‘Another Day in Paradise’ ***** Movie Review 013109

paperback: ..........hardcover::....... movie adaptation:

The work = *****
Eddie Little was a great writer who sadly only wrote two books before passing away all too soon. 'Another Day in Paradise' was his first of the two novels. Both novels follow a young criminal named Bobby Prine. Written in a first person, omniscient, narrative, ‘Another Day in Paradise’ is an engrossing and often disturbing bit of crime fiction. While not for the faint of heart, if you are up for a tale of crime set in the 70s, I say give the novel a chance, I don't think you will be disappointed.

In 'Another Day in Paradise' Bobby is not old enough to legally drive a car but over the course of the novel he will become a hardcore heroin addict and a pretty skilled thief. His world changes when he receives a beating severe enough to put him in a near coma state. Enter good Samaritan Mel, who has the fix-all for young Bobby’s pain: heroin. Mel shoots up Bobby, keeps him loaded, and slowly, the young, parentless, thief recuperates, all the while cementing the addiction of a life time.

Loss and addiction are the backbones of ‘Another Day in Paradise’ and they are behind every move the characters make. Bobby has been on his own since age 11 and at 13 he and his main squeeze Rosie are on their own, getting high and stealing to live. Both Bobbie and Rosie (who is 4 years his senior) come from abusive families that were so destructive, the youths were better off on their own. Enter the thief, junkie, Mel and his woman Sid. As I said Mel shoots up Bobby and eventually he and Sid take Bobby and Rosie under their wings.

When the four junkies meet, a bizzaro’ family unit is formed. They are born to lose junkies lead by the professional thief Mel. Bobby becomes Mel’s young apprentice and learns the tricks of the trade. Mel teaches Bobby to be a smooth, safe, operator that doesn’t run into a bank shooting up the place. Instead, he teaches Bobby to case targets with the lowest potential for detection and danger. Why shoot it out or for that matter even bring a gun, if you can break in and make your exit before anyone realizes they have been the victim of a robbery.

Mel may be a crook and a junkie but he is kind and for someone like Bobby, actually stable. He keeps his world under control and makes enough money to live in the high life. Eddie Little is quite adept at telling his tales and ‘Another Day in Paradise’ is indeed a gripping read. When reading about the novel, it is often written that the book is a somewhat autobiographical tale. Writer Little was, in real life, a conman, thief, and a junkie. He never fully escaped his life and ultimately his own addiction lead to a heart attack that would claim him.

I don’t know how close the events in ‘Another Day in Paradise’ are to ones that really transpired in Little’s life but to me that is almost not the point. The thing is, reading the book, it feels like it was written by someone who really did witness everything that happens in ‘Another Day in Paradise’. Reading the book, I felt like I was listening to someone spin tales of his past crimes. Even if the whole of the book is fiction, in a way, it doesn’t matter because the point is that it reads like it all really happened.

In case you are interested, 'Another Day in Paradise' was made into a film of the same name. The film is a good one and certainly stands on its own but those looking for a faithful adaptation of the Little novel should be aware that the feature is quite different from the book. One of the biggest changes is that of the character of Mel. In Little’s book he is a physically imposing Vietnam vet (for some reason I picture him looking something like Nick Nolte in the first ’48 hrs.’ film.) In the movie ‘Another Day in Paradise’ Mel is played by James Woods, a smaller actor, with a meaner edge. The character in the film is downright abusive and at times, something of a villain.

Mel is certainly not a mean prick in the book. In Little’s novel Mel is the strong father figure that Bobby never had. As I said, he is a smooth operator, living the high life. He knows all the angles, all the tricks, and is in control of his world, making money the “squares” could only dream about. The genius of Little’s book ‘Another Day in Paradise’ is that behind everything Mel does is that addiction he carries. The strongest man in the world can hold out only so long before hid addiction pulls him apart and he starts to show at the seams.

When Bobby begins to see that Mel is maybe not as in control as he first seemed to be, so too does the reader. Little brings you along into his world and shows that you can only hold out so long, that to be in control is really only to pretend and it is just a matter of how well and how long you can hold out. Bobby’s love for his girl Rosie is real and burning hot. He would do anything for her but all the passion in the world won’t insulate either of them from their addictions.

If there is a qualm that I had with the book it is a minor one. Occasionally there were moments that didn’t quite fit with the tone of the novel. As I write this, I can only specifically remember one moment. Without going into too much detail so as to avoid spoilers, I will just say a character displays some super-hero like martial arts at one point (while handcuffed no less.) To me, the martial arts seemed too over the top. Maybe it was just the way I read it but it somehow seemed overblown for a novel that feels otherwise as real as anything I’ve read.

Little was a great writer by any measure and it is a shame he was only able to write two books. The tragic characters that he wrote were an echo of his own life. I wonder if he realized just how close he was to what he wrote. Maybe he knew all too well from the very start. Part of my writing this review is my weak ass attempt to thank the deceased Little for writing something that I got so much enjoyment out of. ‘Another Day in Paradise’ may not be a happy read but it is an entertaining, page turner of a story. that will be worth your time. Highly, highly recommended.


‘Another Day in Paradise ’ Links:

An excerpt from 'Another Day in Paradise' on Andrew Vachss website (Vachss was friends with Little)

IMDB Page for the film adaptation of 'Another Day in Paradise

L.A. Times Obituary for Eddie Little

Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.