Road to Purgatory

Road to Purgatory

by Max Allan Collins


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Road to Purgatory by Max Allan Collins

The brilliant sequel to Road to Perdition, Max Allan Collins' masterpiece of crime fiction that became both a literary and cinematic classic.

Twenty-two year-old Michael O'Sullivan returns from the second World War with a medal of honor, a glass eye, and the violent skills necessary to avenge his family, who were gunned down by the Chicago mob when he was a child. O'Sullivan becomes mobster Frank Nitti's trusted chauffer...and an undercover operative for federal agent Eliot Ness...but even as he seeks revenge, he finds himself being seduced by the criminal underworld that he loathes.

"PURGATORY succeeds in putting us inside the head of an honorable man descending into a hell of his own creation." Entertainment Weekly

"An explosive, action-packed blockbuster, destined to rank right up there with THE GODFATHER series when all is said and done." Detroit Free Press

"A cordite-drenched Shakespearean tragedy." Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780997832303
Publisher: Brash Books
Publication date: 10/18/2016
Pages: 324
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)

About the Author

Max Allan Collins is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the author of many books, including "Road to Perdition," which became the Oscar winning film, and the "Quarry" novels, the basis for the hit TV series on Cinemax

Read an Excerpt

Road to Purgatory

By Max Allan Collins

Brash Books, LLC

Copyright © 2004 Max Allan Collins
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9978323-0-3


Patsy Ann O'Hara, unquestionably the prettiest coed on the Northern State Teachers' College campus, did not have a date for the Fourth of July.

Apple-cheeked, strawberry blonde, her heart-shaped face blessed with Shirley Temple dimples, a beauty mark near her full lips, her big long-lashed dark blue eyes accented by full dark (cautiously plucked) eyebrows, her five-foot-five figure one that Lana Turner would find familiar, Patsy Ann had been a stunning beauty for so many years, she never thought about it, really, other than to carefully maintain this gift from God.

The former homecoming queen of DeKalb Township High (class of '38) considered herself more conscientious than vain — meticulous about her grooming, maintaining an exercise regimen, avoiding excess sweets and too much sun, her selection of clothing as exacting as a five-star chef choosing just the right ingredients for a gourmet meal (before shortages, anyway).

Today she had selected an appropriately patriotic red-and-white-checked cotton sundress, its ruffled trim at both bodice and skirt accentuating her just-full-enough bosom and her Grable-esque gams, further set off by red-white-and-blue open-toed wedge-heeled sandals. The outfit perhaps seemed a trifle young — she was, after all, twenty-one ...

... but she wanted to look like a high school girl today, or at least invoke one, even if doing so risked occasional askance glances or even envious ridicule from females who never had looked this good, not even in high school.

Anyway, the men would like it ... though she only cared about the reaction of one specific man sure to be at the festivities today ...

None of the panting males at Northern State Teachers' College had even bothered to ask Patsy Ann out for the Fourth. This had nothing to do with a shortage of men — fully half the enrollment was male, ranging from 4Fs to guys waiting for Uncle Sam's inevitable "greetings," as well as a number who'd received deferments. They had long since stopped trying, knowing she was "taken."

The first several years at Northern, she'd been dating her high school boyfriend; and ever since her guy had joined the army and gone off to fight in the Philippines, Patsy Ann had been steadfastly true, a college woman wearing the high school class ring of her overseas beau. Frustrated as some of the guys at Northern might be, they admired her for this loyalty — so did even the cattiest females on campus.

No one but Patsy Ann's young sister — little Betty, who was a high school senior already! — knew the truth; not even Mom and Dad. No one but Betty knew that Mike had broken it off with Patsy Ann before he went away, that he had kissed her tenderly and told her not to wait for him.

"Forget about me," he said.

"You can't be serious, Michael ..."

But he was almost always serious.

"A war's coming," he said. "I'm not going to put you in that position."

She'd felt flushed with emotion, some of it anger. "Doesn't my opinion count in this?"

"No," he said.

But she knew he didn't mean that. She knew he was trying to get her mad at him, to help break it off ...

