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Book News for Friday, July 10, 2009

  • Whiskey In the Jar: Today is the tenth anniversary of the jailbreak that made Attila Ambrus, a.k.a. the Whiskey Robber, an international folk hero.

    You remember Attila — he's the guy who knocked over 29 banks, post offices, and travel agencies while living a double life as the hockey goalie for Hungary's biggest pro team — and became the subject of Julian Rubinstein's awesome book Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts, a finalist for both the Edgar and Anthony Awards.

    Author Julian Rubinstein will soon have a new essay about the tenth anniversary for In the meantime, here is the original essay he wrote for us — and a video of Rubinstein speaking to Ambrus from his prison in Satoraljaujhely, Hungary during a visit with award-winning documentary filmmaker Nina Davenport:

    And over on The Rumpus, Jessica Anthony, author of The Convalescent, writes about Rubinstein and Ambrus. (While I'm at it, don't miss Anthony's reading at Powell's Books on Hawthorne on Thursday, July 23, at 7:30pm.)

  • The Book Tube: The Onion AV Club takes a look at TV's hottest new trend — adapting novels into TV shows.

    The trend has taken off recently with FOX's Bones (from the books by Kathy Reichs) and HBO's True Blood (from the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris).

    [T]hink of how hampered the first two Harry Potter films were by their constant desire to cram every fun bit from the books into the films. Now imagine them as 10-episode TV seasons, and you begin to get an idea of why so many networks are pursuing the idea of adapting novels as TV series.

    The piece looks at some upcoming book-to-TV projects — and some that might really surprise you.

    A Song of Ice and Fire (HBO, ordered to pilot): Based on George R.R. Martin's lengthy, long-delayed epic fantasy series (planned to sprawl over seven books), Song is the potential series that has most excited both book and TV fans, if Internet buzz is any indication. Martin's series, indeed, seems like a good fit for HBO (the network initially described it as "The Sopranos in Middle-Earth"), and the author, a former TV writer, will be intimately involved in turning the novels into a series. Each book will equal one season of the show, and the first announced bit of casting (Peter Dinklage as Tyrion) seems almost too good to be true. The books are dense but not so dense that their events can't easily be conveyed in a 12 episode TV season, and the plots are intriguing with well-drawn characters. That said, the big question here is going to be expense. Once the series leaves the rather intimate first novel behind, will it have the ratings to justify the money needed to build the worlds of the later novels? Chances of succeeding: Solid

    Carter Beats the Devil (AMC, in development): If there's any series I desperately want to succeed on this list, it's this one. I dearly love Glen David Gold's novel, and early 20th century America seems like a potent world to build a TV series in. But if there's any series I'm less convinced will work as a series on this list, it's also this one. Carter is a good, good novel, but there's not quite enough there to sustain much more than one season of television, unless you expand an already expansive novel to a point where it will burst. Carter works because its entire structure works like one of the magic tricks its protagonist performs, distracting readers from what's going on but always keeping everything tied together in the end. A series, which would have to expand the story necessarily, would lose much of that quality. This would be better off as a miniseries or movie. Chances of succeeding: Low

    Now I'm just waiting for the next new trend — turning hit TV shows into bestselling novels. Yes, I'm thinking about a magical YA romance between a cat-eating alien hand puppet and a small robot housekeeper that looks like a little girl...

    Twilight starring ALF and Vicki from "Small Wonder"

  • Doyle Does Hollywood: Among the slate of new films opening this weekend is I Love You, Beth Cooper, a teen romantic comedy that was adapted from the novel by Larry Doyle, who guest-blogged for Powell's back in 2007 (read his hilarious entries here).

    Sadly, the movie doesn't appear to live up to Doyle's book, as it scored a 34 on Metacritic. But some critics had nice things to say:

    "The story is timeless; this could have taken place when Doyle graduated in '76 — or any year, really, since the effects of high school linger throughout adult life and nerds are forever." — Entertainment Weekly

    "Isn't especially hilarious, but it has a warm sense of humor instead of a string of gross-out jokes. It'll be a cable mainstay." — New York Post

    "Of the two co-stars, what I can say is that I'm looking forward to their next films." — Roger Ebert

    Hmm, that's about it for the accolades. Well, at least we can still read Doyle's very warm and funny book.

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Carter Beats the Devil
    Used Hardcover $7.50
  2. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: a True...
    New Trade Paper $16.00
  3. The Convalescent New Hardcover $20.50
  4. I Love You, Beth Cooper (P.S.)
    Used Trade Paper $3.50

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