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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/07/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , crime authors, curtain, , , , , , , new yorked, potter's field, rob hart, , sleeping murder, their time had come,   

    6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily 

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    Having a hit series of books and a popular character that readers respond to is usually the dream of an author of an genre, but especially the authors of detective novels. But it can also become a burden, trapping the writer in a universe and a type of story that remains in literary amber. Still, most writers happily plug away at a series as long as readers keep showing up, and usually the only reason a popular detective stops accepting new cases is because the author retires…from this mortal coil. But not always; sometimes a writer decides to retire a character voluntarily for their own private reasons—like the six authors on this list.

    Sherlock Holmes, authored by Arthur Conan Doyle
    Doyle famously tried to walk away from Holmes in 1893’s The Final Problem, sending him over the Reichenbach Falls as he struggled with archenemy Professor Moriarity. Doyle regarded his Holmes stories as literary trifles and wanted to focus on more serious writing; he managed to resist the constant pleas for more Holmes stories for eight years before giving in and writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, published in 1901 and kicking off a second wave of Holmes stories that continued until Doyle passed away.

    Pete Fernandez, authored by Alex Segura
    Segura’s Pete Fernandez has been one of the most interesting noir detective characters in recent years, going from a shambling wreck of a life and career to something resembling stability over the course of four tightly plotted, Miami-infused novels. Segura has decided that Miami Midnight, the fifth book in the series, will be the last Fernandez mystery. Which is a shame, because Midnight digs deep into Pete as a character as he’s pulled from unofficial retirement from his unofficial career as a detective, asked by a local gang kingpin to look into the death of his son, a musician. One of the great things Segura has done with Fernandez is make his personal struggles as compelling as the cases he investigates without resorting to overblown mythology. Pete’s interesting because of the sort of personal mysteries we all carry around with us, and he’ll be missed.

    Ash McKenna, authored by Rob Hart
    McKenna’s an interesting character, a self-described “blunt instrument” who begins a journey to being a real, complete person in Hart’s New Yorked, and then continues that journey through three more books that take him all over the world. Hart’s decision to make Potter’s Field the last McKenna novel had everything to do with ending that story of personal development, of finishing the character’s tale purposefully. While he hasn’t ruled out another McKenna story at some point, it’s refreshing to see an author so in control of their character they end their series when the time feels right to them.

    Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, authored by Agatha Christie
    Christie is an unusual case, because she did, in fact, write about her two most popular characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, until she died. But she also voluntarily ended both series—three decades earlier. During World War II Christie worried she might not survive, and worried that meant her greatest literary creations would be orphaned without a proper send off. Her solution was to write a final case for both Poirot and Marple, then lock them away with a stipulation that they not be published until she passed away. As a result, Poirot’s final novel, Curtain published in 1975 and Marple’s, Sleeping Murder, published in 1976 just after Christie’s death. While locking novels away for thirty years on the assumption that people will still care in the future is pretty presumptuous, it certainly paid off for Christie and her fans.

    Peter Wimsey, authored by Dorthy Sayers
    Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey isn’t as famous as his contemporaries like Poirot, but he was one of the stars of early-20th century detective fiction—and the ultimate “gentleman detective” character. Wimsey was quite popular, but Sayers’ last Wimsey novel was 1937’s Busman’s Honeymoon, and aside from a short story and some references she never returned to the character. There’s speculation that Sayers, horrified at the violence and terror of World War II, decided she could no longer write about murders and the like. Which is a shame, because Wimsey, who began as a somewhat comical figure, developed into a marvelous and subtle character, and the world could have done with two or three more Wimsey novels.

    Kurt Wallander, authored by Henning Mankell
    Mankell seemed to be planning the end of Kurt Wallander, the depressed, junk food-addicted Swedish detective, more or less since his debut in 1991’s Faceless Killers. Wallander aged with the march of time, and Mankell at one point tried to pivot into a spinoff series with a new character before returning to Wallander. 2009’s The Troubled Man was the definitive final adventure for Wallander, and the character was depicted as dealing with the first symptoms of oncoming dementia, perhaps the worst thing that could afflict a man who relies on his mind and his memory. Mankell continued to write until his death in 2015, but he never returned to Wallander.

    There’s a power in deciding when and where to end your creation. What’s your favorite character’s ending?

    The post 6 Crime Writers Who Ended a Series Voluntarily appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2019/07/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , stephen king adaptations ranked, stephen king ranked, stephen king week, ,   

    Stephen King Book-to-Film Adaptations Ranked From the Very Faithful to the Wildly Inaccurate 

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    It’s Stephen King Week at Barnes & Noble, and we’re celebrating with a Buy Two, Get the Third Free offer on a wide selection of his bibliography, now through July 21!

    So many of Stephen King’s books have been adapted for film or television that it’s possible to be very familiar with his body of work even if you’ve never read a word of it. (We do not recommend this course of action.) Just this year, four of King’s books are hitting the big screen by way of the recent Pet Sematary remake, IT: Chapter Two, The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, and In the Tall Grass. On television and streaming services, we can expect new seasons of Mr. Mercedes and the King-inspired Castle Rock.

    Book lovers everywhere know that not all adaptations are created equal, of course (let alone are they often equal to the book). The star of Doctor Sleep, Ewan McGregor, recently made a point of reassuring fans that the movie would be faithful to the novel, an act he may have felt was necessary due to the fact that so, so many King adaptations stray widely from the source material. Which adaptation is the most faithful? Which is the least?

    Here’s our ranking of every King film and TV adaptation, based not strictly on quality, but on faithfulness to the source material—starting with those that stray furthest from the page.

    Dishonorable Mention: The Lawnmower Man
    Easily the least faithful quote-unquote Stephen King adaptation is this 1992 film, which shares a title and absolutely nothing else with King’s bizarre short story included in 1978’s Night Shift.  The producers simply had the rights to the title and used it to trick folks into watching a rather convoluted thriller steeped in the early 1990s virtual reality craze. The movie is a good bit of cheesy fun, but it is nothing like the story, which features zero computers and 100 percent more bizarre grass-eating servants of Pan. Fun fact: King sued to get his name taken off the film.

    The Dark Tower
    The Dark Tower series is sprawling, gloriously messy epic, the bulk of the story spread across eight novels that took King decades to write. The film adaptation is alike in exactly one way—it’s also very messy, but not in a good way. To be fair, the movie was never intended to faithfully adapt the 1.3 million words of King’s novels; it was explicitly envisioned as a whole new interpretation, kicking off a film series and TV series that would expand infinitely into the universe of the books. If the intentions were good (not to mention the cast—Mathew McConaughey and Idras Elba facing off as the Man in Black and Roland, the last gunslinger, almost make the film worth watching on their own), the end result is so vastly different from the source material it’s less an adaptation and more a script that was walked briskly through a room where a copy of The Waste Lands was sitting on a shelf.