She'd penned a letter to him every day. He had not sent a single reply, or at least none had made it back to her. And yet month upon month, she wrote to Mike, staring at his framed senior picture, suffering in stoic, noble silence, an English lit major wholly unaware that her love of romantic literature was influencing her behavior.

When she learned of Mike's breathtaking heroism, and that he was coming home, Patsy Ann had gone to Pasquale's Spaghetti House to see if Papa and Mama Satariano had an address for him. They did — their son was at St. Elizabeth's Hospital near Washington, DC.

When he didn't reply to her stateside letters, either, she dismissed it — after all, Michael was recuperating, receiving therapy. And then, a few months later, the local paper was full of Papa and Mama Satariano taking the train to DC to attend the presentation by President Roosevelt of the Congressional Medal of Honor — the first of the war!

How Patsy Ann wished she could have been there, standing next to Michael in the White House Executive Office as General Eisenhower lowered the looped ribbon with the golden star over his head ...

For several weeks Michael had toured the East Coast, making speeches (she could hardly believe that, shy as he was!) and promoting the sale of war bonds and stamps. Banquets, dinners, receptions, receiving the keys to cities, shaking hands with mayors and governors and senators ... how thrilling it would have been, to be at his side. Michael, though, probably detested all of it ...

Yesterday, in Chicago, Michael had been flown into Municipal Airport and whisked away for a ticker tape parade down packed State Street. The key-to-the-city ceremony had been at city hall, with Mayor Kelly and various dignitaries lavishing praise on this "heroic native son of Illinois."

Michael gave a speech, his voice soft and uninflected; but even Patsy Ann, listening on the radio, would have to admit the talk was not a memorable one, sounding nothing like Michael: "There are many who speak of giving their all, but are they willing to allocate ten percent of their earnings for war bonds?"

Still, as she curled beside the console, feeling like a school girl, heart beating like a triphammer, she cherished the sound of his voice.

Had she done the right thing, she wondered, not going into the city? Waiting for today, for what she hoped and prayed would be just the right moment?

Last night, she and her sister had sat in their loose-fitting man-tailored pj's in the upstairs bedroom they still shared (Patsy Ann lived at home and had rebuffed any attempt by sororities to rush her).

Betty, dark-haired and cute, had been painting her nails cherry red as she said, "I don't get it, sis. I mean, I can understand him wanting to break it off before he went over there and everything."

Patsy Ann, seated at the dresser mirror brushing her hair, said, "I know. He was being noble. The far-far-better-thing-I-do-than-I-have-ever-done-before bit."

"I saw that movie," Betty said, moving to the next toe.

"It's a book, too, not that you'd ever know it."

"You don't have to get short. Not my fault he hasn't called or written."

Patsy Ann put the brush down with a clunk. "No need to be 'noble' now — papers say, 'cause of his eye, he won't see any more action. Why hasn't he called? What's wrong with him?"

Betty shrugged. "Maybe it is his eye. Maybe he's scarred and stuff, and doesn't wanna make the woman he loves marry a freak."

"What an awful thing to say! ... But you could be right."

"He's probably home right now. At his folks'. Phone line runs both ways, you know."

"You think I should call him?"

"Why not? You're a modern woman, aren't you?"

Patsy Ann studied her face in the mirror, as if girding herself for combat. "... I won't do that. I won't try to see him until tomorrow ... at the Fourth. I'll just be this, this ... vision in the crowd!"

Betty nodded. "Yeah — that should work. These soldiers are really horny when they come home."

"Where do you get that language?"

Another shrug. "It's a brave new world, sis."

"That's also a book, y'know."

Betty frowned. "What is?"

The first wartime Fourth of July in a quarter-century fell on a Saturday, the perfect day to set the stage for a weekend celebration of independence. The radio and papers, however, were filled with governmental caution — fireworks and large gatherings could attract air raids and saboteurs. On the East and West Coasts, celebrations had been banned in some cities.

Not in the Midwest, not in a heartland city like DeKalb whose principal exports were barbed wire and hybrid corn. The city fathers scheduled fireworks along with baseball, horseshoes, and archery, with musical programs all day long. Homes were draped red, white, and blue (materials available gratis at the city recorder's) and when the Fourth dawned warm, not humid, a trifle breezy, flags flapped all over town.

