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DG MARTIN COLUMN: Should more North Carolina books be made into movies? – The Stanly News & Press

DG MARTIN COLUMN: Should more North Carolina books be made into movies?

Published Tuesday 24 January 2023 9:30 am

Why aren’t more North Carolina books being made into movies?

We wonder that, despite the fact that the movie “Where the Crawdads Sing,” based on the popular book and set in North Carolina, was a huge hit last summer.

DG Martin

Thanks in part to the film, sales of the book remain on the bestseller list. According to a July 14, 2022 article by Carrie Wittmer and Elizabeth Logan on the website glamour.com, “The book sold 12 million copies as of January 2022, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.”

But we miss the days when every Nicholas Sparks book and every John Grisham book was made into a blockbuster film. Sparks lives in New Bern and Grisham has close family ties to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

Both authors are at the top of The Living Authors with the Most Film Adaptations list compiled by Lit Hub (https://lithub.com/the-living-authors-with-the-most-film-adaptations/). Sparks at 11 was only surpassed by Stephen King at 34. Grisham had nine, surpassed only by John le Carre (10), Ian McEwan (10) and JK Rowling (9).

Why aren’t more North Carolina books being made into movies?

One of the reasons is explained by Jen Doll in an article republished on the Atlantic website.

“But whichever way you look at it, the film version of a widely successful book is bound to go wrong. Was ever a book lover really happy with the theatrical adaptation? The relationship we have with the book is personal and special; The relationship we have with film is more distant from it, more passive and certainly less challenging for us.

“We sit back and watch it unfold and we do so with a changed eye after reading the books. We do not go in as innocents, but as experts; We know how the story goes and we know what to expect. If we were naïve, new to the plot and characters, things could be different, but since we’ve read the books and read them vigorously, possibly more than once, we can’t know for sure. We can only compare to what we know and already love.”

While I acknowledge these difficulties, I would still like to see more North Carolina books made into movies. At the top of my list would be Wiley Cash’s most recent novel, When Ghosts Come Home, set in 1985 in southeast North Carolina near Wilmington.

The action begins at 3:11 a.m. when Sheriff Winston Barnes and his wife hear about a plane crash at the nearby airport. He rushes there and finds only an abandoned airport, a crashed plane, and the corpse of a young black man shot in the chest. No fingerprints or other clues can be found, but drugs were almost certainly involved.

Race, small-town politics, and the international drug trade, as well as the common troubles of ordinary people, advance a compelling mystery that leads to a completely surprising ending that will have moviegoers clinging to their seats.

A book by acclaimed North Carolina author Nancy Peacock, The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson, had me clinging to my seat like a great movie would. The story begins with the words, “I’ve been to executions before, but never to my own…”

Popular North Carolina author Lee Smith explains the book’s power: “From that captivating beginning to the last perfect word, Nancy Peacock grabs her reader by the throat and forces him to hang for his life as the plot unfolds from a… Sugar Plantation in Louisiana to shifts life among the western Comanches, bringing to blazing life their themes of race and true love caught in the tangles of history. ‘The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson’ is as deeply moving and exciting an American saga as has ever been written.”

What a wonderful film this story would make.

There are many more action-packed North Carolina books out there.

Think of your favorites and how you would adapt them to make great movies.

DG Martina retired attorney, was vice president of public affairs at UNC System and host of PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.

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