You might be asking, “Why the hell is Awards Circuit covering books?” Our endless movie watching, prognosticating on the Oscars, and living life has to leave you wondering who has time to read. I do (I’m an English major so reading is in my DNA). And think about the countless book rights that are bought up by Hollywood daily, many deals made before the book is even published. With that, I decided to tackle the world of literature because what gets published today could be an Oscar nominee/winner tomorrow. I won’t just be recommending books you should check out, I’ll also give mini-book reports on what I’m reading – whether it’s been adapted/going to be adapted for film, or should be. If you end up getting a library card or a Barnes and Noble frequent buyer card out of this, feel free to thank me by sending me more books!
NEW IN THEATERS
I haven’t seen director Lee Daniels’ biopic about White House butler Eugene Allen, but I recently finished the novel that inspired the movie. The Butler: A Witness to History by Will Haygood may be brief, but it details the entirety of Allen’s career in the White House, as opposed to the compressed period Daniels talks about. The book particularly highlights Allen’s later years and Haygood’s struggles to track him down. Originally published as a magazine article, the brevity of the story can turn readers off. It only took me an hour or so to read the entire book because much of it is a republishing of the original article with a few pictures and detailing of the film. At times it feels like nothing more than reading a making-of monetization about the movie. The story is still fascinating, but the book only proves more effective if turned towards the visual medium.
Who I Recommend This For: If you saw The Butler and want to know, or if you haven’t seen The Butler but still want to be able to discuss it with friends.
NEW ON BOOKSHELVES
Author Lawrence Deering envisions a perfect, albeit false, world in his latest book, The Brotherhood. The story follows a supposed miracle man named Aaron Davis who is seen as a Messiah to some and the Antichrist to others. After solving the world’s problems, including bringing peace to the Middle East, the United States is forced to join his New World Order. This angers Congressman Jack Holder who is tasked with taking Davis out.
Worthy of an Adaptation?: The plot certainly sounds like a high-tension thriller with religious elements of the Left Behind or Da Vinci Code series (but with better story and scripts hopefully). The plot definitely reads like a popcorn thriller, but with a strong script could have awards potential. You have two strong male characters that spar off.; maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Davis and George Clooney as Holder. **All casting is armchair only. Got better suggestions, leave them in the comments. ** AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE NOW.
“Stonefly” by Scott J. Holliday
Stonefly is the first of the Jacob Duke series by Scott J. Holliday. The series tracks Duke, a man who returns to his sleepy, backwoods home-town bordering a mental institution. Jacob wants to move on with his life, but has the ability to grant any wish he hears, complicating his new life. When a young boy wishes his father dead, Jacob has to look into himself to decide whether he can fulfill it.
Worthy of an Adaptation?: The story of a damaged man and a young boy brings up shaky comparisons to this year’s Mud. Mud didn’t have a supernatural story element, but the relationship was fraught with complications and questions of morality. Let’s continue down this path and place Matthew McConaughey as Duke if this project was to be picked up for adaptation. McConaughey hasn’t latched himself to a franchise, and this being the first one in a series could keep the actor in a steady role (The Lincoln Lawyer didn’t do McConaughey any favors). AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE NOW.
Author K.D. Holly goes from “Africa to the wild West” with her novel, A Crowd of Stars. Detailing the lives of three college roommates who meet charismatic but dangerous men, the book seeks to blend love with adventure.
Worthy of an Adaptation?: The Amazon premise was pretty weak, as evidenced by my brief synopsis. The tale of three friends going down different paths has been well-tread, and could only lend itself to a popcorn movie, or worse, a chick flick. In looking at reviews on Amazon the book is set in the 1960s which is always fun for young actresses wanting to tease their hair and don minidresses. With no real description of characters I’ll refrain from armchair casting, but this would certainly be an interesting story for a trio of independent actresses to tackle. AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE NOW.
“Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy” by J.T. Lundy
Reading the premise of Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy put a smile on my face because even the synopsis sounds fun (and more than adaptation-worthy). The book tells the tale of US Customs agent Chris Thompson whose life is by no means exciting. It all changes when the President of the United States tasks Thompson with infiltrating the “Big Mac Party,” a cultish party devoted to worshiping Senator Joseph McCarthy. Living the life of a secret agent, a life he’s always dreamed of, makes Chris happy, but puts his life in danger.
Worthy of an Adaptation?: Hell, yes! Again, I haven’t read the book but the synopsis of J.T. Lundy’s text sounds engaging, darkly satirical, and funny as hell. I immediately saw Simon Pegg (barring he could work an American accent) in the role of a mild-mannered Customs guy turned US spy. With my luck they’d end up casting Ben Stiller who would work, but I think the comedy would need to be broader. This is the type of movie that could turn into an awards contender if the script – and text -has crackling dialogue (dare I recommend Aaron Sorkin?). Happy Utopia Day, Joe McCarthy doesn’t come out till October 1st, but it’s one to keep an eye out for.
Memoirs are go-to for adaptation material. I believe this year already has one with Judi Dench in Philomena, but what’s one more. I can’t really do the synopsis justice so here’s a direct copy from Ticket to Ride: The Promise of America’s Amazon page: “In this unflinchingly honest memoir of a military man, a public school teacher, a successful entrepreneur, and most recently, a candidate for the Congress of the United States, Don Hussey s story will resonate with people from all walks of life. This is the story of a man who outwitted the odds with uncommon character to bring home his ticket to ride.”
Worthy of an Adaptation?: It’s a vague synopsis, but stories of perseverance always work at the box office (Forrest Gump for just one example). Knowing next to nothing about author Don Hussey, I don’t feel comfortable casting someone, but if the story is inspiring and adventurous enough maybe someone could see an Oscar for playing him someday.
In Soviet, post-war Russia, Jez Kornfeld is a young Jewish soldier tasked with dispersing a Jewish demonstration in Red Square. Upon arriving at the protest he discovers his sisters are part of the group, and he must hide them somewhere in Moscow. As Jez attempts to get him and his sisters out of Russia and into the Ukraine, his determined commanding officer, Michel Petrichova tries to protect him which complicates issues with the corrupt captain, Otto Mitrokhin.
Worthy of an Adaptation?: I condensed as much about Rik Stone’s novel, Birth of an Assassin, as I could from the Amazon plot summary but there is certainly enough espionage, double-dealing, and scheming to sustain a two-hour movie. Shades of the work of John Le Carre went through my head and the dearth of characters has me seeing this as a strong project for an ensemble cast. I saw Tom Hardy in the lead role of Jez considering the strength that would need to be employed, and while I don’t want to make this a Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy reunion I could buy Gary Oldman and/or Benedict Cumberbatch in the roles of Petrichova or Mitrokhin. AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE NOW.
What books do you recommend?
Have suggestions on my armchair casting?
Have you read one of the books I’ve mentioned?
Feel free to throw whatever in the comments.