Most authors dream of having their work snatched up by Hollywood and turned into a box-office hit. Yeah, chance would be a fine thing! Just imagine therefore how one author must be reflecting on earning the undisputed number one spot for the transfer of books to films, with no less than 22 full-length features to his name?
If you add in his short films, TV films and TV series the list grows to a staggering 83! I guess the rest of us have a long way to go!
The man under the spotlight is no less than Stephen King, the doyen of the horror genre, who dipped his toe into other literary waters with equally surprising results.
It all started for King with his first novel Carrie, penned in 1973 and made into a film in 1976. From that point onwards the credits simply kept rolling. They include some of Hollywood’s best remembered titles:
Salem’s Lot (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Children of the Corn (1984)
Silver Bullet (1985)
The Running Man (1987)
The Tommyknockers (1993)
The Green Mile (1999)
Dolan’s Cadillac (2009).
Okay, you get the picture (sorry for the pun!). Tucked into King’s long list of achievements is my own favourite, The Shawshank Redemption, surely one of the best films ever made, and easy to see why it’s regularly voted by cinema-goers in their top two or three picks of all time.
Despite what you might be thinking, this is not a Stephen King fan blog. There’s a general point to be made about how some stories are ‘grabbed’ by Holywood while others are strangely ignored. First, let’s bring the works of other authors into the argument.
The closest author to King in terms of film conversions is Ian Fleming with 13 credits – 12 of them featuring James Bond, the other being Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (hands up if you didn’t know!).
Nineteenth century author Henry James is next on the list with 12 titles, including The American and The Portrait of A Lady, which were mainly adapted for later television works.
Large-as-life author Michael Creighton – he of Jurassic Park, The Lost Park, The Andromeda Strain and The Great Train Robbery, comes next with 10 titles successfully converted to the big screen.
Mark Twain and Nicolas Sparks have each 8 titles in film, followed by James Cain and Phillip Dick, each with 7.
The list of authors on six includes John Grisham, J K Rowling and Jane Austen. In the latter case Austen deserves to go close to the top of the tree when you consider how many Holywood remakes there are of such classics as Pride and Prejudice, not to mention the umpteen television adaptions of her works.
It’s at the lower end of the list that you find the most surprises. The modern grandfather of adventure novels, Clive Cussler, has only two films to his name – Raise the Titanic and the Sahara – neither of which rank among his best works!
Consider also that it has taken Holywood until now to recognise the appeal of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories. Among his many books just one has been chosen for the tinseltown treatment. One Shot, starring Tom Cruise, will premiere in December 2012.
It can surely be only a matter of time before Stephen Leather and Matt Hilton convert to the silver screen, but where does that leave the rest of us?
The answer, I’m afraid, is buying a cinema ticket and enjoying the work of our peers!
But don’t despair. Here’s a simple recipe for Holywood success.
Make sure you have a good story.
Throw in some memorable characters.
Stir in good dashes of dialogue.
Add a touch of suspense.
Blend in a teaspoon or two of romance.
Let it simmer for a while but bring to the boil at the end.
And pray for a lotta, lotta luck.
In the meantime, do what you do best. Stay creative, get your stories out there, and continue to entertain the masses. Who needs Holywood anyway?