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  • Jeff Somers 6:40 pm on 2017/03/08 Permalink
    Tags: city on fire, , , ,   

    5 Novels That Sold Movie Rights Before They Were Even Published 

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    Usually there’s a natural order to the world: the sun rises in the East, new books come out on Tuesdays, and if a book sells enough copies, someone will eventually buy the film rights. Wait, scratch that last one—the business of entertainment has grown so competitive in recent years, it’s becoming more and more common for books to sell film rights extremely quickly—often even before the book is published, before anyone knows if it is going to connect with readers at all. Here are five recent examples, though whether or not they will all make it to the screen remains a mystery.

    Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
    Shetterly began work on Hidden Figures in 2010; the film rights were sold to William Morrow in early 2014, while she was still polishing the final draft. In fact, Shetterly was still working on the book while the film was being made, which is all kinds of unusual. The project wandered through a few studios as the producers—Shetterly among them—sought the right fit. You certainly can’t argue with results: not only has the book been a breakout bestseller, the film made box office bank and garnered major awards love. The combination of a relevant civil rights story, Shetterly’s scholarship, and the convergence of Hollywood talent made this gamble pay off big time.

    The Hate U Give, by A.C. Thomas
    Thomas’ novel, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, has been racking up buzz at an overwhelming rate. First, it sold at an auction in which no fewer than 13 publishing houses vied for right to publish it. Proving that buzz begets buzz, that scramble led directly to a heated competition the film rights, which were eventually sold (perhaps “awarded” is a better word) to Fox 2000, which quickly assembled a team to bring it to the screen, including actress Amandla Stenberg (known for her role as Rue in first film of The Hunger Games), director George Tillman Jr., and screenwriter Audrey Wells—all before the cover had even been designed. It’s easy to see why: the story demands to be told. It’s about a black high-school student—navigating between her outsider status in both her impoverished neighborhood and the tony prep school she attends—whose life is sent into chaos when police shoot an old friend dead right in front of her at a traffic stop. Books don’t get more timely, and the excitement around this debut just keeps growing.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    Weir’s crazy journey from disappointed wannabe author to huge success story is pretty well known, and this one’s a bit of a cheat. Weir posted The Martian to his blog as a serial, and later self-published it. It went on to rack up tens of thousands of sales, and a phenomenon was born. The fact that it sold print publishing and film rights simultaneously, therefore, isn’t much of a surprise. What is surprising is that Weir never left his house as the big money deals were signed: he hates to fly, and so he negotiated every single contract over the phone with people he’s never met. Of course, by the time he was making those calls, the book had already been proved a winner, so no one was being particularly psychic.

    World War Z, by Max Brooks
    Sometimes, selling the film rights quickly doesn’t mean the film will make it to the screen any time soon. Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company bought the film rights to Brooks’ zombie war classic in 2006, a few months before the book was actually published, because the actor had read an advanced copy and loved it—in fact, he outbid Leonardo DiCaprio to secure them (if you’re an author, that’s a sentence you dream of reading about your own book). The first screenplay written was tossed aside, however, as the difficulties in filming a story structured as a sprawling, global oral history became apparent. By the time four credited screenwriters were done and several years had passed, the end result was an over-budget action film that bore little resemblance to the novel—but it did perform well enough to inspire a sequel.

    City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
    Think back to the halcyon days of 2015, when it seemed like all anyone could discuss in terms of books was Hallberg’s City on Fire. Hallberg actually sold the film rights even before he’d even sold the book to a publisher, which has to be some sort of record. Also probably a record was the $2 million advance he received for a debut novel by a non-celebrity. The fate of the film is in severe doubt, however, and while Hallberg’s literary career is probably going to be fine, kids who might have to write reports on this doorstopper are going to have to wait a long time before there’s a movie they can download instead of reading it.


    The post 5 Novels That Sold Movie Rights Before They Were Even Published appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 6:00 pm on 2015/11/19 Permalink
    Tags: city on fire, gangsterland: a novel, jim henson: the biography, killing pablo: the hunt for the world's greatest outlaw, like that? read this, , wildflower   

    6 Must Read Books for Fall TV Lovers 

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    Fall isn’t just changing leaves and pumpkin spice everything, it’s also a chance to get neck deep in some new TV shows. And the excitement that comes with a new show doesn’t have to end when the credits roll. There are plenty of fantastic books out there that dovetail nicely with your favorite new superhero tale, police drama, or Muppet singalong. Check out a few of our suggestions, and stock up that bookshelf for the cold months to come.

