Last weekend Nancy Pearl did a top ten list of neglected classics (in The Guardian) ripe for BBC adaptation. It’s a nice list composed in equal measures of books I love, authors I love, and books I now want because of the good company they’re clearly keeping but... One of the books on the list is F. M Mayor’s ‘The Rector’s Daughter’ which is an amazing moving and eventually heartbreaking book which I can’t help but think would make for miserable television (girl leads loveless and disappointing life with remarkable grace and stoicism than dies) I think it’s a bit subtle for television. All of which started me making my own list of neglected books I’d love to see in glorious Technicolor on a Sunday Evening.
It starts with Gavin Maxwell, there’s already a film version of ‘Ring of Bright Water’ but it doesn’t do justice to either Maxwell or this particular book. Think about it – fast cars, sharks, arctic exploration, brushes with the Mafia, aristocratic connections, confused sexuality, witches, amazing scenery, and of course otters – and that’s just for starters. I could see this being a properly exciting bio pic probably in 6 parts or more and based on all his books (for no good reason I’m picturing Daniel Craig hunting sharks possibly, and for entirely artistic reasons, without a shirt).
Now that the token man has had his mention... Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ is definitely begging for the Sunday night slot, any sensation novel I’ve read would be a good fit, but why this particular book isn’t much better known baffles me; plenty of sex and attempted murder with the chance for some lavish costumes – it’s what I pay my licence fee for.
I would also dearly love to see what E M Delafield’s Provincial Lady books would look like, possibly in a superior sitcom format. All that genteel bitching over the tea cups and pawning of the family diamond to keep up appearances, I’m sure it could be a winner or would it be better suited to radio? Hmmm.
Elizabeth Bowen's ‘The Last September’ has already been made into a film, it’s got an impressive cast and I’ve only just found out about it via Google; the trailer looks rubbish . It took me two attempts to get into this book and I know that Simon Stuck-in-a-book isn’t much of a fan but stay with me on this one because it could be great to watch. The relationship between the Irish, English, and Anglo Irish is ripe for exploration – all those themes of loyalty, belonging, tradition, class, conflict, and then throw in a bit of coming of age drama and romance (but not to heavy on the romance please – there are other things in the world that matter) and bob’s your uncle – a thought provoking feast for the eye.
Making this list has been far harder than I imagined. It turns out that I have a lot of books I haven’t read (I sort of knew that) and so can’t comment on, and a lot of books which are already on film in one form or another whether I knew it or not. I don’t consciously go out looking for tie in novels, more often than not the book comes before the film but I’m clearly more in tune with semi popular culture than I imagined. Now all I want to know is what would make it onto your list?