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TV Adaptations
Glen Davis
post Nov 13 2008, 12:21 PM
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Books adapting TV series into novels is a cyclical business, like television itself. In the 60s and 70s there were a great many adaptations of just about every show. But in the 80s this tapered off as soap operas and sticoms took over the airwaves. Seriously, who would want to write (or read) 180 pages of Gimme a Break? I believe that Family Ties had a terrible adaptation. The A-Team and Miami Vice also had adaptations.

In the 90s, the wheels turned, and adaptations became a big deal again, starting with the show Murder, She Wrote. It was such a success that other mystery series got adaptations of their own. Especially the CSI franchise and its innumerable imitators. Many of them by top notch writers, but I don't read them as I don't like the shows.

First up is an adaptation of The Rockford Files. Written by Stuart Kaminsky, probably best known for his series featuring Hollywood sleuth Toby Peters, it is the second in the series. It takes place during the two hour movies revival of the series of the 90s. Jim's getting pretty old, Rocky's dead, and Beth isn't really around any more.

In Devil on the Doorstep, Jim is leaving for a fishing trip when he finds a young girl sitting on the porch of his trailer. At first he thinks she is some kind of runaway, but it turns out she is the daughter of a lost love, and possibly his daughter as well. It turns out the mother is missing. Her husband dragged her into a car and drove off. Jim goes looking for them, and finds the witness protection program, mob manipulations, another scam by Angel and other problems.

Fairly good, but a problem with adaptations of a TV show that rests on the charms of a star is that charm is often difficult to capture on the page. I'm not sure that Kaminski is able to capture the appeal of James Garner. Also there are a couple of mistakes. Rockford's firebird is not golden brown, but red and white. He also isn't wearing his sport jacket.

Other than that a fairly decent novel, but perhaps not the most faithful adaptation.
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Mark Ellis
post Nov 13 2008, 01:40 PM
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QUOTE (Glen Davis @ Nov 13 2008, 01:21 PM) *
Rockford's firebird is not golden brown, but red and white.


Actually Rockford's Pontiac Firebird Esprit is golden brown.



You may be thinking of Starsky and Hutch's Gran Torino.






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Ron Fortier
post Nov 13 2008, 05:25 PM
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I've the Kaminsky books and liked them a great deal. Seeing that it had been years and years since I'd seen a Rockford episode, I found myself entering the stories like a nice, comfortable homecoming. Kaminsky is a solid writer and these were well done. Although in all fairness, I prefer his own series (he has several, as I'm sure you know) over these TV adapts.
Am curious, have you ever read any of the MONK books and are they any good?
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Glen Davis
post Nov 13 2008, 07:52 PM
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QUOTE (Mark Ellis @ Nov 13 2008, 11:40 AM) *
Actually Rockford's Pontiac Firebird Esprit is golden brown.



You may be thinking of Starsky and Hutch's Gran Torino.



No, No.

The Book said the firebird was red and white instead of golden brown. The Book made the mistake. You misunderstood what I was trying to say.
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Glen Davis
post Nov 13 2008, 07:56 PM
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QUOTE (Ron Fortier @ Nov 13 2008, 03:25 PM) *
I've the Kaminsky books and liked them a great deal. Seeing that it had been years and years since I'd seen a Rockford episode, I found myself entering the stories like a nice, comfortable homecoming. Kaminsky is a solid writer and these were well done. Although in all fairness, I prefer his own series (he has several, as I'm sure you know) over these TV adapts.
Am curious, have you ever read any of the MONK books and are they any good?


The Toby Peters was the first that came to mind.

I've read all the Monk books in paperback (There's at least one still in hardback) and they're pretty good, albeit with a few flaws. I plan on reviewing one soon.
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Mark Ellis
post Nov 14 2008, 08:08 AM
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Oh-h-h....

Then Kaminsky got confused with Starksy and Hutch.

I apologize.


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Glen Davis
post Nov 17 2008, 01:39 PM
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Colombo: The Hoffa Connection is the third adaptaion of the Colombo TV series by William Harrington.

I don't know much of anything about William Harrington, so no Author's background, sorry.