    If you’re loving Narcos, try Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw, by Mark Bowden
    Netflix’s newest series, Narcos, follows the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, one of the most famous drug kingpins. For fans of the show who want an even more in-depth, no-holds-barred look at the life of this infamous criminal, Killing Pablo is a must read. True crime fans and students who’ve studied the situation all turn to Mark Bowden for his unparalleled account. Sylvia Longmire’s book, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, will also help readers get a better sense of where the cartels started, and how they affect us today.

    If you’re digging Supergirl, try Wildflower, by Drew Barrymore
    CBS debuted Supergirl this fall, joyously satisfying our need for smart women in capes. The show’s star is charming, grounded, but determined to prove herself and protect those she loves—while also balancing a nine to five job with a hard-nosed boss. Drew Barrymore’s newest memoir hits quite a few of those same notes, minus the cape. Moving from homelessness and near illiteracy to a champion of women and women’s roles, Barrymore can be pretty super. And if Hollywood isn’t your thing, then look no farther than Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala, by an author who deserves her own superhero label along with that Nobel Peace Prize.

    Fans of Blindspot will enjoy City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
    Fans ans are talking about NBC’s Blindspot, the amnesia-driven whodunit that mixes personal drama with over-the-top crimes. Jane Doe struggles with her tattoos, her ties to horrible crimes, and her identity. Garth Risk Hallberg’s stunning debut, City on Fire, features the same air of personal drama, seemingly unsolvable crime, and a search for identity. Set in NYC in the 1970s and filled with gritty realism and tons of music, this one will be hard to put down. Or if the memory gaps and unreliable narration are the real draw of Blindspot, than grab The Girl on the Train for a mystery fix.

    Watching The Muppets? Check out Jim Henson: The Biography, by Brian Jay Jones
    ABC has brought The Muppets back to TV for the first time since the 70s, and with them an enthusiasm for all things puppet. This renewed love for these iconic characters will hit a high this May with the publication of a new biography of Jim Henson, the ultimate puppet master. Written with the help of hundreds of hours of interviews, and with cooperation from his family, this could rival the Steve Jobs biography. If waiting until May is a stretch, then find comfort in It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider while you wait to see what happens on Up Late with Miss Piggy.

    Those watching Heroes Reborn will love Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
    Set in the future, when a virtual world has all but superseded the real one, brilliant outsider Wade Watts struggles to solve a video-game puzzle that will reward him with unheard of riches and glory—if he can survive against a gang of ruthless competitors who will stop at nothing to win. In the same way the characters in the revamped series Heroes Reborn must decide who to trust, the isolated Wade struggles to find allies in a world where he doesn’t feel like he belongs. Fans of the show’s action, the weapons, the time travel, and the manga-inspired filmography might also love The Multiversity Deluxe Edition, a supersize graphic novel in which many DC and Justice League superstars show up.

    If you’re enjoying Quantico, read Gangsterland: A Novel by Tod Goldberg
    In the ABC series Quantico, new FBI recruits deal with interpersonal drama and a possible terrorist in their midst. Who’s dating who, and who’s trying to attack them from within? On the flipside, in Tod Goldberg’s newest novel, Chicago-based Sal Cupertine is a hit man targeting the FBI, who is now leading a double life as Rabbi David Cohen in Las Vegas. Intrigue, crime, and the Torah have never been so thrilling. Not into crime stories with two-faced agents? Pick up Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner, to get an inside look at the history of our preeminent investigation force.

  • Lauren Passell 12:42 am on 2015/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , city on fire,   

    6 Things We Learned at Garth Risk Hallberg’s #BNAuthorEvent 

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    Hailed a “a big, stunning novel” by the New York Times, and a “very-damn-good American novel” by The Kirkus Review, Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Firereleased today, has book-lovers from every corner buzzing. Jumping back and forth in time, the ambitous debut novel explores New York City during the 1977 blackout with the use of a non-traditional format, employing handwritten pages and black-and-white illustration. Last night, to kick off what is sure to be an exciting book tour for a hotly-anticipated book, Hallberg spoke before a packed room at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble and signed books (that weren’t even being sold yet in the rest of the world.) And here is what we learned:

    It took Hallberg six years to write City on Fire. (And it might take you just as long to read it.)

