A book taken from a screenplay? Whatever next?

I came across what I think is a literary oddity the other day: a series of books based on a screenplay. Or, more to the point: a series of books based on a TV show. Now, we’re all used to films based on bestselling books and spin-off books are commonplace, but I can’t recall ever seen it this way round  before.

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 11.26.40I don’t know how many of you are familiar with ‘The Killing’ (the original Danish version – not the dodgy AMC remake), but to sum it up; the show is a dark crime story set in a bleak and rainy Copenhagen combining a who-done-it thriller with a political drama. The original TV show ‘Forbrydelsen’ comprised of three seasons and, while the first may have been the stand-out best, all were delivered with a great Nordic mix of dastardly murder, intrigue, politics and fantastic knitwear.

And so, when I followed David Hewson’s blog and saw that he was the author of The Killing, I was surprised. I was surprised because The Killing is very, very Danish.

On closer inspection, however, I then saw that the original screenplay was indeed written by Søren Sveistrup and that David’s books are actually an adaptation of the screenplay.

Now that’s a new one on me.

Screen shot 2014-03-05 at 11.25.14I must admit that I’ve not read the books in question and, honestly, it’s because I don’t really want to. I’m all for watching a good film (or TV show) and then reading the original book in order to see what inspired the film (or TV show). But for me, this door swings only one way.

With TV such a huge medium in our lives, it’s no wonder that so much amazing writing is happening in the backrooms of the big studios, and I can see why authors would want to capitalise on that by putting these great stories down on paper.

But I still don’t get it.

I do get spin-off books from films like Star Wars because these tales are based within a massive universe that offers the promise of further great adventures while refraining from reusing many of the original film’s characters. These types of spin-off can often expand and develop worlds that still enjoy huge potential. But a book taken straight from the show? Hmm.

Naturally, I’m wondering just about now if can anyone make me eat my words by coming up with a book taken from a screenplay that was actually better than the screenplay itself?

When it comes down to the proverbial ‘book vs film’ argument most of us, I’m sure, are on the side of the book – usually because it is better. But of course, that’s not always the case.

The Davinci Code is an example that springs straight to mind. That was a rubbish book, although I did enjoy the film. But do bear in mind: the books were still written first, even if they do (ironically) read more like a screenplay.

Whilst I may not succumb to the allure of these ‘second hand novels’, the concept has given me pause for thought. What if I were to write a series of books based upon an original screenplay? What would I choose? Mad Men? The West Wing? Grey’s Anatomy? Big Bang Theory? The possibilities are endless…

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 20.26.59

And so, before I go, I’d just like to ask: Has anyone read these books of The Killing? If so, are they worth a punt even if you’ve already seen the TV show and, more to point, do they actually add anything of consequence? I must admit; I doubt that very much.

Please don’t think I’m having a go at the guy for writing these books – far from it. I wish him the very best of luck with these books.

But it’s like I said: I just don’t get it.

Thanks for reading.


2 comments on “A book taken from a screenplay? Whatever next?

  1. Weird. I’ve never heard of this either. Maybe it’s the next big thing, especially for people who watch more TV/movies than they read. Perhaps they will be lured in by characters they already know and like?

    • gpeynon says:

      Yes I think you’re right. We love what we know, right?

      But I don’t think I’d want to pit my writing ability and character development up against some if the guys writing the stuff we love on TV; unless I was REALLY sure I could do much better.

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