Book review: The Heat is on again

We shouldn’t be surprised if accomplished film directors write good books. Directors have to be jacks of all trades, and the best write and edit well. Francois Truffaut, Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, Derek Jarman, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Werner Herzog have all written excellent books.

novel by Michael Mann heat 2 is a clever and ingenious addition to this niche genre. Co-written with Edgar Award-winning writer Meg Gardiner, it takes the godfather 2 Approaching Mann’s 1995 crime thriller, heatby which I mean it’s both a prequel and a sequel to the original film.

Al Pacino as Vincent Hanna and Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley in Michael Mann's 1995 film Heat.

Al Pacino as Vincent Hanna and Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley in Michael Mann’s 1995 film Heat.

heat was a thrilling cops-and-robbers story that dared to put the same bill on the cops and their families and the robbers and their families. The main actors, Lt. Vincent Hanna, the LA robbery and homicide detective and his brilliant criminal nemesis Neil McCauley, were played by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, but the cast was expansive and the supporting characters rich.

The book begins the day after the film’s highlights, with Hanna and his team hunting down the remaining members of McCauley’s crew. How Mike Nichols actually led us in The graduateit’s always fascinating to see what happens after a traditional Hollywood ending and there’s a great scene heat 2 as Hanna goes to McCauley’s sterile home and takes in the empty, melancholy life of the man he just killed.

heat 2 then flashes back to 1988 as McCauley prepares for his final job. Heist books (and movies) always follow a classic formula: part one is putting the crew together, act two is the heist, and part three (the best part) is how the heists handle it when everything goes horribly wrong.

Man on the set of his 2015 cyber-thriller Blackhat and inset the cover of Heat 2.

Man on the set of his 2015 cyber-thriller Blackhat and inset the cover of Heat 2.

heat 2 doesn’t ignore those tropes, but it’s also a more thoughtful and interesting book than that. It takes place in three timelines. past, present and future. McCauley doesn’t appear in the future, of course, but Chris Shiherlis, the only survivor of McCauley’s original crew in the film, does.


One can’t help but think of Shiherlis as Val Kilmer, then in his pomp as one of Hollywood’s cutest and most charismatic actors. Kilmer played Shiherlis as a ponytailed male child who was prone to temper tantrums but was also a brilliant thief with a quick thinker. Kilmer’s sun shone too bright as a leading man and his best performances came in supporting roles like heat. Book review: The Heat is on again

Jaclyn Diaz

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