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Find more Trends in Crime Fiction Series
Sad but true: people spend more time sitting in front of screens than they do turning the pages of books. Accordingly, screen adaptations have the potential to take even already popular series to far greater heights of fame. The episodic nature of TV series would seem to be an ideal match for the somewhat episodic nature of book series—but when both are coming out simultaneously, it’s a balancing act. There’s always a danger (to the artistically minded, at least) that the screen version, so much more specific than the reader’s imagined version, will become the dominant one. James Bond may have started in a book, after all, but these days, those books are just one more product tie-in.
Dexter series, by Jeff Lindsay
This offbeat series about a Miami blood-spatter expert who is also a serial killer debuted in 2004 with Darkly Dreaming Dexter. (Booklist: “Wow!”) A Showtime series, Dexter, followed in 2006, and after six seasons and six books, book and show seem to be aiding each other’s success. Some find Dexter a reprehensible antihero and some find him, well, kind of cute.
Temperance Brennan series, by Kathy Reichs
With her debut, Deja Dead (1997), Reichs’ Montreal-based forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan seemed a foil for Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner, Kay Scarpetta—and with the success of the FOX TV show Bones (2005– ) Reichs is currently hotter than Cornwell, whose series has been uneven of late. (Maybe a TV show would be just the thing to rejuvenate it! See “Trends in Crime Fiction Series: Too Much of a Good Thing?”) For a learned discussion of the differences between Brennan on the page and on the screen, see also “Reading the Screen: Kathy Reichs’ Tempe Brennan and FOX TV’s Bones,” by David Pitt.
Rizzoli and Isles series, by Tess Gerritsen
Homicide investigator Jane Rizzoli was introduced in The Surgeon (2001) and medical examiner Maura Isles debuted in The Apprentice (2002). This solid, workmanlike series added a touch of the supernatural in last year’s The Silent Girl (2011), and the newish TV series Rizzoli & Isles (TNT) has added a sprinkle of fairy dust, too. The show debuted in 2010 and a third season is scheduled to start in summer 2012.
Raylan Givens series, by Elmore Leonard
Adaptations of Leonard’s books have found success both commercial (Get Shorty) and critical (Out of Sight) on the big screen. In 2010, his character Raylan Givens became the hero of the FX TV show Justified. Leonard primarily writes stand-alone novels, so calling these books a series might be a stretch: Raylan appears only in Pronto (1993), Riding the Rap (1995), and now Raylan (2012), a somewhat disjointed collection of interconnected novellas. Still, Leonard fans who have been wanting a true, long-running series may just have found one on the boob tube.
We had to draw the line somewhere, so we drew it down the middle of the North Atlantic. Many fine TV shows based on crime novels have also originated on BBC, such as Case Histories (drawn from the Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels), Wallander (based on Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallender novels), and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (inspired, of course, by Alexander McCall Smith’s wildly popular series of the same name). Many of these series have been aired on HBO or PBS, and, given the British penchant for shorter runs, they consist of far fewer episodes than their American counterparts.
COMING SOON TO A SMALL SCREEN NEAR YOU
Walt Longmire series, by Craig Johnson
Though not yet a huge best-seller, Craig Johnson’s Wyoming-set series about Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire has been consistently well reviewed over the course of eight installments. A show based on the series, Longmire, is set to air on A&E this June. The portentous teasers and trailers, however, have this fan wondering whether the show’s creators have forgotten that wry humor is an important ingredient of all the books. Time will tell.
Hannibal Lecter series, by Thomas Harris
It’s hard to believe that dark cultural icon Hannibal Lecter has figured in only four books: Red Dragon (1981), The Silence of the Lambs (1988), Hannibal (1999), and Hannibal Rising (2006). Despite the books’ popularity, the cultured cannibal only truly became a cultural touchstone after Anthony Hopkins embodied the role in the hit movie of the second book in 1991—and now the character seems set to feast on small screens as well. In April, Entertainment Weekly profiled a projected series pulled from five pages of backstory in Red Dragon. Hannibal Lecter on network TV? Well, the show’s creator, Bryan Fuller, describes it as a “love story.” Everybody, say, “Aww” . . . I mean, “Eww.”
Gretchen Lowell/Archie Sheridan series, by Chelsea Cain
On May 8, Deadline Hollywood reported that FX is developing a series based on Cain’s twisted books about serial-killer Gretchen Lowell and detective Archie Sheridan. Other sources suggest that the network plans three 13-episode seasons, each based on one of the five series installments to date. Lots of shows die in development, but the popularity of the gory Dexter suggests the public may be thirsty for yet more blood. Still, the casting of Gretchen will make or break this one.
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