Patsy Ann accompanied her mother, Maureen, a plump, plainer version of herself, to the parade Saturday morning; her rugged, handsome father, William, was driving the mayor and his wife — as owner of the local Buick dealership, Daddy always provided a number of vehicles.

Every float or vehicle draped in red-white-and-blue crepe, each band blaring military marches, created a near hysterical uproar in the crowd, applause, whistles, cheers. And when a vehicle would roll by with sailors or soldiers or marines, Patsy Ann could always spot in the midst of this frenzied fun a mother or two or three weeping.

The grand marshal of the parade was Sergeant Michael Satariano (he'd been promoted by the secretary of war at the Medal of Honor presentation). Patsy Ann had abandoned her mother to work her way to the curb, positioning herself prominently.

Seated up on the back of the convertible, in his crisp khaki uniform, Medal of Honor around his neck, Michael wore a small frozen smile as he raised a hand in a barely discernible wave. Despite how little he gave the crowd, they gave him back plenty; occasionally he would nod, and look from one side of the packed street to the other, a shy and retiring conqueror.

If he saw her, Patsy Ann could see no sign — not of pleasure or displeasure or even recognition. In her little red-and-white sundress, Patsy Ann had surely been noticed by every other healthy red-blooded American male here. Then, as the Buick rolled by, she could see the scarring around his left eye — not disfiguring, but there — and realized she'd picked the wrong side of the street to stand on.

And then he was gone, and she thought, That's all it was — his bad eye ... He just didn't see me ...

That afternoon at Huntley Park, on the south side of town, the boulder-and-concrete bandshell, its red-tiled roof bannered with welcome home, mike!, showcased various dignitaries and the guest of honor. The mayor introduced Governor Green — imagine the governor choosing DeKalb for the Fourth, over Chicago or Springfield! — who introduced "Illinois's own Michael Satariano."

Pasty Ann sat between her parents in the front row — folding chairs had been provided to supplement stone benches — and they, like everyone, stood and clapped and cheered. Professional-looking photographers were snapping photos of both Michael and the crowd — later Patsy Ann learned that the Trib and the Sun-Times had sent teams, but even more exciting, so had Life and Look. On the sidelines stood another soldier, an officer.

Michael finally raised a hand to silence the audience. His voice was firm, though not loud, and the microphone picked him up fine; anyway, you could have heard a pin drop.

First, Mike acknowledged his parents, who stood in the front row to warmly receive applause. Both of the elder Satarianos were portly, much shorter than their son; in truth, Patsy Ann had never seen any resemblance between her boy friend and his balding, white-mustached, bulbous-nosed father Pasquale and the sweet but barrel-shaped and downright homely Sophia.

After all the build-up, what followed was a repeat of yesterday's unmemorable "buy bonds" pitch. Mike's unimpassioned rendition of what was obviously a speech prepared by others undercut whatever power it might have had. Still, the crowd did not seem to notice, hanging on every word as if hearing the Gettysburg Address.

Then after a conclusion that tepidly wished the crowd a happy Fourth, Michael's voice rose, and Patsy sat up, recognizing a familiar edge.

"While you're celebrating your independence," Michael said, "setting off firecrackers, wolfing down a hot dog, tossing back a beer ... please remember, and say a prayer for, our boys on Bataan."

A thrill went through her: Michael meant these words; these were all his!

"The men I fought beside don't enjoy freedom — this very moment they're in Japanese prison camps. Don't forget them! Back to Bataan! Back to Bataan!"

And the crowd was on its feet again, fists in the air, echoing him: "Back to Bataan! Back to Bataan! Back to Bataan!"

Patsy Ann noticed something peculiar: the army officer was not chanting along; he stood with arms folded, wearing a sour expression. A rather handsome man, about forty, in a business suit and fedora stood next to him — smiling.

Then Michael came down and shook thousands of hands and signed autographs, and Patsy Ann waited alone, seated on a stone bench, her parents wandering off to watch the baseball tourney.

