Re: novelizations (was Re: RARA-AVIS: Magnum, P.U.)

Date: 27 Jul 2006


Re your question below:

"Kinda speaking of which, are there any worthwhile novelizations?"

If you mean by "novelization" adapted from a play, movie, or TV script, whether or not said play, movie, or TV script was actually produced, Raymond Chandler's last Marlowe novel, PLAYBACK, was a novelization of an unproduced screenplay he did in the late '40's for Universal. PLAYBACK was probably Chandler's worst novel, but bad Chandler is still better than, say, good Mike Avallone. MacKinlay Kantor's SIGNAL 32, one of the best cops novels ever written, also started out as a movie script, or at least as a screen treatment.

If you meant adapted from a movie script that was LATER produced, so that the movie SEEMED to be adapted from the novel, than Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE and Ian Fleming's THUNDERBALL both started out as movie scripts, were reworked as novels, and eventually made it onto the screen, DOVE as a TV-mini-serial, and THUNDERBALL as on the big screen in 1965 and 1983.

If you refer ONLY to novels adapted from stage, screen, or TV projects that were actually produced and shown, there's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone," adapted from his stage play
"The Crown Diamond," one of only two Holmes short stories to be written in the third person; Dorothy L. Sayers's BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON, adapted from the stage play on which she collaborated with Muriel St. Clare; Max Allan Collins's DICK TRACY, which manages tp make sense of a rather muddled script, brings events a bit closer to the comic strip's continuity, and works in a few classic Gould characters (e.g. Vitamin Flintheart) who aren't in the movie; Collins's ROAD TO PERDITION, which adapts the screenplay which was, in turn, an adaptation of Collins's original comic book script for the graphic novel of the same name; John Gardner's LICENSE TO KILL and GOLDENEYE, adapting scripts to James Bond movies that were not directly adapted from Fleming novels (Gardner was alreadycontracted to contribute new entries to the Bond series at this time, which is how he got these novelization gigs); Isaac Asimov's FANTASTIC VOYAGE, which actually tried to make the whole "surgical team in a shrunken submarine" plot scientifically plausible, and which, since the hero's a secret agent and the villain's identity isn't revealed until the end, counts (though barely, I grant you) as a mystery; and Richard Deming's THE CASE OF THE COURTEOUS KILLER, adapted from the two-part DRAGNET episode "The Big Gent," and his short story collection DRAGNET, which adapted a half-dozen or so episodes into prose.

If you mean original novels using characters created for film or TV (Lawrence Block refers to these as
"tie-ins" to distinguish them from novels that are directly adapted from scripts), there's a few, like Jim Thompson's IRONSIDE and Lou Cameron's THE OUTSIDER that have already been mentioned. I'd add Richard Deming's second DRAGNET novel, THE CASE OF THE CRIME KING; many of the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. novels by various authors like Harry Whittington and David McDaniel; and I SPY, written by Walter Wager under the pen name of "John Tiger," which may have been the first adult mystery novel I ever read.

There are also any number of short stories expanded by their authors to novel length, which expansions were deliberately timed to coincide with film adaptations of the short stories. Louis L'Amour's HONDO, for example, was an expansion of his short story "A Gift for Cochise," which became the film HONDO, which hit theatres at about the same time L'Amour's book hit bookstories. Steve Frazee's award-winning, much-reprinted "My Brother Down There" was expanded into a novel called RUNNING TARGET, which appeared in bookstores at the same time that a film version of the short story, also called RUNNING TARGET, appeared on screen.

Novelizations and, to a lesser degree, tie-ins, are regarded, not without some justification, as literary bottom-feeding, but really, philosophically, adapting a dramatic form into prose is really no different than adapting a piece of prose fiction into a drama, and there's no reason a good author can't give his best effort to such a project and turn out something that's worth reading on its own merits.



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