We just heard that his 1978 novel, The Stand, will be adapted for the big screen in a joint production by CBS and Warner Bros. Apparently the book-to-film treatment has been a long time coming, though the last drive ended with a punt to a 1994 TV miniseries starring Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald that got mixed reviews.
No word yet on who will write the script, or who will star in the iconic roles of Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith or Randall Flagg. Though The Stand is certainly cinematic, I'm not sure that a two—or even three—hour film can cover this 1,000-page (in the 1990 uncut version, anyway) behemoth, which features dozens of characters and epic, converging storylines.That said, I'll probably see it anyway. What do you think?
Singer/songwriter Patti Smith won the National Book Award in 2010 for her memoir, Just Kids. It was her first book of prose—but the Guardian reports that she has been working on a crime novel for two years. A longtime fan of detective stories, Smith cites Mickey Spillane and Sherlock Holmes as influences.
Fans of Smith's musical work also have something to look forward to: she's recording a new album.
Do you think songwriters can be good novelists? Nick Hornby has made the transition in the other direction in a collaboration with Nashville musician Ben Folds, and one of my favorite songwriters, Josh Ritter, will release a first novel in July. Are there others you can think of?
Heartwood by Belva Plain
Delacorte • $26 • February 8, 2011
We were saddened to hear about Belva Plain's death last fall at the age of 95—she had done a lovely "Meet the Author" feature for us back in 2004 and was a favorite author for many BookPage readers. But she left behind a final manuscript—one that was a sequel to her best-selling 1978 first novel, Evergreen. In Heartwood, the children and grandchildren of Evergreen heroine Anna get their own stories, and as the novel opens, Anna's daughter Iris is excited about having her three children home for Thanksgiving. Iris thinks the children she has to worry about are her sons, but her daughter Laura is having problems of her own with her husband, Robby.
"You know how my folks love having the whole family together. And Dad loves Thanksgiving. . . ."
"It's a hyped-up commercial travesty, and you know it."
It was fashionable in their circle to say things like that, but suddenly, Laura realized that she didn't believe it. She pictured her parents on Thanksgiving Day after the meal was set out on the dining room table, and everyone was seated. Mom would be glowing, although there would be something tentative in her eyes, because Mom never could trust her happiness. But there would be no such shadow in Dad's smile. He would look around the table at his handsome children, their spouses and children, and his eyes would shine with the joy of a man who had built a life for himself on the ashes of despair His love of this country that had taken him in was not a hyped-up travesty.
"I don't mean to be corny, but my dad knows in a way that you and I never will what it means to be an American. That's why he loves to celebrate Thanksgiving. It isn't just about the food or the Macy's parade for him. He really does give thanks. You know?" The sullen, closed-off look left Robby's eyes. For a moment he was the Robby she had loved and married—the sensitive boy who knew what she was thinking before she did. "Please come with me," she said.
Based on a popular blog in the voice of a bookstore clerk who turns survivalist in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, Madeline Roux's debut novel puts a new spin on the zombie genre. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped follows Allison and a small group of survivors who are trying to reclaim the world for humankind. Here, Allison shares some of her tips for making a survivalist's diet a bit more palatable.
Well, the answer is probably yes, it’s beans again, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this surviving and slaying and blogging, it’s that “beans again” doesn’t have to become a theme or even something you and your fellow survivors dread. Morale is a powerful thing and food and high spirits go hand in hand. So while Martha Stewart might be wandering around Manhattan snacking on tourists (not a good thing) and Rachel Ray’s next 30-minute meal may involve a studio audience member, the standards of the living have dropped but not disappeared altogether. Any enterprising survivalist with a song in their heart and a pang in their tummy can spice up even the gnarliest canned food meal and I’m going to tell you how. Here are two simple rules to enchant even the saddest survivalist’s palate.
Rule 1: Bacon Improves Everything
Apocalypse or no apocalypse, some rules must always be observed and this one was gospel in the Hewitt household well before the dead starting rising and chewing on loved ones. Now the chances of finding fresh pork of any kind are slim, true, but one should never underestimate the power of sodium, ingenuity and good-old-fashioned desperation. Chances are, if you’ve raided a supermarket or a gas station, you’ve come across bacon bits. These tasty culinary exiles are almost always left behind. In a panic, nobody is thinking about condiments, but their neglect is your reward.
So they’re not real bacon . . . so they’re saltier than a pirate’s vocabulary . . . None of that matters when you’re facing down yet another bowl of lukewarm baked beans. So pop open that festive red top, pour a liberal amount of bits onto your grub and enjoy the delightful crunch of those tiny, preservative briquettes, and when someone woefully asks, “beans again?” you just tell them, “No, friend, beans with bits.”
Rule 2: Spice Up Your Life
Yes, that was a Spice Girls reference and no, I won’t be apologizing for it. Irrelevant pop girl groups aside, the spice rack really is your best friend when meal time repetition has got you down. Some of you may not be familiar with what different spices are good for or the labels might have peeled off, leaving you stranded with an armful of intimidating mystery jars. If that’s you, these helpful hints might just nudge you in the right culinary direction.
If it’s brownish yellow and smells like armpits, it’s cumin. If it’s green and smells like the inside of a hippy’s purse, it’s oregano. If it’s gritty and dark and smells like Christmas, it’s cinnamon. If it’s black and smells like feet . . . then . . . probably don’t sprinkle it on your food. See? So fun and simple even Sandra Lee could do it without straining her brain cell.