Almost two hours had passed before the crowd dissipated. The governor and mayor were long gone; even the proud parents, Pasquale and Sophia Satariano, had moved along. Finally only Michael and the army officer remained, who was speaking to Mike in a curt, even harsh manner, though Patsy Ann did not hear what was said.

But she could understand Mike, as he told the officer, "I have my own ride."

And then Michael Satariano, with his Medal of Honor and crisp khakis, walked right over to the stone bench where she sat. The army officer, shaking his head, stalked off.

Michael stood before her. Loomed over her. His face was expressionless; his real eye seemed as lifeless as the glass one in the scarred socket.

Hands folded in her lap, feeling very much a little girl suited to her silly sundress, Patsy Ann trembled, on the verge of tears. What terrible thing was Michael going to say?

"Captain's mad at me," Mike said, casually.

Then he sat down next to her on the bench, slumped forward a little; his good eye was next to her. It was as if they were still in high school and he'd caught up with her between classes.

"Why?" she managed.

He shrugged. "You heard that phony spiel they made me give. I've been doin' that all up and down the East Coast. And every time, I mention the boys on Bataan. My forgotten comrades."

"What's wrong with that?"

He turned to look at her, and the half-smile was so wonderfully familiar. "I'm not supposed to talk about them. We left them there to rot, and I'm not supposed to remind anybody about them ... Yesterday, in Chicago?"

"I heard you on the radio."

"Well, you didn't hear all of it. The captain had warned them about me, and the broadcast engineer cut me off before I said my Bataan piece."

"That's terrible."

"Newsreel guys got it, though, and the reporters. A couple of big magazines heard me today. We'll see if they print it ... Guys dying for freedom, over there, and the military muzzles somebody like me, for telling the truth."

"That's just awful!"

He shrugged. "Ah, it's not so bad. Got its bright side."

"How is that possible?"

Another half-smile. "I just got fired. I'm done. On inactive duty. No more bond rallies; no more rubber chicken."

She laughed a little. "Public speaking, putting yourself on display ... that must be torture for you."

"Well, there's torture and then there's torture. But I would rather be back on Bataan." Any hint of a smile disappeared. "I really would ..."

"I ... I kinda thought maybe you'd prefer being here, with me."

"Of course." But he wasn't looking at her.

"... You feel guilty, don't you?" Mike turned to her, sharply — not angry, more like ... alarmed.

She pressed on: "You're the only American soldier who got off that island, except for General MacArthur and his brass hats, right? So you feel like you abandoned your 'boys.'"

The faintest smile traced his lips; warmth filled the remaining brown eye. "You always were smart."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Mike. You were brave ... I read all about it. Everybody has. We need some heroes right about now."

"Well, I don't want to be one."

"What do you want to be?"

His eyebrows arched. "I wanna be in the backseat of one your daddy's Buicks ... with you."

Her lips pursed into a smile. "Well ... you might get your wish. But a girl likes to be kissed, first."

He did not respond to this cue.

Instead, he slumped again, his hands locked. He was staring at the grass. "You want a guy who threw you over to kiss you? Who didn't even bother writing you back?"

"You didn't throw me over for a girl. You threw me over for a war ... My letters — you read them?"

"Every one."

"That's all I wanted. Just you to read them."

He gazed at her, steadily, studying her. "You don't have a guy?"

"I have a guy."

Now he looked away. "... That's fine. I told you not to wait."

"You, dumbo."

He took that like a punch; then he laughed — no sound came out, but it was a laugh, all right.


