#FridayReads 2022-07-29 – A Books That Became Films Week – ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ and ‘The Gray Man’

One of the things that tells me that a good book has been languishing, neglected in my TBR pile for too long is when I see that the book has been turned into a movie while it’s been waiting for me to read it. This week, I’m pulling two of these neglected books from my TBR pile.

The first one is Where The Crawdads Sing which I bought in December 2018, less than a month after the audiobook version was released. While it’s been on my shelves I’ve had it recommended to me as a powerfully emotional read by many people, including my wife, but somehow, three and a half years later, I still haven’t gotten to it. The second book is The Gray Man which has now been in my TBR pile for six years, which may be a record.

I’m hoping that both books will grab my imagination and make me regret leaving them untouched for so long. I’m not going to decide whether or not to see the movies until I’ve read the books. If Where The Crawdads Sing is the book everyone tells me it is, I’m not sure I’d want to risk seeing what Hollywood does to it. The Grey Man seems like the kind of thing Hollywood should excel at but might ruin simply by deciding to keep the title and the character names and re-write everything else.

Where The Crawdads Sing‘ by Delia Owens (2018)

I’m expecting ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ to be a very emotional read. I’m not always up for those, at least not when the emotions are various shades of grief, sadness, and anger, even when they’re accompanied by an upswelling of hope.

For this book, I’m trusting Delia Owens to provide me with a story that uses my emotions to build a path to things and people worth knowing and experiencing rather than a story that sets out to wring as many emotional responses from me as possible just because it can.

I’m intrigued by Delia Owens. There aren’t many authors who publish their debut novel when they’re sixty-nine. Even fewer who do it after having already had a lifetime working as a naturalist working in a continent not her own. When this became a phenomenal success, her agent must have felt that they’d pulled off one of the publishing coups of the decade.

I think it’s brave to try and make a movie of a book as popular as this one. Every reader will have an image of Kya Clark in their head. Trying to match that or over-write it is tough. Still, the trailer looks interesting, more Art House than Blockbuster. I was surprised to see an English actress (Daisy Edgar-Jones) cast as Kya. I’ve seen her work. I know she’s good but are there no American actresses? Maybe one who actually comes from North Carolina? I know it’s all acting but I do wonder why Hollywood keeps doing this. One unusual thing about this movie is that it’s driven by women. It’s directed by Olivia Newman, was adapted for the screen by Lucy Alibar and the cinematography was by Polly Morgan.

The Gray Man‘ by Mark Greaney (2009)

‘The Gray Man’ isn’t the kind of book you read for its depth of characterisation or its insights into the human condition or even to make you laugh. It’s about one thing – seeing the bad guys get what’s coming to them against all the odds from a lone hero who is quiet, competent, honourable and lethal. In these days where it’s more and more apparent that we are all impotent to prevent the rich and powerful from doing what they want with no fear of consequences, having a super-assassin make them pay feels cathartic. Plus you know there’s going to be a lot more guns and explosions and close combat than dialogue, so you can settle in and ride the adrenaline express.

I haven’t read Mark Greaney before. I’m hoping he can deliver something fast-paced and action-packed without coming across like a booster for the NRA. I want a little bit of fun without any right-wing, aggression-dressed-as-patriotism or psychopathy-dressed-as-valour nonsense to distract me.

‘The Gray Man’ movie is a boys club affair which puts our ‘I’m an assassin – but the good kind of assassin’ hero firmly into American superhero mode. It’s directed by the Russo brothers Anthony and Joe who delivered Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame with Joe Russo also taking one of the writing credits and it stars Ray Gosling as the good guy and Chris Evans as the bad guy (maybe that the explains the moustache?)

What puzzles me is that Netflix spent $200,000,000 on this, with only a limited cinema release as Netflix is in dispute with the main cinema chains in the US and the UK. To give that some scale, ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ cost $24,000,000 (and has already grossed twice that). Netflix is betting heavily on kicking off a franchise here. Personally, I’d rather they’d financed ten lower-budget movies.

3 thoughts on “#FridayReads 2022-07-29 – A Books That Became Films Week – ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ and ‘The Gray Man’

  1. Reviews of The Gray Man are mixed but if you liked the intermittently fast and furious pace of Bill Fairclough’s epic fact based spy novel Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series then you will love Anthony Russo’s The Gray Man and vice versa. They both make parts of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series look like slow horses! The Gray Man is about a renegade CIA agent on the run and stars Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans; it’s based on Mark Greaney’s debut novel of the same name. Fairclough’s factual stand-alone thriller Beyond Enkription is about a (real life) MI6 agent on the run from international organised crime gangs and Haiti’s TonTon Macoute from London to Nassau and Port au Prince to Miami. The Gray Man and The Burlington Files are both musts for espionage aficionados. The difference between them is that The Burlington Files series has mainly had five star reviews, it’s factual, full of real characters and was written for espionage cognoscenti.


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