OK, so I’ve done the war movie roundup (click here to read it) and I’ve even pointed up to everyone how the campy old TV series “The Love Boat” is just spectacular entertainment (click here to read that), so today I’m digging into my bag of tricks and rated by Top 10 favorite books and how they were translated into movies (and a couple onto TV).
I’ll start at No. 10 and work my way to my without-a-doubt favorite book. You’ll notice many of the top 10 are from the 1970s. When you are young, I believe books make a bigger impression and stay with you longer. Below are the books’ ranks, their titles, the years of their publication and the authors. So, let’s wind it up and let it go …
No. 10: ‘Dead Solid Perfect’
. (1974) by Dan Jenkins
Just as “Caddyshack” is the definitive golf movie, then “Dead Solid Perfect” is the definitive golf novel. “Dead Solid Perfect” is as out-there as “Caddyshack” with content, but when “Dead Solid Perfect” was turned into a movie (for cable – HBO, I believe) it became golf dreck instead of a golf legend. Randy Quaid and Kathryn Harrold stumble around and he’s completely lost as the headliner. It’s just not a good film – click here for its description on IMDb.com.
No. 9: ‘Tourist Season’
. (1986) by Carl Hiaasen
“Tourist Season” was reporter-and-novelist Carl Hiaasen’s first solo novel and he instantly founded the Florida-weird genre of literature. Fortunately it has yet to be made into a motion picture (not many can be made into as good a film as fellow Miami Herald writer Dave Barry’s “Big Trouble” – click here for my review) since I don’t believe any filmmaker has the talent to do it justice.
No. 8: ‘Red Dragon’ | ‘The Silence of the Lambs’
. (1981 | 1988) Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris’ second and third novels are each equally great, with “The Silence of the Lambs” (the third) edging out “Red Dragon” ever so slightly. Both were made into movies and there is a much wider gulf between the two films. “The Silence of the Lambs” film (click here for my review) is an Academy Award winner and has Jodie Foster. “Red Dragon” (originally made as “Manhunter” – click here for my review) isn’t as good, but it isn’t a horrible effort. The remake (called “Red Dragon”) was so-so and Edward Norton doesn’t do anything special. You won’t be disappointed with either of the books or either of the films.
No. 7: ‘Up Country’
(2002) Nelson DeMille
“Up Country” is my favorite book by Nelson DeMille and it is about a sort-of retired military investigator who is asked to return to Vietnam (where he served in the war) on an espionage mission. It is tight, ratchets up the tension nicely and is a wonderful read. John Travolta is set to play the lead when they make the film. The main character in the novel is the same from the Travolta film “The General’s Daughter,” which was taken from another DeMille novel with the same character. I didn’t watch “The General’s Daughter” … certainly didn’t believe Travolta could do the part justice and I’m sad to read he’s going to ruin one of my favorite novels when it comes to the big screen.
No. 6: ‘The Eagle Has Landed’
. (1975) Jack Higgins
Jack Higgins writes pretty much with the same two or three formulas, but he does such a good job that you enjoy them all. I like “The Eagle Has Landed” best of all his works and it was a neat little war film (click here to read my review) that starred Robert Duvall and Donald Sutherland (who also did the only WWII hippie in Clint Eastwood’s “Kelly’s Heroes” – click here for my review of that one). You’ll like the book better here, but you won’t turn off the film.
No. 5: ‘The Choirboys’
. (1975) Joseph Wambaugh
Well, it had to happen. Someone had to take one of my favorite novels and make it into a movie that is pure crap. The blame for “The Choirboys” one lies with director Robert Aldrich. The acting’s bad (although a couple of actors appear to try); the cinematography would embarrass a sitcom cameraman; and the screenplay so bad that Wambaugh disowned the film and sued to have his name removed as the book’s author from the film’s credits. Click here to read my review of this stinker.
No. 4 ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
. (1971) Hunter S. Thompson
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” is an incredible novel based on the real-life adventures of noted journalist Hunter S. Thompson. I had this one No. 1 for a while before it settled into its permanent slot at No. 4. I haven’t seen the whole film version of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” with Johnny Depp, but it looks good and credible (true to the book to a fault) and Depp did the adaptation of another Thompson book: “The Rum Diary” (he was very friendly with Thompson before the author’s suicide in 2005 – has it been 10 years already?).
No. 3 ‘Noble House’
. (1985) James Clavell
I had “Noble House” down the list for a while, but I have come to enjoy it so much (I reread its 1,100+ pages at least once each year) that it has moved up to a permanent No. 3 spot. “Noble House” is an even better novel than Clavell’s most famous work: “Shogun.” Actually, both were made into TV mini-series – but “Shogun” is better than “Noble House” (click here for my review of ‘Noble House’). Pierce Brosnan stars in “Noble House” while Richard Chamberlain headlined “Shogun.” You can’t go wrong with either one, but “Shogun” the mini-series is just plain better.
No. 2 ‘The Day of the Jackal’
. (1971) Frederick Forsyth
“The Day of the Jackal” was the first novel I truly fell in love with. It is great (click read my story about it and a timeline of its plot) and you can enjoy it now as an e-book. Just as good is the wonderful adaptation by director Fred Zinnemann. It is one of the best adaptations to film from a novel you can find. It builds its tension with deliberation and “The Day of the Jackal” is just a wonderful movie (click here for my review).
No. 1: ‘North Dallas Forty’
. (1972) Peter Gent
“North Dallas Forty” is simply the best sports novel of the 20th century. You can name others and they’re good, but they’re not “North Dallas Forty.” Peter Gent’s pretty-much-autobiographical account of life in the NFL in the late 1960s and early 1970s is outstanding. No so much so the film “North Dallas Forty” with Nick Nolte. As I wrote in my review (click here to read it), it is good but flawed. Check out the book instead of revisiting the film – it is tremendous.
So there you have it. You know my Top 10 favorite books and I’ve reviewed the movies, TV movies or TV min-series of most of them. Think about reading them. You won’t regret a single one.
© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2017.
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