It follows the formula of the show pretty closely. The murder victim, a Madonna representation, is obnoxious for a while, then we witness the murder.

Colombo is on the scene, with his old raincoat, the Peugot, the cigars, the short term memory problems, the whole bit. He begins to separate the wheat from the chaff, and eventually corners the killers.

What separates these books from the TV series is the obvious influence of Max Allan Collins. In each of the books, Colombo also solves a historical mystery, in this case, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

While the book perhaps does not capture the weird charm of Peter Falk, Harrington does give it the old college try. The puzzle is quite good, though the historical mystery is telegraphed from the start.

Pretty good.
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Glen Davis
post Nov 22 2008, 06:14 PM
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Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu is an excellent novel by Lee Goldberg. Goldberg is a veteran writer, starting his first series, the .357 Vigilante, one of the better "aggressor" novels of the '80s while he was still in high school.

The Mayor of San Francisco gives Monk a special Captaincy, when most of the police force calls in sick with the "Blue Flu" to protest a labor contract pursuit. His underlings are all former detective forced from the department due to various problems. One is very old and has Alzheiner's Disease, one has rage issues, and another is a paranoiac, convinced that aliens are out to get her. All of them have assisstants, just like Monk, and it's fun to read how the assisstants all bond.

There are two series of killings. One of people with the same birthday, the other is a sick foot fetishist who murders women and takes their left shoe. Monk has difficulty delegating authority, and has some real leadership issues, but eventually figures out his job and the case.

For the most part, a fine book. The only real problem I have is that the narrator, Natalie Teeger, Monk's assisstant, is boring. She doesn't have an original thought or observation or viewpoint at all. I understand why she is the narrator, and that she should be a fairly ordinary person, but this goes too far, to the point of banality.

Still, a pretty good novel.
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Glen Davis
post Nov 23 2008, 06:25 PM
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Before he took on the Monk series, Lee Goldberg wrote the Diagnosis: Murder adaptations.

Told in a third person rather than a first person narrative, the books are a very different experience.

A woman dressed up like a mermaid washes up on the beach not far from Mark Sloan's house. She's was murdered with an injection of muscle relaxant, then tortured while she was dying. Mark gets on the case, which leads to a streak of murder back in the early '60s, when Sloan was an intern, solving his first murder.

For the most part, a pretty good novel, but the novels, like the TV series, became obsessed with Sloan nemesis Carter Sweeney, who I never thought was any great shakes.
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Glen Davis
post Nov 29 2008, 04:29 PM
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Burn Notice: The Fix is by Tod Goldberg, the brother of Lee, who wrote the Monk and Diagnosis: Murder novels.

Michael Westen is in trouble with a female former Russian spy, who thinks he burned her. At the same time, Sam Axe drags him into a situation with a millionairess widow, who is being extorted of her fortune.

It's pretty faithful to the show, although due to the first person narration, and the relationship of the authors, sometimes Michael sounds disconcertingly like Natalie Teeger.
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Glen Davis
post Dec 8 2008, 01:04 PM
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Columbo: The Grassy Knoll is the second of the Columbo adaptations by William Harrington.

While Columbo does his usual schtik, and the murder is as good as ever, the entire plot soon becomes buried beneath the lore of the JFK assassination. The sheer bulk of information seems to overwhelm the author, until it becomes more about the assassination than the case Columbo is trying to solve.
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Glen Davis
post Jan 13 2009, 04:13 PM
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Mr. Monk Goes to Germany is another excellent adaptation by Lee Goldberg.

Dr. Kroger goes to Germany for a Psychiatrist retreat/ conference, both for professional reasons, and to get away from Monk (and one would think Harold, Monk's bitter rival) Leaving Natalie with a disintegrating detective, and no life of her own, she manipulates Monk to go to Germany, both for vengeance on Dr. Kroger, and for a break from her duties, a sort of busman's holiday.

Naturally, they soon find a murder. Plus Monk sees a man with six fingers, maybe the same man who killed his wife.

Another great book in the series.
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Glen Davis
post Jan 29 2009, 04:51 PM
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Even though I never saw an episode, I've heard good things about the show, so when I saw Cannon: Murder By Gemini at a church booksale, I picked it up.

