Collins clearly wants to be Mickey Spillane, and there’s plenty of blazing .45 action to satisfy lovers of that sort of...

ROAD TO PURGATORY

The Angel of Death is dead, but his spirit of vengeance lives on in his war-hero son, back to get revenge on the Chicago Outfit—again.

We’re now in the middle stretch of the trilogy that Collins spun out of his 1998 graphic novel, Road to Perdition (dourly filmed four years later by Sam Mendes, with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman), then wrote into a novelization. With this sequel (to be concluded, we’re told, with Road to Paradise), Collins extends the story of the O’Sullivan clan, previously decimated by mob warfare and now represented only by Michael O’Sullivan, adopted and given the last name Satariano, and still remembering what Capone’s henchmen did to his family. Michael grew up to be just as much a stone-cold killer as his old man, as proven in the story’s bloody introduction, set on Bataan, where Michael guns down a division’s worth of Japanese soldiers. He loses an eye but gains a Medal of Honor and honorable discharge back to the states, where he doesn’t lose any time getting into the mix. Papa Satariano gets him a meeting with Capone’s right-hand man, Frank Nitti, who welcomes the very useful Michael into the belly of the Outfit. Simultaneously, Michael is supposed to be doing his civic duty, as laid out for him during a meeting with Eliot Ness—star of a series of pulp novels that Collins wrote some years ago—who wants help breaking up the Outfit led by Capone from his Florida mansion. A long flashback fills in background on Michael’s family origins back in Rock Island, and it’s a pleasant relief from Collins’s tiresome way, elsewhere, of imagining Michael as a rock-jawed, two-dimensional caricature.

Collins clearly wants to be Mickey Spillane, and there’s plenty of blazing .45 action to satisfy lovers of that sort of thing. But without the robotic Michael possessing a single human emotion, it’s hard to care much what happens.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-06-054027-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2004

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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