Sunday, November 27, 2005

Max Allan Collins (no post last night; keyboard fritzed

Muscatine’s Max Allan Collins concludes ‘Perdition’ trilogy
By David Burke | QUAD-CITY TIMES

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Through the years, Max Allan Collins has learned to be cautious.

Too many times the Muscatine author-filmmaker has been told a project based on one of his works was going to take off to higher planes. One shining example, he said, was a movie version of his “Ms. Tree” novels, with Raquel Welch in the title role, which was canceled the day before it was supposed to start filming.

So he was cautious when a film version of his graphic novel “Road to Perdition” was going to be turned into a movie. His agent called frequently to tell him who was attached to the movie — Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in the lead roles, Jude Law in a supporting role, Oscar-winner Sam Mendes directing.

“With every one of these, it seemed like more and more of a practical joke to me,” Collins recalled from his Muscatine home.

Even when he’d read it in the industry trades, he still didn’t believe it.

“I’ve had so many things almost happen through the years. I’ve had so many books and comics that I’ve done sell to Hollywood ... (So) I’ve learned not to talk about this stuff and embarass myself until the cameras were rolling,” he said.

Collins knew it was reality in the spring of 2001 when he visited the suburban Chicago set and met the performers and filmmakers. He drove back to Muscatine, wrote a 40-page synopsis for two sequels — and shut it in his desk drawer.

“I waited until the movie opened,” in July 2002, he said. “When the movie opened and the reviews were stellar and we were the No. 1 movie in the nation, I went to my agent on Friday and said, ‘I want this document on the desk of every major publisher in New York on Monday.’”

New York publisher William Morrow made a pre-emptive offer for both of the books. “The Road to Purgatory” was released a year ago, and “The Road to Paradise” will be in stores on Tuesday.

“If you want to put it crassly, I took advantage of the movie,” Collins said. “It gave me a platform to present my novels to people who didn’t know who I was.”

Collins, 57, said that “Paradise” brings the trilogy “full circle.” Michael, its main character, was introduced in “Perdition” making a getaway with his gangster-hit man father. In “Paradise,” Michael — who has changed his name and concealed his identity and past — is taking his daughter on a trip from Arizona to Chicago. One of the stops is Rock Island’s Chippiannock Cemetery, where Michael’s parents and brother are buried.

The “Road” books spanned a time frame from 1931 to 1973.

“Now we come to the great absurdity,” Collins said. “My career started in 1973, and this book takes place in 1973. I’ve lapped myself.”

It’s already received good reviews, with Publishers Weekly calling it a “compelling mix of history, bloodshed and retribution ... Readers will eat it up and beg for more.”

For Collins, the “Road” books are at the end of a dozen years of work that started with a pitch given to him at a comic book convention, to turn his film noir sensibilities into graphic novels as part of a major push for the genre.

About 10 books were published, and the recent “A History of Violence” was the only other one turned into a movie.

“It’s always been a struggle, and continues to be a struggle, to get sort of non-superhero and non-science fiction graphic novels out to a wider, mainstream audience,” Collins said.

Although Collins is closing the books on the series, it might not be the end of the road after all. He’s been approached about a prequel movie, and has entertained treatments of the “Road” books of everything from an animated TV series to a Broadway play.

“I consider this finished in the sense the trilogy is finished, but I’m always thinking about that kind of stuff,” he said. “But — no cameras are rolling and no money has exchanged hands.”

The “Perdition” movie reached the $100 million benchmark at the box office, and won an Oscar for its cinematographer, the late Conrad Hall.

Collins continues to have a number of projects in the works himself. He and Quad-City author Matthew Clemens have sold more than 1 million copies of their books tied in to “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” TV series. He’s collaborating with his wife, Barbara, on the beginnings of a lighter series of books about mother and daughter detectives — the first is called “Antique Roadkill.”

He’ll release a DVD box set early next year of his movies — “Mommy,” “Mommy’s Day,” “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market” and “Shades of Noir” — and will release a new movie next year. “Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life” is a film version of the stage show about the Chicago crimefighter that debuted in Des Moines this year.

And Collins knows that on everything he publishes and releases, likely for the rest of his life, will include the phrase “By the author of ‘Road to Perdition.’”

“This is sort of the final act of a story that for many novels I’ve been exploring the first and second acts of for many years,” he said. “It was satisfying to bring this full circle.

“I feel it ends in a very satisfying way.”

For more information, see www.maxallan


Blogger Craig Clarke said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm a huge Collins fan (I'm working my way through the Nate Heller novels now) and am always on the lookout for more information about him.

5:31 AM  

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