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July 18, 2011

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David Ehrenstein

-- said the screenwriter of Gypsy Wildcat.

Matt Blankman

Great stuff. I'm a big fan of Block, especially the Scudder books, although I am not sufficiently caught up for the new one.
I read an interview with Leonard once where he said that on the set of "The Moonshine War," Patrick McGoohan came over to him and asked, "What's it like watching them turn your book into a piece of shit?"

jbryant

Fun read! Haven't seen 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE in ages, but it seems to me that Ashby's rep continues to grow and the film has found a number of defenders.

The mention of H. N. Swanson brings back a bad old memory -- Shortly after I moved to L.A. in '93, a Swanson agent agreed to represent me. He told me to start putting together 'wish lists' for three of my screenplays, and we set a follow-up meeting to make everything official. Before that date rolled around, the agency was bought out by Renaissance, and my guy was out of a job. No one in the new regime would even look at my scripts to see if I might be worth retaining (though they graciously said I could have my copies back -- I suggested they recycle them).

warren oates

GET SHORTY always struck me as a little too cartoonishly goofy, not getting the seriousness of the criminal element or the looming possibility of violence or even the gist of Southern California nearly as well as JACKIE BROWN (Leonard's personal favorite of his adaptations).

Anyway, great guest post. I like Lawrence Block's writing. Especially his writing about writing. He's always inspired me to be more productive and his writer's block cure totally works.

Graig

Nice guest post. And correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Mr. Block co-write MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS with Wong Kar Wai? Now how did THAT collaboration come about? Because, at first blush at least, that looks to be an awkward marriage of writer with material.

And what's a good Lawrence Block starting point? This is the first thing of his I've read.

Michael Adams

"And what's a good Lawrence Block starting point? This is the first thing of his I've read."

When the Sacred Ginmill Closes may be the best of the Scudder novels: very literary, driven by character, mood, and milieu.

Brad Olson

i like Block's Cruise-as-Reacher shot! but even that casting is nowhere near as bad as Statham-as-Parker. an abomination.

warren oates

I second Michael Adams. Read WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES and if you're interested in nonfiction TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT.

Just about the wrongest a writer's ever been about a film adaptation of his work: Stephen King and THE SHINING. I don't understand his disdain for the Kubrick version or his inexplicable production of that ludicrous TV remake. No one's ever severed a book better -- capturing the essence of the story, the world, the tone; leaving all the good stuff in; cutting all the boring stuff out -- than Kubrick did with THE SHINING. If only Kubrick had been King's publisher/editor, then we'd all think he was a literary genius instead of merely the great story thinker-upper and sometimes really good writer he is.

Oliver_C

"Not sure why King objected to Kubrick's 'The Shining'. Guess it wasn't up to the standard of a regular Stephen King film."
-- Alex Cox

Lawrence Block

Thanks, everybody. Graig, I did co-write MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS. WKW was a big fan of my Scudder books, and wanted us to work together. A couple of projects didn't work, and then he came up with this. He'd made an eight-minute film set in a deli,basically the frame of the story, and had the idea she could go on this picaresque trek across America, having adventures here and there. He kept changing his mind every few days as to what the story was, and when he did love a bad idea, there was no getting him to let it go. His pictures are beautiful, and actors love that he makes them look gorgeous. I like him, he's a very decent and charming fellow, but we were a much odder couple than Oscar and Felix.

lipranzer

For what it's worth, Mr. Block, I'm one of the hardy souls who actually really liked MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, and I liked this piece. I shall seek more of your work out.

I do have to say, though, the thing about bad adaptations of good books is it's much harder to convince people Carl Hiaasen is one of, if not the, funniest writers in America today if all people have to go on are the movie versions of STRIPTEASE and HOOT.

Lawrence Block

Carl's savagely funny. I haven't seen either of those films, and now I'll make sure not to. I can see why people would want to adapt his work, and I can also see why they'd fuck it up.

I'm glad you liked BLUEBERRY. I thought Strathairn and Portman and Weisz were terrific in it. And it was visually magnificent throughout.

Stephen Bowie

A couple of years ago I told Elliot Silverstein I'd recently seen NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON, and he snapped, "I'm sorry."

(As in, sorry I'd had to endure it, rather than apologizing for having directed it, although perhaps that was implicit. In any case, I was afraid to probe any further. And I actually didn't think it was that bad.)

Harry K.

On the Leonard front, I'm always here to put in a good word for 52 Pick-Up, my favorite. I've never read the novel, a minor refrain on this post, but I always thought that if you like grimy desperation, and who doesn't, you'd be hard pressed to find a better example then 52 Pick Up.

