Received my author copy of the ‘Panic Button’ paperback today (thanks to all at All2gethr HQ!). This is, of course, my movie novelization based upon the screenplay for the film (out now on UK DVD/Blu-ray). The Panic Button book is out now (from the film’s producers via their imprint ‘All2gethr Industries’) & available at both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. My thanks to John Shackleton, David Shillitoe and Gareth Davies for their help & support.
So, I got to thinking about all those ‘books of the film’ I devoured as a kid. Movie novelizations have always been a bit of a guilty pleasure, but in recent years there has been a bit of a resurgence in interest with tentpole genre movie adaptations from cool writers such as Ramsey Campbell and Tim Lebbon, among others. Is that me trying to justify indluging such a guilty pleasure, by saying they’re cool? Truth is, I’ve always enjoyed them!
Showing my age here, but this was back in the day when home video was yet to arrive and change things forever. The closest a kid could get to the cinema experience was the old Universal/Hammer tellybox double bills on the BBC over the weekend, or a special screening of six minutes (WOW, SIX MINUTES!) of silent Super 8 footage from “Star Wars” (as it was then known, none of this “Episode IV” malarkey) at a wealthier friend’s house. Sigh, those were the days when the only spoilers for a movie were contained within the shiny panels of a fold-out collectable poster magazine, of which I had dozens as a child – everything ranging from E.T., through the Star Trek movies, to Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers (“ee-gee-bee-gee-bee-gee, what’s up Buck?”). Which brings me neatly back to ‘the book of the film’.
I often read (well, devoured, is probably a truer term) these ahead of the film in question’s release, spending long hours poring over the ‘8 pages of color photographs!’ sandwiched between the already-yellowing pages of high octane movie-based narrative and snappy dialogue. Part of the fun was seeing how the events in the book matched up with the film when I finally got to see it, kind of an act of adaptation in reverse, if you will. Some of my favorites still grace my shelves, Arthur Byron Cover’s ‘Flash Gordon’ being an all-time fave of mine. I loved the lurid, 30s, pulp fiction style of Cover’s adaptation and still do – especially the chapter subtitles, which YELL at the reader, for example: ‘CHAPTER SEVEN: FLASH BITES THE BIG ONE!’ I had no idea, at the tender age of ten years old, what ‘biting the big one’ actually meant. But it made quite an impression on me, especially in the context of the ‘8 pages of color photos!’ which featured the lovely Ornella Muti as Princess Aura about to fall victim to the dubious attentions of the ‘bore worms’. “Underling, I’m bored. What plaything can you offer me today?” says Ming the Merciless. Quite.
Other cherished movie reads of mine included ‘Star Wars’ and its pre-‘Empire Strikes Back’ “sequel”; ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’ (both from movie novel legend Alan Dean Foster), ‘TRON’, ‘The Last Starfighter’, ‘The Black Hole’, ‘Krull’, ‘Outland’ and, of course, the grandaddy of them all, William Kotzwinkle’s (LOVE that name) ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’. And it wasn’t all science fiction, oh no, take for instance the beautiful ‘Nosferatu’ novelization (pictured above) with its red-tinted page edges and gorgeous black and white photo gallery (I particularly enjoy how the impossibly beautiful Isabelle Adjani is credited as ‘Isabelle ADJANI’ in each of her photos – quite RIGHT, too).
As you can probably tell, during the process of developing the Panic Button novelization, I got a bit misty eyed about the cinematic cookbooks of yesteryear and did some research around the subject. There are movie novels based on movies based on already existing novels (phew!), pseudo-sequels and spin-offs based on film franchises desperate to keep the ball rolling (and the cash registers ringing) while the property is still ‘hot’, and books that feature fonts so large you could read them from the moon – all for a sturdier page count and thicker, more consumer-friendly spine.
If, having read this far, you’re feeling a bit nostalgic too for these oh-so-guilty pleasures then I urge you to check out these links, which are filled with wonders:
- Revenge of the Novelizations (amusing reviews of classics and some “not-so-classic-classics” of the form): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
- Cult Film Freak interview with the mighty novelizer Alan Dean Foster.
- Joe Queenan ponders terrors including Hannah Montana adaptations at The Guardian.
Now, I’m gonna pop my author copy of ‘Panic Button’ on the shelf in pride-of-place next to Arthur Byron Cover’s ‘Flash Gordon’ and, if just for a few moments, feel like that 10 year-old kid again.