The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations & Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

BearManor Media. Sept. 2023. 467p. ISBN 9798887711782. pap. $42. LIT
Spencer (Musical Theatre Writer’s Survival Guide) is not only an award-winning composer/lyricist but also a lifelong fan of novelizations and tie-in books. “Media tie-in writing is literature. Real literature,” he persuasively argues in this massive and affectionate history of novelizations. Screenplay novelizations of silent films began appearing in 1915, decades after stage play novelizations. Far from hack writers, among the notables who wrote novelizations are Pulitzer Prize winner Upton Sinclair (who novelized the play Damaged Goods in 1913); National Book Award winner Paul Monette who penned tie-ins for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu and Brian De Palma’s Scarface; and Isaac Asimov, who novelized Fantastic Voyage. This is a fascinating history of the shockingly prolific writers who published books under various names. Spencer also conducts illuminating interviews with tie-in veterans John Peel, Martin Noble, and Linda Stewart (who wrote the novelization of Absence of Malice without a finished screenplay). There are also chapter-long appreciations and career overviews of William Johnston, Michael Avallone (writing approximately 200 novelizations, ranging from Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor to Beneath the Planet of the Apes), and others.
VERDICT Packed with photos, this is the perfect reference tool for the publishing genre that launched many lifetime readers.
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