Can't say that I'm glad that I did.

It's the old, hoary which twin did it plot, that we've seen innumerable times, and I'd be happy if we never saw it again.

Cannon has to go to a small town in Wyoming and figure out whodunnit. Cannon himself didn't do anything for me. He has the sort of persoanlity that was considered individualistic in the 70s, but just seems arrogant today.

I'd say, get it if you're a fan of the show and want to bask in nostalia, otherwise, skip it.
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Glen Davis
post Feb 18 2009, 07:43 PM
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Psych: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read is by william Rabkin, the writing partner to Lee Goldberg, who writes the Monk series. USA network has a tight knit group for adaptation writing.

When Gus's car is impounded, he and Shawn go to pick it up, only to learn that Gus as 87 outstanding traffic tickets. The attendant of the impoundlot is killed, and Shawn attracts a psychic slave, who wants to attend to his every need. The duo is also called by a former classmate, now outstandingly wealthy, who wants to use their psychic powers in a venture capital scheme. Nothing is as it seems.

Pretty good and very true to the spirit of the show. There is no singing, but otherwise, almost exactly like watching a program. Very good effort.
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Glen Davis
post Mar 9 2009, 04:52 PM
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Read The A-Team.

Just a straight adaptation of the pilot of the series.

Pretty decent for what it was, but I would have preferred a new adventure.
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Glen Davis
post Mar 13 2009, 12:10 PM
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The second entry in the A-Team series is a combination of two episodes, Small But Deadly Wars, where the team goes up against a renegade SWAT team, and Bad Day at Black Rock, where the team saves a small town from the usual biker gang.

The first half of the book is by far better than the second, and the transition between the two halves is just horrible. The team seems to just go to Bad Rock for no good reason, to do something, despite being pursued by Col. Lynch.

Just really sloppy writing.
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Glen Davis
post Apr 3 2009, 12:12 PM
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Lancer by Paul W. Fairman is about the television series of the same name, a sort of Bonanza rip off with some more gothic elements.

Some guy called Lancer owns a huge ranch in the San Joaquin valley, and had two sons that lived far away by two wives. About the same age, one grew up in Boston, the other in Mexico. The daughter of his old time forema is there too, and both brothers love her.

Some Mexican bandit raids the ranch for something that happened 20 years ago, and rather than just hunting down and killing the guy, most of the book is devoted to the Boston brother talking, and finding out what happened 20 years ago.

Pretty dull.

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Glen Davis
post Jun 3 2009, 06:03 PM
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Griff by Robert Weverka is an adaptation of the short lived show of the same name starring Lorne Green as Griff, a former policeman, who was in the running to be commissioner, but was unwilling to play the game, and thus, resigned. This is a straight adaptation of the pilot episode.

Four years later, he is headof security for a large corporation, when his son, a private eye, is killed in front of him.

Griff goes after the killer when it appears the police department has better things to do and uncovers a hitman.

Dull and plodding, without a lot of action.

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Glen Davis
post Jul 9 2009, 11:19 AM
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Mr. Monk is Miserable is the latest Monk book to go paperback.

Natalie blackmails him to go to Paris, so she can have a vacationof sorts. Then their is a murder on their plane. Afterward, they're not in France form more than 5 minutes before there's another murder. Natalie doesn't want to get involved, but there's nothing Monk likes better than investigating.

They tour the sewers and the catacombs, and eat at the restaraunt that's in total darkness. Monk gets a cleaning car, and spends his time cleaning the streets.

Really pretty good.
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Glen Davis
post Aug 4 2009, 02:54 PM
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Psych, Mind Over magic is the second book of the Psych series.

Shawn and Gus get involved in the murder of a magician that may or may not be a Martian. The mysterious being has a trick no one else can even figure out. While showing the trick to a group of magicians, he disappears, and the body of another man is found.

Shawn and Gus are hired by a Vegas hotelier to solve the case.

They go around with the usual antics, and find out some secrets, and figure out both the trick and the murder.

Pretty good stuff. Rabkin seems to be getting a real feel for the characters.
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