    The Running Man
    The original novel, the last of the infamous “Bachman Books” King published under a pseudonym, is much darker and grittier than the satirical and often broadly silly Arnold Schwarzenegger film. The entire basic premise is altered for the screen, turning a desperate man volunteering for a horrifying reality show in a bid to save his family into a railroaded cop fighting for his life in a grim future in which the TV show serves as an entertaining method of live execution. The cartoonish way the dystopia is portrayed negates every theme of the book, which doesn’t make it unentertaining.

    Pet Sematary (2019)
    The newest version of one of King’s scariest, most effective novels takes a lot of liberties with the source material. A lot. We’ll skip the heavy spoilers, as it’s still a relatively recent release, but in the broad strokes: the ending is entirely different, the roles of two primary characters have been flipped, one other character is much changed from both the book and the 1989 film, and the inclusion of a creepy cult of kids wearing animal masks is a massive extrapolation from a stray comment in the novel. While we personally found the new ending to be terrifying, there’s no doubt it has nothing to do with the book.

    The original story upon this one is based—”Gramma,” a Lovecraftian tale about  man and his possibly evil grandma—is short and basically has two characters, offering up pretty straightforward scares. Jason Blum took that framework and added… everything. To say this movie is “loosely” based on the original story is a monumental understatement; new characters, the addition of an imaginary friend, and an extended escape sequence, all of it adding up to a film that is arguably its own thing, with which has very little to do with the source material. Which might explain why it went straight to on-demand after a lengthy period on Blumhouse’s shelf.

    The Tommyknockers
    Written at the height of what we’ll call King’s “Cocaine and Mania” phase (he admits to being so under the influence that he doesn’t remember writing a word of the thick tome), The Tommyknockers is a hot mess of a novel to begin with, but King did exercise some control by confining the story to a relatively small cast of characters in order to maximize the impact of its story of alien invasion and mind control. The mini-series adaptation? The producers obviously decided they needed more characters to stretch it out to its three hour runtime, and went nuts creating new ones. Then they changed the ending entirely. Sure, this is a novel that probably deserves changing, but the fact remains that it is a King adaptation in name only.

    The Shining (1980)
    The Shining may be the most infamous film adaptation of all time, considering the author has disavowed it at every opportunity and gone so far as to readapt his book himself for television in order to get it right. It’s an interesting example of how a film can follow a book in broad strokes and still be wildly different; while close enough on paper, Stanley Kubrick changed the fundamentals of King’s legendary haunted hotel tale. The basic plot and characters are there, but Kubrick aggressively reinterpreted the whole point of King’s novel, shifting away from the messy, supernaturally tinged but human-scale evil of the book (which served as a metaphor for the destructiveness of alcoholism) and into something far more lurid and over-the-top. King famously complained about every aspect of the film. While it’s hard to argue with his points—particular his assertion that while the character of Jack Torrance is supposed to be a familiar menace of the sort that might live next door to you, Jack Nicholson’s performance is that of a man who’s never lived next door to anyone—The Shining is remains a great film, but not a great adaptation.

    Bag of Bones
    This novel is a divisive one among King fans, in part because it’s a measured, mournful, and not particularly scary story about a man pining for his dead wife for about 75 percent of the page count, then suddenly lurches into a much more hectic and horrific final quarter. That obviously presented a challenge for the film adaptation (which aired as a two-night miniseries in the U.S. and as a full-length feature elsewhere); the makers—including King adaptation regular Mick Garris—chose to excise much of the early part of the novel to race straight toward the more exciting stuff. Other changes, like fundamentally altering the mechanism of the supernatural element, are less easily explained. The final result includes a showdown with a tree that simply does not work.

    Needful Things
    Oh, Needful Things. A fever-dream of a novel that tells a story of corruption and weakness by focusing on the moral strength and pure love of two central characters, the film is what you might imagine the film industry in Jordan Peele’s Tethered world might be: superficially similar, but wholly different in bad, bad ways. It places the focus on Max Von Sydow’s Leland Gaunt, proprietor of the titular shop, which offers the citizens of Castle Rock their hearts’ desires—at a price—to the deficit of every other character. It’s a choice that makes sense when you’ve got an actor the caliber of Max Von Sydow to portray your Satanic character, but it twists the film into something completely different from the grand, lurid novel it’s adapting.

    Maximum Overdrive
    When Stephen King adapts his own story and the result is almost unrecognizable, you know you’ve got problems. Trucks isn’t precisely a masterpiece of King fiction, telling the story of machines becoming sentient and enslaving humanity over the course of, oh, a few hours, but the 1986 film based on it is 100 percent madness, expanded way beyond the parameters of a relatively brief story. At least it has a pretty great soundtrack from hard rock veterans AC/DC.

    On the surface, Christine is a pretty faithful film, more or less following the plot of King’s novel and excising only the seemingly endless subplots about football and petty crime in order to focus on what the people want, i.e. evilcar murder and mayhem. One fundamental change moves the film’s much lower in this ranking: the explanation for Christine’s evil. In the novel it’s very clear that the car and its sad-sack owner, nerdy Arnie, are possessed by the spirit of the evil man who’d owned the car previously, Roland LeBay—essentially becoming LeBay as the story progresses. In the film, it’s made clear that Christine is simply an evil machine. Similarly to The Shining, this shift from King’s human-focused terror to a more existential threat completely changes the thrust of the story.

    Children of the Corn
    There are now so many entries in the Children of the Corn film universe it’s impossible to really judge them all. Looking just at the initial 1984 adaptation, you’ll find plenty of differences, perhaps justified by the original story’s brevity (if you stayed faithful to the text, you’d have about twenty minutes of film). The movie completely rewrites the main characters and introduces others who aren’t in the story, notably extending the plot. It’s actually a pretty good low-budget horror film, which explains the durability of the franchise—it’s just not overly faithful to the original.

    Carrie (2002)
    If you think we’re just now entering the Reboot End Times, consider this: this 2002 made-for-TV version of King’s debut is the first of three Carrie adaptations on this list, and the least faithful. Intended as a backdoor pilot for a potential TV series, this adaptation falters despite a strong pedigree in Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller. Despite reinterpreting one key character, it hues fairly close to the novel for a while before coming up with a new ending in which Carrie walks away from destroying her hometown and… moves to Florida? I mean, if a psychotic teen girl with mental powers and a tendency for violence was going to move somewhere, it would be the Sunshine State, but that’s still quite the departure from the original’s bloody prom queen crowning.

    Apt Pupil
    This is one of the all-time most disturbing King stories, in large part because it does not rely on ghosts or monsters for its chills, but on the very real possibility that the good-looking, charming kid at school and the gentle, amiable old man down the street are actually raging sociopaths. What makes this film unfaithful isn’t the specific plot points, which are basically there, but the handling of the character of Dussander, a hiding Nazi war criminal, and the ending. In the book, Dussander is a complex portrait of a man who’s both victim and monster; he literally stinks of death and rot. In the film he’s played by Ian McKellan, and he’s altogether charming and handsome in spite of himself, while teenager Todd, who becomes his protege, is a horrifying monster in the guise of a valedictorian. The ostensibly darker ending is also a needless change that lessens the impact of the story.

