Novelization Sparks Book Series

It’s not unusual for tv tie-in novels to continue long after the TV series they are based on have ended ("Star Trek," "Murder She Wrote," "Buffy," "Diagnosis Murder" etc.) But in what may be a first in the book-biz, Elizabeth Hand’s novelization of the "Catwoman" screenplay has sold so well, it has sparked a series of original novels from Del Rey. What makes this news even stranger is that the execrable  "Catwoman" movie tanked at the box-office.

The success of the "Catwoman" novelization is also notable for another reason. More and more novelizations and tie-ins are being written by established novelists as opposed to anonymous scribes writing under house names (though such pros as Lawrence Block, Jim Thompson, Walter Wager, Dennis Lynds, and Harry Whittington wrote tie-ins and novelizations).   Elizabeth Hand is an established author of  Gothic horror and romance novels. Undoubtably, that experience made the "Catwoman" tie-in a cut above most of the novelization hack-work out there… and perhaps  tantalized her readers into sampling a book they otherwise wouldn’t have bought.

Max Alan Collins is perhaps the best example, regularly penning novelizations ("The Mummy," "Saving Private Ryan") as well as original TV tie-ins ( "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Dark Angel").  Edgar winner  Stuart Kaminsky is writing original "CSI: New York" books and Edgar winner Thomas H. Cook wrote the novelization of USA Network mini-series  "Taken."

The availability of name-writers to pen novelizations may have less to do with publishers trying to raise the quality of tie-in merchandise than with the obliteration of the mid-list.  Authors who might not have been available,  or interested, in tie-ins/novelizations before are now glad to accept a quick paycheck for eight weeks-to-ten weeks of work. And now, with the lure of  that quick paycheck turning into a long-running gig, more authors may be lining up for tie-in opportunities.

While authors and publishers benefit financially, readers are getting better-written novelizations and tie-ins.  So is it a win-win situation? Not really. There is one serious downside.  More and more valuable bookshelf space is being taken up by merchandizing tie-ins while fewer and fewer original paperbacks are being commissioned from new authors.

1 thought on “Novelization Sparks Book Series”

  1. The duo that wrote under the Ellery Queen name (brothers, but their names elude me just now) also wrote one novelization. There was a British production in the late ’60s, a movie where Sherlock Holmes tracks down Jack the Ripper, called A Study in Terror (spiffy movie, by the way — Mycroft is played by Robert Morley).
    Of course the brothers, excellent writers that they were, didn’t just do a novelization — they wrote an Ellery Queen mystery wherein he comes across Dr. Watson’s manuscript detailing the case, investigates further in the present time, and reaches a wholly different conclusion than the movie (and Sherlock Holmes!) does.
    The movie and the book are both, alas, rare and obscure.


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