Celebrating vintage paperbacks--both the cheesy & the profound.
But mostly the cheesy.
Movie novelizations are what I would call drugstore fiction. They're the kind of books you'd pick up off the carousel wire-frame rack while waiting to for your prescription to be filled. At least that's how it was for me in the 1970s. I remember standing in Jackson Drug leafing through paperbacks of Grease and Welcome Back, Kotter, looking for clues about character and motivation. Movie tie-ins were also a way to "see" the movie on the page if you couldn't sit in the dark theater and watch the real thing. I lived in a small town and movies were slow to reach the screens there. I remember my Dad making a joke about going to see that "new release" The Sound of Music. This was in 1980.
But I digress. Movie novelizations have been around since D. W. Griffith first started cranking a camera (I have several novels in my collection from the 1920s as proof that Saturday Night Fever: the Novel was not so unique). With very few exceptions (Alan Dean Foster, for one), movie tie-in authors toil at a scorned art. As Joe Queenan notes: "Authors of film novelisations, not unlike pornographers, rarely get the respect they deserve." These books are odd literary artifacts where, essentially, the "author" is assigned to write the book months before the movie is released (sometimes before shooting has wrapped). And so, armed with just the screenplay and very rarely actually seeing the finished film, the writer sits down at his typewriter (I think of tie-ins as curiosities from the 1970s, before the age of personal computers) and cranks out a novel in about 18 hours, lifting dialogue straight from the script and throwing in little arty flourishes of description and exposition whenever possible--like writing "There are still many who believe that the insolent chariots sold by Detroit can go anywhere and surmount any terrain" instead of "The drunk teenager drove up the side of Mount Insurmountable in his Jeep."
Which brings us to Grizzly, where you can find that aforementioned "insolent chariots" sentence. I never saw the 1976 movie--hell, I wasn't even allowed to go see Jaws back then--but my 13-year-old spidey sense tingled enough to convince me Grizzly was just one big ball of crap. Like any number of rogue-animal movies in the wake of Jaws, it was designed to make us stay out of the woods (or water or desert or field of daisies harboring rabid grasshoppers). This, I think, was a nefarious plot on the part of urban planners who wanted us all to live in cities and avoid Nature at all costs. Whatever its cinematic merits, I can tell you that Grizzly: the Novel is a prime candidate for celebration here at Paperback Flashback.
For starters, who in the world has guts that crunch? Second, don't you think little Miss Bambi Perkychest would feel that saliva dripping on her hair? Finally, that bear on the cover looks just like the one which used to be on display in the corner clothing store in my hometown. Before you got to the tables with their stacks of Wrangler jeans, you had to walk by the stuffed bear, the one with the threadbare belly where all the local kids liked to rub the fur despite the admonitory signs DO NOT TOUCH THE BEAR.
By the same token, I think it only fair to warn you: DON'T PET THE NOVEL.
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