From Page to Screen: The Man Who Would Be King

We’ve been focusing on schools this month, but not everything worth knowing is learned in school. Sometimes the school of hard knocks delivers more memorable lessons. . . .

Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan have decided that the 1880s British Empire does not appreciate their talents. And the two former British army sergeants do have a point. They feel like they’ve contributed more to building the Empire than administrators and British authorities, who are less than appreciative of their military exploits or how they have occupied themselves once they were discharged. Specifically, the powers that be are not pleased with Danny and Peachy leaving a trail of blackmail, fraud, and smuggling, among other things, in their wake.

They know that going home to England would mean menial work, which doesn’t seem very enticing given their adventures in India. But they also realize that further prospects in India are now limited, as well.

The two friends, thus, decide that they will go away to the remote, mysterious kingdom of Kafiristan. Once there, they will use their martial skills to serve as mercenaries and ingratiate themselves with a local chief as a stepping stone for them staging a coup, setting themselves up as rulers, and robbing the locals of their wealth. It’s not a retirement plan endorsed by most financial planners, but Danny and Peachy are pretty sure it will work out marvelously for them. What’s the worst that could happen?

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From Page to Screen: The Lost City of Z

 

It’s one of the great mysteries of 20th century exploration: what happened to Percy Fawcett?

The British military officer, surveyer, and explorer was one of the key figures in mapping and exploring the Amazon. He had become obsessed with the belief that, contrary to what other experts claimed, a large, sophisticated civilization had once existed in the dense jungle. He named that mysterious place “Z,” and he very badly wanted to find it.

In his late 50s, the undaunted Fawcett, his eldest son, and his son’s best friend plunged into Amazonia in 1925, determined to prove the world wrong. They were never seen again.

Much as how centuries before Fawcett conquistadors disappeared looking for the city of El Dorado, dozens of adventurers have also disappeared trying to locate Fawcett and/or “Z.”

After reading and enjoying David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon earlier this month, I decided to give his first book about Fawcett and his disappearance, which was recently adapted into a film, a try.

Beware, there be some mild spoilers ahead.

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From Page to Screen: Victoria

When it comes to being a world builder, it doesn’t get much bigger than having an entire historical period named after you.

But when eighteen year old Alexandrina Victoria ascended to the British throne following her uncle’s death, nobody was really thinking of her future reign in such grand terms. For the most part, they were just hoping she didn’t do anything too obviously embarrassing.

Victoria’s growing pains as a young monarch in the tumultuous first couple of years of her reign is explored in a recent novel and TV series from Daisy Goodwin.

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From Page to Screen: The Martian

As a general rule, space travel has never interested me. It’s nothing personal against outer space–even as a kid, it never captivated me. I was always more interested in history and foreign countries than the outer reaches of the galaxy.

Likewise, science fiction that is about outer space is rarely something I read. I prefer my science fiction dystopian.

Nevertheless, I have been curious about the popularity of both the book and film versions of The Martian and decided, in the name of broadening my horizons (aka doing my part to build a better world), to give them both a try.

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From Page to Screen: Casino

Hope you were able to join us at Books in Bloom this weekend! I had a great time–got to hear some wonderful talks from talented authors and even acquired a few signed books. I’m already looking forward to next year!

On that note, last week, when we were chatting about authors we’d like to see at Books in Bloom in the future, I promised to unveil two of my picks over the next couple of weeks.

One author I would love to meet and listen to is Nicholas Pileggi. He was a crime reporter in New York City for 30 years, with a special focus on the Mafia. But most people, myself included, are most familiar with him through his books about the Mafia, Wiseguys and Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. He adapted both of them into Martin Scorsese movies in the 1990s, Goodfellas and Casino, respectively.

I’ve been a Scorsese fan since I was a teenager, and though my personal favorites of his movies is probably a tie between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I really do enjoy both Goodfellas and Casino.

And because I’ve also found organized crime interesting since I was a child–it’s a little embarrassing how many books I own about the mob–when I found out those movies were based on nonfiction books, I read Pileggi’s books and quickly became a fan of his work in its own right.

Honestly, I’d like to meet and talk to Pileggi just because I’d like to his pick his brain and hear inside stories from his days as a reporter, his research for his books, and his experiences in Hollywood. I’d love to hear his thoughts on what it is like to be both the writer of the original source and the adaptation.

And to that end, I thought we might as well compare his book and his movie about the mob’s fall from power in Las Vegas.

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From Page to Screen: Old Yeller

I’ve talked on here before about my hesitance concerning depressing animal books for children.

There are a lot of books/movies that could be added to the list of depressing animal stories for kids, and Old Yeller is definitely one of them.

However, even though it is the granddaddy of all depressing animal books for kids, it is a story that I have a soft spot for. In fact, I’ve reread it a few times and always enjoy it. I can’t deny that it is terribly sad, but I think it has a lot of good things to offer before it rips your heart out and depresses you for days.

Though the book is something I have revisited on numerous occasions as an adult, I have not watched the movie since I was a child. I remedied that this past weekend.

As always, beware–some spoilers do follow.

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From Page to Screen: In Cold Blood (1967) and In Cold Blood (1996)

My love for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (which some ungenerous souls might call an obsession) has been well documented on this blog.

But my interest in the story transcends the book. The 1967 film adaptation is one of my favorite movies and is one of the examples I always point to when people claim that a movie can never be as good as the book.

A few months ago, I watched the 1996 miniseries adaptation of the story with my coworker Jen. If the 1967 version is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, the 1996 version is easily one of the absolute worst.

Usually the “From Page to Screen” series is a venue for me to compare and contrast books with their adaptations. But this is my series and my rules, and I’ve decided to bend the rules for this one. So, this month we’re comparing and contrasting two adaptations and exploring why one is considered a masterpiece and the other, well, isn’t. Let’s just call it Screen vs. Screen for this month.

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