    Often considered one of the more successful King adaptations, 1408 accurately recreates the spirit of the haunted hotel room story while more or less changing all the details in the first half. Which is odd, because King’s descriptions of the evil room’s torture tactics are pretty cool, and would work just as well. The film’s choices are also scary enough, so it’s a wash—until the ending, which goes way, way beyond the ending of the story and ventures into all-new territory.

    Secret Window
    Made during the height of the Johnny Depp As Leading Man era, Secret Window follows King’s novella Secret Window, Secret Garden—about a successful author who finds the lines between fiction and reality are becoming blurrier—book pretty closely for most of its running time, then discards the thematic resonance of its ending, placing it gently in the trash to deliver instead a bleaker and darker denouement, arguably turning a thoughtful, creepy story of a man literally fighting his baser impulses into a much flimsier story of a Crazy Man Who Kills Folk. To be fair, Depp sells it, and the ending works within the framework of the story. It’s just not the story King wrote.

    Cell is widely regarded as one of the worst adaptations of a King novel, but that’s not only because it differs from the source—a tense thriller about a singal broadcast over cell phones that turns people into mindless zombie-like creatures. It’s one of those occasional odd movies with big name actors (John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, among others) that looks cheap. Worse, it seems like everyone involved was pretty bored with it during production. It also commits the most grievous sin a horror movie can commit (SPOILERS!): the fake-out “it was all a dream ending,” showing the protagonist defeat the evil monster only to reveal it was all an Owl Creek Bridge delusion. Not only is that terribly cliché storytelling these days, it’s also not at all how King’s novel ends.

    The Dead Zone
    The Dead Zone is one of King’s most effective novelsin part because he makes a few interesting structural choices to tell it. The film was produced at the height of the first wave of King Mania, when it seemed like Hollywood was going to start adapting his grocery lists, and it’s pretty strong as a film thanks to David Cronenberg’s direction, Christopher Walken’s ideosyncratic lead performance, and Jeffrey Boam’s screenplay—even if it does throw away about half of King’s book. The end result is clean and polished, but lacking much of what made the novel more than an extended Twilight Zone episode. All adaptations have to make cuts, of course, but this one cut out the book’s bleeding heart.

    Cujo has always been a bit of an outlier for King, and an oddball book by any gauge. Basically an extended short story about a Very Good Boy who contracts rabies and goes slowly insane, trapping a mother and son in their car during a heatwave, the novel can be read as an exploration of addiction and alcoholism. It also employs a distinct hint of the supernatural. The film excises the supernatural stuff, changes the ending in a major way, and makes no attempt to offer Cujo’s perspective—a key element of the book that made the “monster” a tragic figure.

    Cat’s Eye
    This 1985 anthology film adapts two King stories, The Ledge and Quitters, Inc.. While the latter is pretty faithful, right down to the button on the ending, the former is very different. The story, about a man who is forced into a bet as to whether he can make his way around the five-inch ledge outside a penthouse apartment, is laser-focused on the protagonist’s point-of-view as he endures a true life-or-death struggle. While the basic story and ending remain the same, the antagonist in the film is a lot more active and involved; his fate is also made explicit, where in the story it is only implied. Also, there’s a cat, for some reason.

    Sometimes They Come Back
    Both the short story and its TV-movie adaptation are firmly in the forgettable of King’s oeuvre, but the film actually slightly improves on the original by making some vital changes to the story. On the page, the punks who kill the protagonist’s brother and later haunt him do so for apparently no reason at all—jerks in life, jerks in the afterlife, it seems. The film makes Jim directly responsible for their deaths, thus making their haunting and murder spree, focused on the adult Jim, a little more sensible. The film also tweaks Jim’s summoning of a demon that looks like his brother into simply being his brother’s ghost, which works better. Can we fault an adaptation for fixing issues with the original? Such is the struggle of this sort of ranking.

    The Raft
    This short story was adapted as part of Creepshow 2, and pretty faithfully—except for the ending. Telling the tale of four young folks who become trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake infested with a human-eating monster that resembles an oil slick, the story ends on a bleak but contemplative note as the lone survivor tries to find beauty in his inevitable death. The film naturally wants a bit more action, so it has him successfully swim for shore in a desperate race, only to be killed when the creature becomes a wave that engulfs him. The story’s ending is better.

    The Cat from Hell
    Adapted as one of the segments of Tales from the Darkside, this straightforward (well as these things go) story of a man convinced a black cat is trying to kill him—an act of supernatural revenge for the man’s testing of experimental drugs on thousands of cats—once again features an altered ending. In the story, the hitman hired to kill the cat dies horribly, and his boss’s death is implied. In the film it’s the reverse. Quality-wise it’s a wash.

    The Mangler
    This is one of King’s earliest published stories, certainly one of his oddest. The tale of a… possessed piece of industrial laundry equipment is not what literary scientists would call “good,” but it certainly is memorable. However, the film adaptation—by Tobe Hooper, and a spawner of two sequels—is pretty faithful, right down to the twist where the heroes think they’ve defeated the demon only to realize they’ve only made it stronger. The film adds a whole additional bit of story after the ending—understandable, since the story doesn’t offer much by way of satisfying resolution.

    The television adaptation of this story, made for the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot, is pretty faithful—the script was written by famed sci-fi author Harlan Ellison, in fact. Even so, it someone removes all the subtlety on the page and turns it into something pretty bland. Instead of the psychological trickery King gets up to—keeping the reader guessing as to whether protagonist’s George’s gross and terrifying grandmother is actually a witch—the TV take gives her glowing red eyes, dispelling any uncertainty. Otherwise, though, it sticks very close to the original—unlike the 2014 Blumhouse film adaptation mentioned earlier.

    The Stand
    If you prefer to pretend that the 1994 television adaptation of The Stand never happened, we understand—though honestly it’s not bad. This adaptation is the Schrödinger’s Cat of faithful King adaptations, however, because first you have to choose which version of the novel to compare it to in the first place—the original 1978 edition or the massive unabridged 1990 “definitive” version. Either way, the eight-hour mini-series makes a lot of changes to the story, eliminating dozens of characters and sequences, and combining others. While this is perfectly understandable, a truly faithful television adaptation of the unabridged version (which clocks in at over 1,000 pages) would still be on the air today; it’s forgivable that this one is only faithful in the broad strokes. It will be interesting to see if the currently percolating revision, coming to CBS All Access streaming platform in 2020 from writer/director Josh Boone (who proved he can at least bring a straightforward book to the screen with panache with The Fault in Our Stars) manages to better it.

    Riding the Bullet
    Edging solidly into the “mostly faithful” section of our list, Riding the Bullet adds a lot of embellishment to a marginal King novella (the most notable thing about it is that it was King’s first ebook publication, back when ebooks were new and seemed destined to turn paper books into objects of curiosity). The story is still focused on a guy named Alan who goes to visit his mother after learning she’s very ill, meets a terrifying specter while hitchhiking, and makes a cowardly choice when faced with death. The film changes the ending from the morally and existentially complex one King crafted into something a lot more standard to bad horror films.

