The movie is good, the novel is so much better. I just read "Sleepers" (404 pages) by Lorenzo Carcaterra. From the jacket of the book:
"This is the true story of four young boys. Four lifelong friends. Intelligent, fun-loving, wise beyond their years, they are inseparable. Their potential is unlimited, but they are content to live within the closed world of New York City's Hell's Kitchen. And to play as many pranks as they can on the denizens of the street. They never get caught. And they know they never will.
Until one disastrous summer afternoon.
On that day, what begins as a harmless scheme goes horrible wrong. And the four find themselves facing a year's imprisonment in the Wilkinson Home for Boys. The oldest of them is fifteen, the youngest twelve. What happens to them over the course of that year--brutal beatings, unimaginable humiliation--will change their lives forever.
Years later, one has become a lawyer. One a reporter. And two have grown up to be murderers, professional hit men. For all of them, the pain and fear of Wilkinson still rages within. Only one thing can erase it.
To exact it, they will twist the legal system. Commandeer the courtroom for their agenda. Use the wiles they observed on the streets, the violence they learned at Wilkinson.
If they get caught this time, they only have one thing left to lose: their lives.
Sleepers is the extraordinary true story of four men who take the law into their own hands. Brilliantly written, it is a searing portrait of a system gone awry and of the people--some innocent, some not so innocent--who must suffer the consequences. At the heart of Sleepers is a sensational murder trial that ultimately gives devastating, yet exhilarating, proof of street justice and truly defines the meaning of loyalty and love between friends. Told with great humor and compassion, even at its most harrowing, Sleepers is an unforgettable reading experience. It will leave you breathless."
I grabbed this book from my mom's collection a couple of weeks ago, knowing the story since I'd seen the movie years ago. Like many good books that were made into good movies there isn't a lot more the novel offers except a little more detail of the characters and their time together, especially growing up in Hell's Kitchen before the traumatic events that scarred all of them for life. The story is touching, funny, and horrific all at the same time. Well written by Caracterra, it's a book you can literally speed through in a day, and as compelling as the story is, you'll want to. Highly recommended, even to those, like myself, who may have seen the movie first.