You won't find me collecting too many horror movie novelizations. While horror movie fans might find them exciting, I think novelizations are a strange and thankless art for the reader. I suppose they're not even art, they're simply commercial artifacts designed to sneak more money out of a film fan's pocket. Initially as disposable as a movie-theater popcorn bag, they have, like so much other pop culture detritus, turned into kinda cool collectibles. I read many as a kid before moving on to, well, actual books. I certainly don't think I'm alone in that, and I remember devouring the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Alien and Superman novelizations of the late '70s/early '80s.
Most novelizations probably aren't worth much, but some have turned into decent collectibles thanks to, of course, covers that either reproduce the awesome poster art - as in Nosferatu (1979) - or features more characterization - as in The Wicker Man (1978). And I must say, I was pretty jazzed to snag that copy of Night of the Living Dead (1981), even though the guy peeking out from - well, whatever it is he's peeking out from - looks nothing like a zombie.
Novelizations are different from movie tie-in editions, which are when novels written first are then repackaged later with the movie adaptation poster on the cover. A good example is Stephen King's 1982 collection of four short novels, Different Seasons. This baby got re-released half a dozen times as a total of three of the novellas were adapted into popular movies. It's not just double-tripping; it's quadruple dipping, and more, in some cases. Check them all out here.
The literary merits of the novelization are next to nil, probably even closer, but often they are based on early or discarded drafts of screenplays and can therefore offer different or more in-depth details not in the finished film (see Jaws 2 for a great example). Often the books have pseudonyms or ghost-writers, and in the case of Nosferatu, have authors who became rather well-known in the literary world. Paychecks were pretty much guaranteed for this type of work, so many burgeoning young authors put aside notions of artistic purity and cranked 'em out on the side.
Even the estimable Ramsey Campbell, under the incredible and incomparable pen name of Carl Dreadstone, had a payday with 1970s novelizations of 1930s Universal monster classics, which actually go for a fair penny on eBay and such. I have so far been unable to track these down for a price I'm willing to pay. Which is like a buck.
Others who turned to novelizations include Dennis Etchison - actually, a major editor/short-story writer of the 1980s who I've not yet written about on this blog - who, as Jack Martin, penned Videodrome, David Cronenberg's bizarre cult masterpiece from 1983. Etchison worked from an early screenplay of the director's and therefore some of the alien quality of the movie is alleviated. John Skipp and Craig Spector, just before the height of their popularity, wrote one for Fright Night, the charming 1985 homage to horror movie hosts of the 1970s.
While I have here and there picked up some of the above novelizations, they're not really my collecting focus; I won't be filling my shelves with all the Friday the 13th novelizations, for example (an exception would be made for the novelizations of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Martin). But for anyone really interested in this aspect of horror fiction, I mean really and sincerely, you have to go here; this guy has an astonishing thread going, albeit from four or five years ago. The covers are mostly amazing. Imagine that!
The Birth of Death by Jim Starlin
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