    “Chattery Teeth”
    The universe sometimes seems destined to shamble along until every single King story has been adapted, whether it should be or not. Chattery Teeth is one that probably could’ve remained on the page—it’s about a set of possibly demonic windup toy teeth, which is at least on par with an industrial laundry machine when it comes to weird things to become possessed. But! As one part of the anthology film Quicksilver Highway, this adaptation is pretty faithful to the original story, although the film cuts off the ending to return to the film’s framing narrative (Christopher Lloyd as a traveling salesman telling scary stories to randos) to deliver a cheap scare. Technically, it doesn’t change the story’s actual ending, though, it only omits it.

    “The Night Flier”
    “The Night Flier” is an interesting story about an investigative reporter chasing down a serial killer striking small airports; the killer turns out to be a real vampire. The film follows the story closely enough, but chooses to add a character in a rival reporter, and twists the ending—the vampire frames the reporter for the grisly murders—and favors something far more gruesome and explicit. It’s not a bad adaptation at all, and you would be forgiven for wishing the sequel—written but never financed—had been made.

    “Graveyard Shift”
    Known to King fans as “the one with all the rats,” this early short story, published in 1970, is typical of King’s early work—it’s a bit ragged, taking inspiration from the pre-fame King’s experiences trying to pay his bills, and focuses on an unexpected source of terror—in this case a rotting textile mill whose rat population has been allowed to mutate, cut off from the world. The film isn’t great, but it sticks close to the story, with some added embellishments to make the villain more villain-y and the main rat more cinematic; it’s main diversion is allowing the main character to survive.

    “The Crate”
    This short story was adapted for Creepshow and is thankfully pretty faithful, considering how simple and direct it is. The story—about a deadly creature brought back from an arctic expedition in the 19th century and released to kill a few people 150 years later—gets a few tweaks, but the only real deviation is the hint that the creature escapes its final fate, whereas the story was more concerned with the amorality of its human characters. The crate prop has actually become one of those traveling Easter Eggs, showing up in episodes of The Walking Dead and other horror films as a treat for those who recognize its significance.

    The Dark Half
    The main difference between the film and the novel is the ending; King leaves it unclear whether George Stark is simply a split personality of author Thad Beaumont’s or an independent malevolent force, while the film goes the easier and dumber route of having Stark take actual physical form … before being torn apart by a flock of sparrows, which, okay, is a lot. Up until that point though, bnoth film and story follow the same plot and hit the same beats.

    Hearts in Atlantis
    This is a weird one; the source material is one chunk of a novel-in-stories, with shared characters and settings but largely standalone plots. The film adapts two of them, Low Men in Yellow Coats and Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling, which recount the friendship between a young boy and the strange, supernaturally gifted lodger who comes to stay in his mother’s spare room. However, on the page, the man’s life story connects explicitly to the Dark Tower universe; the film understandably removes all the references to those novels and substitutes shadowy government agents for the novel’s inter-dimensional monsters in rain coats. Despite that, the movie follows the on-the-page narrative pretty closely—even as it robs it of its raison d’etre. (It’s also worth noting that the title is entirely arbitrary to the film; the story from which it comes is about a college kid who develops an addiction to playing cards with friends amid the turmoil of the anti-Vietnam War movement.)

    Cycle of the Werewolf
    Adapted as 1985’s Silver Bullet by King himself, this is a pretty close parallel to the novella. There are some changes, but they’re mostly in the brutality of the deaths (punched up a bit for the screen) and some non-crucial details, like the precise way the hero, wheelchair-bound Marty, discover’s the identity of the werewolf who’s been slaughtering people once a month in his town. They are pretty small changes, all things considered. The real surprise is how good Gary Busey is in it. Seriously.

    Dolores Claiborne
    This is one of the most successful adaptations of a King book, capturing the magnetic voice of its titular narrator with a great performance by Kathy Bates. It’s faithful to the book in the broad strokes—the story is essentially the same, as are the big reveals and secrets—but the film opts to turn the focus away from Dolores exclusively to focus on her relationship with Selena, her estranged daughter, elevating Selena to a major character in the process. It’s a smart decision, but it does pull it away from the book somewhat.

    A Good Marriage
    This was always a great premise in search of a story; based on the true story of the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, it tells of a woman who discovers her husband has been a savage serial killer for decades, and then goes to savage lengths herself to protect herself and her kids from the man she thought she knew. Somehow the story never popped off the page, and the film—adapted by King himself, and very remaining close to the book—suffers the same fate. Maybe this is one he should have chopped and twisted.

    Dolan’s Cadillac
    King’s overt homage to Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado is a tidy little revenge story about a girl who buries a crime boss alive in his Cadillac after the crime boss murders his wife. It’s one of those stories where the mechanics of the protagonist’s revenge is the whole point. The film is a pretty faithful if low-energy production that adds a minor and unnecessary extra twist at the very end, when the protagonist learns that the crime boss was about to be arrested and ruined, making his gruesome revenge unnecessary.

    Big Driver
    This is a pretty straightforward adaptation of King’s revenge story, following a mystery writer who uses her skills at plotting (and some imagined characters from her novels) to track down and exact revenge on her rapist. The script adapts it pretty much beat for beat, with just one altered detail of consequence; on the page, the sympathetic bartender, Betsy (played by Joan Jett!), gravely agrees to keep the writer’s revenge murders secret out of shared experience in the story; in the film she’s actively cheerleading the murders at the end. It’s a seemingly small edit, but the tonal shift is striking.

    Netflix’s adaptation of King’s novella, starring Thomas Jane as a  desperate farmer who murders his wife for financial survival and lives to regret it hard, hews very close to the text right up until the end. Plagued by rats apparently possessed by the vengeful ghost of wife, Wilfred James flees to a seedy hotel room where the ghosts track him down; while both versions end with Wilfred getting what he deserves, King leaves it ambiguous whether the haunting was real or not. The film lands heavily on the side of “yup, they were.”

    Filmed as part of Creepshow (retitled as “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” and starring Stephen King himself in the title role, an act of arrogance he’s probably still regretting), the segment is very true to the story with a few embellishments, plus a final stinger that isn’t in the original. It’s one of those stories, though, where there’s really only one place for the premise to go, so it’s not terribly surprising to see it so high on this list.

    The second film made from King’s story of sentient machines is actually much more faithful than Maximum Overdrive. It adds some set up before getting the characters to the truck stop, and takes some liberties with the origins of the evil machines and how the folks deal with their situation, but follows the basic outline closely enough. That doesn’t mean you should watch it, though. We can’t stress this enough: You should not.

    How can a film about a girl who can start fires with her brain be dull? Well, in 1984, director Mark L. Lester and young star Drew Barrymore decided to find out. But somehow magically sucking the charm from every character and the tension from every plot twist isn’t exactly the same as deviating from the story—which Firestarter does not, remaining faithful to the original novel’s plot about a shadowy government agency that manipulates children with telekinetic abilities.