    Risk is his real middle name—not just what he was taking by tackling such an ambitious project. “I started writing under Garth Hallberg, but my sister discovered there is another one out there, another Garth Hallberg. He writes marketing books. I haven’t read them, but I’m sure he would be pleased if you did. I like my middle name, so I started to use it.”

    The structure was influenced by Don DeLillo’s Underworld. “It has these short sections punctuated at intervals that occupy different narrative space—I always found that very comforting and pleasurable as a reader.”

    No surprise, here: he loves big books. “I love these long novels, but they can be very daunting, especially depending on how fast you read. I’ve always found that there can be a sense that you’re slightly at sea wondering, ‘where am I going? Were am I coming from? That’s why I love DeLillo. I remember reading Underworld and feeling very guided by him.”

    He doesn’t want you to be intimidated by weight of this thing. “I know it was borderline obnoxious to write a 900-page book, but it’s broken up into smaller narratives.”

    People are comparing it to Bonfire of the Vanities. “I’m humbled,” he says.

  • Ester Bloom 3:17 pm on 2015/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: city on fire, , , , , ,   

    Sex, Drugs, & Rock And Roll In the Sprawling City On Fire 

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    First-time author Garth Risk Hallberg proves that “Risk” is his middle name for a good reason: his debut, City On Fireis an ambitious, thousand-page historical novel, one as stuffed with character and incident as the Gotham where its story takes place. It combines the topicality and verve of Jennifer Egan’s similarly music-obsessed A Visit From The Goon Squad with the setting and tone of Rachel Kushner’s jaundiced, 70s-in-the-Big-Apple epic The Flamethrowers. In fact, with its similarly incendiary title, Hallberg seems to be giving Kushner a clear nod.

    Toward the beginning of the book, someone attacks a young woman on New Year’s Eve, 1976, outside a fancy cocktail party thrown by one of the city’s most illustrious families, the Hamilton-Sweeneys. Two of the scions of this family are our protagonists: Regan, the responsible though unhappy daughter, and William, the irresponsible, estranged, still unhappy son. We also spend much time becoming intimate with their partners: Keith, who married into Regan’s wealth determined to prove himself worthy, and successful enough to exist independent of it; and, more sympathetically, Mercer, a transplant from rural Atlanta, Georgia, an outsider in every way whose love for William could be called crippling.

    Three other protagonists also share the spotlight. Richard is a world-weary yet obsessive journalist, returned from a self-imposed exile to try to capture the zeitgeist as well as the professional glory that has so far eluded him. And Samantha (Sam) and Charlie are teenagers from Long Island: big-eyed wannabes and music-lovers who sneak in from the suburbs for a shot of adrenaline until, of course, they end up with much more than they can handle.

    Hallberg is as observant of the details of interpersonal relationships as he is of the atmospheric disturbances of urban life. We watch as Keith justifies one self-destructive business choice after another, increasingly desperate to show his wife he can make good, no matter how many times she makes clear all she wants is for him to be good to himself and his family. We see Mercer uncover more and worse secrets about his remote, damaged boyfriend. We note that the hapless Charlie has fallen hard for the charming Sam, but that Sam has her sights set on more dangerous and more exciting things than an adopted, asthmatic boy from her hometown.

    We observe it all from the front lines, where Hallberg has placed us, and guided by him we understand it perfectly.

    Readers expecting a crime story, or even a noir, won’t find what they’re looking for. The violence with which the book begins fades into the background noise of New Year’s Eve: not forgotten, exactly, but remembered as something of a blur, juxtaposed with the jarring screams of downtown punk music and the cruel repartee of uptown socializing, and squinted at through the fog of a hangover. Mercer is originally taken in for questioning about the crime, being a black man found at the scene, albeit one who was only there to help, but City On Fire is not a book about blatant racial injustice, either. Hallberg is more interested in how life is unfair in more subtle, insidious ways.

