More December's Books to Film

Steven Spielberg directs Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis in War Horse (PG-13), based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo - a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.

It begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets.

John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is adapted by Director Tomas Alfredson for Universal Pictures into a feature film starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.

This international espionage action-thriller is set at the height of the Cold War when George Smiley, a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government in fear that MI-6 has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.

December's Books to Film

Steven Spielberg directs the animated film adaptation of The Adventures of TINTIN. This first of a planned triogy is base on a very popular comic book series created in 1929 by a Belgian artist who called himself Hergé. Clever and ever-curious, TINTIN is a reporter-turned-detective whose pursuit of villains, criminals, treasure and the occasional artifact takes him all over the world, along with a colorful cast of friends. Hergé based his stories on real-world events and cultures - from space exploration to Arab oil wars.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's critically acclaimed novel in which 9 year-old Oskar Schell embarks on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York in order to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey.

I was perfectly happy with the original film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in his Millennium Trilogy. But I could be persuaded to take in the American remake coming this month with some irresistible big names (Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer) and a sizzling newcomer (Rooney Mara).

Benjamin Mee's memoir is adapted in the feature film We Bought a Zoo. Benjamin Mee, a former newspaper columnist, known for his humorous "Do It Yourself" column in the UK’s Guardian Weekend moved his family to an unlikely new home: a dilapidated zoo in the English countryside. Mee had a dream to refurbish the zoo and run it as a family business. Nothing was easy, given the family’s lack of experience as zookeepers, and what follows is a magical exploration of the mysteries of the animal kingdom, the power of family, and the triumph of hope over tragedy.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #300

How often would one come across a novel inspired by execution? One that was a runaway bestseller in Germany when it was first released, and sold over 200,000 copies in the U.S. as an Amazon e-book? I could only think of one.

Time: 1659
Setting: Shongua, an impoverish Bavarian village ravaged by war, plague and time
The Novel: The Hangman's Daughter

When a dying boy pulled from the river bears an ancient mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, the local midwife is quickly accused of witchcraft. Hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to coerce a confession out of her (by torture if necessary), to spare the village of fear and dark memories. When more children disappear, the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos. Jakob is convinced that the midwife is innocence but his might be the lone voice of reason if not for his clever and headstrong daughter Magdelena and Simon, the university-educated son of the town's physician (who is hopelessly in love with Magdelena against convention and his father's wishes). The three must race against the clock to unravel the truth, catch the real killer in order to prevent further bloodshed. In the meantime, they unknowingly place themselves in the path of true evil.

"Taking us back in history to a place where autopsies were blasphemous, coffee was an exotic drink, dried toads were the recommended remedy for the plague, and the devil was as real as anything, The Hangman’s Daughter brings to cinematic life the sights, sounds, and smells of seventeenth-century Bavaria", telling the engrossing story of a compassionate and courageous man.

"Pötzsch... delivers a fantastically fast-paced read, rife with details on the social and power structures in the town as well as dichotomy between university medicine and the traditional remedies, which are skillfully communicated through character interactions, particularly that of Magdalena and Simon. The shocking motivations from unlikely players provide for a twist that will leave readers admiring this complex tale from a talented new voice."

Debut novelist Oliver Pötzsch descends from the Kuisls, a well-known line of Bavarian executioners who beheaded prisoners by sword. There were 14 hangmen in the family, spanning the 16th to 19th centuries. Each inheriting the profession from his father, and each had to undergo a rigorous training that culminated in the executioner’s having to produce a “masterpiece” beheading in order to receive proper certification.

November's Books to Film (You KNOW! the season is upon us)

Brian Selznick's charming Caldecott Medal winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures (2007) is one for the whole family to hit the big screen on November 23rd. In this moving and entertaining film adaptation, an orphaned boy secretly lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station and looks after the clocks. He gets caught up in a mystery adventure when he attempts to repair a mechanical man. Martin Scorsese directs a star-studded cast of Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law.

Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is the highly anticipated next chapter of the blockbuster The Twilight Saga. The new-found married bliss of Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen is cut short when a series of betrayals and misfortunes threatens to destroy their world. Wide release on the 18th, savvy fans know the drill.

The gritty noir novel London Boulevard (2001) by Ken Bruen has been adapted into a feature film starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone. An ex-con hired to look after a reclusive young actress finds himself falling in love, which puts him in direct confrontation with one of London's most vicious gangsters.

In A Dangerous Method, adapted from the book by John Kerr, on the eve of World War I, Zurich and Vienna are the setting for a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery. Drawn from true-life events, it explores the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, the beautiful but disturbed young woman who comes between them. Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen.

George Clooney, Judy Greer, and Matthew Lillard star in The Descendants, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Wealthy Hawaiian landowner Matt King has his life upended when his wife, Joanie, is involved in a boating accident. King struggles to reconnect with his two daughters as the three of them take a journey to deliver the news of Joanie's imminent death to the man with whom she was having an affair.

My Week With Marilyn, is based on Colin Clark’s (played by Eddie Redmayne) controversial memoir. The film centers on the tense relationship between Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl. In the early summer of 1956, 23-year-old Colin Clark, just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. In his diary, one week was missing, and this is the story of that week when Colin introduced Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life.

Fall NY Times Fiction Review: Interview for Haruki Murakami's "1Q84"

At a mere 932 pages, the Knopf English publication of 1Q84 is “like a telephone directory.” This is according to the author, Haruki Murakami. In his fall interview with the New York Times Magazine, critic Sam Anderson, asks Murakami: had he intended to write such a big book? This question meant nothing of the scope of his literature or the fact that it's an international bestseller in hundreds of different languages. Just, why so many pages?

We must understand, Murakami is a man driven primarily by his love of writing. On his methodology, he tells Anderson "he begins a piece of fiction with only a title or an opening image" Then, waking up at 2am to write every morning in part of what Murakami calls a "voluntary confinement, happy confinement;” he eats, excercises, and schedules with the sole purpose of creative producation.

"1Q84 took three years to write," Murakami tells Anderson with what he calls simply "improvising until it’s done...A boy meets a girl. They have separated and are looking for each other. It’s a simple story. I just made it long.”

"If he’d known how long it would turn out to be, he might not have started at all." Anderson jokes.

But we're glad he did. The intrigue of well-developed characters and a place you think you know only to have their situations defy expectations is what makes IQ84 a good fall thriller and stand-out literary achievement.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #296

Release scheduled for this coming week, first in the projected Nina Borg mystery series, The Boy in the Suitcase * marks the debut of co-authors Lene Kaaberbol (visit the website of this well-respected teen author) and Agnete Friis.

When asked by an estranged friend Karin to help retrieve a suitcase from a locker at the main Copenhagen train station, Nina Borg, Red Cross nurse and a compulsive do-gooder can't refuse. After dragging it home, Nina discovers inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive. When Karin is brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy's are in jeopardy. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.

Winner of the 2008 Harald Mogensen Award for Best Danish Crime Novel, and a finalist for the Scandinavian Glass Key Award, this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of Scandinavian crime fiction, many also by women writers with strong female protagonists.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #294

I saved this one for the Schiphol to DTW flight, knowing that I will need something gripping to ward off the fatigue. Most appropriately, the opening scene is set in Amsterdam.

All Cry Chaos* is the first in a proposed series introducing an aging, ailing Interpol agent Henri Poincare. American (Harvard) James Fenster, a gifted and eccentric mathematician is assassinated on the eve of a World Trade Organization meeting where he is to present a revolutionary theory. The hit is as elegant as it is bizarre. Crisscrossing the Atlantic in search of answers and more importantly, a very clever killer, Poincare meets up with more puzzles than leads. Meanwhile, a vicious war criminal with scores to settle is exacting revenge on Poincare's family in his absence.

A "masterful and gripping tale," weaving fractals and chaos theory into an international mystery that also confronts great moral and theological questions. " 'Thoughtful, beautifully written."