Excerpted from Road to Purgatory by Max Allan Collins. Copyright © 2004 Max Allan Collins. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Road to Purgatory 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really held my interest.
senated More than 1 year ago
The story of a young war hero (World War 2)who returns home and gives up small town life and girlfriend for the Chicago world of federal law enforcement and mafia lifestyle. The story moves back and forth from his childhood to present day. I don't quite understand why the story wasn't told in chronilogical order. The violence is frequent and excessive. There are so many subplots involving, admittedly, some interesting characters, I don't see how the protagonist can ever trust anybody.Still worthwhile, if you can handle the bloodshed and predictable ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This superb novel is the story of Michael O¿Sullivan the son of` Tom O¿Sullivan who we last encountered in Road to Perdition, the graphic novel, the movie, and/or the prose novel. In all three Michael has gone out on the road with his gangster father and witnessed his death at the hands of the Chicago mob. Now it is 1942 and Michael is waging World War II in the jungles of Bataan, carrying a tommy gun like his father¿s only now he¿s using it against the Japanese. Having been baptized in violence well before he joined the army, and having the courage of his dad, it is no surprise to the reader that he can kill the enemy with fury and precision. In one incident he is driving a couple of officers, when they are attacked by the enemy, and Michael just blasts away until they¿re all dead, which encounter loses him an eye but wins him a ticket home and The Congressional Medal of Honor. Michael returns to his home in DeKalb, Illinois with his foster parents, the Satarianos, where he is re-united with his high school sweetheart. But the government has plans for him. He tours the country as a returning war hero; he is to raise money and morale. But Michael has other plans, plans that involve vengeance for his father¿s murder on the mob that killed him and the head of that mob, Al Capone. So when he is approached by Eliot Ness, who has returned to Chicago for one last go at tackling the mob, who puts forth a plan for Michael to go undercover to get close to Frank Nitti who is running things until Capone recovers from his syphilis, it couldn¿t fit in better with Michael¿s plans. Michael quickly wins Nitti¿s trust and becomes one of his top lieutenants. Finally he is sent down to Florida where Capone is ¿recovering¿ and midst a savage bloodletting, which Collins clearly parallels to the one Michael experienced in Bataan, Michael gets to Capone and his chance for revenge. Ironically, his vengeance his stymied by forces of fate which Michael could not have anticipated, and which Collins employs with a profound sense of human fallibility in all things. Now Michael is caught between Ness, who wants him to get on with the bringing down of Nitti and his empire, and a real sense of loyalty to Nitti, who perversely has become a kind of replacement father figure to Michael. Nitti, is portrayed as the decent gangster, the one who wants the mob to move on from its history of mindless violence and become more civilized, if that term is possible in this context. If Nitti goes down, then much more savage forces will take control. Collins brilliantly and convincingly puts Michael at the nexus of forces competing for the control of Chicago. He achieves this without ever over-simplifying human motivations. Nitti, Ness, and even Michael all have their agendas. There are no pure heroes, though there are heroic moments. Amidst all this there is also murder, mystery, and suspense of the highest order. Collins has written a historical crime novel this both convincing and entertaining at every turn. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION
harstan More than 1 year ago
A decade may have passed since Capone killed his family, but Michael Satariano nee O'Sullivan never forgot even when he though he was lovingly adopted. Now twenty, Michael is on Bataan where he wipes out a Japanese division, loses an eye, but is a survivor of the death march. Michael receives the Congressional Medal of Honor and an honorable discharge. Back in the States, Michael believes it is time to become the avenging angel of death. Through Papa Satariano, Michael meets Capone's Lieutenant Frank Nitti, who hires him as a welcome addition to the Outfit. Eliot Ness thinks he is exploiting Michael as an insider breaking up Capone¿s Outfit. As Michael causes destruction, mayhem and death from the inside, back in 1922 in Rhode Island, Michael Sr., the chief enforcer for Irish Godfather John Looney, is about to become a father for the first time, not realizing that the newborn was to become a killing chip off the old block.. This sequel to the ROAD TO PERDITION is an exciting but very bloody suspense crime thriller starring an intriguing protagonist whose soul was sucked out of him a decade earlier. Ironically, Michael¿s amoral murdering spree as an American soldier and a mob soldier will fascinate readers yet because he is so frozen without even a hint of remorse he is unlikable and the tale fails to show heart. Still this is a solid O¿Sullivan next generation entry that contains parallel stories of unaffected 1940s Michael, Jr. vs. the elation of 1920s Michael, Sr. when he becomes a daddy (albeit still a killing machine ¿ must be in the DNA). Harriet Klausner