every couple of months he would send me a box of tapes, each package containing around 20 hours of Prisoner Cell Block H. Barb and I, and my cartoonist pal and collaborator Terry Beatty, would hunker in to watch the episodes until our eyes burned. This would be on the weekend, consuming two days (allowing time out for meals and calls of nature).

We did not call it binge watching, but clearly that is what it was. The same comic book shop pal did the same for me with the 1960s-70s Dragnet, which had not yet hit Nick at Night because it didn’t exist yet. Again, these were sent to me four or five shows to a tape, as the series was being “stripped” nightly. Barb and Terry did not join me for this, not being insane, and the binging would usually only be one or two VHS tapes a night.

The first binge watching from pre-recorded tapes came with Poldark, both seasons of which Barb and I consumed in a weekend. Over the years this approach to TV watching continued with the pre-recorded Poirot tapes and beyond. During my son Nate’s college years, he would come home for the weekend when informed that a new DVD season of LEXX had arrived (my favorite science-fiction series). These would be watched, binge-style.

To this day, Barb and I binge in this fashion, although sometimes not quite as aggressively. A House of Cards season usually lasts only two days, but with mystery shows like Murdoch or Midsomer Murders, we hold ourselves to two or three a night, because things in that happily homicidal world start to blur otherwise.

One bad side-effect of binge-watching seasons of favorite shows – particularly when you haven’t followed them in their bite-size weekly episodes – is that a new season can at first seem to have nothing to do with anything you’ve ever seen before. We had that experience with two excellent series that we’ve followed from the beginning – Ripper Street and Orphan Black – both of which we chugged in a couple of gulps.

What happens is that the first episode of the season makes you wonder if you skipped a season, but by the second episode, it begins to come back – especially when two of you are watching, as Barb and I will prompt each other as memories come floating or sometimes bursting back.

So I’ll comment briefly on a couple of series we’ve binged of late.

Poldark Season Three. While Barb and I are devoted fans of the original series, this remake is equally faithful to the books and has the production values of a fairly big-budget feature film, with breathtaking Cornwall location work. Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson do very well as Ross and Demelza, and again the original Poldark, Robin Ellis, is back for a nice scene…a fine show of respect for the original classic series.

Murdoch Mysteries Season 10 – For some while now, Murdoch has been running 18 episodes. This charming, often amusing mystery series – which still plays as a turn of the century CSI – likes to bring characters back, and because those characters have appeared in single episodes (not story arcs), it can be tough to recall them. Also, we always have a little trouble getting used to the non-regulars in the casts because the Canadian acting style can have a dinner theater vibe…but you do get used to it. And the regulars are strong and very comfy in their roles – Yannick Bisson as Murdoch, Helene Joy as Dr. Julia Ogden, Jonny Harris as Constable George Crabtree, and in particular Thomas Craig as Inspector Thomas Brackenreid, who recalls Gene Hunt in Life on Mars. The tenth season begins jokey and at first seems weak, but by mid-point it’s playing well, even revealing itself as a particularly strong season, getting more serious and darker as it goes.

Orphan Black Season Five. Orphan Black shares a charming recurring actor – Kristian Brunn – with Murdoch. Otherwise the shows have little in common, and the guest casts never have that dinner theater vibe. Two things are particularly outstanding about this series. First, it’s one of those convoluted, complex science-fiction/fantasy series in the X-Files mode that seems to be getting so ever more complicated, you suspect it doesn’t know where it’s going (Lost, anyone?). Well, Season Five is the final season of Orphan Black and everything from the previous four is paid off with thought and emotion, and no small amount of clever plotting. Virtually everybody of any importance is back from the run of the show and loose ends are not in abundance.

Second, lead Tatiana Maslany may be the best actress of her generation, or maybe several generations, as she portrays the various “clone” sisters who are the orphans of the title, each one distinct in look, mannerism and overall characterization. She is a wonder (and the technical expertise of the “sisters” interacting is mindboggling). Particularly interesting, and rewarding, is the decision of co-creators John Fawcett and Graeme Manson to wrap up the exciting, often frightening storyline midway through the final episode, and follow it with a “three months later” half-an-episode that suggests where the characters are heading and how they are, or are not, dealing with what they’ve been through.

Ripper Street Season Five. Ripper Street, set in Whitechappel just after Jack the Ripper’s reign, is like a much, much darker Murdoch Mysteries. Lead Matthew Macfadyen as Detective Inspector Reid brings modern police methods to London’s most barbaric area with the help of his American forensics expert, Adam Rothenberg as Captain Homer Jackson. Like Murdoch, Ripper Street appears initially to have been born out of the popularity of CSI, but has outlived its inspiration, and surpassed its accomplishments. Creator Richard Warlow wrote around two-thirds of the episodes (early seasons ran 8 episodes, later one 6) and he does not stint on wild plot twists and grittily horrific crimes, but the characters are so real and compelling – and not always admirable – that you will likely stick with them.

Orphan Black runs 50 episodes, and Ripper Street 37, so binging on their complete runs is doable, and will not provide the confusion that those of us doing so a season at time can experience. Murdoch is well over 100 episodes now, so binge-watching can take planning and patience.

So, yes, now that you ask – I did indeed invent binge-watching, with Barb’s help, and Terry’s.

You’re welcome.

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Hey, I bet you didn’t know Road to Perdition came from a comic book. You do? Check this out anyway.

M.A.C.