    The Mist
    The ending. Holy spitballs, the ending. As quality adaptations go, The Mist is a pretty good one, if far from perfect—it employs a there’s a major shift in focus and tone for a few of the villainous characters, but mostly the story of small-town residents trapped in a grocery store while supernatural horrors cavort in the world around them proceeds along the same lines as the original novella … until the ending, which is so dramatically different it really does spin the original text into oblivion. That said, King himself has gone on record admitting he thinks it’s an improvement over his own, which is certainly saying something.

    Right up to the last moments, the effectively chilling mid-80s adaptation of one of the leanest and meanest of the so-called “Bachman Books” is taken almost word-for-word from the novel, cashing in on a delightfully simple, horrifying premise—a selfish, obese man escapes justice when he hits an old woman with his car, and is cursed to grow increasingly thinner no matter how much he eats. Where the novel ends on a bleak and despairing note, the film adds a final button that is kind of incredible in its meanness; critics knocked the adaptation for a lack of likable characters, and they’re not wrong.

    Carrie (1976, 2013)
    While the more recent Carrie takes a more liberties updating the setting, both it and its 1976 predecessor hue pretty closely to King’s near-perfect novel, and thank goodness (we have the debacle of the 2002 version to show us how badly wrong you can go doing anything else). Of course, this is a bit depressing as a story about awful parents, horrific bullying, and mental health issues among teenagers written in 1975 is still completely on point almost 45 years later. Note: we are not equating the newer version with the de Palma take in terms of cinematic effectiveness.

    It: Chapter One (2017)
    Both adaptations of It have been more or less faithful to the book, with, of course, one huge exception—that being a extremely creepy, off-putting climactic (er…) moment involving the Losers Club’s defeat of Pennywise (if you’ve read the book, you definitely know what we’re referencing). Aside from wisely skipping that bit of 1980s-era King weirdness, the most recent film—which adapts only half the massive novel—earns points for giving itself room to breathe, but loses a few on the faithfulness scale by updating the setting from the 1950s to the 1980s, which in turn changes how Pennywise terrifies the kids—the old-school 1950s monsters in the book no longer quite carrying the same resonance. Chapter One also manages to transform Beverly, who in the novel is a fierce, damaged girl who takes action and has agency (even if it gets her into trouble), into a kidnapping victim who is rescued with a kiss, so, like, a hundred points off for that.

    It (1990)
    While it has its moments, the 1990 television miniseries is glacially paced and suffers from some dull performances and a reduced budget. But it has one incredible asset: the late, great Tim Curry, who rises far above the script and his fellow actors to make Pennywise absolutely terrifying despite the unimpressive (even for the time) special effects. Despite all of the above, it ranks above the far more cinematic 2017 version on this list for remaining more faithful to the original material, hewing more closely to the novels’ layered-flashback structure and retaining the original 1950s/1980s timeframe.

    Pet Sematary (1989)
    The original adaptation of King’s story about a cursed plot of land that causes pets (and other things) buried on it to rise from the dead remains close to the book (certainly closer than the 2019 remake), with the major exception of the elimination Wendigo, the native American demon that powers the “sematary” and lures people there with the promise of reanimated dead loved ones. Less over-the-top bonkers than the remake, this one makes do with the twists and scares King laid down on the page, to good effect.

    Desperation is the “mirror book” to The Regulators; the two novels are set in linked parallel universes (one of them also revived King’s Richard Bachman pseudonym, years after “his” untimely “death”). The film adaptation of the former removes a minor character, but is almost entirely faithful otherwise in terms of plot points and characters. It loses a few spots because it excises much of King’s philosophical exploration in favor of a focus on action, but it’s still very much the same story.

    Now we’re getting to the films that are basically torn from the pages of their source books. Are there minor changes between the book and this 1990 Rob Reiner film? Sure. But they are the sort of unavoidable changes inherent to any adaptation. The one major difference made in bringing the story of a successful genre writer, Paul Sheldon, injured in an accident and then rescued and held captive by an obsessive fan, is a very minor one. As a way of distracting his captor during an escape attempt, Paul at one point burns the manuscript Annie Wilkes has forced him to write. In the book, he’s faking, having set a stack of blank paper ablaze. In the film, it’s actually the real thing, which is arguably a better, more dramatic choice. Otherwise, the film tracks almost perfectly with the book—which makes sense, as its one of King’s more thoughtfully-constructed novels—and is otherwise essential for its Oscar-winning turn by Kathy Bates as Paul’s “number one fan.”

    Gerald’s Game
    The recent Netflix adaptation of one of King’s most overlooked, low-key novels, about a woman who is left tied to a bed by her husband, who dies during a sex game gone awry, is an almost word-for-word, scene-for-scene translation. It helps that the story is very contained, taking place mainly in a single room, and mainly inside one person’s head. There are very few supernatural elements in it, which makes it easy to keep the narrative tight and offers few reasons to make fundamental changes to the plot. It’s a pretty cracking small-scale thriller, too—enough so that it won director Mike Flanagan a shot at directing something a bit more in the classic King vein with this year’s Doctor Sleep.

    Stand By Me
    The main difference between King’s novella The Body and the film Stand by Me (another stellar Rob Reiner page-to-screen translation) is one of editing; the film removes a lot of stuff in order to streamline the story of four friends who wander into the woods in search of a rumored dead body and do a lot of growing up along the way, into movie length. The one major change the film makes is in the ultimate fate’s of the four friends: in the story, Vern, Chris and Teddy all die young, and Gordie is the only one left alive. In the film, everyone but Chris gets to live. While some might argue that this changes the ultimate message of the thing, its relegation to an epilogue argues otherwise.

    Okay, Dreamcatcher is not a good novel, and it did not make for a good movie. King himself has more or less disavowed the book, noting that he wrote it as a form of therapy while recovering from nearly dying after being hit by a van, and that he was on a lot of painkillers at the time. But since this isn’t a list of the best King adaptations, but the most accurate, here we are: because Dreamcatcher is pretty darn faithful to its insane source material, making only some minor changes to character names and the specific physical condition of one character. They even took some of King’s weirdest writing and stuck it right into the screenplay, which means you get to hear a lot of creative profanity spoken out loud by a professional actor. All in all, it’s fitting that the movie is so beholden to the book, considering the screenwriter, William Goldman, penned Misery—a much better movie taken from a much better book.

    The Shining (1997)
    Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining so much, he made his own—albeit for TV—writing the screenplay and choosing as director his pal Mick Garris, who also helmed The Stand, Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and Bag of Bones, not to mention Sleepwalkers, an original script by King but not based on one of his books or stories). Unfortunately for King, this miniseries, which is entirely his baby (he was also by all accounts involved in every aspect of the production) is not very good. One reason it’s not very good is its near-perfect fidelity to King’s novel: because King was determined to cram just about every word of the book onto the screen, it’s the most faithful adaptation you can imagine, but this results in a viewing experience that is akin to someone reading the book to you in a low monotone. Yet because The Shining is anything but a turgid novel, it’s somehow both incredibly faithful to the book—and not faithful at all.

