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Blurring the line between TV Shows and Books

DNBAN33166 | 11/14/2010 | Author : Vanishree Mahesh | WC :668

An increasing number of books are being turned into TV shows, and surprisingly...vice versa, writes Vanishree Mahesh

There is an undeniable charm for readers in seeing books they have read come alive in motion pictures. From Gone With the Wind to the recent Twilight, the cinemas have amply catered to this passion. Now television has stepped into the arena: more and more books are being made into serialised shows. The small screen has gone even a step ahead and has reverse-engineered the book-media tie-in — every TV drama worth a mention is coming out with books based on its script. This seems more like a branding exercise than a literary pursuit, but nonetheless, the publishing industry is benefitting.
Tolkein's Lord of the Rings or Stephen King's Mist (a short story) garnered a large number of new readers when they were made into movies.  John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Ken Follet t — many of these popular writers became even more popular thanks to the cinematic conversions of their fictional works. Now in recent times the TV has helped writers such as Kathy Reich, Alexander McCall Smith, and Robert J Sawyer become known amongst the non-reading populace.
Bones (left), a highly popular crime drama at present, is inspired by Kathy Reich's thrillers detailing the use of forensic anthropology to unearth crime. A group of forensic experts and anthropologists headed by Dr Temperance Brennan help an FBI team determine causes of wrongful deaths. Reich's books are a fascinating read while the TV adaptation of them is equally gripping.
Robert J Sawyer was a name known only to science fiction readers. When his novel Flash Forward was made into a TV series, he was instantly known to millions of viewers of crime procedurals. The main premise of the story is what happens when all mankind simultaneously falls unconscious for two minutes. There is a large scale disaster. The TV adaptation of the novel has given it a crime angle by bringing in the FBI to investigate the disaster. The philosophical ponderings of the original novel are lost in the process, but the TV show has certainly succeeded in getting Sawyer the popularity he deserves.
On the other hand, Castle, another popular police procedural drama currently going on, is an original TV script. The main protagonists of the show are Richard Castle, a debonair crime writer and Kate Beckett, a beautifully grim cop. Richard gets called by NYPD to help Kate solve a murder that is executed as a copycat from one of his novels. Castle is so inspired by Kate, he starts a new series of novels with a heroine he calls Nikki modelled after Kate.
There are books based on Castle but with a rather clever twist — the books sport Richard Castle as the author and Nikki Heat as the heroine of the series.  For those uninitiated in the TV show, the books are made to look like original thrillers written by someone named Richard Castle. Thus far there are two books sporting Nikki as the detective — Heat Wave and Naked Heat, which read like a light Perry Mason mystery.
Bones is released as a book again, but this time based on the TV script. This is not written by Kathy Reich but by Max Allan Collins. It is a tall order for a newbie writer like Collins to fit into Kathy's shoes but for those who watch the TV series, this book is closer home than Kathy's original novels.
Most children's shows that are made into books have a very straight forward approach — what you see is what you read. From Bob The Builder to our very own Chota Bheem, kids get to read what they see on TV. Books made out of crime procedurals could probably take a leaf out of this. It will be good if individual episodes of good crime dramas were made into short stories, rather than into novels. There are times when as viewers we miss details and reading these stories could fill in the missing blanks. Who knows, gripping books born out of popular shows may even turn some TV addicts into readers.  dnasunday@gmx.com



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