This accomplished debut by Leonard Rosen, an established textbook author will appeal to fans of cerebral and mathematical mysteries such as Arturo Sangalli's Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery and Michael Gregorio's Critique of Criminal Reason. Readers who favor cloak-and-dagger, globe-trotting intrigue with a flawed protagonist a bit past his prime would be reminded of recent titles of John LeCarre and Olen Steinhauer where the stake is high and the personal costs, higher.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #289

Erin Morgenstern's debut novel The Night Circus * * * * won't be out until this coming week but the queue has been forming for sometime, and rightly so. This is my Fantasy PICK OF THE YEAR and I won't be surprised to see it on a couple of award lists.

Without warning or fanfare, Cirque des Rêves (the Circus of Dreams) would arrive (and leave) at the edge of town under the cover of night. But in between, well, expect to be amazed and enthralled, intrigued and perplexed, confounded and confused, but royally entertained as no circus could (for you, the readers as well).

Celia and Marco, two young illusionists are not only tied to the running of the circus, but are locked in a contest of skills. As the acts grow more elaborate, imaginative, and fantastical, they fall hopelessly in love, only to find that the challenge is an ultimate one. Only one will survive. And the game must play out.

Multiple plotlines and perspectives; inventive and cinematic settings; engaging secondary characters; lush and seductive prose all build towards a breathtaking and stunning (and the reader a bit stunned, I expect) conclusion, with reckless fearless love at the center pulling strings and casting spells.

"A literary Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,... completely magical".

"A feast for the senses and the heart."

Rights sold in 22 countries. Film rights to Summit Entertainment. 175,000-copy first printing. When you get it in your hands, lock the door, turn off your phone, and tell your Mom not to worry - you'll call her later, much later... You wouldn't want to be disturbed.

* * * * = Starred reviews

September's Books to Film

Drive, an action-packed speed thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night.
When he falls for Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld, he find himself shifting gears and going on the offense. Based on the mystery novel Drive by James Sallis (also available in audio).

I Don’t Know How She Does It is based on the novel by Allison Pearson. Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, whose daily life is a non-stop balancing act - between her job and family. Complicating matters is Kate's charming new business associate Jack (Pierce Brosnan), who begins to prove an unexpected source of temptation.

Straw Dogs is based on The Siege of Trencher's Farm-Straw Dogs by British writer Gordon Williams. In this re-make of a 1971 film, David and Amy Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South to prepare the family home for sale after her father's death. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts re-emerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie, leading to a violent confrontation.

Killer Elite is based on a shocking true story that pits two of the world's most elite operatives --- Danny, an ex-special ops agent, and Hunter, his longtime mentor --- against the cunning leader of a secret military society. Originally published as The Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.

Michael Lewis's Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game (also in audio) is now adapted in a film starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane - the Oakland A’s general manager who reinvents his team to outsmart the richer teams by signing undervalued players considered flawed but who have a knack for winning games.

What’s Your Number? is based on the novel 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak. When Delilah Darling reads a survey revealing that most people have 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetime, she begins to feel like a tramp. She’s slept with 19 men so far --- almost twice the national average. Unwilling to up her number, but also unable to imagine a life of celibacy, Delilah tracks down every man she’s ever slept with in a last-ditch effort to make it work with one of them.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #287

British television writer/producer/director Simon Toyne's Sanctus * * * opens with a heart-pounding scene high above Ruin, a city in Turkey, in which a monk climbs to the top of a mountain called the Citadel and jumps off, carrying with him an ancient secret that could shatter the foundations of the Christian Church.

American newspaper reporter Liv Adamsen learns that her phone number, carved into a small leather strap, has been found inside the monk's stomach. All signs point to the possibility that this might be her brother who went missing years ago. Trying to unravel the mystery of his death might prove too dangerous for Liv. But nothing and no one could hold her back.

This well-researched, high-concept thriller of grand conspiracies is the first in a projected trilogy. Strong female character and non-stop action make this a must-read of the fall publishing season. Foreign rights sold in 27 countries, 100,000-copy first printing.

* * * = Starred reviews

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