    The Green Mile
    There’s really just one glaring difference between the story-as-written and the film starring Tom Hanks, and it’s the removal of a minor character who has little impact on the plot. Otherwise, the film version of this touching, tragic, ultimately uplifting story of a wrongly convicted death row inmate gifted with magical healing powers is a master class in boiling a novel (or technically a series of novellas) down to a screenplay—even if the resulting film is more than three hours long. As with all successful King adaptations, the film—written and directed by Frank Darabont, who we’ll be mentioning again soon—manages to not only recreate the details of the plot and characters, but also maintains the elegiac tone of the original, conveying a sense of dark wonder that elevates the story beyond its supernatural trappings. And as the gentle giant of a convicted murderer, Oscar nominee Michael Clark Duncan simply is John Coffey as King wrote him.

    The Shawshank Redemption
    Unquestionably the most faithful Stephen King adaptation, director Frank Darabont’s beloved The Shawshank Redemption is also the best (for years it sat atop the Internet Movie Database at the number one film of all time, as voted on by the site’s legion of users). True, there are some minor and superficial changes in the film version of the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, most notably the decision to make narrator Red a black man (played by Morgan Freeman); he’s Irish in the story. Also, the movie provides a most satisfying cinematic ending for its chief villain, the prison’s soulless warden. But you can’t blame Darabont for wanting to see such an odious man get what he deserves. In terms of overall plot and tone, it’s one of the most faithful adaptations not just of a King story, but of any novel ever. Maybe that’s why it’s so darn good.

    What’s your favorite Stephen King adaptation?

    The post Stephen King Book-to-Film Adaptations Ranked From the Very Faithful to the Wildly Inaccurate appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/06/28 Permalink
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    July’s Best New Thrillers 

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    July’s most thrilling books include a new hero from the masterful David Baldacci, the next Gabriel Allon adventure from Daniel Silva, James Patterson’s first foray into epic fantasy, and more.

    One Good Deed, by David Baldacci
    Baldacci spins a tightly-plotted period piece to introduce a new hero: Aloysius Archer, a veteran of World War II in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. When released in 1949, he finds himself in Poca City with strict instructions to get a job and stay out of trouble. Archer visits a local bar seeking a little bit of both when he gets a job offer: businessman Hank Pittleman wants a debt collected. Archer takes on the job, and soon finds himself in a mess of small-town plotting, as Pittleman’s mistress tries to use Archer for her own ends and the debt proves harder to collect than Archer expected. When someone shows up dead, the local police seem to think Archer, recently-arrived ex-con, did the deed. Archer brains, brawn, and desperation are all that’s keeping him from returning to prison—or worse.

    The New Girl, by Daniel Silva
    The 19th Allon novel centers on a tony private school in Switzerland—the sort of exclusive place only the children of the rich and powerful attend. The students buzz about the new arrival, a beautiful young girl who appears every morning and leaves every afternoon in a motorcade, surrounded by bodyguards. Her classmates all have theories as to who she might be—but they’re all wrong. When the girl is kidnapped while across the border in France, Gabriel Allon, chief of Israeli intelligence, is called into action. As Allon goes up against a familiar old enemy, the fate of girl and the world lies with him.

    Sophia, Princess Among Beasts, by James Patterson with Emily Raymond
    The prolific James Patterson (with Emily Raymond) stretches to infuse a new genre his trademark tension and thriller grit. At the core of this epic fantasy is a mystery that only Sophia, princess of a kingdom under dire threat, can solve. Sophia is smart and capable, beautiful and beloved by the people, and an avid reader who spent long hours as a child reading about a terrible realm filled with monsters. When she discovers that the place—and the resident monsters—are very real, and that an army is marching on her kingdom, Sophia knows it is her duty to protect the people who have put their trust in her. Her only hope is to solve an ancient a mystery—if she has time.

    Red Metal, by Mark Greaney and H. Ripley Rawlings IV, USMC
    Greaney knows just how to spin a modern thriller, and his co-writer H. Ripley Rawlings is a lieutenant colonel in the marines. Together they’ve created a razor-sharp near-future story of brutal combat and global maneuvering centered on a rare-earth mine in Africa. The mine was in Russian hands until Kenya reclaimed it out from under Russian special forces Colonel Yuri Borbikov. Borbikov draws up an ambitious, dangerous plan to get it back—Operation Red Metal. With simultaneous attacks on the U.S. Central Africa Command in Germany and the mine itself, Russia sets in motion a series of battles that Greaney and Rawlings depict through the eyes of the dedicated warriors tasked with carrying out their orders—no matter what. The result is a gripping and finely detailed story of modern warfare no fan of the genre should miss.

    Smokescreen, by Iris Johansen
    Johansen’s 25th Eve Duncan novel introduces Jill Cassidy, a journalist who returns from the war-torn country of Maldara haunted by what she’s witnessed. She seeks out forensic sculptor Duncan and asks her to help reconstruct the skulls of 27 children massacred by rebel soldiers. Duncan is moved but troubled by the opportunity, but she accepts the job and jumps on a flight to the site of the killings, the village of Robaku. Jill also wants Eve to reconstruct the skull of a mercenary named Nils Varak, the man responsible for the uprising that led to the murders—because Jill doesn’t believe Nils is actually dead and hopes to prove a government cover-up is underway. In an unfamiliar country, Duncan finds herself isolated and uncertain who she can trust. She must rely on her gut to get to the bottom of the mystery without becoming the next victim.

    The Russian, by Ben Coes
    Coes launches a new series and a new protagonist, former Navy SEAL Rob Tacoma. As the book begins, the Russian mafia has asserted itself as the most powerful organized criminal force in the United States, meeting any effort to curtail its activities with brutal violence. When its actions cross the line into the outright assassination of politicians, the president authorizes the CIA to recruit an elite team tasked with identifying, locating, and killing the powerful criminals ordering the murders. Tacoma and another former SEAL, Billy Cosgrove, are brought in—but Cosgrove is almost immediately identified and murdered in his own home by the Russians. Cosgrove must take on the mob single-handedly, both to get revenge for his comrade-in-arms, and to keep himself alive the only way he can—by killing all of his well-funded, well-protected enemies.

    What books are thrilling you this July?

    The post July’s Best New Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2019/06/28 Permalink
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    This Summer’s Essential History Books 

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    July is when America celebrates its independence, which means it’s the perfect month to stock up on history books. This month’s best include new tomes from Pulitzer winners David McCullogh and Rick Atkinson, the untold story of superspy Virginia Hall, and a firsthand account of D-Day that belongs on everyone’s to-read list.