Mark Mason

Glad you mentioned Westlake's Parker novels, Mr. Block...the first four or so are absolutely superb crime entertainment: I haven't seen any of the film versions out of the high-percent chance that they won't live up to the books, even though POINT BLANK and THE OUTFIT are rumored to be pretty good. I always regretted Daniel Craig being cast as Bond because he would've made a superb Parker, in my idealized gritty 1960s-set films the novels deserved.

And it's always good to remind one's self of the Cain remark you quoted: though I've also heard that attributed to Chandler, it's possible that they both had similar thought processes (don't tell Chandler's ghost though, I recall reading somewhere that he hated Cain with a passion and thought he only could write about "flies buzzing around garbage" or some such turn of phrase.)

To return to film, I think that the 1940s film versions of Cain's MILDRED PIERCE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY were nothing to sneeze at (not a fan of the John Garfield POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE though.) The adaptations of Chandler's Marlowe novels I think have been pretty universally disappointing, though I have a soft spot for Hawks' BIG SLEEP. It's a fun film with good performances, but there's almost nothing left of the soul-chilling darkness of certain parts of the novel.

That Fuzzy Bastard

King's dislike of THE SHINING always made sense to me---he's accurately diagnosing how the movie lost what's most interesting about the book, even as he reveals his own writerly attachment to basically internal/psychological elements of his book that don't actually translate to film.

In the book, the haunted-house aspect is really secondary to Jack's internal struggles; the Overlook is an arena where his best and worst selves battle it out. Fundamentally, it's a book about parenting, and about the terrible fear that you're going to be just as bad at it as your own parents were. Much of the book's power comes from the way that the present and the past are constantly blurring together; the constant intrusions of the Overlook's ghost are essentially objective correlatives for Jack and Wendy's inability to escape their parents' bad examples.

This is all really moving and interesting, but it's also very internal and backstory dependent. Kubrick tossed it, and made a kick-ass haunted house movie with a self-conscious rejection of psychological depth (why does Jack go crazy? Kubrick doesn't care). King rightly notes that this isn't his book, but as his more faithful and absolutely terrible miniseries adaptation showed, it's almost impossible to adapt what he wrote into a good movie. In a way, I wish the more faithful adaptation had been done by Cassavettes, or some other director who would more willfully flip Kubrick's structure completely, jettisoning the haunted-house elements in favor of an unsparing portrait of an alcoholic father and breakdown-prone mother trying to care for a special-needs child.

Bettencourt

I can certainly understand King's disappointment/ambivalence/dislike for Kubrick's The Shining (not the director's best, but my favorite of his films), especially for the major alterations from the novel, but whenever I read King's opinion on any movie (and this may not be fair of me) I can't help remember that, though an outstanding horror novelist, King is a really dreadful writer of teleplays and screenplays. I still have vivid memories of a lengthy sequence in the miniseries version of The Stand, where the townspeople have a meeting to decide who should be on the committee to figure out what to do -- is this really a good use of screen time, even in a four-night series?

I still think a great horror film could be made from Pet Sematary, but it wouldn't have a King screenplay (or Mary Lambert direction).

And let me just add that I'm thrilled that my new favorite blog has a guest blogger who is also one of my favorite mystery/thriller writers.

As a Stark-Parker obsessive, I don't think Statham is at all a bad choice for the role, though the blurbs I've read about the new film suggest that its Parker has some sort of code regarding not taking money from people who can't spare it -- as far as I can remember, Parker's only code from the books was don't kill anyone if you don't have to, but only because it causes too many problems.

jbryant

Since I sometimes get funny looks for singing the praises of Jason Statham and Taylor Hackford, the notion of them teaming up makes me a little giddy. Maybe I wouldn't feel that way if I had read any of the Parker novels, but there you go.

Jandy Stone

This was a really enjoyable guest post - thanks for stopping by, Mr. Block. Adaptation in general fascinates me (as do remakes, which are, after all, a form of adaptation), and it's great to hear such a refreshing look at it from an author. I'm also a fan of My Blueberry Nights, by the way - it was the first WKW film I saw and I still have a soft spot for it.

Brian

Mr. Block, any thoughts about Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptations of Parker? I haven't read the original books, but the comics are gorgeous and compelling.

Earl Kemp

Gee, mistur Shaw, u sur writ gud.

mike schlesinger

I always thought it was Faulkner who made that "Cain" quote, but who can say at this point?

Mr. Block, I adore the Bernie Rhodenbarr series. When may we expect another?

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