Over the years that we’ve been collecting movie novelizations there have been some pretty awesome finds at used bookstores that left our minds buzzing on a collector’s high. But sometimes, when we get home and look more closely at our new score we realize that we were duped by the ever-present tie-in, and we’re left scratching our heads with the knowledge that there are some odd films that were actually based on pre-existing novels. These film tie-in books are typically re-released versions of novels with all new cover artwork or photos that feature imagery from the movie, a few pages of photos inserted into the middle, and are sometimes even re-titled to match the new films. This is one of the confusing pitfalls collectors encounter when out hunting through used bookstores or antique shops. In fact, we’ve been tricked by this so many times that we’ve even considered adding a new database of just non-novelization tie-ins to the site, but something tells us that this would probably just compound the confusion. We thought it would be fun to share some of the biggest “what the hell” moments after picking up what we thought was an obscure treasure while looking for new additions to the collection.
One of the first books that jumps to mind is the first of a set of books we’ve talked about on the site before and probably two of the famous non-novelization tie-ins, Elliott S. Maggin’s Superman novel, Last Son of Krypton. Published in 1978 to coincide with the release of Richard Donner’s landmark super hero flick, Superman: Last Son of Krypton is kind of notorious for tricking folks into thinking it was a novelization what with Christopher Reeve front and center on the cover alongside the official movie logo and a large starburst call-out announcing 16 pages of photos from the film. When we scooped this up we were elated and it was only once we started reading that we realized we’d been duped. The book is very intentionally unlike the movie, and not in the cool way that novelizations tend to be, but because the scriptwriter of the flick, Mario Puzo, had a clause in his contract that forbade adaptations of his work into prose. As much as Warner Brothers wanted to release an official novelization, Puzo wouldn’t let them, so they just faked it instead. Maybe we should have paid closer attention to the cover where Christopher Reeve appears to be pointing to the subtitle of the novel as if to warn potential buyers, this isn’t what it appears to be.
Similar to the Superman fake-out, a few years ago we were perusing the shelves of a used book stall at an antique mall when we saw a shelf full of horror and fantasy tie-ins that had our hearts leaping out of our chest. Horror novelizations are some of the most sought after collectibles in the hobby, so we were hoping to find some cheap editions to add to our collection. Sandwiched in between copies of Twilight Zone: The Movie and The Terminator was a book we’d never seen before, a novel for The Howling. Joe Dante is a favorite director at MovieNovelization.com HQ, and we were floored to find not only the Twilight Zone movie book, but also one for the Howling. Pairing those up with the Dante film novelizations we already had in our collection (Gremlins, Gremlins 2, Innerspace, and the Explorers), we thought we’d hit the jackpot. All three of those books only set us back $7 too! Well, when we got home and looked a bit closer at the book we noticed that the original publication date on the book was 1977, a full 4 years before Dante’s film hit theater screens. We were duped by a 1981 tie-in re-release of the book that featured the poster art of the film on the cover. Sigh. Still though, not a bad day. We still really dig Gary Bradner’s novel, and we scored The Terminator for less than $40. Not too shabby.
Speaking of being duped by a horror movie posters on the covers of books, there are a few that we continuously forget aren’t novelizations, Ira Levin’s taut novella Rosemary’s Baby, Robert Bloch’s Psycho and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Some movies are so affecting that it’s hard to imagine that the stories existed before the films. Again, as collectors of movie novelizations, in particular those hard to find horror adaptations, we’re constantly scanning the genre sections of used bookstores in hopes of unearthing some macabre treasure. We can’t count the times our eyes have been darting through hundreds of spines only to stop on these three books and in mid-grab we remember, nope, these all came years before their respective film adaptations. That said, some of these original paperback tie-ins still fetch some high prices on ebay and Amazon, so you might want to snap up a copy of these if you see them cheap. Not to mention that all three are great novels.
Let’s switch gears a bit and take a look at a few books that might slip by one’s radar after the original book titles were dropped in lieu of the titles of the movies that adapted them. First, let’s stick with horror for a minute and consider the tie-in for one of David Cronenberg’s last full on body-horror flick, Dead Ringers. When we first found out that a book existed we were pretty excited. Cronenberg’s work is no stranger to being novelized. In fact there are no less than four semi-rare editions of his work including books for Scanners, Rabid, The Brood and even Videodrome. Considering that many of his films are independent, auteur movies that he writes and directs, it’s pretty cool that there have been so many adaptations of his films to prose. So when we stumbled upon a product page for a Dead Ringers book (complete with Jeremy Irons cover) we thought we could add another volume to our collection. It turns out though, that the book is actually just the re-titled tie-in of Bari Wood & Jack Geasland’s fictionalized account of Stuart & Cyril Marcus called Twins. The movie had such a huge impact on the legacy of the original novel that these days you tend to see reprints either under the title Dead Ringers, or even Twins: Dead Ringers.
Next, did you know that the movie Die Hard was actually based on a book? Well it totally is! We’ve seen this mass market paperback written by Roderick Thorp in bookstores a few times and have wanted to pick it up, but every time we do we’re reminded (in small text at the bottom of the cover) that not only is this novel not a novelization, but it wasn’t even originally titled Die Hard. The original book is actually called Nothing Lasts Forever, which sounds like it would be a great title for a James Bond flick.
Lastly, let’s consider the case of the Quentin Tarantino adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Jackie Brown. It’s no secret that Tarantino is a huge Leonard fan, heck, a lot of filmmakers are. But you may not of realized that Jackie Brown was based on one of Leonard’s novels. Back in the 90s when the film was released we found a copy of the book at a grocery store thinking it was a novelization. Meaning to get around to reading it, it wasn’t until years later that we cracked the cover and found out that it was actually an original novel. Not only that, it was actually titled Rum Punch and was published four years before Tarantino’s flick.
How about one last book that is not only not a novelization, but a huge surprise in that it was a novel before it was a film, Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It’s so weirdly rare for comedies to be based on books, let alone one that is so present and of its era like Fast Times. Oh, and speaking of rare, this book is RARE. Expect to pay upwards of $150 to $300 for a copy. Yikes!