    The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough
    David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

    Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations, by William H. McRaven
    There are those people who have earned the right to have their advice listened to without question, and Admiral McRaven is one of them. McRaven entered the collective consciousness with his viral commencement speech-turned-inspirational book, Make Your Bed, but he is more than a man in uniform dispensing wisdom—he’s a true-life hero, having spent his whole adult life serving his country in some of the most dangerous places in the world. McRaven’s autobiography reads like an improbable thriller as he recounts his childhood, his career as a Navy SEAL and as commander of America’s Special Operations Forces, not to mention his involvement in events like the rescue of Captain Phillips, the execution of Osama bin Laden, and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

    Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy, by Dan Abrams and David Fisher
    Abrams and Fisher deliver a close examination of an mostly overlooked moment in 20th century: a 1915 lawsuit against former president Theodore Roosevelt. The libel suit, brought against Roosevelt by political boss William Barnes due to Roosevelt’s public assertions that he was a corrupt official, was a sensation at the time, highlighted by Roosevelt’s turn as a witness on the stand, where the full power of his personality and intellect came into view for a whole week. After 38 hours being badgered by Barnes’ lawyers, Roosevelt emerged unscathed, having made an incredible impression on everyone involved. This detailed study of the incident brings Roosevelt to roaring life, and is a treat for anyone who wants to get a clearer of one of history’s larger-than-life players.

    The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, by Rick Atkinson
    Pulitzer-winning Rick Atkinson delivers the first of three books covering the Revolutionary War in astonishing detail. This initial volume takes the reader through the first 21 months of the conflict, beginning with Lexington and Concord in 1775 and leaving off in the winter of 1777. Along the way, Atkinson dives deep into the personalities on both sides of the battlefield, including men who defined the fighting, like Henry Knox and George Washington, and men who defined the struggle for hearts and minds around the world, like Benjamin Franklin. The result is one of the most detailed and comprehensive studies of the early stages of a war that seemed doomed to be a short and futile one for the Americans, but instead birthed a nation.

    Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond
    Jared Diamond, another Pulitzer-winner best known for Guns, Germs, and Steel, returns with a unique look at history as seen through the lens of psychology, applying trauma treatment protocols to entire nations in order to explain sudden policy shifts and course corrections, from Chile’s wild political swings in the 20th century, to Japan’s opening to the West in the 19th century, to the persistence of the institution of slavery in the U.S., to the Winter War between the U.S.S.R. and Finland. Diamond argues that nations either take an honest look at themselves after disaster… or they don’t, and that willingness or unwillingness to acknowledge hard truths is the determining factor in what happens next.

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
    Harari is no stranger to ambitious works of sweeping historical context, and here he tackles the story of how Homo sapiens—that is, us—came to be not just the dominant species on the planet, but the sole variety of the human species left standing. Harari argues that three distinct moments of evolution revolution made us masters of the planet: a cognitive revolution that gave us a mental advantage over other species; an agricultural revolution that allowed us to form permanent settlements and complex societies; and most recently, a technological revolution that allowed us to truly master the world, its resources, and the other creatures that populate it. Harari thoughtfully weaves in the disturbing question of whether our ascendancy and mastery has actually made us happier—and offers plenty of thoughtful evidence that the answer is no.

    K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner
    Baseball fans know pitching has always been the true throughline of the game. By charting the progress of the sport through 10 distinct pitches, Kepner offers a unique perspective on one of the most analyzed and romanticized games ever devised. His investigative work traces the origins of the monumental pitches—from the curveball, first developed in 1867, to the maligned spitball, still secretly in use today—and explores the lives of legends pitching like Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez, who discuss the technical side of their profession in fascinating terms.

    The First Wave: The D-Day Warriors Who Led the Way to Victory in World War II, by Alex Kershaw
    The most complex and dangerous invasion in military history needed a front line, and the people who were part of the first wave of soldiers who stormed the beaches on D-Day faced the brunt of the danger while pursuing the most difficult missions. Without them, all who followed would’ve been lost. Kershaw illuminates the stories of the men who were first on the beach, from the paratroopers who were the first to enter Normandy, to the men who led troops through thick machine-gun fire on Juno Beach, to the French commandos who came home to use their intimate knowledge of the area to undermine the German invaders’ defenses. This is an important addition to any World War II reading list.

    A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, by Sonia Purnell
    Anyone interested in stories of wartime bravery should know the name Virginia Hall. She joined the State Department when the Foreign Service was uninterested, lost her leg to a hunting accident, drove ambulances in France duringWorld War II, and eagerly signed up with the British Special Operations Executive when the opportunity came. Hall was a brilliant agent, creating a well-organized and effective network that did great work fighting the Germans—until her cover was blown in 1942. She fled to Spain, then demanded to be sent back to France to continue her work. When she was refused, she joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services to assist with D-Day preparations. Hall is one of the most important—and least-known—heroes of the war, and it’s about time someone brought her remarkable story to light.

    Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War, by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
    As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the number of eyewitnesses to the heroics and horrors of that incredible achievement dwindles—making the 98-year old Lambert’s contribution especially important. Lambert’s charm and humility shine as he describes his early life, his training, and the brutal fighting he engaged in all over the theater, from Africa to Normandy, where he suffered a broken back while rescuing his fellow soldiers. The sheer level of insider detail that Lambert can offer on what it was really like to be involved in Operation Overlord is incredible, ranging from the way soldiers interacted to the equipment and training they had to work with. This is a personal and powerful testament to the heroics of an entire generation, told through an individual’s lens.

    What’s you favorite history read of the year so far?

    The post This Summer’s Essential History Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 2:00 pm on 2019/06/07 Permalink
    Tags: , ann patchet, , , , grange house, hotel new hampshire, , , , , , sarah perry, , the essex serpent, , , , the ninth hour, the postmistress   

    12 Books to Read if You Loved The Guest Book, May’s B&N Book Club Selection 

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    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for May, Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book, opens in 1935 with the story of Ogden Milton, the head of a wealthy and privileged American family at the height of its power. When tragedy strikes, Ogden purchases an island in Maine in an attempt to help his wife Kitty overcome unspeakable loss. It quickly becomes a place of central importance to the family, one that bears witness over the years as three generations of Miltons struggle through the decline of their social status and the erosion of their family fortune. A lush novel, filled with secrets that are slowly revealed as Blake moves back and forth through time, The Guest Book is filled with incisive observations about wealth, systemic racism, and the lengths a family will go to in order to conceal the dark and unpleasant truths behind its legacy. Once you’ve read The Guest Book and discussed it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on June 11th at 7pm, you may find yourself adrift, looking for your next great read and wondering what could possibly follow in the footsteps of this haunting and evocative novel. That’s where we come in. Here are twelve books to read once you’ve (regretfully) finished The Guest Book.

    The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake
    If you loved The Guest Book, your next stop is Blake’s intricate, thought-provoking 2011 novel The Postmistress. Set during World War II, the story is anchored by three very different women—Iris, the straitlaced postmistress of the Cape Cod town of Franklin; Emma, the young, lonely wife of newly-arrived doctor Will; and Frankie, a self-reliant journalist covering the Blitz in London. Blake follows the lives of these women as Will, crushed by a tragic mistake, heads to London to make himself useful and meets Frankie, leaving a very pregnant Emma behind to wonder about his fate. All the threads come together when Iris, normally a fierce defender of the sanctity of the postal system, confiscates a letter, setting events in motion she can’t possibly predict.

    Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
    If your sweet spot in The Guest Book was the inexorable ripple-effect of unintended consequences that come from even the smallest of choices, imagine a book about a girl who experiences all the alternate lives she might have led. In 1910, Ursula Todd is stillborn—and then she is born again, managing to live just a little longer before dying. And then she is born again—and again, each time retaining vague hints about her previous existence, hints she can use to avoid tragedy and to potentially change the course of human history. Atkinson’s novel is a story about how our decisions affect both our own lives and those of everyone around us, and she makes the burdensome secrets of the past feel as real and consequential as Blake does. As an added bonus, the story of the Todd family is continued in Atkinson’s book A God in Ruins, which tells the story of Ursula’s younger brother, Teddy.

    The Ninth Hour, by Alice McDermott
    McDermott is a National Book Award recipient for Charming Billy and a multiple Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Ninth Hour, set in Brooklyn in the 1940s and ’50s, tells the story of a family impacted by terrible, tragic decisions that reverberate throughout their lives. Tended to by an elderly nun after her husband commits suicide, a young widowed mother and her newborn baby are brought into the fold of the Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor. In a time and place that was unforgiving at best toward families overcoming scandal, the young mother discovers that the worst moment of her life is best not mentioned. The consequences of her husband’s act will affect generations to come, but so will the loving friendships she makes with the nuns’ help.

    Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
    Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for A Visit From the Goon Squad, and fans of Blake’s novels will enjoy this evocative period novel, which features a less-experimental but just as moving story set in New York City during the Depression and World War II. Manhattan Beach follows the struggles of Anna Kerrigan, first as an adolescent idealizing her beleaguered father, and later at 19, after his disappearance, when Anna is charged with supporting her sister and mother by working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard as its sole female diver. A chance encounter with her father’s mobster boss begins to shed light on the truth about Anna’s dad, landing squarely on similar themes to The Guest Book: how the actions of our loved ones can change our lives with unintended consequences. You may want to have tissues on hand for this beautiful, detail-rich novel.

    The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving
    This charming, eccentric novel has all the sprawling and strange family history a fan of The Guest Book could want, telling the story of Win and Mary Berry and their five children (and dog, Sorrow) as Win struggles to attain the sort of great life he always assumed he’d lead. A teacher at his second-rate alma mater in New Hampshire, Win buys the girls’ school when it closes and transforms it into the doomed Hotel New Hampshire, then later uproots the family for Vienna to run a hotel owned by a near-magical figure from Win and Mary’s past. There’s tragic death, tragic love, and dark comedy to spare; if you loved the epic family entanglements in The Guest Book, this one is a must-read.

    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    One of the great pleasures of a novel like The Guest Book is the complicated trips through time that give you glimpses of a family’s grand story as it slowly coalesces into clarity. Franzen is a modern master of the ambitious family saga, and this novel is a family study told through layered flashbacks and various voices and points of view, tracing the slow, graceful arc into disappointment of the Berglund children as they realize the idyllic life promised by their parents’ own seemingly ideal lives isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be—nor is the freedom they possess to make their own choices and their own mistakes. As in The Guest Book, the various pieces of the Berglund’s story slowly come together into a whole, revealing secrets and illuminating the patterns they find themselves trapped in, the power of this story builds.

    Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
    Patchett drew on her own life story to craft this memorable tale of the aftermath of a drunken, stolen kiss that detonates two marriages. In the wake of the divorces that follow, a new relationship is forged, one that will impact the children of those broken marriages for decades to come. Anchored by a core mystery, Patchett follows the fates of Bert and Teresa’s children as they’re brought together by their parents’ affair and second marriage, examining their relationships with each other, and observing the influence of their childhood experiences on their adult lives, which are marked by dysfunction and unexpected tragedy. If you were on the edge of your seat flipping pages to find out the secrets at the center of The Guest Book, you’re going to love Commonwealth.

    The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
    Lombardo’s debut novel slots perfectly into a Blake-inspired reading list, following the Sorenson family—David and Marilyn and their daughters Violet, Wendy, Liza, and Grace—from their 1970s childhoods to their 2017 crises. Though their parents’ marriage was a seemingly ideal pairing of passion and affection, the daughters struggle miserably in their own relationships, and find that their adult lives are nothing like what they expected. The sisters uncover secrets about each other, meddle in each other’s lives, and continue to learn how to live on a near daily basis, while Lombardo teases out the slightly-less-than-perfect truth about their parents’ union. The end result is a delightful exploration of family that will reverberate deeply with readers.

    Grange House, by Sarah Blake
    Fans of The Guest Book will be delighted to discover that Blake’s debut novel explores many of the same themes of family secrets, with the added pleasures of a Victorian gothic twist and a shivery ghost story. Set in Maine in the summer of 1896, the titular house was once the grand home of the Grange family, but now only spinster Miss Nell Grange remains, living simply while a small staff runs the estate as a hotel. A young girl named Maisie Thomas spends every summer there with her family, and becomes obsessed with Nell, an author, who inspires her to dream of writing a book. Maisie’s relationship with Nell prompts the old woman to offer ominous hints about past events, and Maisie loses herself in the old woman’s story as her own life becomes less and less real. All the threads come together in a gripping, emotionally powerful ending.

    The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
    Maybe what really drew you into The Guest Book was the sense of a lost and tarnished family legacy—which makes this frightening tale an ideal chaser. Set in a crumbling estate in Warwickshire after World War II, this novel combines classic Gothic ingredients—a once-great house gone to seed, a family in dire straits, inexplicable illnesses, haunting spirits, encroaching madness—into a modern, meaty, character-driven story. The dwindling Ayers family struggles to survive in the dilapidated, crumbling family estate known as Hundreds Hall as the world outside, transformed by war and technology, becomes less and less familiar. Waters tells the story from the point of view of a brilliant doctor from humble roots, who has fond memories of Hundreds Hall from his childhood, which makes his determination to explain everything with science and logic all the more unsettling.

    The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins
    If you want more of the secrets, the mysteries, and the sense of dread inspired by having an incomplete picture of what really happened found in The Guest Book, look no further. Set in the early 19th century, this story follows Frannie, a slave owned by John Langton, who is given to George Benham in London. Benham has Frannie spy on his wife, Meg, whom he suspects of scandal, but Frannie and Meg become lovers. When George and Meg are found murdered, Frannie is arrested—but claims she cannot remember the events leading up to their deaths. This novel combines all the pleasures of a historical romance and a murder mystery, made all the more complex and tragic by Frannie’s status as a slave.

    The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
    Perry’s novel, set in 19th century England, focuses on Cora Seaborne, an intelligent and restless woman pushed into a society marriage at the age of 19. When her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her with her young son and his nanny, Martha, Cora is glad to be free again. She travels to the country to enjoy freedom and privacy, and finds herself drawn to a local legend about a magical serpent, blamed for a recent death. A naturalist, Cora decides she will prove superstition false and perhaps discover a new species, and meets William Ransome, the local vicar, who seeks to do the same for different reasons. Their relationship is at the heart of this dark, magical story of love, mystery, and seeming opposites who can’t seem to resist each other. If you loved Blake’s nuanced female characters, Cora Seaborne might be your next favorite fictional heroine.

    What readalikes would you recommend to readers who loved The Guest Book?

    The post 12 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Guest Book</i>, May’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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