    He’s also interested in creating a kind of multimedia text that will re-create, in a sense, the dense, textured experience of being in New York City in the 1970s. Certain pages are handwritten. An illustrated black-and-white zine, purportedly the work of Sam, is reprinted in full as one “Interlude.” Another medical form, which becomes a long confessional memo, serves as another. Scribbled entries from a notebook titled “Evidence” serve as a third. And so on. Hallberg jumps us backward and forward in time, not so much giving us histories as letting them accumulate around his characters into landslides of drugs, secret abortions, secret children, addictions, and betrayals.

    Some readers may lose patience with the scope of this novel, its insistence on telling so many stories at once, while others will find its nontraditional structure immersive. But everyone should admire the magnitude of the task Hallberg has set for himself: to reveal, through a climactic city-wide blackout, the truths of so many people, truths long hidden from those they love most as well as themselves.

  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2015/09/11 Permalink
    Tags: bells and whistles, city on fire, , , , slipstream   

    5 Novels That Are More Than Books 

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    There are novels, and there are graphic novels—but these days, there are more and more books that fall somewhere in-between. These books seek to reinvent what the word “book” even means, incorporating not just images, but multimedia elements, internet links, and even smartphone apps to tell a story in a way that is more immersive than anything previously possible. When it works, it can be a stunning achievement. These five novels include elements that go far beyond mere words on a page—and make it work.

    City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
    Not officially out until October, Hallberg’s book was famously sold for $2 million a few years ago, and has been a hot topic in insider circles for months. A sprawling, ambitious 900-pager set in New York City around the time of the famous 1977 blackout, it has been compared to Bonfire of the Vanities and other seminal doorstoppers—but Hallberg plays with the form by including elements like emails, official records, and even an entire zine. While the bulk of this tremendous word is words, he expertly litters the pages with these elements to give the universe he’s creating physical heft and visual anchors. You might not want to carry this tome with you on your commute, but you should certainly set aside some time to read it.

    The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, by Shaun David Hutchinson and Christine Larsen
    This affecting young adult novel is the story of Andrew, whose parents and sister die in a car accident that occurred while he was behind the wheel. Andrew refuses to leave the hospital, working in the cafeteria, sleeping in a closet, and “borrowing” what he needs to survive, and hallucinates the social worker trying to help him as Death herself. He also draws a comic about Patient F, who strives to keep his loved ones safe. The prose is strong and the story becomes truly powerful when Rusty, a boy suffering sever burns after a hate crime, checks into the hospital—but the complete graphic novel of Patient F that’s included is more than just a gimmick. It gives Drew’s pain and struggle physical form and shape, adding depth to the story that’s truly compelling.

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    Pessl’s cheepy novel, about a reporter chasing after a legendary underground filmmaker whose movies may be more than dark entertainment, is filled with creepy details, and hums with a paranoid energy that fans of horror films will recognize instantly. The book includes web links to short videos and other multimedia, and has an associated app to “decode” portions of the text. None of the bells and whistles are necessary to understand and enjoy the novel, but diving in wholeheartedly rewards the reader with an expanded sense of the universe—as well as a deeper sense of unease. Don’t read this book alone at night, that’s for sure.

    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
    Real (and truly bizarre) vintage photographs appear throughout this story of teenage Abe, recovering from the murder of his grandfather (by, he believes, a monster only he can see) on a remote island that once housed the titular home. The pictures lend the novel atmosphere, and the fact that they were found and not staged makes them only more ominous and compelling. Riggs spins awesome stories for the “peculiar children” captured in these still lives of moments long ago. Time travel, mysterious monsters, and Abe’s slow realization that he himself is “peculiar” combine to make this a charming, exciting adventure—but the photos anchor it in reality.

    S, by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
    S is an ambitious, ultimately astonishing project that is much more than a novel—in fact, it uses a novel as background. It is a recreation of an “aged” copy of a novel called Ship of Theseus, festooned with notes in the margins written by two strangers as they trade back and forth the story by fictional author V.M. Straka about a mysterious man known as “S.” Featuring not just a novel covered in notes, but also photos, postcards, and other exhibits, this is a complicated story told through a variety of means—and a lot of fun for anybody who loves the idea of stumbling onto a mystery.

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