Michael Mann’s debut novel, “Heat 2,” is an instantaneous success

Michael Mann’s debut novel, “Heat 2,” is an instantaneous success – Never before in the history of publishing has a debut book attracted as much attention as “Heat 2.” The book, which was released on August 9, is already on many bestseller lists, and why not? The book and its author were featured in a New York Times Magazine article and a program on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Additionally, there has been a constant flow of book reviews.

Born and reared in Chicago, Michael Mann is best known as a film director, producer, and screenwriter. This is his debut novel. He is partnering with thriller author Meg Gardiner, but the concept for this book is unquestionably his, since it is a prologue and sequel to the lives of the characters he created for the 1995 film “Heat,” for which he wrote and directed the screenplay.

Those of you who have watched “Heat” may be wondering, “Wait, didn’t the most of the primary characters die?” Certainly they did. Neil McCauley, portrayed by Robert De Niro, was killed in a gun duel. Michael Cheritto (Tom Sizemore) and Trejo (Danny Trejo) are deceased members of McCauley’s team.

But Mann has a lifetime habit of writing extensive backstories for his film characters, and he utilized this material as the basis for “Heat 2.” Curious about the backstory of the officer who tracked down McCauley, Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino)? How would you describe the connection between the criminal Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) and his wife Charlene (Ashley Judd)?

“Heat 2” satisfies with these personalities and offers a galaxy of villainous types, including a particularly vicious and brutal Chicago native.

Here, in 1943, Mann was born, the son of Esther and Jack Mann, who owned a grocery business. In the Times magazine article, he underlined that he was reared “in the city,” and then he made a pretty strange and uncharitable jab at other filmmakers who are “from the Chicago suburbs and produce comedies.”

Who does he refer to? I cannot for the life of me comprehend. Is he referring to Robert Zemeckis, a native of Roseland, a graduate of Fenger High School, and the filmmaker of blockbusters like “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump”? Or maybe Mann is alluding to the late Harold Ramis, who gave us “Caddyshack,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” and “Groundhog Day,” despite having been born and reared on the city’s North Side and having attended Senn High School. Perhaps he is alluding to John Hughes, who was born and raised in Michigan but spent his adolescence in the suburbs prior to directing “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and other comedies.

Oh, well.

Mann left Chicago for the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, and then moved across the ocean to the London Film School, where he earned a master’s degree. He later wrote for “Starsky and Hutch” and “Police Story” and directed “The Jericho Mile,” filmed in Folsom Prison.

He returned to this familiar terrain for his first feature picture. The 1981 release “The Thief” was shot in Chicago. It stars the late James Caan as the protagonist and Tuesday Weld as his girlfriend. It has a notably gloomy appearance, with rain-slicked streets and foreboding alleyways.

Roger Ebert, awarding the film 312 stars, described it as “one of the most brilliant thrillers I’ve ever seen, packed with flair, content, and fiercely felt emotion.” In a 3-star review for The Tribune, Gene Siskel called it “an exhilarating picture… highly powerful and believable in its portrayal of the high-class thief’s lifestyle.”

The film was also notable for featuring future stars Jim Belushi in his feature film debut as Caan’s safecracking partner, William Petersen in his first film role (don’t blink or you’ll miss him) as a bartender at a Lincoln Avenue tavern, and then-working police officer partners Dennis Farina and Chuck Adamson as the villains.

Michael Mann's debut novel, Heat 2 is an instantaneous success
Michael Mann’s debut novel, Heat 2 is an instantaneous success


Mann worked with Petersen again when the actor featured in his 1986 film “Manhunter,” with Farina, who became a celebrity after Mann placed him as the lead in the iconic NBC series “Crime Story,” which was co-created by Adamson, who would later collaborate with Mann on “Miami Vice.”

Adamson passed away in 2008 and Farina in 2013, but Mann has continued to make films and has been very active as of late. In addition to scripting “Heat 2,” he also directed the April debut episode of the HBO Max series “Tokyo Vice.” Then, he began directing and co-writing the script for his most recent film, “Ferrari,” which he co-wrote with Troy Kennedy Martin. He spent a great deal of time doing so in Italy, creating a film that concentrates on three months in the life of racing car driver, creator, and manufacturer Enzo Ferrari, culminating in the catastrophic open-road endurance event Mille Miglia in 1957. Still in development, the film stars Adam Driver and Penélope Cruz.

Mann is 79 years old and looks to be as vital as ever in interviews. He remembers Farina and Adamson with affection in the acknowledgements of “Heat 2,” stating, “Farina became one of my closest friends and a very talented performer over the years.”

He talks of Adamson’s inspiration for the Vincent Hanna persona, as well as his “insights, wit, and intelligence.”

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At roughly 500 pages, “Heat 2” is an ambitious and compelling literary handful. It goes back and forth across time efficiently. You may be able to remove the writer and filmmaker from Chicago, but Chicago stays a part of him and his book, in which he argues, “In Chicago, corruption is pervasive, democratic, and fair.” Everyone has the intrinsic right to bribe everyone they can.”

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