It seems like we're getting more and more reboots, prequels and sequels to existing properties flooding our cinemas every year. And yet, while clueless studios plump for yet another Spiderman reboot or decide to tell us Batman's origin story for the third time, there are hundreds and thousands of brilliant novels out there that would make excellent films.
With that in mind I've picked 5 favourites from my bookshelves that, in the right hands, could become classic films.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
"War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner."
Even if you've never read one of his novels, if you've been to the cinema in the last few years you're probably no stranger to McCarthy's work. Adaptations of All The Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, The Road and most recently Child of God have all made their way onto the big screen, but its arguably McCarthy's greatest novel that remains confined to the bookshelf.
Blood Meridian is the author's take on the Old West, but it's not the quaint stetsons-and-saloons vision that you might expect, the world of Blood Meridian is ultra-violent and as a black as coal. Studiously researched and historically accurate, the novel tells the story of a young runaway known only as "the Kid" who joins a gang of psychopathic scalp hunters, led by the mystical, enigmatic and undoubtedly evil Judge Holden.
I don't want to spoil any plot developments for anyone who hasn't yet read the book so I'll stop there, but sufficed to say any adaptation of Blood Meridian wouldn't be PG-13! It would probably be a difficult sell to studious, with its brutal violence integral to the story (it seems the only violent films you get these days are in the horror genre) and lacking in a truly "good" character to root for, but in the right hands this could be a truly epic modern Western. What a shame Sam Peckinpah isn't still around to make it...
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
"I believe there is one story in the world, and only one...humans are caught - in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too - in a net of good and evil. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well, or ill?"
Technically, East of Eden has already been adapted, with Elia Kazan directing the 1955 James Dean vehicle. Though the film took the novel's title it only dealt with the second half of the book, and so we miss the early life of Adam Trask, father to the film's main characters, and his brother Charles, and see nothing of the books' warm-hearted centre Samuel Hamilton.
The novel - which Steinbeck deemed his greatest work - tells the interconnected stories of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, across three generations, as they reenact the biblical book of Genesis, specifically the stories of Adam and Even and Cain and Abel. It's a beautifully written story whose epic sweep lends it perfectly to film, and I really hope someone one day adapts the whole book, and not just half of it!
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
"'You musn't be afraid of the dark.'
'I'm not,' said Shadow, 'I'm afraid of the people in the dark.'"
Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, and American Gods one of my favourite novels. A TV adaptation, with Gaiman involved in the script writing, is actually in the works for American television network Starz, but I believe it would work just as well on the big screen.
American Gods is a high concept story where all the Gods and mythological creatures are real because people believe in them. Many of the "old" Gods are alive in America, having come over with immigrants, but are weak and forgotten. In their place new Gods have risen: the Gods of celebrity, media, the Internet, and so forth.
The novel tells the story about enigmatic ex-con Shadow, who becomes an errand-boy for the American manifestation of Odin, caught in the middle of an approaching battle between the old Gods and the new.
At a time when fantasy films have real legitimacy and do well at the box office, American Gods seems like a perfect fit. I'm sure the TV series will be excellent, but I would still love to see a big-budget film version of this, too.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on Earth..."
The dearly departed Gabriel Garcia Marquez's greatest work, One Hundred Years of Solitude follows seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictional town of Macondo, over a hundred years (give or take; as you'll know if you've read the book, time is malleable in this world). Possibly the greatest example of the "magic realism" genre that Marquez helped invent, it's a tale of love, betrayal, death, the supernatural and the repetition of history, and would make a wonderful - if odd - film.
It's one of my all time favourite books and I read it at least once a year. Part of thinks it would be too hard to adapt, but another part of me really, really wants to see the Macondo of my imagination come to life.
During his lifetime Marquez steadfastly refused to allow his book to be adapted for the screen, so it remains to be seen if it will ever happen. It could go either way - in my head it would be excellent, but it's easy to imagine that with the wrong script, or in the wrong hands, it could be a messy disaster.
The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
"People are always ruining thing for you."
I know what you're thinking: surely someone has already made a film of this classic. Well, you'd be wrong. Like Marquez above, Salinger steadfastly refused to have his work adapted during his life, possibly due to a botched adaptation of a short story of his that came out in the '40s and possibly because the man himself felt Holden Caulfield's first-person narration would feel "contrived" on screen.
Whatever the reason, no adaptation has made it to screen to date and it seems unlikely that it will ever happen, even though big names ranging from Elia Kazan, Billy Wilder, Marlon Brando, Steven Spielberg and Leo Di Caprio have tried and failed to get the project off the ground.
Even though I've reevaluated the novel now I'm older - I loved it a lot more as a teenager - it's still a great read and first-person narration or no would make a seamless transition to the screen.
What do you think? Would these books make great films? Vote for the one you'd most like to watch in the poll below, or talk about it in the comments.
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