(2005) Max Allan Collins, Titan Books, £9.99, trdpbk, ISBN 1-84576-023-9
You could be forgiven for thinking that this sequel to Max Allan Collins' highly-praised Road to Perdition was something of a cash-in on his original, especially after the success of the Sam Mendes movie adaptation with Tom Hanks. However, Collins explains in his introduction that he always intended for the Sullivan's journey to include more adventures, several of which he presents in this book. I am not usually comfortable with the idea of 'in-between-quels' (as Collins puts it), but he makes the wise decision of distinguishing this trilogy of episodes with a self-contained sub-plot involving the Two-Jacks, bounty hunters trailing the Sullivan's. The development of these characters across the three stories, as well as the involvement of Michael Sullivan snr's old flame, Katie O'Daly, makes the book feel like more than just 'filling-in-the-gaps'. While this book lacks the closure that made the original so tragic, Collins has kept up the key themes and the superb historical accuracy. The relationship between Sullivan snr and his son is still central to the story, with the contrasting elements of the O'Daly's stable family and the partnership of the Two-Jacks providing interesting mirrors to the father and son's situation. Each of the three stories presented here have been previously published separately.
"Oasis", the opening story, begins during the Sullivan's raids on Capone-owned banks, when Michael jr contracts scarlet fever. While the Sullivans stop at the O'Daly's farm to recuperate, Frank Nitti hires the Two-Jacks to hunt them down and put an end to the raids on Capone's assets. Unfortunately the story is slow-paced and feels as if it's there simply to introduce the characters and set the stage for the rest of the book. "Sanctuary" is much more interesting as the Sullivan's find themselves in a church under siege from the Two-Jacks, only to have to become allies in fending off another attack from vengeful bank robber Vernon Doolittle. The siege is very suspensful, if a little short, and the story allows us more background on the Two-Jacks and their relationship to Sullivan snr. Vernon Doolittle was a very good addition to the story, but I wish he had featured more prominently. The final story, "Detour", is the best of the lot, with an intricate plot involving political manouevering amongst high-ranking gangsters, Connor Looney's escape and planned revenge on the Sullivans, and the rescue of Katie O'Daly. All of the elements of the previous two stories come together here, including the Two-Jacks drafted in to recapture the wayward Connor.
The gritty and incredibly detailed art of Richard Piers Raynor in the original is absent, replaced with Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Josef Rubenstein for "Oasis", Steve Lieber for "Sanctuary", and Lieber and Garcia Lopez for "Detour". The pulp feel to the art remains, as does the tight framing and very accurate period visuals. Lieber's art tends to capture the feel of the material better though, his rough style reflecting the grittiness of the stories better than Garcia Lopez's very skilfully drawn but 'clean' art. On the Road is not a patch on Road to Perdition, not that I expected it to be. Despite the fact that the gangster genre isn't usually of interest to me, Road to Perdition was engrossing for both it's pulp feel and lofty themes and both feature in this 'in-between-quel'. The further adventures of the Sullivans don't add much to the original, but are nonetheless very enjoyable slices of pulp action.
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