And that just about covers it, fellow survivors. Armed with those two simple rules you too can become a master at solving just about any campfire conundrum. Dinner will be a breeze instead of a headache.
But remember, if we two were to meet one day in a lonely gas station, both our grumbly stomachs intent on pilfering that last precious can of bacon bits, I might like you and even respect you, but holy hell do I love bacon more. So never forget—I’ve got an ax and I’m not afraid to use it.
When I read Kerry's post about how many people visit her site in search of news about the sequel to The Passage, I realized something: we've been holding out on you. At least a little bit. During my interview with Cronin for our June issue, we touched on the second volume in the trilogy, which he told me has a projected pub date of sometime in 2012. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, Cronin didn't reveal any major developments, but what he did say is a little something to help you through the wait and whet your appetite.
If I could do it faster, I would, but I let them be written at the rate that they demand. I think people will be happy if it’s a great book, even if they have to wait. And volume two is, I hope, every bit as rich and engaging as the first one. It has new elements, as any book must, it’s not simply a straightforward continuation of volume one, though it certainly has that element. It has surprises aplenty, things you didn’t see coming but I hope you feel like oh, that’s just perfect.
Restless Heart by Wynonna Judd
NAL • $25.95 • January 25, 2011
If you want to know what it's really like for a singer trying to climb the ranks in Music City, you'll definitely want to check this one out as Judd is able to draw from her own life.
Here's a scene from when Destiny gets her first break:
"Are you ready, Destiny Hart?" Rex was asking.
Not on your life.
"As ready as I'll ever be," she answered aloud.
"Great name by the way. You even sound like a star."
A cold bead of sweat rolled down her back, but she swallowed her panic and smiled.
Of course it was going to be fine. Her inner strength had never failed her before, right?
Right. Well, except for that unfortunate horseback incident. Of course, she shouldn't have jumped the creek, but it had been part of Cooper's dare. . .
"Destiny, are you sure you're ready?" Rex asked.
The slide show in her head shut off and Destiny nodded. "Yes, sir."
A hush fell over the crowd and Destiny began to sing.
With dozens of bestsellers under his belt, it wouldn't be surprising if author Dean Koontz took some time off to rest on his laurels. But the indomitable author, who believes that writing talent must be used, instead continues to craft an alarming number of bestsellers, fiction and nonfiction alike (his stories about his dog, Trixie, have been optioned for a family comedy).
His latest story, What the Night Knows, published today, is billed as "a ghost story like no other." We asked Koontz a few questions about writing and got some surprising answers. Click over to the Q&A to find out which literary character he'd like to spend time on a desert island with, why he never talks about a work-in-progress, and more.
Any Koontz fans out there excited about this new book?
As part of our Best Books of 2010 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
Critics are divided on Nicole Krauss' Great House. Some praise its thematic power and compelling writing; others call it confusing, dark and humorless. Me? I understand where both camps are coming from, but still think this third novel deserves its spot near the top of our Best Books of 2010 list. Great House is a sober book full of narrators who are disconnected from the world. It has a conclusion that you have to think about—or maybe argue about with your friends, as it is on the ambiguous side.
But. Krauss' writing is luminous and fairy-tale like; it is strong enough to carry a reader through the most difficult of books. As Great House unfolds, the story's many memorable images build upon each other to create an intensely powerful atmosphere. This may not be as beloved a novel as The History of Love, but it will leave you wondering where Krauss will go next.
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead • $25.95 • April 5, 2011
The action centers on Dory and Robby Lang, well-liked and respected teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High who have a 15-year-old daughter, Willa. But when a new drama teacher rolls into town with plans to help the high school perform Lysistrata, a cold wind enters the Langs' formerly passionate relationship—and that of others in their small New Jersey town.
This passage appears after Dory and Robby have invited the drama teacher and her son, Eli, to dinner and it is discovered that Eli is a reader—something that the three teachers know is unusual these days.
This was true; reading as a passion was fading away, and everyone knew it. Sometimes, when Dory took the train into the city for the day, she would see novels for sale on street corners, as if their owners were surrendering them in an act of radical house cleaning for the new century. The changes in reading were all bound up not only with technology, but love and sex too, though it was hard to tease it all apart.
You weren't supposed to think life was worse now; it was "different," everyone said. But Dory privately thought it was worse. The intimacy of reading had been traded in for the rapid absorption of information. and the intimacy of love, well, that had been traded in for something far more public and open. What had happened to sexual shyness? she wondered, picturing herself in her parents' house in Brooklyn, knowing nothing, having never seen a naked man, and being shocked to the point of aneurysm when a boy put her hand on his lap at a party. Sexual shyness and lack of information—they were gone. But was that so terrible. The world was different, not worse, her colleagues said to one another. Different, not worse. They said this like a silent mantra as they walked down the hallways of the school, or navigated the wild and lush, brightly lit planet.
Getting an Arthur Phillips galley is always an experience. No staid, blurb-filled tearsheet for this author—there's always something a little out of the ordinary. In this case, it was a dossier of "Confidential" documents charting the provenance of a mysterious book that was either written by Shakespeare or . . . Arthur Phillips, who is a character is his own novel this time around.
Among the documents: a hilarious comparison of the two authors.
It's always fun when the publicity material conveys that little extra something about a novel's personality. The Tragedy of Arthur comes out on April 19—are you intrigued?
Related in BookPage: reviews of Arthur Phillips' previous books.