Book Review | Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

9781416578758It is worthy of mention that according to my blog, this is the 666th post. Also, “Perdition” is another name for Hell. Okay, spooky mysticism over.

A while back, I was searching for some good background music by which to write. Film soundtracks work well for this, as they aren’t usually too wordy and they are designed to create certain moods. I happened upon the soundtrack for the film, “Road to Perdition” and have been writing along with it ever since.

I remember seeing the film a long time ago and certain parts of it have stuck with me over the years. I’m a BIG Tom Hanks fan (there’s a hidden joke there for other Tom Hanks fans) and I enjoyed his portrayal as a mob enforcer/family man. And I loved the scene where Hanks and his son are sitting in a dinner after pulling off a series of bank heists and the kid asks how much of the money is his. Hanks asks how much he wants and the kids says $200. Hanks agrees and the kids asks if he could have had more. “You’ll never know,” is the reply.


But until I rediscovered the film (by way of the soundtrack) and did a little research on, I had no idea that the film had been based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins. I immediately requested it from the library.

There are a few things that stand out to me about Road to Perdition, the graphic novel:

  • As much as I enjoyed Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Michael O’Sullivan in the film, I would not have imagined him as the lead character based on the graphic novel. Hanks lends a certain likeable family man quality to every role he plays. The Michael O’Sullivan from the book is gritty and not overly affectionate. There is a reason the book gives him the nickname “The Angel of Death” and the movie does not do likewise.
  • Collins prior work as writer for the Dick Tracy series lends itself well to a crime drama such as Road to Perdition. This isn’t a mystery, but an exploration into the person who commits criminal acts. Why does O’Sullivan kill? How does he deal with being a father (creator of life) and a killer (taker of life)? What kind of example is he?
  • The film makes a neat end of the plot, but the book is quite messy. Though there’s a good overlap between the events that are represented, the film takes certain liberties to preserve the idea of innocence in a world of violence. The book does not have such a rosy outlook.

It is always interesting to read the work that gets turned into a film. Road to Perdition was no exception. Best yet, I still enjoy both projects for their own merits, and I’d encourage you to give Collin’s graphic novel a try.


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