Fear in Writing: A Place of Execution Finds a Place on (gasp) Television!

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Place of Execution Finds a Place on (gasp) Television!

I stumbled upon Val McDermid in the overwhelming B&N one day and happened to pick up her very best novel, A Place of Execution. It was a miracle in many ways because, at the time, I was quite averse to female authors. (This is a statement for another post.) But I read the book with awe and near hero-worship eyes. The sentences took me hurtling down paths of English countryside I never knew existed. The adjectives and spaces between dialogue threw me into a time I hadn't explored. And the twists! I won't spoil a single one for you but I will say: if you haven't read this book, you must, especially if you are a writer.

And now it is on TV.

This is not a revolution. Books have turned into plays, into movies and into television shows for centuries, decades. Some beautifully: Atonement, Gone With the Wind, The Maltese Falcon, For Whom the Bell Tolls. But some have taken a gorgeous book and decoded the imagery, falsified the fantasy: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kiss the Girls. (For your own picks, and some surprises see the books-to-movies database.)

I feel that to go from a book to a movie takes something away. Maybe much is added, but it cannot replace that which is gone. And I am sad to see Val McDermid's A Place of Execution become a television series, because it was so perfectly, for lack of a better word, executed.

Of course, I can make the choice not to watch a given movie or show, but I think it is sad when the show is seen as a replacement for the book. There are people who think Gone With the Wind is a movie only. The same for Atonement, and many more examples. Would I ever turn down a movie deal on a book? In this post I am not talking about dollars and cents for the author. I am simply saying, as a reader, I find it sad to see the words rubbed out and replaced by something that cannot fill the void.

Will you watch your favorite book on-screen?


  1. It's so incredibly difficult to turn a book into a movie and do it well. One of the few I've really enjoyed was Lord of the Rings. It was quite different from the book, but true to the spirit. I still haven't brought myself to watch Holes or James and the Giant Peach. (I'm a teacher). Just can't do it.

  2. Absolute Power by David Balducci is an example of a movie (Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman) that did very well at the box office, yet paled in comparison to the book. The book is one of my Yop 10 favorites of all time. Then I watched the movie, Terrible in comparison. Yet those who watched the movie thought it was great and never realized there was a book out first. Same with The Right Stuff.

    Stephen Tremp

  3. I still remember my fifth grade teacher reading to us daily from James and the Giant Peach. The imagery was so vivid in my ten year old mind, and the world peach has a whole different connotation to me because of that book. I don't want to see it on a giant screen! It is big enough in my mind.

    I'm also someone who doesn't look at radio web pages for fear the site of a radio personality will pale in comparison to their voice. I'm a great follower of NPR, especially Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. I know what Mo Rocca looks like from his TV appearances, but I will NOT go to a taping of the news game show! In a way, it would spoil it for me.

    Luckily, writing takes a great imaginiation. I also think reading takes one, too.